Sunday, December 06, 2009

Vocation and Submission

One of those common misconceptions that I run into is expressed in this comment.

And here we differ because I cannot believe in a loving God who created me with a long size ten foot only so that he can break the arch and bind it into a child's size four.

That is no God of love. It is no deity I can fuel with worship any more than I would willingly feed someone who raped me.

At this moment, I am not sure what exactly what was being commented on. And, frankly, I am not sure its important - this post is about what it provoked in me and not about what it was meant to convey. So, lets look at a couple of things I have posted on in the past:
  1. Submission (upotasso): We, as followers of Christ, are to be submissive: to God's will, to civil authority, to authority within our churchs, etc. Now, this is not slavery, or any sort of external binding:
    In non-military use, it was "a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden"
    Just so we are clear that being submissive has a pretty impressive pedigree: Lexie, back when Intellectuelle was active, gave this magnificent example of submission:
    "Jesus allowed Himself to be subjected to the cross. He could have opted out, but He chose not to because of His love for us. Restraint of strength is one expression of power. Choosing to submit and serve is another expression of power."
    Now, in order to submit you have to have someone (or something) submit to; and it has to be voluntary and unforced. This brings up the second word --
  2. Vocation:
    The familiar term "vocation", used in both religious and secular contexts, is rooted in the Latin vocatio, meaning "call" and is related to Latin-based words such as "voice" and "invoke." The Greek word is klesis and is found in our words "cleric" and "ecclesiastical". It is the root of the New Testament word for the Church, ekklesia, a point that is not etymologically significant except in that assemblies of all kinds were referred to with the same term. To say that the church consists of those "called out", however, is significant for more reasons than can be traced through linguistic usage: it was the reality to which the church had always attested.
Vocation is the idea that we are called by something higher and outside of ourselves. Taking on that calling requires that we adopt "a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden" - that we submit to the calling and allow ourselves to voluntarily be bound by it. Vocation implies submission because of the four features mentioned by Conyers:
  1. The idea of a call implies an agent outside of the one who is subject to the call.
    One does not simply "choose" a course of action, but one responds to a summons. A person might be "free" in either case; but in the case of one responding to vocation, the freedom is not an inner-directed impulse, but the use of the will to respond to an unforeseen and perhaps unknown reality.
  2. The summons is often against the will of the one who is called into service.
    Muhammed first believed himself to be mad. Moses complained that the Israelites, to whom God sent him, had never listened to him and therefore neither would Pharaoh, "poor speaker that I am." Jeremiah, the Hebrew prophet, not only resisted the call, but continued to complain that God had overpowered him and placed him in an impossibly difficult circumstance, even protesting that God's call had made him "like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter." Jonah attempted to flee from the Lord to Tarshish, rather than going to Nineveh where he had been called. Jesus prayed to be delivered from his appointed calling.
  3. The calling involves in almost every case hardships that must be overcome in order to answer the summons.
    Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Muhammed, Mani (the founder of Manichaeism), Socrates, Jesus, and Paul all found themselves under threat of death by their community. Zarathustra is sent into exile. Jesus' moment of public vocation is followed by temptation in the wilderness. Paul's vocation is accompanied by physical ailments, imprisonment, beatings, and exile.
  4. From the point of view of answering to the summons, the greatest danger appears not in this kind of resistance, but in the possibility of being diverted or distracted from the goal.
    The whole of Joshua's reiteration of the covenant with Israel, after they had settled the land of Canaan, was devoted to the threat and the consequences of being distracted from their promise to "serve the Lord" and to the warning against being tempted by other gods. In all of the Deuteronomic history of Israel . . . the chief standard by which the nations of Israel and Judah and their kings are judged is their faithfulness to God, measured by their resistance to distraction by the religions of their neighbors. And the last petition in Jesus' model prayer, "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil;' is an invocation against this distraction.
Now I am not going to get to pluralistic and say that it doesn't matter what calling you submit to that is higher than, and outside of, yourself - that could entail placing God second. One of my favorite definitions of depravity is:
. . . by virtue of the Fall, human beings are turned entirely away from God. Augustine understands this in terms of love: humans love God with the love due creatures and love creatures with the kind of love due to God. Luther understood it in terms of trust: we will trust anything with our ultimate well-being other than God. Either way, all of our faculties--even our good ones--are no longer directed at the love, trust, and glorification of God but are rather turned inward towards ourselves or outward at other created things.
So, there is nothing more worthy of submission than God, and nothing that takes the place of submitting to God.

However, Conyers in his book makes this point:
Sooner or later violence overtakes a society that functions chiefly on the basis of the rivalry of competitive desires, on the basis of choice, or on the basis of "freedom" defined as the unhindered will [desire]. Modern secular society is the longest experiment in history attempting to elevate "choice" or this kind of freedom to the level of a basic social principle. It should not be surprising, though I think to many the awareness of this has not surfaced, that modern life is also the most violent period in the history of mankind.
We do indeed need to be bound to something (not by something) higher than and outside of ourselves - to lose some of those "fingers and toes" for a calling greater than ourselves. While nothing substitutes for God, almost anything is better than nothing - to sacrifice self for a noble cause seems to not only be lost in popular US culture - but scorned.

It is this loss of vocation - the submission to a calling from something outside of and greater than ourselves - in favor of "freedom" and "choice" that led me to say that modern society has not really shown itself to be improved morally.

2 comments:

How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly