Parabolic Professions: a book review

Each career has something to teach us. When people do the type of things, they were made to do, they image God for the rest of us.
978-1-63146-548-2So says John Van Sloten, Calgary pastor and preacher teacher at Ambrose Seminary in Calgary, Alberta. Van Sloten previously wrote The Day Metallica Came to Church: Searching for the Everywhere God in Everything, a book that explored God’s presence in pop-culture. In Every Job a ParableVan Sloten trains his eye on careers around him, and how God is revealed in our vocation.

In Part I, describes how people in their job, image God. Van Sloten talks with a Walmart Greeter, a flyer delivery person in his neighbourhood, a forensic psychologist, tradespeople and auto mechanics, doctors and florists, and scientists, exploring how our work puts us in touch with the character of God, and his imprint on our world and work.  He continues to probe various vocations throughout the book.

In Part II, Van Sloten explores what parables are and how our work is a parable. He explores the ways workers image God’s presence and how someone’s vocation(calling) is an icon of God. In Part III, he explores what our work reveals about God. Different jobs reveal God’s ongoing creation (e.g., Geophysicists), crooked lawyers and immoral politicians show how sin distorts things, how first responders and medical professionals reveal ways God works to redeem all things, and how activists point us to God’s work of new creation.

Part IV forms an invitation for us to live more effectively and consistently the image of God we are called to through our work. Van Solten suggests learning discernment, gratitude, rhythms of rest, a mystical full-sense-engagement in our vocational life, and trust that God will use our work.

Van Sloten’s perspective on vocation helps us see the sacredness of work. Too often, our work feels small and mundane, and seems the chunk of our day that takes us away from our life. Van Sloten argues, instead that what we do at work is formational and iconic, allowing our work to call us to Christlikeness and imaging God.

While the book assumes the sacredness of every vocation, Van Sloten does address where sin distorts our sense of call. Lawyers may lie, federal politicians may be immoral, accountants may be . . . creative. But Van Sloten’s negative examples all assume that each of these are a peculiar vocation gone amiss. He does not treat, in this volume, jobs that are illegal (mob boss, pimp, prostitute), immoral (pornographer) or  ambiguous (a card dealer at a Casino, bar tender, etc). Presumably, these can fit the ‘Every job a parable’ motif, even if these jobs don’t ‘image God.’ They still may have things to teach us.

Van Sloten, is Reformed, and many of the theological voices he draws on are within the Christian Reformed Stream: Cornelius Plantinga, Richard Mouw, Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavnick. Though CS Lewis, Eastern Orthodox theology through the lens of Rublev’s Trinity and Gabriel Bunge are also significant.

This was a pretty enjoyable read and I like the way Van Sloten valued the professions he highlighted here.  On a personal note, feeling somewhat vocationally muddled as of late, I appreciate Van Sloten’s call to examine where God is revealed in my day job. I give this four stars – ★★★★

Notice of material connection: I received a copy of this book from the Tyndale Blog Network, in exchange for my honest review.


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