Friday, January 21, 2011

Vocation in the Kingdom of God

Ch. 5 by Plantinga

I found it interesting how Plantinga talks about each of us having our own little kingdom within God's kingdom.  I had always thought of us being just a servant in God's kingdom.  I guess this gives us more of a sense of responsibility, this area I have to take care of.

A vocation is what a person is called to do.  One person can have many vocations, such as father, lawyer, elder, son, and coach.  These vocations all fall under the vocation of serving the Lord.  Plantinga lays out questions lays out questions one should ask when looking for a career: 
"Where in the kingdom does God want me to work?  Where are the needs great?  Where are the workers few?...How honest is the work I'm thinking of doing?  How necessary and how healthy are the goods or services I would help provide? How smoothly could I combine my proposed career with being a spouse, if that's also my calling, or a parent, or a faithful child of aging parents?  How close would I be to a church in which I could give and take nourishment?"  Is my job going to result in me conquering less evil than I take in? 
While I do not think one should compromise his standards, I thought some of these questions seemed really ideal because there are always circumstances which stop you, for example the current economy, distance, people you need to care for, the lack of money.  Then I saw how Plantinga said we should also consider how it goes with our other vocations, especially those related to other people.  Maybe ultimately you are to become a doctor, but at this point in time, you are called to be a waiter, in order to fill the needs of your family.  A part of this chapter was on the idea of doing our best whatever the calling is, even in the small mundane tasks.

A problem I have had with the discussion on vocation is how do you know what God is calling you to?  I know that right now, my calling is to be a student, to "prepare for further calling", as Plantinga says, but I have no clue, nor much idea how to find out, what that exactly is.  

Plantinga discusses the difference between a secular and Christian college education. Most Christians in secular education will have a harder time developing a Christian philosophy, or worldview on everything in life, and will not take the time to differentiate between good and evil on campus and develop such a philosophy whereas a student in a Christian college will have their faith integrated into their learning.  He warns the Christian-college attending student to be wary of just going with the flow and to really think about what you are learning, to push yourself out of your safe zone.  While I agree a secular education has many difficulties that a Christ-centered education does not, I have found we, at Calvin, get caught up in work and don't have time to think about our own Christian philosophy, just like the secular student.  For example, our floor class was focused on origins of this world.  It was supposed to present different views, give people a better understanding of what those views are exactly, and to promote discussion.  One of the things I discovered is that it didn't help get any closer to finding out what I believed. 

Plantinga talks about how knowledge, skills, and virtues are necessary to fulfilling our vocation.  I like Plantinga's description of skills as "'how to' disciplines that...require a certain amount of sweat and repetition, and then yield some wonderful freedoms" and his comparison of this idea to a jazz musician.  By learning the skills and having discipline, the basics, the jazz musician has the freedom to improvise.  A student will be able to use the skills they have learned and apply it new ways and to different problems.  Virtues I feel are less emphasized in society but play a huge part.  A person who slacks off but is extremely knowledgeable or skillful may end up being of less value than a person who is very diligent, doing the best he can, and sets out to learn everything they can about the job.

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