Douglas J. Schuurman, Vocation: Discerning Our Callings in Life. Eerdmans, 2004. ISBN: 9780802801371
Does God have a calling for every Christian? The idea of calling has fallen on hard times. Some Christians believe it is an important topic that must be rediscovered. Others think it is an idea that is no longer useful. Schuurman's Vocation: Discerning Our Callings in Life argues that the Protestant Reformers' idea of vocation needs to be rediscovered and applied to modern times.
Scuurman draws mainly from the The Lutheran and Calvinist traditions of the Protestant Reformation. He quotes from the works of Calvin, Luther, and modern reformed thinkers like Emil Brunner, Karl Barth, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Cornelius Plantinga, and Lee Hardy. Schuurman's primary goal "is to develop a contemporary articulation of the classic Protestant doctrine of vocation" (xi). He recognizes that many contemporary Christian thinkers reject the teaching on vocation or Christian calling. This "book is primarily for Christians who want to think about what vocation means and how it may be significant for their lives" (xiv). Schuurman does address the criticisms of the doctrine of vocation by Miroslav Volf, Gary Badcock, Stanley Hauerwas, and others.
Chapter one asks the question: "Vocation under assault: can it be salvaged? Schuurman answers in the affirmative but he creates a more nuance teaching of vocation than the reformers. In other words, he takes into consideration the criticism to make a more balanced teaching on vocation. Schuurman notes, According to the teaching of Calvin and Luther, "All relational spheres are religiously and morally meaningful as divinely given avenues through which persons respond obediently to the call of God to serve their neighbor in love" (4). Schurrman says their is the general call to follow Christ and callings in our life to serve our neighbor through the particular gifts, opportunities, position, and duties given to us by God.
Many critics of the idea of vocation think it is not supported by Biblical teaching. Schuurman believes that it is. He notes, "In the Bible, vocation has two primary meanings. The first, and by far more prevalent, meaning is the call to become a member of the people of God and to take up the duties that pertain to that membership. . . The second meaning is God's diverse and particular callings--- special tasks, offices, or places of responsibility within the covenant community and in the broader society" (17). The Biblical teaching on vocation is discussed in chapter two. Schuurman believes that the spiritual gifts given to us are related to our natural abilities. He sees the providence of God at work in our callings. He also sees that our callings relates to human needs. Schurrman notes, "To the extent that the duties of one's many places also contribute to meeting human needs, those duties are God's callings" (39).
In chapter three, Schuurman presents a theology for vocation. He shows how vocation relates to God's mission in the world. God wants to redeem the world. It is a comprehensive redemption. Schuurman observes, "God created all things; sin infects all things; God redeems all things through Jesus Christ. Christians, like the Christ whose name they bear, share in God's redemptive and creative purposes in all things. Therefore Christian vocation includes all aspects of cultural and social life (Author's emphasis)" (51). The author disagrees with the idea that only ministers working full-time on church staffs are called or have a Christian vocation. He thinks all Christians are called and have a vocation from God.