In their pursuit of the American dream, many often speak of jobs and careers that will help them achieve their goals. What we have lost in this pursuit, however, is the older notion of vocation. A vocation, a calling, has much richer and deeper biblical roots than careers. One of the important roles of classical Christian education, I believe, is recapturing the notion of vocation, both for the teacher and the student.
In The Religious Life of Theological Students, B. B. Warfield highlights for both students and teachers the importance of vocation. He writes, “It is the great doctrine of ‘vocation,’ the doctrine, to wit, that the best service we can offer to God is just to do our duty—our plain, homely duty, whatever that may chance to be.” These words provide helpful insight into the nature of vocation. For Warfield, vocation relates to duty. Our duty as believers in and followers of Jesus Christ is to do our duty, whatever that happens to be. As classical Christian educators, teaching is not merely a job or career; it is our vocation. God has called each of us into this work to serve Him by serving our students. To approach each day as one called by God to this vocation is to render our work as spiritual service, that is worship, to God.
For students, although they may grow up and mature into a variety of different vocations, they share a common vocation at this stage in their life, though it is often overlooked. In the modern landscape of education, education has become purely utilitarian, pragmatic to the extent that we begin career training early on in the K-12 curriculum. Already students see their education as job training and career preparation. But students ought to recognize instead that their education is bigger than job or career preparation. Their education is making them into a certain kind of people. At least, that is what the education is designed to do provided the student takes full advantage of his or her opportunity in classical Christian education. This is where Warfield’s words on vocation are so helpful. The student who see him or herself as engaged presently in the vocation of study, being a student, will more likely mature into a man or woman who sees work primarily as vocation and not career, who sees work as worship and not merely a paycheck. The students who pursue their schoolwork with the aim of rendering their best service to God by doing their duty are fulfilling their vocation as students.
Warfield goes on to write, “Keep always before your mind the greatness of your calling, that is to say, these two things: the immensity of the task before you, the infinitude of the resources at your disposal.” The students and teachers who succeed at keeping the greatness of their calling before them at all times are most likely to live in such a way as to glorify God. But Warfield doesn’t stop there. The great calling we each have can debilitate us as we look at the immensity of our task. But Warfield is right. We must understand the immensity of the task before we can have any hope of pursuing and attaining it. Yet, he also provides a measure of hope and encouragement by reminding us of the infinitude of the resources to help us get there. Whether these are books, lectures, teachers, or friends, we certainly are not alone in this vocation. Likewise, we live into this vocation when we hear the will of God in Scripture and obey this calling in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, whether we are teachers or students, we fulfill our God-given vocation by turning our eyes to God, obeying His Word, and living by His Spirit. And that is a calling or a vocation worth pursuing.