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Friday, August 19, 2005 

Here I Am, Send Me

Reading: R.L. Dabney's "What Is A Call To The Ministry?" and the latest Credenda/Agenda
Enjoying: #2 of 5 Onyx
Listening: I've got some of my old music re-uploaded - Tschesnokoff "Salvation Is Created"

A few comments, on what I've been browsing.

First, if you're like me, you're a bit frustrated with your future vocation. You grew up in pietistic fundamental evangelicalism (fundagelicalism), and you feel a deep burning to be a minister of Word and Sacrament. (With that last part, you also prove you are no longer apart of said fundagelicalism, which never uses swear words like "sacrament.") However, you are keenly aware that being a minister is not like being a mechanic, or math teacher, or doctor. If you are good with numbers, enjoy teaching, and other people think you could get paid to do it, the deal is sealed - you ought to be a math teacher. However, if you enjoy the Bible, have a good grasp of theology and how the Law and Gospel are to be handled, and wish to see others come to a grasp of the Lord - you may be a good Christian, and that's it. Being a poimen (shepherd) takes a call of the Holy Spirit, and those aren't to be had by just anyone.

So you can imagine the emotional and skeptical demons that plague a person as to whether all his time in seminary and studying is really what he is supposed to be doing. So when an article like R. L. Dabney's "What Is A Call To The Ministry?" comes along, it is truly a breath of fresh air. Here is an eminently biblical, sound theologian to be trusted, who wants to answer the question by saying, "What does the Bible have to say about such a calling?"

Dabney lists several promptings that a man may take for signals and signs from the Spirit:
  1. A call to preach is not complete until the Holy Spirit has uttered it, not only in the Christian judgment of the candidate himself, but in that of his brethren also. One should feel the promptings of the Holy Spirit within and hear them echoed on the lips of holy brothers who admonish him to pursue the office.
  2. The principal Scriptures that deal with the office, explicitly I Timothy 3 and Titus 1:6 - 9, and all texts that commend a man to offer himself whole heartedly to the service of the Lord, bear deeply upon his soul.
  3. The kind providences of God should be looked upon to see only as a guide, and not a determinant. Providence should be looked at in hindsight, viz., what has already happened, and not guessed at in the future. If, then, the young Christian is surrounded with outward hindrances, it is his duty to ask: “Is it possible for me lawfully to conquer them by the most strenuous exertions of my best faculties, nerved by deathless love for Christ?” If it is, then it may be his duty to preach.
  4. The Scriptures which define the necessary qualifications of the minister may be digested in substance into the following particulars: He must have a hearty and healthy piety, a fair re­putation for holiness of life, a respectable-force of character, some Christian experience, and aptness to teach. Let us repeat the re­mark that these particulars are given by the Holy Spirit as a rule by which the church is to judge in calling, as well as the candidate in obeying the call. And let us remark also, with emphasis, once for all, that the young Christian, in concluding whether he possess these qualifications, should attach much weight to the opinion of judicious Christian friends, yea, even more than to his own, because men are often more in the dark, by reason of self-love,, concerning their own characters, than their acquaintances.
  5. In keeping with Matthew 9:37, a potential candidate is to consider the needs of the church at the present moment, as well as the natural law of supply and demand to see where he may be most needed.
  6. Let us gather up the sum of the matter. The Divine will is to be learned from these teach­ings of the Scriptures, and of events interpreted by Scripture, all studied under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, obtained through prayer.
  7. Sincere and deep prayer must be offered to know better the will of our gracious Lord.
I wanted to conclude with the final exhortation Dabney gives:
We conclude with this final caution. The claims of the min­istry on Christian young men are so strong that in many cases the head cannot misunderstand them, though the reluctant heart may shrink from them. Such cases often result thus: the un­decided Christian says, “I will investigate farther; I will give myself time, and meantime I will teach or seek some temporary business;” or he says, “I will preach; I cannot dispute the duty; but I am young; two or three years hence will be time enough.”
And then, under this deceitful plea, he plunges un­necessarily into secular business, till its trammels, or the new affections of married life, or some fancied necessity, settle the question, and the man never preaches. Show us the case where such a retraction of the better resolution is not evidence of, yea, synonymous with, spiritual decline. Ah, how many are there now in the secular professions, keen, money-loving lawyers, busy politicians, indolent dilettanti, fallen drunkards, degraded repro­bates, who were once promising Christians, and whose apostasy began just in this way?
Look, young, hesitating professor, at the dire fate of a Balaam. He professed to seek the Lord's will, and he received an expression of it which he dared not dispute. Well would it have been for him if he had then ceased inquiring and gone at once to obeying. But the deceitfulness of his heart prompted him to what he supposed was a middle course. “He would not proceed in the teeth of the Lord's will; oh! no, not he! not for worlds! But he would inquire again;” and the re­sult was that he got no answer from God better than the first, but he secured the damnation of his own soul. To say that you will “consider farther of the matter,” after God has made an end of consideration by giving light enough to settle the question, is but virtual disobedience.
There is then no time to consider; it is time to act. If you are prepared at present to
preach, and God calls you to preach, then he calls you to preach now. If you have preparation to make, and God calls you to preach, he calls you to begin that preparation now; for a per­ishing world needs you now; while you causelessly hesitate souls drop into hell. “today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart.”
My own opinion of Dabney's article is very impressed. I think he does an excellent job of balancing extreme nitpicking with his ardent exhortation at the end. Perhaps I, and the circles I run in, have too much to do with introspection, rather than understanding and obedience.
Lastly, I just have to mention Credenda/Agenda. This publication is well known, and is infamous as it is put out by Doug Wilson and Christ Church in Moscow, ID. I've found that I'm always comfortable giving it this recommendation:
Credenda/Agenda is always entertaining, and often edifying.
They came out with a new issue recently, "A Case of the Blues." If you are in the right mood, go read the article about the cheetahs, half way down. It is terrific. I love this ministry.

Have a blessed weekend, and enjoy the Lord's Day in Christ.

Thanks for sharing that. It was fun reading it. :-)

That is great to hear, thank you for reading!

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Transplanted from the artic blight of Minnesota to the sunny paradise of SoCal, I am attending school and learning to say "dude." I like to think of myself as equal parts surf rash, Batman, heavy metal, Levinas, poetic license, and reformational. Other than creating blund blogs, I enjoy reading, sporting, and socializing with serious and funny people.
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