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Ian Packer discusses how we need an approach to the professions and the concept of vocation that may both contribute to public life and perhaps aid in rehabilitating substantive moral discourse and discussion.
According to Dietrich Bonhoeffer the church must share in the secular problems of ordinary human life, not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell [men and women] of every calling what it means to live in Christ, to exist for others… It must not underestimate the importance of human example… it is not abstract argument, but example, that gives its word emphasis and power.
In this paper, I explore an approach to the professions and the concept of vocation that may both contribute to public life and perhaps aid in rehabilitating substantive moral discourse and discussion.
Many theological discussions of vocation appeal to spheres of creation and ‘the natural’ with a marked tendency toward conservatism. Theologies of work seek to affirm Christians in the workplace but often lack sufficient elements of critique and dissent. A ‘baptist’ approach is especially vocal in pressing for an ethic grounded in the call to discipleship. Drawing especially upon the three-strand model of ethics articulated by James McClendon—organic, communal, anastatic—and reworked in relation to categories from the philosophy of vocation, I develop a model of profession, derived from discipleship, as the answer to vocation, a responsible form of life and practice committed to realising certain goods, shaped by ethos, character, and particularistic convictions rather than an appeal to an ethics of general principles or ‘values’.
Within a pluralistic, post-Christendom society, however, this claim needs to be put forward not only as directly but indirectly; not only in a ‘thick’ manner, but in a ‘thin’ form; expressed with the authority of exemplary practice. Within this baptistic framework of public theology—a triad of hope, warning, and demand—I point to features of agreement and tension between professions and baptistic Christian ethics in their conceptions of engaging in common tasks, seeking the common good, and pursuing the common ventures of life.
Full Title : “Walking Worthy of the Calling”: Toward a Baptistic Theology of Vocation and Profession
Ian Packer is a Baptist minister and works as Academic Registrar of Morling College in Sydney, Australia, where he lectures in theology, ethics and Christian thought. He was Director of Public Theology for Australian Evangelical Alliance (2007-2009) and Assistant Director of Ethos: EA Centre for Christianity and Society (2010-2015). He is currently pursuing doctoral research on the public significance of vocation. He has lectured at several colleges in theology and ethics and their interface with other disciplines. He served on the Social Issues Committee for the Baptist Union of NSW & ACT and has served on the executive committee for the Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand. He lives in Sydney with his wife Libby and their three daughters and son.
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