Luther on Vocation 4

luther on vocationLuther sharply separates the earthly kingdom from the heavenly one, according to Gustaf Wingren in Luther on Vocation.

Vocation, the means through which one loves one’s neighbor, is “rejected as a means to man’s salvation and status as child of God.”  “God does not need our good works” through vocation though “our neighbor does.”  In contrast, “it is faith that God wants.”  “Faith enters a different kingdom, the eternal, divine kingdom,” a “heavenly kingdom where Christ is king, and there his gospel alone rules: no law, and therefore no works.”  “Before God not only does station vanish, but also every work stands as sinful and worthless.”  As a result, all men in the heavenly realm are alike, regardless of their earthly vocations.

So far, so good, at least for a reformed evangelical like me.  Yes, Luther, salvation is by faith alone.  Yes, Luther, God does not discriminate people based on their earthly  “stations.”

Then he says this: “The realm of vocation is temporary.  It is only in the present, short life that we are concerned with the endowments and responsibilities of office.”  “Faith’s realm is a future kingdom, a kingdom after death; but vocation’s realm is in the present, and will come to an end.”

Is that right?

Is there to be no continuity between my callings here, and my callings in the consummated kingdom?  In every possible sense?  Or is it possible that, in some sense, there is going to be some continuity between what I do here in the earthly kingdom, with my God-given talents and temperament, and what I will do in the consummated kingdom?

Perhaps I am unfairly reading into Luther’s silence.  It’s just that the dichotomy Luther sets up between the two kingdoms gets expressed so strongly that I am led to these questions.

The very last section of the book is called “Hiddenness and Eschatology.”  Maybe I need to wait until I read that — and what Luther’s thoughts are on the eschaton — before I can answer these questions.


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