« Callenberg, Johann Heinrich Calling Calmet, Augustin »


CALLING (vocation; Lat. vocatio, Gk. klesis): In dogmatic language as well as in the practical usage of the Church that act of divine grace (gratia applicatrix) with which the ordo salutis (see Order of Salvation) begins.

Biblical Usage.

The Greek terms kalein, klētos, klēsis are often used both in the Septuagint and in the New Testament in the sense of calling (e.g., Matt. ix. 13; Acts iv. 18), then of summoning to court, of inviting to dinner, etc. (e.g., III Macc. v. 14; Matt. xxii. 4, 8; Rev. xix. 9). But even in the Old Testament usage the Hebrew ḳara’ or the Greek kalein has the meaning of calling some one effectually for some purpose (cf. Isa. xlii. 6, xlviii. 12, xlix. 1, li. 2), which may signify "to call into existence" (Wisd. of Sol. xi. 25; Baruch iii. 33, 34; cf. Ps. xxxiii. 9). From this point the solemn usage of the New Testament takes its departure. The call proceeds from God; it comes to man through the word of preaching, which is not the word of man but of God (I Cor. i. 9; II Pet. i. 3; I Thess. ii. 13; II Thess. ii. 14). Inasmuch as the call comes from God, it is a "holy calling" (II Tim. i. 9), a "heavenly calling" (Heb. iii. 1), a "high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. iii. 14). The call is a free act of the grace of God (Rom. ix. 11), in which the divine election and predestination realize themselves (II Thess. ii. 13, 14; II Tim. i. 9–10; Rom. viii. 30). From this it is clear that it is always the effectual calling that is thought of; indeed it is precisely the divine election of grace which is made manifest in the calf. Hence those who became Christians were "called to be saints" (Rom. i. 7; I Cor. i. 2, cf. Jude 1: "called and kept"). That to which the Christians are called, or that which constitutes the content of the call is the blessing of the New Testament salvation, and this is expressed in the most diverse terms: to communion with Christ (I Cor. i. 9); to salvation (II These. ii. 14); to the peace of Christ (Col. iii. 15); to the kingdom and glory of God (I Thess. ii. 12); out of the darkness into a wonderful light (I Pet. ii. 9); to eternal life, to his glory and his inheritance (I Tim. vi. 12; I Pet. v. 10; Heb. ix. 15); to the hope of his calling (Eph. i. 18, iv. 4).

Inasmuch as the call indicates the New Testament salvation, it also procures the moral change comprehended in that blessing. As on the human side obedience corresponds to the call (Heb. xi. 6), so we are called "not for uncleanness, but in sanctification" (I Thess. iv. 7); the Christian's life is to be holy "as he who called you is holy" (I Pet. i. 15). If, therefore, the call is the effectual invitation of God to man, conveyed through the Word, for the kingdom and its blessings, so that everyone possessing these came by them through the call, the call, on the other baud, points beyond itself to the realization through God or through man: "Faithful is he that calleth you who also will do it" (I Thess. v. 24) and "give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure" (II Pet. i. 10).

By the Reformers.

Luther's use of the expression in the exposition of the third article of his Shorter Catechism is important for the history of the conception. But the term did not immediately receive on that account an independent place in dogmatics. In the older Protestant literature it is used in connection with election and the Church. It seems to have received a firm place in dogmatics for the first time in Hutter (Compendium, XIII. v. 8). According to Calovius it opens the ordo salutis, and he defines it (Systema, x. 1) as an "effectual bringing in to the Church" (ad ecclesiam efficax adductio), whereas Hollaz (Examen theologicum, III. i. 4, quæstio 1) makes it an offer of benefits by Christ. Moreover, a distinction is made between the vocatio generalis, which through nature, etc., comes to all men, and the vocatio specialis, which comes through the Gospel. The latter may be ordinaria, i.e., through the Word, or extraordinaria, and that immediata or mediata. The call is seria and efficax (in opposition to the view of the Reformed), inasmuch as the Spirit regularly becomes effectual in the Word. It is, moreover, universalis. That many peoples do without it is their own fault. Then comes the doubtful contention that since Adam all peoples in one way or another have been given the opportunity of hearing the Gospel (the above is from Hollaz; for a full discussion cf. H. Schmid, Die Dogmatik der evangelisch-lutherisehen Kirche, Gütersloh, 1893, 320 sqq.).

In Dogmatics.

Dogmatically considered, the doctrine of vocation is only the application of the doctrine of the Word of God to conversion. Therefore, this conception will disclose no new dogmatic knowledge, but will only offer a confirmation of such things as have been acquired elsewhere. But because the Scriptures often apply the term and because it has through the catechism gone over into the popular religious consciousness, its right to a special treatment in dogmatics is not to be denied. The call takes place the very moment a person—be he a non-Christian or be he externally connected with Christianity—becomes aware that the heard (or read) Word as the Word of God efficaciously works in him the divine will unto salvation, and as there is no conceivable moment in the Christian life in which that revelation of salvation in the Word becomes superfluous, the vocation will be a continual one and the Christian will always remain a vocatus. We may, therefore, confine the conception to the opening of the new life; but, starting from the thought of the Word of God, we must define the call as that influence of God upon man, through the medium of the Word, which makes the beginning of the new life and conditions its continuation and its completion. The call brings us the whole salvation as the passages of Scripture above cited show. If dogmaticians as a rule, in speaking of vocation, think only of the first influence of God, this must be supplemented by the fact that this 351term comprehends within itself the further divine activities. If now the call embraces the whole of salvation in its relation to us, it is plain that its content is the Gospel; as the old writers rightly perceived. But since "law" and Gospel stand in close connection, the law also must be indirectly included in the call.

R. Seeberg.

CALLING, EARTHLY: The position in life occupied by each individual, and the duties toward society which appertain to such a position. These duties are primarily social rather than ethical, and may be hedonistic in motive, as when they are performed for the sake of livelihood. The calling may be ethicized, however, if the ends of the social organism be served expressly for the glory of God, thus transforming the calling into divine worship. Since the calling conditions the class of services rendered to society, it must form the basis of an ethical activity. Each function resulting from the divinely created nature of man may develop into a calling, although the variety in callings does not necessarily imply a distinction in the value of personalities. Nor is it unethical to have no calling, but only to desire to have none, since those who are so conditioned that, through no volition of their own, they are without a calling do not become unethical for that reason.

In the rich development of Christian ethics in the New Testament the earthly calling is comparatively neglected, yet, from the point of view of love toward one's neighbor, he who disregards his duties to his family, and toward society and the Church, must he considered unethical. The earthly calling is, accordingly, individualistic rather than universal in its obligations to society, and represents one of the forms of Christian ethics. Wilful neglect of the calling is immoral, since it is the only means of intercommunication in society, which would otherwise be incoherent and disorganized. The bodily and mental gifts of man are fruitless unless they are devoted to the welfare of society through a definite calling, and their neglect is not only contrary to nature but also to the will of God.

The ethical signification of the earthly calling forms an important chapter of philosophical ethics. Through its recognition of the dignity of labor and the worth of the individual, Christianity revolutionized the ethics of the pagan world, although the full ethical evaluation of the calling began only at the Reformation. Since God is served less by self-chosen cults than by the ethical obedience which he himself has commanded (Isa. i. 11–17; Hos. vi. 6; Matt. ix. 13, xii. 7), the believing Christian performs a true worship corresponding to his estate as a child of God in his faithful performance of his calling. In a certain sense the principles of the ethical value of the fulfilment of the calling are merely a renewal of the New Testament doctrine that the Christian confirmation of faith through love bears a distinct and active relation to society (I Cor. vii. 20–24; Eph. vi. 5 sqq.; I Pet. ii. 12 sqq.), even though nowhere in the New Testament is earthly calling specifically mentioned. The distinction of callings begins in the family, whence it develops successively into the acquisition and control of temporal benefits and into the charge over intellectual and spiritual blessings in religion, science, and art, the culmination being the constitution of society as a whole. Yet the individual can not make free choice of his own calling, but is restricted by certain social limitations; still, other things being equal, that calling should be chosen which is most in harmony both with talents and inclination. External conditions, however, frequently render impossible the development of the most gifted talent, yet in such cases there is no reason for the formation of a religious and moral personality to suffer injury, since such adverse circumstances demand full and complete fidelity to the calling, and thus strengthen true Christian piety, instead of impairing it.

(L. Lemme.)

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