Job and Calling in Fundamentalism

By Gary North (, March 08, 2013

I signed up for the debt reduction course so I could read the information there – it asks “how much money have you devoted to pursuing your calling” – I have never thought that a calling would require money to pursue it…. I guess I thought “calling” would be financially neutral – more like “volunteering”

I will say that it “broadens” your options when you think that you might have to use money to pursue your calling…

The lady who posed this question has spent her life as a fundamentalist. She has gone cold turkey. She is experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

She has spent her life in a community in which anything practical is regarded as something theologically peripheral. This is beginning to change, primarily in the charismatic community. “Name it and claim it,” or “blab and grab,” is at least a theology — false, as it turns out — of “ask, and ye shall receive” easy financial success. It is “think and grow rich” for Pentecostals. But millions of Scofield Bible people expect the imminent rapture of the church to take them out of history and thereby remove all of their earthly responsibilities. They literally believe that Jesus will pull them up to heaven, give them sin-free, death-free, perfect bodies, and bring them back to rule on earth with Him after the seven-year “great tribulation,” when they will be given total bureaucratic control over of all the people who ridiculed them before the rapture. (“It’s pay-back time!”) This is the both the theological and psychological essence of the Scofield system, and anyone who attempts to create doubts about this system inside fundamentalism is regarded as heretical, evil, and a part of the social gospel movement. I speak from experience.


One of the characteristic features of fundamentalism is that a fundamentalist denies that he is still liable to the tithe. They say that anything relating to the tithe is a matter of works, and they are under grace. Of course, what they are really under is the humanist politicians they elected and the Federal bureaucracy. But they call this grace. For three recent essays that promote this view, plus one by me, go here.

What they want is something for nothing. They want all of the benefits of being Christians, but they want to keep for themselves all but a token payment to God. They really do believe that Christians get something for nothing in grace. They forget the judicial basis of the atonement, which is the crucifixion. They assume that grace is free. Grace is free with respect to what they have put into the pot, but it is not free with respect to the price that has been paid on their behalf. They do not want to be reminded of the fact that they live constantly in debt to God, because grace precedes law. The atonement precedes justification. They never want to talk about this. Jesus said to pick up your cross and follow Him. They think He was being metaphorical, which He was. They think He was letting them off the hook, which He wasn’t.

So, they do not expect to pay anything much for something of great value. They are constantly complaining about people who are “making money off of Christianity.”

They define Christianity in such a way that they get in line in a kind of gigantic food stamp system from Jesus. They do not believe in personal sacrifice as the basis of success in life. Most of them do not have much success in life, because they are part of the consumer culture that is all around us. A few of them may listen to somebody like Dave Ramsey, but only after they are in over their heads in debt, and they want to get out. They never heard preaching in the pulpit about the biblical requirement not to burden yourself with consumer debt. That would have been works religion, and they believe in grace. Then — what do you know? — they find themselves with credit card debts and other obligations. Now they face bankruptcy. They just do not understand how this happened to them. Why, they were living under grace! And now here is this awful bankruptcy law facing them! It just does not seem fair!


The fundamentalists have no doctrine of the calling. All they have is the doctrine which they call full-time Christian service. Full-time Christian service is defined as getting paid by a church. That means a pastor, an assistant pastor, a foreign missionary, rescue mission employee, and maybe the church secretary are involved in full-time Christian service. Nobody else is. They define Christianity as being only inside the four walls of the church and the family, and then they define full-time Christian service as working for a pay-check from the church.

Why do they do this? Because they are committed to one thing above all else in life: limiting their personal responsibility. They do not want to be told that full-time Christian service is a full-time career for everybody who calls himself a Christian. Full-time Christian service is exactly what it says: Christian service that is full-time. But they do not want to be involved in this kind of full-time Christian service, because they want to live as their neighbors do, with as little responsibility as they can get away with. They do not want to define Christianity as applying to anything except the local congregation, the Christian family, and maybe a Christian business.

They have adopted the doctrine of pre-millennial dispensationalism as a means of reinforcing their lifetime commitment to avoiding commitment. This system teaches that, at any moment, all Christians will be pulled out of history, never to be burdened by sin or responsibility again. They will never again have to worry about the fact that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, because they are going to be pulled out of the hand-basket. This view is summarized by the slogan, “You do not polish brass on a sinking ship.” This was the lifetime doctrine of a radio preacher in the 1930s through the 1950s, J. Vernon McGee.

Not having a doctrine of the calling, they never talk about the need to finance the calling. If there is a need to finance the calling, the person is supposed to get funding from the church. Every calling is based on beggary, they believe. This is the other side of their doctrine of the tithe. Since there is no tithe required, pastors are supposed to beg their congregations. The members love to see those pastors grovel. “Beg us, beg us; it feels so good to see you beg!” See Chapter 4 of my book, Tithing and the Church.

The reason why fundamentalists have no doctrine of the calling is because they have no doctrine of full-time Christian service, other than pastoral employment. They do not assume that the calling must be financed personally, because they have never heard of the calling. They have never heard a sermon on the calling. Their pastors have never read a book on the calling. So, members of their congregations bump along through life, holding down a job, paying their bills most of the time, struggling to get ahead, but never quite getting ahead. When a few of them do get ahead, they usually do not tithe.


When your personal theory of life is built on the principle of something for nothing, which you call grace, you can be pretty well certain that you are not going to get very far in life. That is because you cannot get something for nothing. If you assume that you can get something for nothing in this life, by applying the theology of the atonement to social theory, and then concluding that God owes you a living, and so does everyone else around you, you will find it hard to get ahead. When you assume that you do not have to sacrifice for the sake of the future, you are not going to have much of a future. Yet this is the outlook of virtually all of non-charismatic fundamentalism today. It is why fundamentalism has had so little influence in the past, and why it will have so little influence in the future.