Miroslav Volf‘s Work in the Spirit: Toward a Theology of Work is an exciting read for anyone interested in a theology of work. As soon I began to read an excerpt for a class in my masters program, I went straight to the book store, bought it, and finished the book that day. It helped me to broaden the way theology can be practically applied in the realm of human activities. Particularly helpful was Volf’s handling of Luther, presenting absolutely intriguing critiques. First off, the notion of vocatio (“calling”) for Luther became more than a calling to a particular kind of religious life. Luther held to these convictions:

  1. all Christians (not only monks) have a vocation.
  2. every type of work performed by Christians (not only religious activity) can be a vocation.
  3. every Christian has a spiritual vocation (vocatio spiritualis) and external vocation (vocatio externa).

But Volf’s critique comes in these six points:

  1. Vocation is indifferent towards alienation. It seems that every type of work can be a vocation, no matter how dehumanizing it might be. (Take for example, prostitution, slavery.)
  2. Luther’s notion of vocation is dangerously ambiguous. Spiritual calling comes from the proclamation of the gospel, whereas the external calling comes from one’s station (Stand).
  3. The understanding of work is easily misused ideologically. Every profession was raised to the level of divine service. Certain activities may warrant ideological agenda.
  4. The notion of vocation is not applicable to the increasingly mobile industrial and information society. (What if people changed jobs?)
  5. In industrial and information societies, people take on more than one job or employment.
  6. As the nature of human work changed in the course of industrialization, vocation was reduced to gainful employment. (What if work “evolved” over time? And what to do with retirement?)