The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life
Author: Os Guinness
Publisher: Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2003
From the title, one might expect that Guinness's book is an exposition of the traditional view. For "the call" is the term used by the traditional view to describe God's individual will for the life work of each person. But Guinness does not hold the traditional view. For him, "the call" is the very bedrock of Christian life and commitment. It is almost equated with the moral will of God.
He defines calling as "the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service" (p. 4).
The call is primarily to Jesus Himself. Jesus expresses the call by His commands, and He bids us come and die with Him. God initiates this call and seeks us. We are, in the title of Chapter 2, "Seekers Sought." "Responding to the call means rising to the challenge, but in conversation and in partnership-and in an intimate relationship between the called and the Caller" (p. 24).
It is possible to read the traditional view into this book (p. 46), but Guinness's understanding of the individual nature of the call is different from that of the traditional view. He emphasizes that God individually presents His call to us. We must individually use the spiritual gifts and the endowed abilities given to us in the place where God has sovereignly placed us to His glory. All areas of the world are God's domain, and He utilizes John Newton's preaching as much as William Wilberforce's politicking (p. 29).
While our primary calling is to Christ Himself, "our secondary calling, considering who God is as sovereign, is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live and act entirely for him" (p. 31). Again Guinness says, "The one aim of the call of God is the satisfaction of God, not a call to do something for Him" (p. 42).
God can give a "special calling," which refers to "those tasks and missions laid on individuals through a direct, specific, supernatural communication from God" (p. 49). But this special call is not given to everyone. So Guinness disputes the traditional view's contention that everyone receives a special call to a particular vocation or to certain tasks. This understanding wrongly makes everyone a "prophet" by calling (p. 50).
What everybody does have is the call to follow Jesus. From the parables we learn "our responsibility to exercise a high degree of 'capitalistic-style' enterprise about how we live our lives" (p. 50). That sounds a lot like freedom and responsibility.
The most inspiring portions of the book are the wisdom and life stories. These accounts display the breadth and depth of Guinness's understanding of art and history. Through his narratives we meet Solzhenitsyn, Michelangelo, William Perkins, Dostoevsky, Walker Percy, Kierkegaard, Lawrence of Arabia, Alexis de Tocqueville, Leonardo da Vinci, Simone Weil, Malcolm Muggeridge, Augustine, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Vaclav Havel, Bonhoeffer, Nietzche, Wilberforce, Aquinas, Luther, Abraham Kuyper, Calvin, Oswald Chambers, saxophonist John Coltrane, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Puritan John Cotton, King Xerxes, Francis of Assisi, Churchill, and so on. When you finish reading The Call, you want to go find books about a dozen other people who illustrated his points.
Guinness insightfully and incisively applies the moral will of God's call into every area of life. With Kuyper he tells us that God says of every person, moment, and thing, "This is Mine." His kingdom principles are to be applied to every nook of society. Our time, money, devotion, hearts, energy, gifts, ability are for Him. "Do you long to know the overriding passion and purity of heart of willing one thing? Listen to Jesus of Nazareth; answer his call" (p. 181). Each chapter concludes with a similar challenge that summarizes the content of the chapter. But the ending is always the same-"Listen to Jesus of Nazareth; answer his call."
Since this book uses the older and more biblical sense of the word call, it harmonizes well with Decision Making. It is a book that urges us to obey Christ and His commands as the key to a fulfilled and meaningful life. This book is a primer on obeying the moral will of God by obeying the One whose will it is that gives the only purpose worth living for.