Benjamin Quinn and Walter Strickland on the Doctrine of Vocation

Southeastern faculty Benjamin Quinn (Assistant Professor of Theology and History of Ideas, Associate Dean of Institutional Effectiveness for the College at Southeastern) and Walter Strickland (Special Advisor to the President for Diversity and Instructor of Theology) write about the doctrine of vocation, which they will also teach in the Spring 2015 (online). It is also a topic with relevance for every reader of this blog. This article originally appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of The Great Commission Magazine of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.  

What is work? Does it matter to God? How do these 40 or more hours each week relate to my faith? These are the questions that occupy our attention when we consider the doctrine of vocation.

In Genesis 1, we meet God at work. When God finished His work, He instructed Adam and Eve to carry forward in like fashion. To work and keep the land was not a result of sin for our first parents. Work was good, and was basic to being human. Today, though work may be toilsome, sin has neither undone its goodness nor revoked it from human responsibility. So, if work is our responsibility, how does it intersect with our Faith?

In his book “Work: The Meaning of Your Life: A Christian Perspective,” Lester Dekoster writes, “Work is the form in which we make ourselves useful to others.” Dekoster goes on to explain that this definition of work animates the shape and direction of life prescribed in Scripture. Jesus taught that the most important thing about life in His world is to love God and love others. This cruciform shape of life is directed away from self and toward others, beginning with God. With every relationship comes an opportunity to love and serve. Thus, insofar as our work loves and serves God and others, it is meaningful and it matters.

The idea of a “doctrine of vocation” may sound new to some, but there is plenty to consider as we look at what it means to work. We can take a journey through time, observing how the church exemplifies a Christian understanding of vocation through the centuries, and conclude with an extended look at the contemporary era of the “Faith at Work” movement. As we observe the ever-changing vocational landscape of history, we can examine Scripture—the fixed referent for all of life—to inform our understanding of work. An extended exegesis of Scripture unearths biblical motifs and doctrines that undergird work as a means of loving God and loving neighbor.

A theology of work begs for further consideration of vocation and calling. A robust doctrine of vocation should cover a wide spectrum—farming, education, politics, art, homemaking, medicine and vocational ministry and more.

As our increasingly secular culture groans for divine intervention, the divide between sacred and secular work must fall and God’s people need to utilize their vocational callings to uphold God’s mission of restoration. As Christians, when we love God and love our neighbor in our vocations, the Great Commission and the Great Commandment intersect to proclaim Christ’s supremacy in everything we put our hand to for the sake of everyone in God’s world.

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In Case You Missed It

Each Friday at Between the Times we point you to some of this week’s blogposts we think worth your time. Some are written by Southeastern faculty, alumni, or students. Some are from others outside Southeastern who have something to say. Either way, we want to keep you updated in case you missed it.

1) In light of the recent immigration crisis, Bruce Ashford, Provost at Southeastern, explains the need to balance justice and mercy in our Christian response to real people in need. The ERLC’s Canon and Culture published his essay.

2) Walter Strickland, Special Advisor to the President for Diversity & Instructor of Theology at Southeastern, talks about the challenge to enjoy the diverse tapestry of God’s church. The post appeared on July 17 at Ed Stetzer’s blog.

3) Speaking of Ed Stetzer, he wrote a helpful piece on how churches can avoid the pitfall of syncretism.

4) Jeff Iorg, President of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, writes about the new normal on T.V. amounting to no more than “pixilated porn.” See the post from July 14.

5) Selma Wilson, President of B&H Publishing Group, discusses the real leadership test. Who leads when you’re gone?

6) Chuck Lawless, Dean of the Graduate Studies and Professor of Missions and Evangelism at Southeastern,  lists 10 reasons why church members don’t invite others to church. From

7) Trevin Wax, Managing Editor of Lifeway’s Gospel Project and PhD Student at Southeastern, describes the nature of true repentance.


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Southeastern Offers its First Course on Black Theology: January 2014

airport_in_amsterdam1(Note: This is a guest post by Walter Strickland, who serves as Special Advisor to the President for Diversity & Instructor of Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. This post was first published at Prof. Strickland’s personal website.)

At first glance, a course on Black Theology at Southeastern Seminary is like spotting Lil Wayne at a Taylor Swift concert… it just doesn’t seem to fit. In my estimation, the racial and cultural incongruence of the average Southeasterner and a ‘dyed in the wool’ black theologian is exactly what makes this course so dynamic!

In recent years there seems to be a rediscovery of value in having Christian community with believers in various stages of life. As each person brings their unique perspective and experience into the community, there are fewer blind-spots, new opportunities to apply Scripture, and new awareness of needs in society. Doing theology is no different; the introduction of a new ‘voice’ into a theological dialogue will unearth biases, illuminate blind-spots, and sharpen the thinking of all who earnestly take part in the dialogue. This is why a course on Black Theology is valuable to Southeastern’s campus.

As a teaser for the course, I’ll offer a brief sketch of the historical developments that led to the advent of Black Theology, and in this blog I’ll offer more specific reasons for how a course in will benefit the average Southeasterner.

The African American community has nurtured a long-standing Christian commitment, particularly since the Second Great Awakening. The revivalistic Christian faith that slaves and freedmen received carried a marginalized people through chattel slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow Segregation, and into the era that is commonly known as the Civil Rights Movement. During the Civil Rights Movement the Christian beliefs that had long undergirded this community were leveraged to speak prophetically into the political, social, and economic injustices blotted the African American landscape of the 1960s. This matrix of events sets the general stage for the emergence of Black Theology.

After having faithfully followed Martin Luther King, Jr. for nearly a decade, the Movement’s “foot soldiers” began to grow weary of the frequent sit-ins, marches, and imprisonments that were part and parcel with King’s nonviolent methods. By contrast, the more aggressive tactics of Malcolm X began to catch the attention of the masses, including some Christians. The 1968 assassination of MLK served as a tipping point that triggered a methodological shift in the minds of many. In the words of Dwight Hopkins, “With [the bullet that killed Dr. King], the movement for peace, non-violence, and racial fellowship ground to a halt. Within a week of King’s murder, one hundred and thirty cities went up in flames… forty-six civilians died, over three thousand were injured, and twenty-seven thousand were arrested.”

In 1969 James Cone published his first monograph with the express purpose of demonstrating that the politics of Black Power was the gospel of Jesus Christ. In emotive terms, Cone’s book Black Theology and Black Power articulated a means for blacks to hold fast to black church traditions and teachings (the longstanding backbone of the black community), while providing license to embrace the Black Power movement that sought liberation ‘by any means necessary.’

Cone’s 1969 volume solidified Black Theology as an academic discipline and in short order other black theologians proposed alternative ways of relating the Christian Scriptures to the black experience (i.e. cultural context). In the course, we will spend the majority of our time exploring three major black theologians and their approaches to the relationship between the Scripture and the black context. Beyond James Cone, we will dive deeply into the work of J. Deotis Roberts who emphases the necessity of liberation in order to have reconciliation in the church as a testimony of the Gospel. We will also examine William R. Jones who insisted that the primary concern of Black Theology should be theodicy (the problem of evil). For Jones, until that paradox is satisfied there is no reason to initiate constructive theology in the black context.

This simplistic historical sketch offers a window into some of the cultural dynamics and theological issues that we will tackle together in the two-week course. I look forward to seeing you in class (THE 7950) from January 6th-17th from 8 am to noon each java games