The Relationship of Vocation, Faith and Culture

January 12, 2016
Darrell L. Bock and Steve Garber

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Topic Time Codes

00:15
How Garber’s father helped him discover the relationship of vocation, faith and culture
03:57
Faith shapes vocation which, in turn, shapes culture
05:05
Is vocation more than just a person’s job?
07:36
How is a person’s vocation distinct from a person’s occupation?
12:38
What is “common grace?”
17:15
All of life is designed to be lived in gratitude for God’s gifts
20:45
How Jeremiah’s example of seeking the common good applies today
28:33
What is “the common good?”
33:48
Why we must live out the common good in order to understand it
39:22
Why churches must understand the relationship of vocation, faith and culture

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Transcript

Dr. Darrell Bock
Welcome to The Table where we discuss issues of God and culture. I'm Darrell Bock, Executive Director for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary. And my guest today is Steven Garber who is principal, that's actually a very British kind of title, at the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation and Culture in Washington DC. And Steven has given his life to what I would consider to be a very important theme and that is how life as a whole matters, not just when we're in church but how the entirety of our life matters, how vocation, faith and culture fit together. So Steven, why don't you tell us where your interest came from and why faith, vocation and culture are such important related concepts for you.
Dr. Steven Garber
Thank you Darrell and it's wonderful to be with you and Dallas Theological Seminary today. My father was a research scientist for the University of California and though many stories could be told about why I think about these things. I think it's a good, true story that watching him for many years, assuming I would be like him with my life, because boys did that didn't they? But I didn't really like high school biology that much which was a surprise to me.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Well you got two of us in the room, we're in the same place.
Dr. Steven Garber
And my father of course you know, helped me to understand that you'd have to really like biology a lot to be a plant pathologist in the world. So my first question about my vocation was as a 14 or 15 year old. But in the years, those years, the adolescent years as I was watching him, beginning to be more attentive to who my father was in the world, he and I had a conversation one night after supper. We were just, we were, I was one of four boys. We were just talking together in the living room and he said he wasn't going back to the laboratory that night to do more research.

And I one sense wasn't even aware that he'd done that ever probably but he was explaining why he wasn't. And it wasn't a critical comment about anybody else. His colleague, people who I had grown up with, I knew them. I knew that he liked them and respected them. But he said, "Steve, my sense of my life is that there are more things I'm supposed to be doing. I'm a father of four sons. I'm your mother's husband. I am a you know, I take part in a Bible study at the prison on Thursday nights as you know." Says, "I'm on the school board here in town. I'm an elder in our church." But he said, "I want you to know that when I go into the laboratory in the morning, I pray for God to give me insight into what I do, to have the questions which shape my research be ones which grew out of the very mind of God, that I would seek connections between things, that I would be able to understand what I'm doing and what it means for the wider world.

I took that to my heart. I remember the conversation. All the things I don't remember about my adolescent years. But I began to you know, think through as I grew out of those years into my own adult years and beyond of just thinking you know, what is it actually to pray, to see all of life seamlessly, to see it all held together, for there to be a coherence across the whole of one's life. And so I think you know it is a true story to reflect about my father in this to say you know, I looked over his shoulder through his heart in a sense at you know, what a person's vocation looks like in the world and why it is, why a compartmentalizing account of life, a separate is sacred from the secular, this doesn't really do justice to who God is and who he wants us to be.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So then what do you, what things do you concentrate at the Institute of Faith, Vocation, and Culture? What do you, people go, "What in the world is that?"
Dr. Steven Garber
It's a good question though, very good question. I answer it for myself day by day actually. Well I would say that in everything we do, every way we can imagine we are pressing for this integral relationship between faith and vocation and culture. And the thesis is pretty simple in some ways though it's far-reaching and complex in other ways. And that is that faith shapes vocation which shapes culture for everyone everywhere. So whether you're a Muslim, whether an evolution, a materialist, a Hindu or whether you are an honestly committed Christian person that what you believe about life shapes how you live your life and that has consequence for life for all of us, for blessing or for curse.

So we are pressing that in courses we teach and lectures and things we write, people we meet with in the weeks of life, the weeks of a month, the months of a year. It's always pressing that thesis out and trying to help people to understand with more clarity, with more integrity, how a more coherent life is a possibility.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Let's talk about a word like vocation, which is obviously a very important word for what you do. And most people will say, "Oh vocation. That's just my job."
Dr. Steven Garber
Yeah.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And part of what you have said and I have course your book here, Visions of Vocation, Common Grace for the Common Good. And you know part of the point of this book is the vocation is actually a deep word. There's much more to it than just thinking about job. So here's your chance okay? Explain to us why vocation is more than just the job.
Dr. Steven Garber
That's one of the best of all questions Darrell Bock. So I would typically say it's a complex word. It's a big word. It's a rich word, which doesn't mean we should be scared of it but in some ways we, gives us room to live which for me is always the deeper issue. Does what you believe actually give you room to live your life? You know or in some ways require you to stumble because it just isn't big enough. It isn't true enough to the way the world actually is. Those are ways I think about this.

So for me the word vocation is a gift from God to us actually. You know not surprisingly the word has a history. You know it comes from Aladdin root, you know which is like vocal. We have vocal chords. Because why? Well because that helps us to speak. So vocare is a word for a call. So who's calling? Is there a caller? That's really the first of all, the questions about vocation. Is there somebody giving a call? Is there a caller giving the call?

So clearly you know, on the deeper side of the story, you know this is a conversation about God himself calling us to see the world as he sees the world, to hear the world as he hears the world, to feel the world as he feels the world, to care about the things that he cares about, to love the things that he loves. So that's really the deepest sense of vocation or calling is to see and to hear and to feel as God does.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So there's a directedness to vocation in which the sense is I'm here where I am because God has me here. At least that's a dimension of it. And that enhances the idea of well, I chose my job. You know or I do my job in order to earn a living or something like that. No, there is a – I'm going to coin a word here, a placedness to what we do that God, and God's responsible for placing me there. So then the question is how do I live and carry out my life in that space?
Dr. Steven Garber
So when I think about this and I'm thinking about this in the light of course of 2,000 years of church history on this question and the church for 2,000 years has got this right sometimes better than others and sometimes missed pretty badly actually. But since their affirmation, you know we have a tradition within the church which says there is a more general sense of vocation or calling which actually the very same words, Latin and Greek roots, vocation and calling. But a more general sense, and there's a more specific sense too.

So we can speak about this general sense of responding to the call of God upon my life. All of us can to know God, to be known by God, to love what God loves. But a more particular specific sense of course is also legitimate and we use this at the vocation of cowboy, vocation of law, the vocation of journalism, the vocation of medicine, the vocation of mothering, the vocation of whatever it's going to be really. So for me when I'm talking to people about this, which is what I do much of my life obviously, you know who are coming with in some ways, questions about who am I and what do I do with my life.

Which I would say are really the questions at the heart of what vocation means, the complex big rich word that it is. It has to address all of life. It has to address, as my father helped me to see in my own younger way, you know that his vocation actually was multifaceted. It had many different faces to it. At the heart of it was trying to love God and to love the things God loves but it has a fatherly dimension to it. It had a husbandly, it had a professional you know, scientist dimension to it. It had a community involvement with the prison and a church involvement.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Just being a good neighbor.
Dr. Steven Garber
Was being in a good neighborhood which of course is you know, to put it in other biblical terms, it is to love God and to love your neighbor as you love yourself really. And those are not unrelated to the questions about what vocation means. When I think about the word vocation I'm often sitting at a Starbucks kind of a place talking to somebody who's a 22 year old or a 62 year old or whoever they are, who's struggling with wanting something to think through. I'll often put on that little brown napkin, two circles. One has a V in it, one has an O in it and they overlap each other but they're not the same circle. And one is the vocation circle, one is the occupation circle.

And so when I speak about vocation I'm talking about the longer, deeper story that makes Darrell Bock, Darrell Bock. You know and you're not your wife and you're not your brother and you're not your father. You know you're not anybody else actually. You are uniquely you and it comes out of all the experiences and the giftedness and the graces and the way you see and what you've done over the course of 60 years of your life and that's you, uniquely in the whole world really. Occupationally you at particular points along the way, you occupy different relationships and responsibilities that become these are these years of my life. I've done this and I've done this and I'm not changing who I am, I'm taking on some things which I didn't used to take on. These are now become what I do with my life more of the time really.

So for me you know, it's a sort of, it is a longer discussion with somebody but it is in some ways wanting them to see this general, deeper sense of vocation for all of us. The more particular vocation of, you know, being a rancher, being a businessman, being a teacher, and then of course a person who's a you know, who is a teacher. While a person could teach in a grammar school for five or six years and then go on to get a masters degree and then a PhD and then all of a sudden you find yourself 20 years later teaching at a seminary of all things really. You know you're still the same person with the same calling to teach but the occupational setting has changed over time. So for me it's always the question can you find a deepening coherence with your vocation as your occupation unfolds over the course of life.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So I'm curious. I'm a visual person. So when you do these circles, is the V the bigger circle and the O the smaller one or is it the other way around?
Dr. Steven Garber
It's not a Mount Sinai illustration Darrell, so it's not like God gave this to me. My own wrestling with it says ? I just put the circles as the same size. They overlap each other a little bit. And I kind of scribble a line between them and say in the now but not yet of this world. You know they're never the same circle for any of us actually. Sometimes by God's grace to us, there's more overlap than other times, sometimes because of systemic injustices and wrongs in the world and you know hurts and wounds in one's life. There's hardly any relation between what I end up doing day by day with what I really wish, I long to do with my life really. But that those always relate to each other in some honest way.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So they overlap and touch but they don't, but they aren't, one doesn't encompass the other.
Dr. Steven Garber
Because the story that we live in as Christian people is the now but not yet of Christ making all things be new and yet even the creation still groans and we do too.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Well so this is vocation. Now I'm not going to go to culture because once we start we won't finish. But what I am going to do is talk about the subtitle for this book, which is Common Grace for the Common Good. Now two very important concepts, common grace and common good. And I actually think more people, I think I'm right about this, more people probably get the idea of common grace and resonate with it than they do with the idea of common good. I think common good is a difficult concept for a lot of people. But let's take them in the order in which I said them. Common grace, let's talk about that first and then let's talk about common good.
Dr. Steven Garber
So just put the title, in one you know, one page here Darrell, I mean the argument of the book is that it's in it through our vocations that we are to take up this work of common grace for the common good, that they are common grace for the common good, the vocations God gives to us. That's the thesis of the book.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And I'm assuming that the assumption here is that what happens with our vocation is God puts us in a world, he puts us in a fallen world. We're rubbing shoulders with others like ourselves who have needs and hurts, et cetera and we're oftentimes wrestling with how to do that well.
Dr. Steven Garber
Yes, right. So the best theologians, and you're probably included in this Darrell Bock, but make a distinction between common grace and saving grace. And I think that we have to think these kind of things through with some attentiveness and intention actually otherwise we just get blown away by the world and the flesh and the devil and all this stuff, right? So saving grace is God's work in some ways easy to say that even though it's complex and astounding and you know, beyond our understanding. But it is God's work in the world. God saves, we don't save. That is sort of simply the confession of Christian, true Christian people. God is the savior, we don't save.
Dr. Darrell Bock
We're vessels.
Dr. Steven Garber
Common grace is ordinary grace, to use another word, which is the same word here. It is the ordinary gift of God to the world. So our work is not to save. Sometimes in strange mercies to the world, we get involved in more direct ways with God's work of salvation. We think, "I watched this. I was a part of this." But most of life isn't like that really for most of us really. One of the verses in the Bible which I, we could talk about the whole story from beginning to end here, from beginning to consummation but one of the verses I most glad is in the Bible is the prophet Zechariah's word and it's the last chapter and it's the promise in the midst of all that's not right in the world and all the groaning and suffering of the world, but the promise that when the day of the Lord comes, even the cooking pots will be called holy to the Lord.

And you know you've traveled and I've traveled and you've probably been in little villages in western Kenya and you've seen that they don't have any access to high end cooking supply stores in Highland Park of Dallas or something. I mean they can buy a $500.00 fire engine red cooking pot. They're taking the clay around their village and they're firing it and putting it together and over generations and centuries they've learned how to actually keep the clay together and actually be able to put water in it and put a chicken in it and put vegetables in it and that's their supper, day by day by day by day really. You know every house in the whole world has a cooking pot. The most meager to the most mighty in some ways. I love the fact actually that it's the very ordinary thing. You know it's maybe the most ordinary of all kitchen utensils we have, a cooking pot really.

So common grace, you know it is that we, that most of life, whether it's the kisses of my good wife which you know, I love and adore and keep, they sustain my life in the world that she loves me really. But they don't save me from my sin. But if the only alternative we have is that you know if they're not sacred in that sense they must be secular. If that's the paradigm them my wife's kisses are secular kisses, sad to say really, because of course they're not saving kisses. They're not sacred kisses like that really. So if the paradigm we have is well all of life is either this or it's that, it's things God loves and things he doesn't love as much you see, really. If that's how we think about life –
Dr. Darrell Bock
It's spectacular or not much.
Dr. Steven Garber
Yes. Well then my wife's of course gives love to me, it's sort of not much really. It's sort of sadly kind of secular by the way. But you see if all of life is to be holy to the Lord, all of life to be holy to the Lord, well then we have to have eyes to see. That's really what the eyes to see language is. It's not that it's not holy, it's we don't see it as sacramental in that sense or holy to the Lord in that sense.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So by common grace you really, I'm going to use, take advantage of our sound here, our audio. But you mean common grace, it's appreciating the fact that everything is a grace and a gift and special and from God and for our presence and enjoyment, that kind of thing that life is designed to be lived that way out of an appreciation for all it is that God does. Even the very common things that we go through in life are special because they are evidence of his provision for us in life.
Dr. Steven Garber
If we have eyes to see, that's the point really. And so a good law, a good road, a beautiful sunset, you know a good cup of tea in the morning, a good friend. I mean these don't save us from our sin. But they're not nothing. They actually are gifts of God to us to keep us in t his world.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And they enrich life by giving us a deeper appreciation for all that we're experiencing as God takes us through his creation and we as creatures function in the world that he's not only given us the functioning but to some degree, given us a responsibility to manage in one way or another. You know Genesis 1 talks about putting people on the earth in order that they might exercise dominion over the creation and that's really about management. Management's kind of a dull word for a lot of people but it's actually a pretty important theological word.
Dr. Steven Garber
It's a pretty important word for all of us if we have eyes to see. That's how we live our lives. I had lunch yesterday with a guy at the 43, the restaurant in the George Bush Library over at SMU's campus. He's a businessman here in Dallas. I've known him for some years. And he manages a lot of complexity in this life actually. You know he has been managing money in Dallas and across the Americas and around the world for quite a few years with levels of understanding and complexity that most of us can't get close to. Understand what did you do and how did you make so much money doing that really? I knew that even existed really. Well to put one little face on it, part of our conversation yesterday was about a new business that he's been forming the last few years that funds the buying of large semi-trucks.

So you may not think actually that had much to do ? but God cares about the world's funding semi-trucks. But you think if he's going to think through a bureaucratic, modern society, or how do we get, when we say one-click Amazon that'll be here one day, two day. You think, "Well how does this happen? Not by magic really." We see somebody behind the scenes actually like my friend, you know had this idea. In fact that you know there were people who wanted to have a little trucking company in Podunk Georgia who called, who said, "You know I can't get funding from the bank for this because of this but you know here's a venue which a business allowed me to get the funding to do this and I can buy my ten trucks or I can buy my 100 trucks or I can do this. I can do that really.

You know and in some ways he's creating infrastructure that makes life possible for all of us. We don't think about it much at all. But you see again, if the only categories we have are you know, it's either sacred work or secular work, then you know, we end up having a split life, a dualistic life, a life where you know, part of it is really sort of for God and his things, part of it's just for you know the devil and his things I guess maybe, really. But if we're going to have a life where everything is holy to the Lord, we have to have a theological vision which can account for that which is where I think common grace is a gift to us.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So you were talking to us about this man who deals with semis. The illustration that I like to use in talking about this, think about what it takes for you to have a bowl of cereal in the morning. And all the different jobs, all the different vocations that go into making you be able to take your box of Wheaties, I hope they appreciate the advertisement, pour the milk in with the sugar and – I always have sugar with my Wheaties – and think about you know the, from the farmer to even the grocery store to even the guy, my first job was in a grocery store, you know taking care of the shelves and what went on the shelves, that kind of thing, to the person who builds the wrap that goes around the Wheaties, the person who builds the box, all the transportation of getting those things from one place. There's a lot that happens just so you can have your bowl of Wheaties in the morning.

And I think about, I do think there's a element of a deeper appreciation for what goes into life and how we are able to live the way we live by appreciating the array of vocations. Some of them very, very common that allow us to live the way that we do and that it adds an element of appreciation to life too, to sometimes contemplate what goes into the very simple things that we do every day.
Dr. Steven Garber
So even again, back to my friend yesterday, who one business he has you know, which is pretty involved and pretty intricate and pretty complex and pretty big, is he's created a financial company which funds the buying of semi-trucks. We don't get Wheaties on the table or sugar on the table or even milk on the table without having a truck having brought it somewhere along the way. The trucks didn't fall out of heaven. They didn't just plop out of the night sky really. Somebody actually had an idea, had a hope, had the industry you know and the persistence to work at this to bring it into being, to actually be the person who won the contract, you know to get the supplier, to meet the demand. You know and it's just like that day by day.

I had lunch two days ago with a guy from the Mars Corporation, which makes M&M's of all things. I do some work, strangely, for the Mars Corporation. A fellow for the Catalyst Group, which is the think-tank for the Mars Corporation. And they make lots of things actually. They make Skittles down here in Waco Texas. You know one of their places in the world where they make stuff. But they make Dove ice cream bars. They make most of the pet food we buy in the world and they make lots of things actually. Well I mean M&M's, this interesting question about you know, the common good on this.
Dr. Darrell Bock
That's very good.
Dr. Steven Garber
I make no argument. We should all eat M&M's in this life. That wouldn't be good for any of us actually. But I found that when I talk about this idea of vocations in the marketplaces of the world, and began talking about the Marsh Corporation, this project I'm working on with them, everybody in the room smiles, interestingly. It's not because they want 100 M&M's that moment, they would take two or three maybe or five. Think well that's pretty good.
Dr. Darrell Bock
I'm probably good for 20.
Dr. Steven Garber
Or 20 even. And there's something strange really about this phenomenon of a little bit of a chocolate in a red and green and yellow and everything else, painted. You know we think, "I could do that. That would be a gift to me right now in my life at 3:00 in the afternoon. I'd like that. Thank you, thank you, thank you really."

So when I think about common good Darrell, I mean again there's places to go to root this but one of the places I most love in the biblical story is in the prophet Jeremiah who is speaking to the exiled people in Babylon the, Daniel, the Meshach, the Shadrach, Abednego's and thousands more really. And he's saying to them you know, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit he's given this word for exiled people. "Seek the flourishing of the city. Pray for the city to flourish. Plant trees, build houses, get married, have kids. And when the city flourishes you will flourish so pray for the city to flourish."

It'd be easier in some ways to imagine you know, praying for, I'll be a little pejorative here, for Colorado Springs than for Washington DC. You know thinking, "Well I'm not praying for Washington. There's too much bad happens in Washington actually." This is the most iconic bad city in the world, Babylon. It's the worst of the cities.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And it's our enemy. I mean they're our enemies.
Dr. Steven Garber
You know and but the word of Jeremiah given by God to the exiled people is to pray for Babylon, for it to flourish, to seek its flourishing. There's a whole lot of common good in that calling that God gives to the exiled people, to seek actually the welfare, another way to talking about it, the flourishing, the welfare of Babylon. I think again, you know apart from pastors who help their people through their preaching and praying to understand actually why a vision for common good is important to God's people in the world.

You know if' it's Jeremiah's prophesy in the old testament it clearly is you know, Jesus summing it all up and saying, "What's it all mean? What's all this about? Well love your neighbor as you love yourself really." You know and there's an awful lot of common good in that too. I've realized in faculty that's not just privatized piety that is, has personal meaning for all of us but actually has to be worked out in the whole of life to love my neighbor as I love myself. And we can connect it I think with honest integrity to that language of Jeremiah to the people of who were exiled to Babylon to seek the flourishing of your city, to care about your neighbors as you care about yourself, to love them as you love yourself really.

And to work this out as Daniel did, not as sort of religious advisor to Jewish people, he was the chief political counselor to three tyrants. Three kind of bad men actually. You know mercurial despots they were. But he was the most trusted political counselor to three different regimes over the course of his life. Iraqui, Iranian regimes they turned out to be years later really. But what did he do? Well the best we can account for that is that he weighed in on military strength, on agricultural resources, on building highways, on the economy. That's what political counselors always do really. That was Daniel's work, best we understand it really.

And so to see ourselves that it's in and through what we're given to do in the world that we are to seek the flourishing of the city, which is why for me this language of common grace for the common good means so much.
Dr. Darrell Bock
I almost would love to develop this and start talk ? you know those trucks can't even go anywhere unless they're on highways. The guys who I often pass by without giving a thought, the guys who are pouring asphalt, preparing the concrete et cetera, I think you know, oftentimes I'm thinking about you know why is this construction going on? It's just getting in the way. But actually it's accomplishing something pretty positive that enables us to manage our world and to function. And again I think part of the – there are two things that are highlighted I think in what you're saying. One is the value of what's getting done here.

And the second is having an appreciation for the very simple things of life that actually make life workable. And I'm not thinking about just in an efficiency standpoint, but it actually when life is done and managed well, when vocation is carried out well, it allows people to relate to one another better. And it is a form, an expression of love and care. Well I want to transition now because if we keep talking about common grace which we could do the rest of the show, we won't talk about common good. And common good is, I think a harder concept and I remember I write for a blog here in Dallas, the Dallas Morning News. I've been on it since the very beginning and I remember public event in which we started discussing the common good.

And the question came up, how can you talk about the common good when people can't agree on what the good is and they don't sometimes share very much seemingly in common. It's a difficult question. So I think the common good is a harder concept in some ways than common grace. And yet it's extremely important concept. So when you talk about common good, what are you aspiriing people to grasp?
Dr. Steven Garber
In some ways Darrell my first response is just to place myself in the tensions of Paul in Romans 5, 6, 7 and 8. You know and just realizing that there's a tension built into the way we have to think about this as God's people in the world. There's a tension in it. Because you know I agree with you know the person who wrote back to you and said, "Well, not much in common and what's good anyway?"
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah, yeah.
Dr. Steven Garber
I mean in a pluralizing, secularizing, globalizing world that's more and more difficult and devoid about your life. This work has been true, that's been true for you in spades actually. You know it's really hard to work out this out in an increasingly pluralizing, increasingly secularizing and increasingly globalizing world. I'm not romantic about that at all. I feel weighed down by that considerably actually. It burdens me considerably.
Dr. Darrell Bock
It's life in a fallen world.
Dr. Steven Garber
It is but it is in our faces more and more so. As you move more and more into a moment in history where there's less and less and less moorings or tethering to a Christian consciousness, that becomes more and more of a challenge to us I would say. Which doesn't mean that we should step back away from. One of my great teachers was John Stott and the Protestant pope of the last half of the 20th century. But he said this in his commentaries and his teaching about the Gospel of Mathew. When Jesus says, "You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world."

And Uncle John put it like this. He said, "Why would you blame a room for being dark? Why wouldn't you ask why wasn't the light turned on? Why would you blame meat for rotting? Why wouldn't you ask why wasn't this meat salted really?" We have a hard time imagining that second metaphor in a plastic wrapped, you know, bind and safe way –
Dr. Darrell Bock
Protected world, yeah.
Dr. Steven Garber
Protected world but I mean most of the world because it's the majority of the world doesn't buy meat that way. They buy it off a stand by the side of the road and you cut off a slab and hope the flies aren't too much on it that day really. It wasn't there last week. You know it's more recent than not and most of the world still buys meat that way really. You know. But his point was why would you blame the world for being in the world? Why wouldn't you ask why wasn't the church there? Why didn't Christians get involved? Why didn't we penetrate and permeate the world? Because it's not our responsibility, it isn't our place to criticize the world for being the world.

The world will be the world. Our question is why didn't we get involved. And I would say that's you know, it's those words, it's that truth, it's that imagery which really tethered me and my life for most of my life now. I'd have a hard time living where I live, in this city of glorious ruin that Washington DC is if I didn't have some sense that you know, you are Steve, I don't like this because it's too hard many days. You are to be the salt and light of the world. You know give yourself to this with one more time with gladness and singleness of heart really.

I do work with the people who are behind the HEB grocery stores in Texas, which all of you, in the republic of Texas you know beyond what maybe would know about really. But I've often thought about them because they are a family actually that believes the very things that Dallas Seminary believes. They're committed to the apostle's creed and to the Trinitarian faith and you know and to being people of justice and mercy in the world and to working that out in selling milk and bread and bananas throughout the cities and villages of Texas really. But I've watched them enough to know that they don't have, they don't suffer from dualism in their best thinking about this.

I mean the Butt family actually is you know given generations to trying to think through how do we serve Texas? By offering good food at a good price. I know enough about them to know that they don't see that as secular, as sort of a secular offering that we make enough money off Texans to do good things with charitable offerings at the end of the year. I mean they are very charitable. They are very generous people really but it isn't because they have squeezed every ounce out of Texans and sold bad food at bad prices. I mean why people keep going back? Why Wal-Mart doesn't compete in Texas with HEB is because HEB has served Texas so well. They actually had a vision of common grace for the common good in and through their supplying of groceries to Texans.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And what I'm hearing kind of between the lines in what you're saying is this is not about, or maybe even primarily about what we say but it's how we engage. And it doesn't mean to say that there aren't sometimes words there but it is to say that when we're talking about being salt and light, we're talking about the way in which we have contact and presence with people as opposed to merely talking to or about them. That part of common –
Dr. Steven Garber
I mean words have to become flesh. That's not just good theology Darrell. You're a professor. You're a teacher. I mean it's the best pedagogy. We don't actually as human beings, we don't get it apart from seeing that the words can become life, that they can take on flesh. It's just the way we're made. God who made us knows that which is why incarnation, the incarnation, actually needed to be not only for theological reasons which are profound and weighty but actually for pedagogical reasons which are also profound and weighty. We don't understand things unless we see they can get worked out. So it has to be worked out. It has to be engaged. It has to be actually lived out for us to understand what it means.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah and I think that sometimes I'm immediately drawn to the Book of Proverbs which is applied wisdom. And to know God in that book is not to know stuff about him. It's to live in a way in which wisdom is applied in life, is done, if I can say it that way, in such a way that the God is honored and I live in harmony, if I can say it that way, with the fact that God made me in his image to reflect who he is in the world.
Dr. Steven Garber
One of the, you know, one of the arguments I've, or reflections I've had in the book is between the Greek way of seeing the world and the Hebrew way of seeing the world. And there's a lot to be said and it's a complex story and I don't want to be cheap about it for a moment really. But one of the authors I've drawn on who actually is University of Dallas professor here in the city, did a remarkable essay years ago contrasting these two worlds and world views, the Greek and the Hebrew. And you know to put it in the most simple terms I think they're fair. I mean if in the Greek world there was the ideal of justice, the ideal of compassion, the ideal of love, the ideal of wisdom, and that isn't this that that was you know, a malicious lie. It was in some ways trying to account for something which they were trying to understand about the world. I get that part of it. But the Hebrew way of course is something which is, which is by nature embodied. It has to be worked out. It's manifested in life.
Dr. Darrell Bock
It's word become flesh.
Dr. Steven Garber
It's word become flesh really. So the very Hebrew word yaddah, in which Seinfeld's horribly bastardized, excuse me, you know along the way in his show, you know yaddah-yaddah-yaddah, just nothing-nothing-nothing really. I mean what the Hebrew word says is in fact when you know, you have to do. And if you don't do them you really don't know. That's a much tougher way to understand it.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Absolutely, yeah.
Dr. Steven Garber
And so I'm drawn to those sort of deep, Hebrew you know understanding. Sort of what it means to know the world. Because you see if you know the world you're going to have to care about the world. That's written into the great Hebrew understanding of knowing.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah which means that in church you know we have a lot of places that oftentimes pride themselves on what they know about the Bible. But it probably sometimes can be a very shallow meaning of the term. They may know a lot of stuff about what the Bible is and says but if they actually aren't applying what's being said, if they aren't putting into practice what's there, I think heaven would say, "Eh, you don't know as much as you think."
Dr. Steven Garber
I just, I don't work for you and I don't work with you but I just had noticed coming into the studio this morning on your DTS cups, teach truth, love well.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Exactly, yeah.
Dr. Steven Garber
And you could say it 1,000 good ways but that's a very good way to say it actually. I mean it isn't enough to teach the truth that somehow that resides in my head, in my brain. Like it's around no doctrine.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Right.
Dr. Steven Garber
But you see if it's not actually worked out in your life, you've learned to love well, you don't really know. That's the Hebrew vision. That's the biblical vision.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And I think the intent behind that saying is to say look, we're really committed to making sure that the heart and the mind are connected to one another, that their function, there actually is, there's blood flowing from one to the other and life is happening because the heart and the head are actually in conjunction with one another. And what I'm hearing you say in all of this is that there is a whole-ism to life. There is a placedness to all of life that's designed to function, I think you used the word very early on, seamlessly. And in that unity life makes sense it. It has value and it ends up being carried out and lived in the way in which God designed it to be lived, not in these little compartments where you know, I'm on for God here and over here I'm doing something else. But no, I'm always on and in his presence. I'm always engaged with what he has me being about and I'm always in the process of a place and a location where God has me serving him and serving others.
Dr. Steven Garber
That's exactly right. Yeah.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Well it's, we're kind of coming down to the end here so I'll ask what I often get, what I often get asked when I'm interviewed, when the interviewer gets to the end and we're running short of time and it goes like this. What else would you tell us around what it is or how would you summarize what it is we've been talking about?
Dr. Steven Garber
Well can I just say something to that question relationship to this being a seminary?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yes.
Dr. Steven Garber
Fifteen years the Lily endowment created a very large grant and called it programs in the theological expiration of vocation. And they gave $2 million grants to 90 institutions for higher learning across America. Baylor got $2 million, so did Notre Dame. And 90 schools like them across America got $2 million. I was drawn into the grant along the way by the foundation saying, "You know we see your name on how this money is used. You have any ideas about it?" I said, "I've got one idea probably and that is because you've chosen schools with ecclesial histories, Baptist Baylor, Catholic Notre Dame and on and on and on really. Because Lily is Lily. They do, have cared about the health of the church in America."

And I said, "I don't see how the fruit and the hope of the grant could be sustained unless you actually involve congregations in this somehow. So a Baylor graduate leaves Waco and moves to Dallas and they can't find a church that preaches or praises if vocation matters to God in the world. You get to be 30 years old and you're going to think, "You know I had a lot of bull session conversations when I was 21. This vocation sure wasn't like that because neither the world nor the church thinks this way." You know and Lily said, "We think you're right about that."

So I spent years of my life thinking about theological education in the relation to vocation and why it's critical, why it matters so much for the church to reorder its thinking about what vocation means. Cause you see if we don't preach and pray, as if vocation matters to God or the world, then we're just not going to get this done really. We won't be the salt and light of God's work in the world really because people will continue to be stunted, continue to live out of compartmentalized accounts of their faith and with dualistic versions of sacred and secular which don't really give coherence and seamlessness to life. They'll see in fact that the work of you know building a highway or driving a semi or being a lawyer or being a nurse or being a kindergarten teacher has anything to do with the work of God in the world. If we don't preach and pray as if that's true, how are people going to understand that Darrell?
Dr. Darrell Bock
That's a great observation. It's a real challenge I think for churches to think through how they do and what they do and hopefully in hearing exhortation like you've just given that they'll give thought to how vocation and life and faith integrate in such a way that it cultivates a healthy life and a healthy culture both for their parishioners and for the people around them so the city can flourish. We really thank you for being with us today Steven and for your words on vocation. And we thank you for being a part of The Table and we look forward to having you back with us again.
Dr. Steven Garber
Thank you Darrell.

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