Book Reviews: Visions of Vocation

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Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good by Steven Garber (IVP Books)

book garber200Vocation means more than occupation to Steven Garber, principal of the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation and Culture. He views vocation as encompassing the wholeness of life, with its wide range of responsibilities and relationships. Garber repeatedly asks readers: “Can we know the world and still love the world? What will you do with what you know? Knowing what you know, how will you respond?” That response may include a Christian’s career choice, but it never is limited only to it. For love’s sake, we labor to make the world a better place.

Garber views the world as it is, and he honestly acknowledges how difficult it can be to love the world—or even our little corner of it—when we know it well. Even so, the God who knows us best loves us most, and he calls us to practice that same kind of love in our everyday lives. As Garber explains what it means to pursue common grace for the common good, he illustrates his points with real-life illustrations—from a carpenter in Kansas, to a rancher in Wyoming, to a farmer in California, to artists such as Walker Percy, Wendell Berry and Bono.

Garber calls Christians to “learn to live proximately.” While some might see that as settling for less than the best, he presents it as striving—working for justice, mercy and righteousness in sinful world. Romantic illusions that utopian ideals are possible in a fallen world likely result in disillusionment and cynicism. Garber challenges Christians to embrace realism and “make peace with the proximate,” even while working toward elusive goals. We cannot do everything or achieve all we might desire, but we can do something and achieve some measure of success. And in the striving, God’s people find fulfillment.

Ken Camp, managing editor

Baptist Standard


Celibate Sex: Musings on Being Loved, Single, Twisted, and Holy by Abbie Smith (NavPress)

When singleness hurts, the options prove slim. book smith200I can brave Christian dating sites, dial up Mom or prescribe myself a pint of ice cream and a large dose of romantic movies on the DVD player. Christian subculture suggests other questionable remedies. Churches corral unmarried adults into holding cells dubbed “the singles ministry” until that blessed time when love blossoms.

Advice descends like unintended shrapnel. “You should enjoy your single years.” “Get married.” “Don’t idolize it.” “Put yourself out there.” “Don’t try so hard.” “Prepare for marriage.” “Pray more.” While pat answers can hold truth, they often weigh me down.

In Celibate Sex: Musings on Being Loved, Single, Twisted, and Holy, Abbie Smith digs deeper. She sees a vacancy in Christian doctrine where a theology of singleness should exist. With fresh honesty and a biblical bedrock, she builds a holistic understanding of what singleness means in a world of relationships and the family of God. She invites the wounded, the happy and the disoriented to find a place of belonging.

Celibate Sex is about finding home “in our bodies and in our humanity, in our brokenness and in God’s divinity,” Smith writes, and her book invites the reader in. Her frankness reads like a cup of hot cocoa on a cold night. Her courageous yet gracious dialogue beckons to the confused and broken. For the church, Celibate Sex continues the conversation, exploring a biblical understanding of singleness and the value unmarried individuals bring to the body of Christ.

Shannon Gianotti, student

Dallas Theological Seminary

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