My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Terry Cross was, as of the publishing of “Answering the Call in the Spirit”, the Dean of the School of Religion at Lee University. This book, as he states both in the introduction and the conclusion, was an attempt to gather several threads of thought and bring clarity to some of the discussions that university staff and students had been engaged in about the broad idea of “calling”.
This short volume is a solid treatment of the general idea of “calling”. Something that Cross does, that I appreciated, was to take great pains to avoid getting trapped in the antiquated definition of being called as it specifically relates to full-time, or vocational, pastoring and Christian ministry. He approaches the topic Biblically and broadly so as to include everyone, not just those called to a lifelong ministry-based vocation. But even before that Cross is very methodical in his approach due to the fact that almost every time the Bible speaks of “calling” it is speaking of a call to salvation or a call to be near God. Cross says, “Calling is a gift from God that primarily offers humans salvation and a relationship with God and secondarily offers humans a way of life that responds to the grace and gifts received” (p 5).
He plows through three major movements: Vocation/Calling, Work, and Life, with all of the sections being referred to as “A Theology of…”. He touches on the historical ideas of these things with a great balance of depth and pace so as to generate interest while not bogging down.
The crowning piece of this work, for me, was the final section, “A Theology for Life”. Here he brings the discussion of calling in line with the Great Commandment (Love the Lord your God, and your neighbor as yourself). It was an interesting way to finish out the book as he did something that I cannot remember having experienced before. He essentially built the “house” of calling throughout the book, but somehow managed to leave room to pour the foundation at the end as opposed to initially. This movement didn’t feel forced at all, it was a refreshing way to close out the book.
His conclusion contains a statement that truly seems to capture the essence of his intention with this well crafted book: “When we split the sacred and secular, we will forever be lacking insight into the beauty and goodness of the world and therefore forever dismissing any need to minister to anything other than spiritual needs. God calls each of us to service” (p 112).
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is seeking and searching for spiritual or vocational guidance. It will not tell you where to go or what to do, but it does offer a valuable voice in seeing the patterns and trends that God uses to direct us. It also will help combat the larger discussion regarding the myth of Christian service’s highest call being vocational pastoring. Gifts are given by God to be used for His glory and our pleasure, and this holds true in any profession or vocation.