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Fall 2017 · Vol. 46 No. 2 · pp. 241–246 

Recommended Reading


Douglas B. Miller

This annotated list supplements the one compiled by Wally Kroeker in the fall 2003 issue of Direction (vol. 32, pp. 229–233).

Badcock, Gary D. The Way of Life: A Theology of Christian Vocation. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998. 147 pages.

An accessible theological engagement of vocation, the book discusses relevant biblical texts with special attention to the words of Jesus. B. critiques Luther, Barth, and Balthasar, and argues that Christians are called to a way of life that loves God and neighbor. Christians should seek out jobs, professions, and other opportunities through which to do that well, integrated into the mission of Christ.

Banks, Robert J., ed. Faith Goes to Work: Reflections from the Marketplace. Washington, DC: Alban Institute, 1993. 189 pages.

A collection of essays that reflect on Christian mission within the context of a variety of professions, e.g., teaching, banking, farming, television journalism.

Brett, Regina. God is Always Hiring: 50 Lessons for Finding Fulfilling Work. New York: Grand Central, 2015. 274 pages.

Consists of winsome and often humorous vignettes of the working life (5–6 pages each) from one concerned to serve God and God’s purposes in the midst of a variety of jobs, and who learned about life in the process. {242}

Brouwer, Douglas J. What Am I Supposed to Do with My Life? Asking the Right Questions. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006. 111 pages.

Practical, biblical, personal, and focused introduction to questions of call, meaning, and purpose for all ages. Enhanced with stories and insightful quotations throughout.

Clydesdale, Timothy T. The Purposeful Graduate: Why Colleges Must Talk to Students about Vocation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015.

C. argues that at college opportunities to think about a true sense of purpose and ways to contribute to the world have been replaced by career training for economic survival. Based on Lilly-funded studies on eighty-eight college campuses, C. offers practical ways that such institutions can regain their higher cultural role, help their students achieve more meaningful lives, and through them offer our world a better future.

Cunningham, David S., ed. At This Time and in This Place: Vocation and Higher Education. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. 376 pages.

A collection of thirteen essays by American academics from various denominations, this book examines the place of vocational exploration at colleges and universities. Philosophical, historical, and theological perspectives shed light on the challenges of developing a vocational mindset in postmodern society. The essays address such questions as: How can students be encouraged to consider how to serve the common good? What is the relationship of vocation to virtue? How do we make sense of multiple vocations?

———, ed. Vocation across the Academy: A New Vocabulary for Higher Education. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017.

Continues the discussion in C.’s first volume (above), but with a team of writers from the fields of biology, music, sociology, engineering, medicine, law, college administration, history, literature, and business administration. They urge students to contemplate the responsibilities life gives them, the stories that shape them, and the kind of person they should become. Colleges and universities too ought to consider their vocation to the young lives placed in their charge. {243}

Friesen, Duane K. Artists, Citizens, Philosophers: Seeking the Peace of the City. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 2000. 349 pages.

An Anabaptist proposal for the relationship between Christians and their culture. F. views the church as a community of exiles within an imperialistic culture. Believers should cooperate with but, when necessary, challenge the existing culture in service of God’s shalom. He finds unique potential for Christians to serve in the arts, social causes, and the quest for wisdom.

Graber Miller, Keith. Living Faith: Embracing God’s Callings. Telford, PA: Cascadia, 2012. 126 pages.

This Mennonite educator provides an overview of a “tortured” Anabaptist history with call and profession. He identifies important Anabaptist contributions to the issue, such as the importance of following Jesus and his teachings, transforming professional roles as a consequence, and the central goal of Christians to bring healing and reconciliation among God, people, and creation.

Guinness, Os. The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life. Nashville, TN: Word, 1998. 249 pages.

From a Reformed approach, G. weaves a good introduction to vocation with a devotional tone and personal challenge. (By Reformed in these annotations I refer to the perspective promoted by John Calvin and his theological descendants that optimistically urges Christians to “transform” culture into alignment with God’s values.)

———. Entrepreneurs of Life: Faith and the Venture of Purposeful Living. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2001. 235 pages.

Short biographies along with excerpts from the writings of Christians (mostly from the Reformed tradition) that reflect on being faithful disciples as professionals.

Hardy, Lee. The Fabric of This World: Inquiries into Calling, Career Choice, and the Design of Human Work. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990. 213 pages.

Part 1 gives a nice overview of Western approaches to work and an introduction to theological perspectives on vocation. Part 2 provides practical help on finding a job and living out one’s Christian faith there, and an introduction to Christian perspectives on management theory. {244}

Hughes, Richard T. The Vocation of a Christian Scholar: How Christian Faith Can Sustain the Life of the Mind. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005. 145 pages.

Argues that to be a Christian scholar and teacher means living deeply as a Christian and not merely claiming God’s name or a creed. Practicing the art of wonder and, thus, beginning to discern the God who is both Mystery and Truth is key. H. encourages Christian institutions to ground strategic decisions in a shared theological vision, one committed to Christian discipleship, pluralism, and academic freedom. Also embraces the paradoxical joining of Anabaptist sanctification and Lutheran justification.

Keller, Timothy, with Katherine Leary Alsdorf. Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work. New York: Riverhead, 2012. 305 pages.

Biblical, theological, and experiential reflections from a popular pastor-theologian on work detours, traps, and genuine fulfillment. Includes serious examination (from a Reformed perspective) of business idolatries and the integration of faith and work.

McKnight, Scot. One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010. 202 pages.

Especially valuable for young adults, M. offers an Anabaptist-friendly presentation of a Christian worldview wrapped around the call of Jesus. Superbly readable, yet challenges with important questions and invitations on many topics.

Miller, Douglas B. Getting a Life: Living Your Call. Hillsboro, KS: Reader’s, 2016. 213 pages.

An introductory Anabaptist-evangelical textbook on theological vocation, directed especially to young adults, both inviting to Christian faith and nurturing it. M. encourages readers to explore their experiences, passions, and gifts as clues to the meaning and purpose of their lives, culminating in the crafting of a personal mission statement. Uses stories to explain communal as well as individual commitment.

Palmer, Parker J. Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2000. 117 pages.

From the Friends Christian tradition (Quakers), P. invites readers to reflect upon their passions and experience, then to interact with those {245} who have wisdom as part of a process of achieving clarity of God’s purpose for their lives. Considers selfhood and vocation through several metaphorical lenses: seed, journey, and seasons.

Sayers, Dorothy. “Why Work?” In Sayers, Creed or Chaos? And Other Essays in Popular Theology, 47–64. London: Methuen, 1947.

Argues that work is a creative act, pointing toward our ultimate purpose, which is glorifying God. S. insists that there is no legitimate distinction between sacred and secular work, that good work for God means excellence, that work must serve God, and that the worker must serve God by serving the work.

Schuurman, Douglas J. Vocation: Discerning Our Callings in Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004. 190 pages.

Aims to develop a contemporary presentation of the “classic Protestant doctrine of vocation” that involves participating in “God’s creative and redemptive purposes for the world . . . toward God’s shalom.” S. defends the more optimistic potential of Christians to transform culture promoted by Calvin and Luther against less optimistic views of the Anabaptists and their heirs.

Sine, Christine and Tom. Living on Purpose: Finding God’s Best for Your Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2002. 208 pages.

Directed primarily toward young adults, this practical book engages with issues such as finances, personal disciplines, and recognizing the distortions of a deceptive culture. The book challenges readers to develop personal mission statements that incorporate a sense of call and purpose to do Jesus’s kingdom work in this world. An essentially Anabaptist approach that encourages a variety of professions.

Smith, Gordon T. Courage and Calling: Embracing Your God-Given Potential. 2d ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2011. 269 pages.

An insightful introduction to Christian vocation that addresses numerous related issues in helpful ways. Excellent for young adults but also speaks to those in later seasons of life. S. is strong on virtues of vocation, models of job and vocation, and the importance of Christian community. The second edition adds helpful new chapters but a weaker introductory chapter. A moderate Reformed perspective. {246}

Volf, Miroslav. Work in the Spirit: Toward a Theology of Work. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. 252 pages.

A significant theological presentation of vocation from within the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. V. engages the topic historically, philosophically, and sociologically in addition to theologically. Includes a strong Christian definition of work and engages various forms of work-related alienation.

Witherington, Ben, III. Work: A Kingdom Perspective on Labor. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2011. 166 pages.

This evangelical New Testament scholar articulates a theology of vocation that “creates” culture, engaging especially the New Testament as well as various theologians and theologies. Acknowledging his debt to Andy Crouch, W.’s advocacy that Christians follow Jesus, who came to create all things new, has some affinity with Anabaptist countercultural responses to distortions in human institutions and activity.

Douglas B. Miller is Professor of Biblical and Religious Studies at Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kansas.

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