Which Vocations Should Be Off Limits to Christians?

The Reformation doctrine of vocation teaches that even seemingly secular jobs and earthly relationships are spheres where God assigns Christians to live out their faith. But are there some lines of work that Christians should avoid?

The early church required new members to give up their occupations as gladiators or actors. Whether Christians should enter military service has been controversial at several points in church history. So has holding political or judicial offices. Recently, New York Times columnist David Brooks suggested that Christians should not become professional athletes. He observed that “the moral ethos of sport”—which centers on pride—“is in tension with the moral ethos of faith,” which requires humility.

So what guidance can we find from the doctrine of vocation? There is more to that teaching than most people realize, so let’s review some of its more salient points. (To study this in more depth, you can check out my book God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life and follow the Bible references and footnotes. Also see my new book Family Vocation: God’s Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood for yet more facets of this critical teaching for how Christians can live out faith in the world and in their everyday relationships.)

God Never Calls Us to Sin

“Vocation” is simply the Latinate word for “calling.” The doctrine of vocation means that God assigns us to a certain life—with its particular talents, tasks, responsibilities, and relationships—and then calls us to that assignment (1 Corinthians 7:17). God never calls us to sin. All callings, or vocations, from God are thus valid places to serve. So strictly speaking there are no unlawful vocations; the question should actually be whether or not a particular way of making a living is a vocation at all.

God himself works through human vocations in providential care as he governs the world. He provides daily bread through farmers and bakers. He protects us through lawful magistrates. He heals us by means of physicians, nurses, and pharmacists. He creates new life through mothers and fathers. So we can ask whether or not God extends blessings through a particular line of work.

The purpose of every vocation, in all of the different spheres in which our multiple vocations occur—the family, the workplace, the culture, and the church—is to love and serve our neighbors. Loving God and loving our neighbors sums up our purpose (Matthew 22:36-40). Having been reconciled to God through Christ, we are then sent by God into the world to love and serve him by loving and serving our neighbors. This happens in vocation. So we can ask of every kind of work we doing, “Am I loving and serving my neighbor, or am I exploiting and tempting him?”

Obviously, those who make their living by robbery are not loving their neighbors. Heroin dealers, hit men, con artists, and other criminals are hurting their neighbors and have no calling from God to do so.

But there are some legal professions that also involve harming their neighbors instead of loving and serving them. An abortionist kills his small neighbor in the womb. An internet pornographer is abusing the neighbors he is exploiting sexually and, moreover, causing the neighbors who are his customers to sin.

Can Soldiers Be Saved?

Other occupations may not be so cut and dry.

We are told not only to love our neighbors but to love our enemies, but the work of a soldier is to kill his enemy. So should Christians not enlist in the military? Luther took up this question in an important treatise, Whether Soldiers Too Can Be Saved. The short answer he gives is yes. Though as individual Christians we must not kill, God certainly has the right to take human life. And God works through the governing authorities, which according to Romans 13 are his agents in restraining and punishing evil so that a society of fallen human beings is possible. Those agents specially include those vocations that “bear the sword” (Romans 13:4). Luther concludes that soldiers in a Romans 13 chain of command are authorized by their calling to love and serve their fellow citizens by defending them, even when that means killing the enemy. Soldiers, as Christians, should indeed love those enemies—not hate them, hold malice against them, or mistreat captives or civilians—but they have an authorization to do what soldiers have to do.

This point must not be missed: vocation comes with an authorization, so that someone within that vocation may do things someone outside it may not. Sexual intercourse is a sin outside the vocations of marriage, but a good work within those vocations of husband and wife. Physicians can do things to someone else’s body—whether see a patient naked or cut the patient open—that others should not.

Pleasure Through Vocation

Still, opinions will vary about other professions. One of the Lutheran confessions in dealing with the doctrine of vocation specifically condemns the notion “That a Christian cannot with a good conscience be an inn-keeper, merchant, or maker of weapons” (Formula of Concord XII). A gunsmith can love and serve his neighbors with his craft. A merchant should not cheat his neighbors or give them bad merchandise, but rather love and serve them by providing goods and services that meet the neighbor’s needs. Inn-keepers were more controversial, since the inns of the day were usually also taverns, places of drinking and revelry. Some Christians may think that selling alcohol or running a nightclub might not be a valid vocation. We Lutherans are confessionally bound and personally inclined to disagree.

This brings up the entertainment industry, which spans actors disapproved by the early church through professional athletes disapproved by David Brooks. It seems that providing pleasure is a way of loving and serving people. To be sure, there are sinful pleasures. But why shouldn’t God, who adorned his creation so beautifully and has given us a joy in other people that is in fact akin to love, create pleasure through vocation?

On the analogy of God giving us our daily bread through the vocation of farmers and creating new life through the vocation of parents, we can say that God creates works of beauty and meaning through the vocation of artists. Vocation is a function of the talent, abilities, interests, and opportunities that God gives to each individual. This applies to scientists and craftsmen, and it surely applies to those who have the talent to make music, to draw, to devise stories, and (yes) to act. (See God’s gifts for artists in Exodus 35:30-36:2, a key biblical passage on vocation.)

Athletes too have their talents and abilities from the hand of God. Of course it is legitimate to use them. And they can use those gifts in bringing pleasure to those of us who marvel at them, just as musicians play for an audience and so bless them, and just as the hundreds of people listed in the credits of a motion picture can in a powerful film bless those of us in the audience.

Profiting from Sin

Again, we need to make distinctions. A casino blackjack dealer might be considered part of the “entertainment industry,” bringing a jolt of pleasure and excitement to her customers, but her main goal is not to love and serve them but to win their money. She is also profiting from the sins of her neighbors. A Christian blackjack dealer may argue that she is giving her customers the entertainment of a game of chance in exchange for what she takes from them. Still, this job may be morally problematic. A defensive lineman may execute a good hit on the opposing quarterback—that is the nature of his job—but to injure the quarterback on purpose, as in the current NFL bounty scandal, is clearly to sin in one’s vocation.

Vocations, in general, must carry out their proper work and fulfill their proper purpose. A business owner must make a profit; a professional athlete must help his team win. To say these involve selfishness and pride, making them off limits to Christians, confuses different realms. The earthly laws of economics depend on participants following their rational self-interest; but the Christian, while doing so, can also turn the same productive labor into an expression of love and service. The athlete can trounce his opponent and joy in the victory while still being a selfless teammate who honors those on the other side.

Not Equal

Yet here is an irony. Before God all vocations are equal. But that is not so in the world. Often the highest-paying and the highest-status jobs do less for the neighbor than do jobs that the world tends to look down upon. I am ready to concede that the professional athlete and the movie star have legitimate vocations in giving brief moments of pleasure to millions of people. But the love and service rendered by the men who pick up our garbage every week or the women who clean up our hotel rooms is far more immediate and far more important.

The wealthy, esteemed, and honored often have a more problematic vocation than do the poorer folks who, in a kind of labor the Bible especially honors, work with their hands (1 Thessalonians 4:11). The “idle rich”—those with inherited wealth who did nothing to earn it and just spent it all on themselves—inspired many rants from the Puritans. Not that the Puritans opposed wealth—many of them were busy pioneering capitalism—but in their minds wealth needs to be productive. Usury, by which was meant lending money at interest, was traditionally seen as unchristian, multiplying one’s wealth by taking advantage of a neighbor’s need. Today’s economy, of course, depends on a robust financial system in which lending and investment are very productive indeed, building homes and new businesses and doing great social good. Bankers, financiers, and venture capitalists are indeed legitimate vocations from God.

And yet, what are we to say of the derivative trader, who sits in front of his computer manipulating the finance system without adding goods or services to the collective good? Does he even have a neighbor, since he works in isolation without the slightest interaction with the people whose mortgages he is trading or the companies whose stock he is manipulating? I’m not sure—I’m not even sure what a derivative is!—but his work is probably more problematic vocationally than that of the factory worker or the retail clerk or the food service worker.

Since we do not, strictly speaking, choose our vocations but are called to them, they are not completely within our control; rather, God providentially places us in our vocations. So a blackjack dealer who becomes a Christian may well be stuck in that position at least for a time with no other prospects of employment to support her more family (probably her most important vocation), and God may lay upon her the cross of finding a way to live out her faith even in the casino. The same may be true of the derivative trader.

So are some occupations off-limits for Christians? No doubt, but it is not always clear what they are. Vocations are unique—that is to say, God calls and equips individuals in distinct and highly particular ways—so they may resist hard and fast and universally applicable rules and moralistic dictates. Since vocation is about God’s work as well as human work, it has to do not just with the law but with the gospel; since vocation is where the Christian life is to be led, it will be an expression of Christian freedom.

  • Ralph

    Is all soldering God honouring?

    Surely Christians should be careful not to be under the command of a state that engages in immoral and unethical wars or warfare. Not all the people killed by governments are done so in direct protection of their own citizens. In fact governmens sometimes use their military or police servers to kill or supress their own citizens. Other countries wage wars that have very little to do with protecting the lives of their own citizens.

    I have a lot of respect for those that serve our countries as soldiers and in the police service. But a lot depends on the good character of the state they serve. Even though all government is ultimately in place under a soverign God not all that they do can be supported by Christians.

    • Melody

      Usually when I see this argument it comes from a political viewpoint to condemn American soldiers. I don’t see that in your comment but my question is who makes the determination? The participant or the critical observer?

      • Ralph

        The comment was about soldering in general and the use of soldiers by governments to kill in unethical and immoral means. We can all cite universal and historical examples that we would condemn (e.g. Nazi Germany during WW2) without focusing on American or any other current state.

        My point is that we can’t easily speak of soldering as a yes/no vocation for Christians. Soldering situations put the Christian in subserviance to the state and the states wishes and commands don’t always agree with what God commands. OK, I’m going to go against what I said above about a specific case – look at the situation in Syria where the Army is being used to supress and kill civilians. Can or should a Christian serve or partake in such an army for such a government?

        Questions about America or any other western democratic country and the use of their military can also be addressed in light of being a Christian. There’s nothing unique or sacred about any of them – all governments will ultimately give an account to the one who judges justly.

        • Melody

          I think I would add that we are all under the state in which we were born under. A place where God put us for whatever reason. Though I’ll acknowledge for our country it is more like slavery when compared to the freedoms that every day citizens get to enjoy that soldiers and even their families do not.

          This is going to sound bizarre and I’m not even sure why I am writing it but did the armies in the bible only kill other soldiers? Just a thought……

          As for if a Christian can join the military, I can only speak for myself personally could not but I have family members that can.
          I also would never chose sports as a vocation. I’m wondering about the brush off with the entertainment label. Does anyone go into sports to “entertain”? Or do they go into it to win, dominate, be the best and stand out in front of everyone else. Christ calls us to be humble, to serve, that whole the first shall be last and the last first stuff. I have no doubt that there are Christians in the high end sports being used by God for His glory. My question is if we as Christian parents have honorable motives putting our children on that track in the first place?

        • Mark

          Why are folks making such a big deal about soldering? I can understand if an employer is forcing employess to use lead based solder, but I don’t think that’s an issue these days. There could be a problem with resting the soldering gun in your lap. Definately would be much worse than hot coffee.

          • Ralph

            :-) must get me a spell checker

            • Mark

              Just having fun with you!

            • Ralph

              The embarrassing thing is that I have an honours degree in Electrical/Electronic Engineering…so I really should know all about soldering and be able to recognise it’s not the same soldiering :)

        • Chris Roberts

          “My point is that we can’t easily speak of soldering as a yes/no vocation for Christians. ”

          That’s the case for any and every vocation. There will always be bad variations of good vocations.

          • kerner

            I call your collective attention to Jesus’ statements to soldiers who directly asked Him what to do: Luke 3:14

            “14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

            He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

            I don’t know if these were Roman soldiers or Herod’s soldiers somebody else. But Jesus told them to behave honorably within their vication, not to leave it.

    • tODD

      Ralph said, “Surely Christians should be careful not to be under the command of a state that engages in immoral and unethical wars or warfare.” But doesn’t that effectively boil down to a blanket ban on soldiering? My point being: what state qualifies according to your rubric?

      Not trying to be flippant, but I don’t think there’s yet been a war that wasn’t questionable at one or more levels. It’s an inherently tricky area. Is it the soldier’s job to assess each war on a case-by-case basis (“This military action appears to check out ethically, so I think I’ll fight in this one”)? Or is it a soldier’s job to trust his military commanders and put the best construction on their orders?

      Please note, I’m not suggesting that “just following orders” should ever excuse a soldier’s doing something he knows to be sinful (e.g. raping civilians).

  • Keith Pavlischek

    Terrific article.

    Several years back a colleague and I presented a paper at the Evangelical Philosophical Society related to the argument for pacifism by the New Testament scholar Richard Hays. I framed a part of the argument around the notion of calling, suggesting that while certainly some offices and callings were out of bounds, such as prostitution and being a “pimp,” we are not invited by the the New Testament to view the office and calling of a soldier like that–as intrinsically immoral. Which was why an organization such as “Officers Christian Fellowship” was permissible but an organization such as “pimps for Jesus” was not.

    To make a long story short, Hays took the bull by the horns and flat-out admitted that serving in the military WAS a form of prostitution, saying that he was particularly appalled by those military chaplains who recruited at Duke Divinity School, and that this was indeed a form of prostitution. This is an even more radical position that that of classical Anabaptistism, which viewed these offices as legitimate for non-Christians, but “outside the perfection of Christ” for believers–another topic altogether). Of course, Professor Hays is now the President of that institution.

    So, to Ralph, it is quite true that “all soldering” is not “God honoring.” But then, all types of parenting, or teaching, or painting, or athletic performance, or a pastor is not “God honoring” either. The fundamental issue is not whether one can act wrongly as a soldier, or parent, or athlete, or artist, or pastor but whether the “office” or the “calling” is, by its very nature, immoral and out of bounds.

    There is a lot more to be said (what of those legitimate callings and offices that have become so culturally corrupt that withdrawal from them would be wise and prudent?). But until you get that basic understanding right, you won’t even begin to get at the issues on the margin.

  • Gundyboo

    You had me till Lutherans were owning and running nightclubs…

    • Tony

      Quite true. Some good points in this post, but it needs a little strengthening in the spine.

    • Noah

      I’m also puzzled by the nightclub endorsement. For one thing, many inns probably weren’t at the level of immorality that a contemporary nightclub would be. For another thing, even if Luther does endorse this dubious vocation, his endorsements shouldn’t be impervious to Scriptural evaluations (e.g. antisemitism, although I might be squeaking in some ad hominem there).

      • Trey

        If the nightclub owner’s intent is to profit off a immorality than yes that is an illegitimate us of vocation. The Scripture affirms this is a legitimate vocation because it can be used to serve one’s neighbor. It can provide drink and place of conversation. Luther’s alleged anti-semitism needs to be understood through the lens of theology not Nazism. Lutherans were actually sent to the concentration camp by the Nazis. Luther was a sinner and he was very bitter because the Jews rejected the gospel. Luther rejected some of his earlier teachings regarding the Jews as did the Lutheran church then.

        Furthermore, Luther was not the only writer of the Book of Concord. The Formula of Concord which Dr. Veith refers was written by Jacob Andreae, Martin Chemnitz, Nicholas Selnecker, David Chytraeus, Andrew Musculus, and Christopher Koerner. So before you ad hominem maybe you should have your facts straight.

        • Noah

          Thank you for clarifying the authorship of the Book of Concord. It might be semantics, but when I think “nightclub”, I don’t think of a nice wholesome place to have a drink and a conversation. Personally, I’d be uncomfortable with running a pub as well, but I could see someone making more of case for that. Maybe when Dr. Veith talks of a rightfully Christian-operated nightclub, a pub type of idea is what he means. I agree that Luther certainly shouldn’t be put on the same plane as Nazis concerning antisemitism.

    • tODD

      If you want to convince a Lutheran that it’s sinful to own or work in a nightclub/bar/pub, all you have to do is argue from Scripture. (That’s an invitation.)

      • Gundyboo

        The Lutheran who can’t piece together biblical principles against running a nightclub couldn’t be convinced it was wrong to run a strip club. I’ll pass on your invitation…

        • tODD

          Sooo… You can’t provide a scriptural basis for your assertion, then?

          • Gundyboo

            I would have no trouble arguing from Scripture that running a nightclub constitutes compromise (unless you parse away the basics of a “nightclub”). But I assume by your challenge that you won’t accept an argument based upon biblical principles. So instead, I’ll invite you to think through what’s wrong with running a strip club. Can you argue that from Scripture? If you can’t, there’s no reason to discuss things further. And if you can, my work for you will be done.

            • tODD

              You said, “I assume by your challenge that you won’t accept an argument based upon biblical principles.” Um … I *explicitly* invited you to convince me *from Scripture*, so your assumption makes no sense.

              You also said, “I’ll invite you to think through what’s wrong with running a strip club.” You may have noticed that you’ve moved the goal posts, here. The initial term was “nightclub”. I broadened that to “nightclub/bar/pub”. Do you think the term “nightclub” denotes only places where women take off their clothes? Because I don’t.

              Here, let’s go with the dictionary definition. Merriam-Webster defines a nightclub as “a place of entertainment open at night usually serving food and liquor and providing music and space for dancing and often having a floor show”. So what, exactly, about that is unscriptural or otherwise taboo for Christians?

            • Gundyboo

              I’m checking out tODD. We’re not connecting. The nightclubs I’m referring to facilitate an environment where drunkenness is common (especially as the night grows late). I’m talking about facilitating drunkenness. If you are talking about merely serving alcohol in a steakhouse atmosphere, that’s something different. I’m not sure Webster is going to talk about the revelry of what many of us know as a “nightclub.”

              I am finishing a second graduate degree in the Bible. I would provide you an argument if I sensed you were really wanting some help. I’m not going to throw pearls to…

              Facilitating drunkenness is my argument. Causing others to sin is my argument. I think the author of this article used the term “nightclub” recklessly if he meant an afternoon pub atmosphere. The term encompasses more than the most benign possibilities. Sorry if I offended you.

  • Aimee Byrd

    “All callings, or vocations, from God are thus valid places to serve. So strictly speaking there are no unlawful vocations; the question should actually be whether or not a particular way of making a living is a vocation at all.” Thank you for pointing out such a key question. I’ve read both your books and appreciate this conversation of bringing the dignity back to our vocations. The evangelical culture has inadvertently placed guilt on those with “secular” vocations, as if we need to have Christian versions of everything we do for it to be meaningful.

  • Ben Menghini

    “This temptation is still with us, especially with regard to the problem of violence and national egoism which are our special concern here. One reason most theologies want to replace the Sermon on the Mount with some other standards is just this: they want something possible, something you can teach to all your children and require of all your parishoners, a goal a man can realistically reach. This is a very logical desire, if our goal is to be moral mentors and “preachers” of a self-justifying civilization, including service as chaplain to its armies. Jesus criticism is only that this goal is not the same as being heralds of His kingdom…
    Our deeds must be measured not only by whether they fit certain rules, nor by the results they hope to achieve, but by what they “say ”
    What do I communicate to a man about the love of God by being willing to consider him an enemy? What do I say about personal responsibility by agreeing to consider him my enemy when it is only the hazard of birth that causes us to live under different flags? What do I say about forgiveness if I punish him for the sins of his rulers? How is it reconcilable with the gospel – the good news – for the last word in my estimate of any man to be that, in a case of extreme conflict, it could be my duty to sacrifice his life for the sake of my nation, my security, or the political order which I prefer?”
    -John Howard Yoder, The Political Axioms of the Sermon on the Mount

  • Ron Martin

    Terrific article! Thanks Gene for your thoughtfulness…
    I have spent 30+ years in the Hollywood film industry and have been exposed to circumstances and situations that I did not approve or enjoy. In some cases I witnessed all the darkness one can imagine when you combine money, power, ego and sensual devices that reveal the sinfulness of our society at it’s worst.

    But, I must say, I feel as called to this ministry and mission field as any one I know in pastoral care or foreign missions. I have seen the joy of leading many friends, colleagues, and even some of my employees to Jesus. I have seen them grow and take the Gospel to their own friend, families and beyond.

    Now I have slowed down a bit and do campus ministry and counseling from a lay position. The insight and wisdom gained from these many years tells me one thing. Our God calls us to declare the name of our precious Jesus where ever we go, whatever we do, when ever we can. I do not regret one moment along the way, save only to speak more boldly for the grace of God.

  • http://thetribulationtimesherald-exhorter.blogspot RN

    Luther was definitely wrong about a great number of things, in addition to consubstantiation and baby sprinkling, and he’s clearly off about Christians as soldiers. Other than the killing aspects involved, consider the following: a Christian man who enlists will most certainly be sent off to serve alone in a foreign land. How then does he lead his wife and children spiritually during that time? How does he then engage in daily family worship to guide the walk of his family? He can’t, and I’m speaking first-hand as an army-child here. There is a lot of shepherding I missed out on during the time of the Persian Gulf, simply because my Dad (and most all other men who could have served as mentors) were all out of the picture.

    • Melody

      How do you think Ruth Graham did it?

    • tODD

      RN said, “Other than the killing aspects involved…” Does God forbid “killing”, or murdering? Are the two different? I would suggest they are. It is clear from the Bible that God does not forbid all instances of killing. Indeed, he gave “the sword” to authorities for a reason.

      As to how a soldier-father fulfills his vocation as a father and husband while on duty abroad, there is no question it is difficult. It is likewise difficult for the traveling businessman. Is that role likewise forbidden by God? I have known pastors who struggle to take care of both their congregations and their families as much as they want. Is the job of pastor, then, off-limits?

      Does God ever put us in difficult situations? Is it possible to be a good father when one has infrequent communications via phone or Skype? I would argue it is.

    • formerly just steve

      While I sympathize with your situation, I don’t think the logic necessarily follows. There are a great many reasons why a man is separated from his children, or children from their father. This is life. But if the Christian were never to enlist in the very service that provides for your freedom to practice your religion, then what? Should you be happy to live in a country where you are home to shepherd your children–as long as you don’t teach them anything except State-sponsored philosophies?

      • Ben Menghini

        I don’t think it stands that a Christian should join the army in order to preserve his own religious freedom. Under Christ, that freedom is a not a right, but a luxury few are fortunate enough to live under. The gospel of Christ, by it’s very nature makes living within the context of one’s culture difficult.
        Even so, if Christians were religiously persecuted, does scripture leave room for them to take up arms in defense of their liberty? I think that Paul, in Romans, would say no:

        “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
        -Romans 12:14-21

        • formerly just steve

          Should the Christian go in the service to protect his own religious freedom? You say not necessarily. What about going into the service to protect his family’s, his community’s, his country’s religious freedom? Or freedoms in general. If not, who do we want or expect to do this? Nobody? This country wouldn’t last very long. No country would.

          • Ben Menghini

            Nations rise and fall, only Christ is eternal. The Christian should not go into military service for any reason. The way of Christ is the way of the cross: denying a military struggle for an earthly kingdom for the path of nonresistance. This way of life is only possible with a proper eschatology, understanding that the story does not end here, that God and not man is hero of the story, that death is not the final word, and that in the end Christ will establish his kingdom. Christians are not called to preserve nations, but rather to be faithful witnesses to Christ that call them to repentance.
            This was the way of the early church, which did not allow its members to serve in the military or in public office. It is a hard teaching, and not one that will make you popular, but it is the way of the cross. Those same early Christians understood that following Christ could cost them everything, including their family. Those Christians then took their children to death with them in the Colosseum.

            • formerly just steve

              Ben, what do you do with the next chapter of Romans?

              “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience”

              Doesn’t this imply that a ruler and a soldier are servants of God as well?

            • Ben Menghini

              I would return once again to what Stanley Hauerwas says on the subject of Romans 12-13:

  • Keith Pavlischek

    OK, Ben. Point of clarification. Is your citation of Yoder (and his interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount) meant to express agreement with Hays that serving as a Chaplain in the armed forces is morally equivalent to being a prostitute, or with the counter-claim that serving as a chaplain in the armed forces is a morally permissible profession?

    I take it that if you were to agree with the former position, that this would apply a fortiori to those serving in the military as soldiers bearing arms.

    • Ben Menghini

      I think Yoder would agree with Hayes. Christians are called to live as Christ did (nonresistance). As Christ rejected the temptation to establish an earthly kingdom by violence, he calls us to do the same.
      I also have to disagree with Veith’s (and apparently Luther’s) use of Romans 13 to defend just war. This interpretation divorces chapter 13 from the context of chapter 12. It confuses ideas of submission and obedience. Stanley Hauerwas sums up the issue well:
      Finally, the argument of war/killing/murder from the Old Testament comes from a flawed understanding of the Christian narrative. According to Sam Wells the Christian story has Five Acts: “Act One is creation, Act Two is Israel, Act Three is Jesus, Act Four is the church, and Act Five is the eschaton” Within the context of Act Two, we can understand that God was forming a people, a nation that he would use to save the world. These actions were therefore directed toward that goal. Also interestingly, when we look at the actual events of Israel waging war, we see absurd military tactics (dividing an army until outnumbered, choosing incompetent soldiers, marching priests and musicians around a wall) which, when victorious, leave no doubt that victory came by God’s hand alone.
      (I can only speak into the idea of being a soldier as a vocation for Christians, I would not claim to be the judge of any persons salvation)

      • Keith Pavlischek

        Ben–the last guy I would go to for a convincing exegesis of Rom 13 is Yoder. His shot at it in The Politics of Jesus is, to say the least, entirely unconvincing. And Stanley Hauerwas is even worse, since by his own admission, he doesn’t “do Bible,” which is why Hays tried to provide some NT exegetical support for the kind of thing Hauerwas was trying to do.

        The problem with all these contemporary pacifists is that THEY are the ones who fail to appreciate how Rom. 13 connects with the end of Rom. 12. The end of Rom 12 is indeed an echo of the Sermon on the Mount. Don’t take private vengeance. Leave it to God, says Paul. But then later we are told that the LORD has established public authorities–MINISTERS of God’s wrath–and has given them the sword to do justice and to punish evil doers.

        Which brings us back to the issue of office and calling. Even the Anabaptists recognized that the office of public magistrate and the sword were ordained by God to punish evil-doers. The difference between the Anabaptists on the one hand and the Lutherans, Calvinists and Catholics on the other was really over whether this “office” and “calling” was open to Christians. The latter all affirmed that it was. The Anabaptists, however, argued that while these offices were indeed established by God, still, only non-Christians could hold those offices. Calvin, quite rightly, thought this to be madness! I do too because it drives a wedge between the will of the Father–the authority execute HIS just wrath against evil-doers and the (purported) will of the Son–who forbids Christians from holding the very office that the Father had established to exercise HIS justice.

        Again, the problem with Yoder, Hauerwas and Hays is that their view of public authority (the sword-bearer) of Rom. 13 is even worse than that of the Anabaptists of the Schleitheim articles. (Yoder’s burden was to move beyond that early “sectarianism”) But at least the early Anabaptists admitted that God established public authorities with the normative task to execute his wrath and affirmed them in the office. They would never have thought of insisting that offices and callings established by God were intrinsically evil, analogous pimping and prostitution. Which is why Yoder, Hauerwas and Hays can be safely ignored on this issue.

        • Thomas Stearns

          “[Yoder’s] shot at it in The Politics of Jesus is, to say the least, entirely unconvincing. And Stanley Hauerwas is even worse, since by his own admission, he doesn’t “do Bible,”.
          “Again, the problem with Yoder, Hauerwas and Hays is that their view of public authority (the sword-bearer) of Rom. 13 is even worse than that of the Anabaptists of the Schleitheim articles.”

          Just to be clear: none of the above amounts to a substantive engagement with Yoder, Hauerwas, or Hays. Further, this blogger is uncertain as to why the three have been monolithically slackly bound, as if forming a triunity. The rather macabre vignette of Hays and prostitution is a red herring: distracting from actual dialogics. Sifting through the higher tawdriness of Mr. Pavlischek’s execration and iniquitous accusations towards those recognizing imaginative possibilities for Christians freely choosing a declarative “nein” proves a difficult task. As he seems to have it, without bowing to the trump card of and paying tribute to Paul thundering out of Zion in Rom 13 the Christian bowls the proverbial gutter-ball. The odor of sanctity surrounding the assumptions of Christians exercising all offices unveils an undue petulance.

          • Keith Pavlischek

            Mr. Stearns–Whoa! I detect a little bit of pacifist-aggression here.

            So, for the record, I was not the one who publicly called military chaplains “prostitutes” for recruiting at Duke Divinity School at the Evangelical Philosophical Society–Richard Hays did. I was not the one who claimed that Stanley Hauerwas failed to ground his defense of pacifism in sound New Testament exegesis–Hays did in his chapter on “violence” in his book “The Moral Vision of the New Testament.” If you want to defend Yoder’s entirely implausible and novel interpretation of the “powers” (exousia) in Rom. 1, then have at it. Yoder, Hauerwas and Hays have only been “monolithically slackly bound” whatever that means)to the extent that they believe that military service is not a legitimate calling or office for Christians, which is, partly at least, relevant to the article under discussion.
            Finally, if you would like to repair to an extended exegetical and philosophical engagement with Hays, I will call to your attention the following: James Skillen and Keith Pavlischek, “Political Responsibility and the Use of Force: A Critique of Richard Hays,” Philosophia Christi 3/2 (2001).

            • Thomas Stearns

              Thank you for your response, Mr. P (if I may). And please forgive the aggression. It was certainly undue.

              As for Hays, I cannoy speak too much. I am not familiar enough with “The Moral Vision”. As to Hauerwas, I would like to challenge that it is not exegetically grounded, in that his articulations of pacifism are not forms of liberal optimism in humanity, but thoroughly Christological. That is, Christ’s life as witnessed to marks the beginningof real time, and we are thus called to participate. As for Yoder, as someone critically interested in his work I would be interested in hearing a bit about his re-defining of the powers.

              Also, please don’t read me as defending pacifism per se, I have yet to encounter (esp in Yoder) a “thick” account of violence that can be resisted, but rather wanting you to flesh out your criticisms.

  • JAY

    I appreciate the article, and that you reduce everything to love for God and love for neighbor, the two greatest commandments (Matt. 22: 37-40). Another great book on this subject is YOUR WORK MATTERS TO GOD by Sherman and Hendricks.

    My only thing to note is that you say “as individual Christians we must not kill.” Actually, the commandment in Exodus 20: 13 is “You shall not MURDER.” I think this distinction makes the argument about soldiers much more effective. Dispatching of an enemy in a “just war” is not murder — for God Himself COMMANDED enemies of Israel/worshippers of false gods to be slaughtered — a picture of the wrath of the coming judgment for those who deny Christ. Also, if God commanded us simply not to kill, we would never eat meat. Furthermore, there would not have been an Old Testament sacrifical system. God Himself killed the first animal in Genesis 3 as a covering for sin. And Christ Himself ate meat — and ate fish in His glorified body (He would have been consenting to a violation of His own commandment if the prohibition had simply been not to “kill.”) If the commandment had been simply not to “kill”, then in these instances God Himself would have been violating His own word. So I bring this up simply to caution you to be accurate, especially when handling the Word of God. Many will take that misquote and run with it, as they already have, in instances like assuming we are to be vegetarians (when God Himself allowed us to eat meat after the flood)[Genesis 9: 3 – 6, which also goes against the notion that God commanded us not to “kill” — these verses show God’s image in man is to be honored, whether a beast OR a man takes the life there are to be consequences]. Other erroneous conclusions are that war is unjust, etc. because some think we are forbidden to “kill”. “Murder” on the other hand, is a violation of love for God (in whose image we are made) and love for neighbor (as it stems from unbridled anger and hatred).

    • Dan T

      The problem with providing proofs of a Christian’s involvement in the military from the Israel in the Old Testament is that for much of it, Israel was operating under a Theocracy. God was their King and Ruler and as such was responsible for every life taken. He has the right to take life or command that it be taken because He is the only one that gives life. Even in the time of the Kings and prophets God spoke and counseled the human rulers of the nation of Israel. The same cannot be said for America or any other country on earth today. While I do believe that God does set up kings and remove them at his pleasure I don’t believe that gives us the right to place ourselves (voluntarily I might add) into a place of committing acts of violence for the government. I would also caution against using the excuse that if God did it, we can do it. Because, obviously, He is God. We are not. I don’t believe the killing of animals is the issue in this thread. Clearly when talking about killing we are talking about the taking of human life. But taking something that God commanded someone to do and saying that it’s ok for us to do it also might cause a few problems. God commanded many people to marry their relatives. He commanded Hosea to marry a prostitute. He commanded the Israelite army to kill children and babies. To say that because God commanded these things to be done makes it ok for us to do them is absurd. Context and common sense is a great help in understanding how we are to behave in situations when we are uncertain.

      • Melody

        So is your stand that God will no longer lead anyone except in the confines of how you understand His will to be from now on? Does that mean that you believe in extreme passivity?

      • Anar

        It was in the NT that Jesus told his disciples to sell their cloak and get a sword. But 2 swords was enough: not enough for an army, but they could use them to kill in self-defense. Why did Jesus say this?

  • Paul P

    Great article, but I think there is an aspect missing. This conversation topic seems one-dimensional without at least considering, what if a person is left with the choice of vocation between gambling (or dealing) or prostitution? I know it’s an extreme situation and a little tangential to the current article, but I think it is something worth thinking about in conjunction with the morality of vocation topic. Sometimes that morality is tied to why they worker is actually working that job.

  • Looselycult

    So it’s an honorable profession according to complimentarians to be a Christian MMA Fighter and not a stay at home Dad right?

  • taco

    Vocation is a subject that the broader Church needs to discuss more. I hope TGC will bring more posts like this in for discussion. Most Evangelicals are completely ignorant of any sort of Biblical view of Vocation.

  • Mark

    So since Christ and all those who are in him will ultimately judge Satan and all those who are outside of Christ to eternal damnation, how can one argue non-resistance based on “what would Jesus do”? Seems like sending one to eternal damnation is a little more “violent” than war. Just because the judgement of Christ is restrained for now does not mean that it will never come and it WILL in fact be “violent.” It would be better to have a millstone hung around your neck and be thrown into the sea (kind of violent) than to cause one of these little ones to fall.

    God did use the ancient Israelites to judge the surrounding nations, and He used the surrounding nations to judge Israel for Idolatry. That was a little “violent.” We are not in the same theocratic situation, however, it does inidcate that war is not necessarily immoral, otherwise God is immoral.

    Here’s another one. Can a Christian work as an executioner for the state? If so, why would it be necessarily wrong for a Christian to work for the state as a soldier? If it is wrong for a Christian to be an executioner, how can Christians justifiy capital punishment, which is a “common grace” ordinance from early in Genesis?

  • Joshua W

    Very thoughtful – except for the cheap shot at derivative traders! At least there was a confession of ignorance included.

  • G

    Police. Most of whom are violent psychopaths who have God complexes. Standard procedure seems to include assaulting people already restrained in handcuffs. I have way more respect for a soldier vs a thieving cop.

  • Nick H.

    Is this the inaugural Lutheran post at the TGC? It’s the first I’ve seen anyway. I guess this answers Pastor DeYoung’s previous question. This ‘soldier’ is thankful for clear teaching on the doctrine of vocation.

  • James Spence

    I don’t think much of Yoder and I’ve never really been into the whole ‘Star Wars’ thing. I saw the first one and didn’t think it was deserving of all the hype. I never saw another Star Wars movie, so the whole Yoder issue is lost on me.

  • Des

    “It seems that providing pleasure is a way of loving and serving people. To be sure, there are sinful pleasures. But why shouldn’t God, who adorned his creation so beautifully and has given us a joy in other people that is in fact akin to love, create pleasure through vocation?”

    Is there a scriptural basis for this? Or does it just *seem* like giving people pleasure is a way of loving and serving them? In fact, in many cases loving and serving people will not give them pleasure, just the opposite. For instance, a doctor delivering unwelcome diagnosis, a judge delivering an unwelcome though just sentence, a pastor informing someone of a sin, the list goes on.

    Providing people pleasure is not a biblical justification for anything as far as I know. In each case where pleasure is received as a result of loving service, you can see that the loving service is rendered regardless of the production of pleasure. There may be other biblical justifications for the professions of celebrity actors and sportspeople but providing pleasure does not suffice.

    • formerly just steve

      So does there have to be a higher purpose for the artist, other than to bring pleasure to the eye of the beholder of his creation, in order to be a proper Christian vocation?

  • JG

    Gene – great piece.
    However, why the need to misrepresent Brooks’ article? He clearly does not suggest that Christians should not become professional athletes in “The Jeremy Lin Problem.”

  • Matthew Worthington

    Gene – Respectfully speaking. glad to see you admitted that you didn’t understand what a derivative trader does/is? in short a derivative trader is essential to providing efficient capital markets and then often helps spread risk just like an insurance company. the first insurance company was formed by a group of ship merchants in England. they were losing ships and so they decideded to form a group and “tax” themselves a little each trip in order to put away money for a “rainy day” when they lost one of their ships. they did this to spread risk and protected each other from huge losses. by protecting themselves from huge losses, they were able to expand and become more productive merchant shippers which meant they were able to open the world to global trade, which is good for everyone on earth. derivatives are financial instruments that allow individuals, businesses and organizations to spread risk. many banks and insurance companies, also farmers, industrialists, etc..use derivatives to spread risk as well. They do this to allow for more efficient use of your capital (savings), which is good for all of society. a derivative trader can be good or bad, it depends why he does what he does and how he does it. At the very least, the more derivative traders we have in a market (the more people trading), the more liquid the market becomes and the less “tax/spread” we have in markets. Also, US dollars (paper money or gold back money) are derivatives, so you are a derivative trader yourself. Every time you trade a dollar/derivative for your labor or for a Patrick O’Brian novel, you are a derivative trader. dollars are a derivative of your “personal production” which you use to trade for someone else’s production. you can read all about this in Jude Waniski’s seminal work “the Way the world works”. you have written many books on work, now educate yourself about the fruits of labor/work and the interactions of people and the fruits of their labor(economics). :-)

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  • Anar

    Movie Stars (and other artists) are not only giving brief moments of pleasure to people. The most skilled or well-positioned artists are doing far more than that; they are changing whole cultures. Trash collectors are important, but as Christians we really should not underestimate how much God works through the arts and how much he calls his people to love and serve through creating and cultivating beauty (especially today as we recover from an error of neglecting the arts).

  • CL

    Can we say that a Christian soldier killing Iraqi folks so we Americans can pay less for our fuel is doing good at God’s eyes?

    • Melody

      Can we say that trying to interject Your politics into the bible is a creepy thing to do, not to mention hateful towards soldiers that have risked their lives while you sit on your computer?

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  • James Rednour

    I realize the evangelical community adores the military in general, so this will sting a bit. Of course Christians should not serve in the military. By doing so, you replace God with the state as your ultimate authority. The purpose of basic training is to break down a person’s morality and will and condition him to accept orders without thinking about the consequences.

    And what about “collateral damage”? Will God overlook the fact that you helped kill people who were simply trying to live their lives in the middle of a war zone, including women and children? If you answer yes, I advise you to read Genesis 18 again. God does not destroy the righteous with the wicked, so if you do so you are engaging in sin. Romans 13 will not help you here.

    Jesus never said that a person should love his enemy except when the state declares war against them then making it alright to kill them. There is no such thing as a just war; they are all tragic, brutal and evil.

    • kerner

      I said this in reply to a different comment, but I’ll say it again. Soliers have asked Jesus, directly, what to do, and He didn’t tell them to stop soldiering. He said @Luke 3:14:

      “14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

      He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

      If it were wrong, per se, to be a soldier, Jesus would have said so, don’t you think?

      • James Rednour

        Jesus had already said not to murder your neighbor. Why would he have to say it again to a soldier specifically?

      • James Rednour

        Besides, nobody just quit working as a Roman soldier, unless they wanted to be executed and have their family executed as well. What choice does a soldier have at that point? Better to never join as a soldier, then you will never be faced with such a moral quandary.

    • tODD

      James said, “By [serving in the military], you replace God with the state as your ultimate authority.” What an odd claim. As any Christian knows, no authority exists except what has been established by God. So submitting to the state — as, indeed, all citizens do, not just soldiers — is still submission to God.

      Yes, there will be cases where the state exceeds its authority and “we must obey God rather than men” at such times. But it is quite clear from Scripture that recognizing the state’s authority and submitting to it are not, ipso facto, sinful. In fact, quite the opposite.

      James asked, “Will God overlook the fact that you helped kill [innocent civilians]?” God does not “overlook” any sin. He did, however, forgive the sins of the whole world. Something to keep in mind. Still, your question seems to ignore the distinction between people who are tragically killed without any soldier’s intent, and those who are specifically targeted by members of the military.

      James said, “God does not destroy the righteous with the wicked…” Heh. You forget, “There is no one righteous, not even one.”

      James said, “There is no such thing as a just war; they are all tragic, brutal and evil.” This will, of course, be news to the God of the Bible (which, FYI, also contains the Old Testament).

      • Abby

        “James said, “There is no such thing as a just war; they are all tragic, brutal and evil.” This will, of course, be news to the God of the Bible (which, FYI, also contains the Old Testament).”

        From the “Faith” chapter of Hebrews 11: “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Bark, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets — also through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.” (Heb 11:32-34)

        Sounds like a commendation to me.

  • Holly

    Jesus did not condemn those in the military but in fact stated he had never seen such faith as that of the centurion …. the work of a soldier is not to kill — but to keep the peace and to defend those around him, sometimes he is called on to kill or be killed but it is not his vocation.

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  • Tony

    The basic premise that makes the New York Times article incorrect is that it assumes sports to be inherently sinful (pride). That’s an unbiblical presupposition- Paul & the writer to the Hebrews uses sports (running race, boxing, etc.) as fitting analogues to the grace filled humble life of a Christian. If sports were sinful by nature, than the analogy breaks down terribly.

  • Andy Wilson

    If we believe that the fourth commandment is still in effect, then it would seem that vocations that require a person to work on Sundays are off limits for Christians (with the exception of those vocations that need to be constantly staffed for the proper functioning of society — such as some medical professions, police work, and the military). Most professional sports are off limits to Christians if the Sabbath law is still in effect.

    I realize that many Christians today do not believe that we are required to keep the Sabbath, so I thought I would offer a short explanation for why Reformed Christians have historically believed that we are. We believe the Sabbath is a creation ordinance, not something that began when the law was given to Israel at Sinai. At the very beginning, God instituted the Sabbath as a sign that pointed to the eternal rest that belongs to the new creation. The Sabbath was given in order to teach us that life has a goal. And it was given to show us the way to reach that goal. Just as God completed his creative work and entered into his rest, man was supposed to do the work that God had assigned to him and then enter into God’s rest. In this sense, the Sabbath is closely connected to what the Reformed call the covenant of works. Man was promised a share in God’s rest upon the condition of his completion of the work that God had given him to do.

    Of course, our first parents failed to do that work, and their failure made it impossible for any of us to enter God’s rest by our works. The only way into God’s rest is by the work of Christ, which is received by faith. This is why unbelief prevented the wilderness generation from entering the typological rest of the Promised Land. (see Heb. 4:1-3) Jesus has secured the rest of the new creation by his faithful life and obedient death.

    We begin to enter into this rest when we place our faith in Christ. But this rest will not be consummated until the day of Christ’s return. This is why the command to keep the Sabbath holy is still in effect. We have not yet entered into the final rest of the new creation. As the writer of Hebrews says, “there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” (Heb. 4:9) If the reality to which the Sabbath sign points is still in the future, then it does not make sense to say that the sign is no longer necessary.

    Our Sabbath observance differs from the Sabbath observance of Old Testament saints in that we worship on Sunday, the first day of the week, while they worshipped on Saturday, the last day of the week. The main reason for this is because we live after the cross and resurrection while they lived before it. As Geerhardus Vos explains, “Inasmuch as the Old Covenant was still looking forward to the performance of the Messianic work, naturally the days of labour to it come first, the day of rest falls at the end of the week. We, under the New Covenant, look back upon the accomplished work of Christ. We, therefore, first celebrate the rest in principle procured by Christ, although the Sabbath also still remains a sign looking forward to the final eschatological rest.” [Biblical Theology, 141] The Sabbath is the first day of the week for us because we recognize that Christ secured God’s rest for us by completing his work on Good Friday (the sixth day of the week) and resting in his tomb on Saturday (the seventh day of the week). The Sabbath is on Sunday for us because Christ entered into the rest of the new creation when he was raised from the dead on the first Easter Sunday. We still need a Sabbath sign because we still await the consummation of the rest that Christ has secured for us.

  • fws

    There is one thing that has not been mentioned here and should be since this is a Reformed site.

    For Lutherans anything that WE do, which includes ALL vocations, especially church vocations/ministries, is about death. It is about mortification. Totally so.

    All Vocation is about the Holy Spirit applying the Law to Old Adam that is written in the Reason (note NOT in the hearts) of ALL men (rom 2:15). And what is it that Lutherans say that that Law always and only does? It kills us. It accuses us. So Luther says this “Life IS mortification.”

    There is no Life in anything we can do. There is Life ONLY by hiding all we can do in the Works of Another. Faith alone, apart from even our most sanctified works is, alone, where life is.

    So what about that distinction the Reformed push for lately that is imperative versus indicative or a Third Use of the Law that instructs believers but does not kill them? Or a Law that is “gospel reminder” or “gospel imperative” or “gospel encouragement”?

    Lutherans say that these are about what WE do. Therefore they are instructions from God to do what? They are instructions from God to the New Man to take up the Law and use it to kill Old Adam. So God’s Law can be a mirror, a curb, or instruction (a rule). All three are about mortification and death. Pick your poison!

    And further we say two other things about the Law:

    1) There IS a Law that Reason is veiled with the “veil of Moses” (cf colossians) and is blind to. Reason is of the opinion that the Law can be kept as civil laws are kept. That is, Reason things God’s Law can be kept by doing or refraining from doing a list of stuff that appears in the Bible or elsewhere. And Reason agrees with the decalog because it is the SAME Law God has written in the Reason of everyone. But there is a Law peculiarly written in the 1st table of the Decalog that is veiled to Reason. Why? it deals with movements of the heart. Civil Law can be kept by doing it ,even if we resent doing it. God’s Law can only be kept if we do it from the very bottom of our heart. Think of the spontaneous acts of love one does for a beloved. It needs to look like that.

    It is important here to note that the Roman Catholic Scholastics and St Thomas Aquinas, and also the neo-scholastics , the Lutheran Melancthon, and John Calvin adopted a view that is Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics:

    Aristotle says that the way to become a Virtuous person is to practice doing what a Virtuous person would do until doing that becomes a habit.

    And what does this practice look like according to Aristotle? It looks like this: A Virtuous person uses Reason, guided by love for neighbor, to subdue the “natural appetites” or “baser instincts” that are driven by the heart and emotions.

    Both Rome and Calvin call this process sanctification. And it is in a sense, even though both pagans and christians can obviously and should obviously do this very exercise. So even Aristotle sees that there is a war going on between God’s Revealed Law in Reason, and the Law’s work that is written in the heart. And that work written in the heart is hatred for God and resentment because Old Adam has a heart that viciously seeks to place it’s fear, love and trust in anything BUT the Works of Another. This misplaced faith is often in Virtue and the practice of it!

    So the answer is not to debate centered on those “natural appetites” and “baser instincts” ie what we daily do, and sort them based on some rule such as “what would Jesus do” or such. That is to put sherman williams “sepulcher white” on a person that is rotten on the inside even though he may be perfectly law abiding on the outside

    The ONLY end to THIS war is what? It is to receive a NEW heart and a NEW set of emotions. And Lutherans believe that this new heart, which is the very Image of God restored, is received alone, in the Waters of Holy Baptism where faith is once again in the heart. And once a heart has that faith in the Works of Another, only then can the prophecy in Jeremiah 33 be fulfilled which says that the Law will again be written in the hearts of mankind.

    2) so then where is faith and Christ in our Vocations? It is found in , with and under what we can see and do.


    Only one with faith in Christ can respond correctly emotionally to the Law of God. And that correct emotional response is to fear God and so to be terrified at ALL we can see and do, seeing what the judgement of the Law says about it.

    Only then are we driven to hide ALL we can see and do in our vocations in the Works of Another.

    And then the Law can no longer accuse us, even though it will always continue to accuse and kill the Old Adam within us.

    God can only become a true Object of Love when the Law no longer accuses us.

    Bless all you Reformed here. I am not attempting to persuade you as to our Lutheran position on the Third Use (as instruction on how to kill Old Adam) or such. But I suspect that probably none of you have seen the Lutheran Theology on Sanctification laid out in the way the Lutheran Confessions present it.

    Now you have it. Some of it may confuse you. Ask away if you have questions. One cannot disagree until one first understands the contrary position.

  • fws

    andy wilson

    Lutherans would disagree and respond:

    Christ alone is our Sabbath Rest. The jewish sabbath was a shaddow or sign pointing to that Rest.

    Now we have the Ressurected Reality. We no longer need the sign, not even a christian one. Every day we are to dwell in that Sabbath Rest that is alone Christ, by faith alone, apart from works. cf my previous post to see the context for what I just said.

  • fws

    Andy wilson

    at the risk of posting too much, I am pleased you brought up the sabbath laws. Lutherans believe another thing about the Law:

    The work of the Law is Death, sacrifice, Justice. Justice cannot happen without a death. Someone has to die to their rights. Cut the baby in two. Justice is precisely what we deserve when the the scales are balanced according to what we do. And what we deserve is temporal and eternal death and punishment.

    But.. the God desired FRUIT of that Law mortification is that Mercy be done! And mercy is the opposite of Justice. By definition Mercy is to receive the opposite of what we deserve.

    And here is the tricky part: Mercy sounds like Gospel doesnt it? But it is not. It is the God desired fruit of the Law! And the God desired fruit of the Law is therefore the SAME God desired Fruit that is also worked by the Holy Gospel! (which is ALONE the WORKS OF ANOTHER. ALONE . ALONE. ALONE.)

    Therefore: If goodness and mercy for our neighbor does not result from what we do, then it simply does not qualify as righeousness biblically. Virtue is NOT it’s own reward according to Scripture. Virtue exists soley to serve our neighbor in his need. We Lutherans call this Vocation.

    If what we do only is to satisfy God’s legal checklist, than the biblical word for that is idolatry and works righteousness.

    So what does this have to do with Sabbath Keepping?


    We busy ourselves in Vocation every day. And in with and under that, by faith alone, we are resting in the Sabbath that is the Works of Another.

    Further, taking time off for church must be, alone, to serve our neighbor. We exercise there our priestly duty to pray for him. We have a place to invite him to hear about the Sabbath rest and to be baptized into that Rest. We Proclaim the Lords death until he returns by celebrating the Lords Supper. This is for our neighbor’s good. Our good is found apart from even these works, alone, alone, alone, in the Works of Another, in which, we hide all we can see and do. +++

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