May 13, 2008

Robert George on Vocation

Princeton prof Robert P. George had a very nice essay on vocation in last month's Touchstone magazine. The essay is not available online, unfortunately, but it's too rich to summarize. (Maybe this is a good time to consider subscribing to Touchstone).

Professor George defines vocation as "the plan" that God has for every person. The Christian's task is to "cooperate with God in discerning that plan and living it out." In doing so, "prayer and other spiritual disciplines (together with our rational powers of inquiry, reflection, understanding, and judgment) are means available to all of us, as gifts from God, to discern what the Lord is calling us to do." But, he adds, "there is more."

The "more" is faith. He makes three observations which I view as extremely helpful to the lawyer or law student seeking to discern vocation:

1. Faith assists us in discerning what is "the highest and best use of one's God-given talents-- talents that impose responsibilities even more than they provide means of achievement, satisfaction, and recognition."

2. Faith also "enables one to bring his choices into a more coherent whole." In other words, it "plays an integrating role." I've discussed integrity in the sense that George uses it here on a variety of occasions, and it forms the unifying theme of Redeeming Law. Yet George's succinct conclusion says it all:
For integrity (and here I am using the term broadly in the sense of self-integration, and not just in the moral sense) is itself an irreducible aspect of human well-being and fulfillment: a basic human good.
3. Finally, George points out that faith enables us to see the "cosmic significance" of what we do:
[Faith] helps us understand the good and upright actions by which we realize human goods as a kind of participation in Christ's own work of building up God's kingdom, a kingdom that is, as one theologian described it, "already and not yet."
I couldn't agree more. The life of faith is key to answering God's "call," our vocation. We must diligently seek to answer a call, rather than find fulfillment; to live an integrated, not disintegrated life; and to cooperate in Christ's work in the kingdom in all that we do, across all our roles and callings.

Update: If you are a high school student or a parent of one, you may be interested to know that I teach a Worldview Academy alumni track session on this topic, called "The Life of Faith in Vocation," which introduces high school students to these points. For this summer's camp locations, go here.

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