Hearts & Minds BookNotes

annotations, blurbs and ruminations

to enlarge the heart & stimulate the mind

and to happily generate mail order business for Hearts & Minds bookstore

My Photo
Location: Dallastown, PA

My lovely wife Beth and I own and operate--proprietors makes us sound more classy than we really are--a cluttered, diverse and independent bookstore in Central Pennsylvania. After well over 20 years, we are still not sure what to say when people ask if our shop is a "Christian bookstore." I do a monthly book review column over at our website; we hope that these new blogged bits will afford friends and customers the chance to see other books I happen to be reading, wishing to read, pretending that I read or at least believe that others should, if not read, know about. We have three children, attend a Presbyterian church in York, PA and have no hobbies.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Books on Calling & Vocation

Passion, purpose, meaning, vocation, calling, career. These are all hot topics nowadays, and we are glad. We have been talking about our human office as history-makers since we first learned the theological phrase “cultural mandate” from Al Wolters and Paul Schrotenbauer. My last blog mentioned our often used, often discussed favorite book, The Call, by Os Guinness. It is a must-read.

Here are some others along those lines. I will briefly tell you if they are more difficult or more lightweight than Guinness’ classic.

Here I Am: Now What on Earth Should I Be Doing
Quentin Schultze (Baker) $11.99 Give this to any highschool kid you know, any Christian who wonders what the idea of calling is or anybody who wants to see God’s hand in every zone of life. Really nice, lots of stories, easy to read.

(I must add another thought, if any publishers or authors are out there reading this: Quint, as he is affectionately called by his enthusiastic students at Calvin, has given us a rare gift here---a truly accessible work, deeply spiritual, interesting and yet packed with insight and solid with substance. Why aren’t more books this clear, brief, approachable, and—dare I say it? —radical?)

Vocation: Discerning Our Callings in Life Douglas Schuurman (Eerdmans) $20.00 The best study of the subject. His brief description of the discussion between Miroslov Volf and Lee Hardy on the theological/biblical basis for thinking about vocation (Spirit or creation, respectively) is worth the price of admission. Very important for those who want to dig deep into the field.

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation Parker Palmer (Jossey-Bass) $18.95 A precious little hardcover that is well loved for its contemplative feel and wise guidance. His The Active Life on bringing together spirituality and work is better, I think, with a tip of the hat to Tom Merton.

Callings: Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom on Vocation edited by William Placher (Eerdmans) $24.00 This new, huge mama deserves its own full review as it has become the definitive collection on what the best thinkers of the broad church tradition in the West have said on this topic. Arranged chronologically, it has primary source references from the early church, the medieval era, the post-Reformation period and from the contemporary world. We could all benefit from hearing Justin Martyr, Anthanasius or Gregory of Nyssa (and Augustine, of course) in the first section; John Cassian, Bernard of Clairvaux, Aquinas or a Kempis from 500-1500; Luther, Calvin , Theresa or Baxter (and Edwards, Law, Wesley, et cetera) from the era up to 1800’s; and then, from the modern church, the likes of Kierkegaard, John Henry Newman, Horace Bushnell, Pope Leo XIII, Bonhoeffer, Sayers, Barth… These are only a few of the many authors represented here in the 450 pages. A very useful handbook and a great education in practical theology down through the ages. Apparently, the questions of the Purpose Drive Life are not new. And the answers have been diverse, rich, and substantial.

Ethical Ambition: Living a Life of Meaning and Worth Derek Bell (Bloomsbury) $14.95 I couldn’t put this down! Not written, as many books on this topic are, within the evangelical mold (or, thank goodness, from the positive thinking stuff of climbing the American Dream to be “successful” like many “leadership” books) this is a serious call by a fellow Christ-follower in the grand tradition of civil right activism and the African-American church. Bell is a renowned legal theorist and tells many heart-wrenching stories of times he took a stand (including at places like Harvard Law School) and had to struggle to balance his ambition and his calling, his principles and his desire for success, his sense of vocation and his desire to be an agent for institutional reform. With all our reformational worldview-ish talk about taking up our callings in the world, there isn’t enough story-telling going on, stories like this. A powerful dose of honest reality by a kind and good man.