Books on Calling & Vocation

Passion, purpose, meaning, vocation, calling, career. These are all hot topics nowadays, and we are glad. We have been talking about our human office as history-makers since we first learned the theological phrase Òcultural mandateÓ from Al Wolters and Paul Schrotenbauer. My last blog mentioned our often used, often discussed favorite book, The Call, by Os Guinness. It is a must-read.
Here are some others along those lines. I will briefly tell you if they are more difficult or more lightweight than GuinnessÕ classic.

Here I Am: Now What on Earth Should I Be Doing
Quentin Schultze (Baker) $11.99 Give this to any highschool kid you know, any Christian who wonders what the idea of calling is or anybody who wants to see GodÕs hand in every zone of life. Really nice, lots of stories, easy to read.
(I must add another thought, if any publishers or authors are out there reading this: Quint, as he is affectionately called by his enthusiastic students at Calvin, has given us a rare gift here—a truly accessible work, deeply spiritual, interesting and yet packed with insight and solid with substance. Why arenÕt more books this clear, brief, approachable, andÑdare I say it? Ñradical?)
Vocation: Discerning Our Callings in Life Douglas Schuurman (Eerdmans) $20.00 The best study of the subject. His brief description of the discussion between Miroslov Volf and Lee Hardy on the theological/biblical basis for thinking about vocation (Spirit or creation, respectively) is worth the price of admission. Very important for those who want to dig deep into the field.
Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation Parker Palmer (Jossey-Bass) $18.95 A precious little hardcover that is well loved for its contemplative feel and wise guidance. His The Active Life on bringing together spirituality and work is better, I think, with a tip of the hat to Tom Merton.
Callings: Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom on Vocation edited by William Placher (Eerdmans) $24.00 This new, huge mama deserves its own full review as it has become the definitive collection on what the best thinkers of the broad church tradition in the West have said on this topic. Arranged chronologically, it has primary source references from the early church, the medieval era, the post-Reformation period and from the contemporary world. We could all benefit from hearing Justin Martyr, Anthanasius or Gregory of Nyssa (and Augustine, of course) in the first section; John Cassian, Bernard of Clairvaux, Aquinas or a Kempis from 500-1500; Luther, Calvin , Theresa or Baxter (and Edwards, Law, Wesley, et cetera) from the era up to 1800Õs; and then, from the modern church, the likes of Kierkegaard, John Henry Newman, Horace Bushnell, Pope Leo XIII, Bonhoeffer, Sayers, BarthÉ These are only a few of the many authors represented here in the 450 pages. A very useful handbook and a great education in practical theology down through the ages. Apparently, the questions of the Purpose Drive Life are not new. And the answers have been diverse, rich, and substantial.
Ethical Ambition: Living a Life of Meaning and Worth Derek Bell (Bloomsbury) $14.95 I couldnÕt put this down! Not written, as many books on this topic are, within the evangelical mold (or, thank goodness, from the positive thinking stuff of climbing the American Dream to be ÒsuccessfulÓ like many ÒleadershipÓ books) this is a serious call by a fellow Christ-follower in the grand tradition of civil right activism and the African-American church. Bell is a renowned legal theorist and tells many heart-wrenching stories of times he took a stand (including at places like Harvard Law School) and had to struggle to balance his ambition and his calling, his principles and his desire for success, his sense of vocation and his desire to be an agent for institutional reform. With all our reformational worldview-ish talk about taking up our callings in the world, there isnÕt enough story-telling going on, stories like this. A powerful dose of honest reality by a kind and good man.