Discerning Reader: Why did you choose to write a book about calling?
Charles Drew: First, I wanted to address a felt need. Calling is a big issue, especially for the sort of person I find myself ministering to in New York—something I discovered when I first taught the material at a church retreat. Secondly, I wanted to use this felt need as a "way in: to a God-centered and gospel-centered view of life. The deep story of the Bible, as set forth in a high view of creation, a radical and comprehensive view of the fall, and a radical and comprehensive view of renewal in Christ, has largely disappeared from the popular mind; and sadly, the church has followed the culture. I wanted to find a way to bring the story back into the imagination, and therefore the life, of the church.
DR: How is your book different from other self-help or self-discovery books?
CD: I cannot comment on specific books (there are many I have not read). But I suspect that my approach is more theological—certainly more God-centered. And for that reason I suspect that it will be more helpful to people—not because it provides a sure-fire "three-step plan: for finding fulfillment (I am convinced that there is no such thing). It will be more helpful because it seeks to introduce readers to the world the way it actually is—a deeply troubled place that is nevertheless in the hands of an almighty and gracious Person who calls us out of ourselves and into his agenda. God isn't against us finding ourselves; but he is against us trying to do so the wrong way—by making self-discovery and self-fulfillment our aim in life. That is idolatry and it shuts down the whole process.
Only when we learn that it isn't "all about me: are we able to cope with the inevitable disappointments of life and only then are we adequately motivated to push beyond ourselves in combating the things that remain so wrong with our world. If life is "all about me:, then I will be content with the fallenness of things as long as I can find a way to be reasonably happy with myself; but this is to disengage with the continuing mission of the Redeemer.
DR: Who did you write A Journey Worth Taking for? Who was your target audience?
CD: My hope is to reach thinking people of all sorts, especially those in the early stages of their adult journey (those in college, grad-school, and the beginnings of their careers). I suspect that my readership will be largely Christian, since the book is written from a Christian perspective, but I keep inviting the non-believing inquirer to track with me. In the early stages of the book I do some apologetics, particularly with the non-Christian in mind.
DR: It seems to me that the book is applicable to both Christians and to unbelievers. What kind of reaction to the book have you heard from Christians? What about from those who are not Christians?
CD: I have had a fair amount of positive response from Christian readers, though not much from non Christians.
DR: Within the book you frame life's purpose within the context of four big ideas: creation, fall, redemption and consummation. How important is it that we grasp these ideas as we live our lives? How might understanding this framework impact our lives?
CD: I think that understanding the framework is very important. We do not need a gimmick (however complex) for figuring life out (life is not formulaic). We need, rather, a worldview—a way of seeing things, a story into which to place ourselves. The Christian story (the "four big ideas:) brings together a number of very important things at once: significance (my life has purpose), realism (there is something deeply wrong with me and with everything around me), hope (the Redeemer has begun to renew everything and will one day renew it all), and mission (we have work to do alongside the Redeemer). All these things are important. Realism without hope and significance leads to despair, hope without realism makes us naïve and sets us up for deep disappointment, hope without mission feeds our innate selfishness, and mission without hope makes us jaded in the face of the inevitable set-backs in our still broken world.
DR: You use the word missional in your book (though you do so, to my recollection, only one time). What does this word mean and how does a missional Christian look different from a non-missional Christian?
CD: To be missional is a much broader idea than "going into the mission field:. It means enlisting in the army of Jesus, the Second Adam, who has come "to make his blessings flow (as) far as the curse is found: (we sing these words every Christmas). To be missional is not simply to evangelize (though that is a very important part of what it means); it is to push, as the Redeemer gives us gifts and opportunity, against all that has gone wrong with the earth—disease, injustice, environmental pollution, ugliness, social disintegration at every level etc.
DR: In the chapter "It's Not Just About Me: you discuss the word and concept of shalom. What is shalom and how do we live in light of it?
CD: Shalom is a rich Hebrew word often translated "peace:. The peace in view is the fruit of Jesus life, death, and resurrection and it is comprehensive: the end of hostility between people and nations, harmony between man and nature, harmony in nature, harmony between God and people, personal healing so that there is not longer tension between what I think, feel, and do. Shalom happens when the whole world, and all of creation, fall joyfully at the feet of the Creator and Redeemer of all things. Since shalom comes only through the work of the Messiah, we become part of it only as we return again and again to the gospel and learn to live our lives in the light of the fact that we are forgiven and filled with the Spirit of Christ.
DR: If this is a book about finding yourself, why do you dedicate so much effort to encouraging the reader to stop thinking so much about himself?
CD: I probably answered this question above. To put the answer in Jesus' own words, "He who seeks to save his life will find it, but he who loses his life for my sake and for the gospel will find it.: God is not like the Wizard of Oz—shouting at us from behind a curtain every time we ask a serious question about what we are supposed to do with our lives. He loves us so much that he gave himself over to the punishment we deserve so that we could live—and "live: means to live life to the fullest—fullness of joy, fullness of purpose, fullness of nobility, fullness of love. But God's very self-giving provides us with the clue for our self-discovery. We are made in his image and we "find: ourselves only as we become like him—which means that our glory comes as we give ourselves away. Self-discovery comes in the back door.
DR: In one chapter you quote N.T. Wright who says, "It will not do to concentrate on individual justification while allowing the wider issues of justice to go unaddressed.: Can you explain that quote and perhaps indicate how we can live with a proper balance in pursuing the salvation of others and pursuing justice (or the renovation of this world)?
CD: The purpose if the life, death, and resurrection of Christ is not simply to put me right with God—so that if I believe in him I will go to heaven when I die. The purpose is to reverse the devastation brought into human history by the sin of the first Adam. My personal salvation is part of that great reversal—but it is only a part of it. When I by grace find myself "in Christ: I become part of a whole new creation ("If any man is in Christ, behold—a new creation:). This means that concern for justice becomes as much a part of my life as does evangelism. They are not the same thing—but they are part of the same reality. Finding a proper balance between doing evangelism and pursuing justice is not easy, and it varies from person to person, depending upon gifts, calling, and opportunity. But it would be a mistake to say that any of us should be concerned exclusively with one of them at the expense of the other. Justice without the power of the gospel becomes just one more doomed effort by fallen people to fix themselves. But gospel proclamation without any concern for justice undermines the credibility of those who proclaim the gospel.
Be sure to read our review of A Journey Worth Taking.