Callings: Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom on Vocation (William C. Placher, 2005)

Feet in time, footprints in eternity
“The Christian understanding of motivation is one of the deepest, richest, and most distinctive parts of the faith,” Os Guinness says. “Partly expressed in such notions as serving God, pleasing God, and glorifying God, it is developed most fully in the biblical doctrine of ‘calling.’ The Christian notion of calling, or vocation, is the conviction that human existence contains a life-purpose and a life task, namely that all we are and all we do—our identities, gifts, and responsibilities—have a direction and dynamic because they are lived out as a response to a calling, or summons, from God.”

It is hardly surprising, then, that Christian thinkers have often returned to this topic in sermons, books, lectures, and letters. In Callings, William Placher, a professor of Humanities at Wabash College, compiles excerpts from over the centuries, dividing them into 4 periods: the early church (100-500), the Middle Ages (500-1500), the Reformation (1500-1800), and the post-Christian world (1800-the present). Though the thinkers excerpted do not always agree, each of them is committed to the notion that meaning and significance is ultimately related to fulfilling one’s calling from God.

Callings is a rich resource, especially for those of us who do not have easy access to a large university library. Here in one volume is Justin Martyr, Athanasius, and Augustine; Bernard of Clairvaux, Aquinas, and Thomas á Kempis; Martin Luther, John Calvin, and William Perkins; Soren Kierkegaard, Dorothy Sayers, Karl Barth, and so many more. We recommend it especially for those who teach and mentor.


Callings: Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom on Vocation edited by William C. Placher (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans; 2005) 443 pp. + index.