Theology of Joy
1/6/11 at 08:42 PM 0 Comments

Find and Fulfill Your God-given Calling (Part 1)

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Have you noticed that a lot of people in our culture go about each day doing a lot of good things (i.e., doing a great job at work; loving their spouses) but without really knowing why they are doing these things?

This dilemma was illustrated in one episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond" a few years ago. Ray and his wife were trying to answer their daughter's question, "Why did God put us here on earth?", After several attempts they couldn't figure out how to answer it. Ray's brother was particularly baffled: "You mean God made us smart enough to know that we have a purpose in life, but not smart enough to figure it out?!"

USA TODAY conducted a survey in May 1999, asking people, "If you could ask God or a supreme being any one question and get a direct answer, what would it be?" The majority of people responded that they would ask God: "What's my purpose here?"

Our culture gives us several alternative answers to the purpose question, though each of these seem inadequate in some way. What are some of the most popular views on life-purpose?

1. The existential perspective. Though most people don't know the definition of the word "existentialism," many people in our culture live according to this viewpoint. This perspective starts with the self and with one's own existence. Its up to the individual to decide his or her own identity, values, beliefs, lifestyle, etc. The decisions you make today—rather than some pre-determined idea, philosophy, or theology—define who you are and your life-purpose.  The problem with this view is that it asks the purpose-seeker to decide on their purpose while knowing all the while that there really is no purpose to life anyway. 

2. The postmodern perspective. This view starts not with the individual but with the community. Your culture, environment, family, education, race, etc decide your values and beliefs.  So, you are never "right" or "wrong" in an absolute sense. Your purpose never goes beyond that of the community's purpose. There is no "grand scheme of things," no greater plan for humans, no true "self-identity" from which one knows his or her reason for living.  The problem here is that the "self" is lost in the community, along with one's own sense of life-purpose. 

3. The pantheistic perspective on purpose in life. Since pan means "all" and theistic means "god", this view starts with the "oneness" of all things. There's no real difference between you, God, and the physical world. Pantheism holds that humans go through cycles of birth, life, death, and rebirth (i.e. reincarnation) as they learn to abandon their individualism. Life has no ultimate purpose, except to eventually be re-absorbed into the "oneness" of the universe.

These perspectives are actually held by a lot of Christians, perhaps not in their theology but in their practice of the Christian life.. How can this be? It seems that in our culture it is very easy to make a huge split between what we say is our purpose in life (our values, morals, ideals, etc) and how we actually live. Why is there sometimes a division between our purpose and our daily life?

I think this division goes back to a famous German philosopher in the 1800s named Immanuel Kant. Kant taught that these are two distinct types of knowledge – religious knowledge and sensory/practical knowledge (that which is derived through the 5 senses). Kant essentially placed a wall between the spiritual world and the physical world. Since we live in the practical world of the senses, we cannot know much about the spiritual world, though we know it's out there.

This "sacred vs. secular" thinking dramatically affects us in the Western world, often without even knowing it. As a result, today's believers often know a lot about their faith and theology but don't know what it means to have a personal "calling" from the Lord.  Neither to they know how to live according to their calling on a daily basis. However, believers can discover their unique calling by grasping the biblical view on life-purpose along with how this view intersects each area of their life.

In our next article we will begin the exciting journey of finding and fulfilling one's God-given calling!

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