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  • Writer's pictureJM Zabick

The Myth of the Un-Qualified "Called"

How “... He Qualifies the Called ..." Is Just a Warm Heavy Blanket for the Unqualified.

“God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.”

In all practical terms, this idea has long descended whatever merit it may have once offered. It now resides in the swirl of contemporary Christian jargon … a deep, murky pool, in which it’s hard to discern anything vividly, except nonsense.


And nonsense, being what this amounts to, is really the most optimistic case. The phrase employed, rather, as a means of power-over spirituality is the (not-uncommon) worst.


One of the biblical passages used as a proof text for the idea is from St. Paul. “For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).


It’s a strange line of support, isn’t it? I mean, you have to come to the text looking to find a spot in which to shoehorn the precept. The other passages sometimes used are also difficult to pull off.  


Indeed! God Qualifies the Called


Of course, the mantle God places on those he chooses to use is what ultimately qualifies anyone to do his good works. But let us not then assume anyone who is called is simultaneously and instantly given all they need (aka qualified), at that moment.  


That is exactly how it is so often pedaled across, however. There are a few possible reasons why.


Take for instance, convenience. Sometimes the journey to become qualified is undesirable. And in a consumer-heavy, attraction-based culture such as that dominating contemporary American Christian circles, the “I want it now” mentality feeds the interpretation.


Maybe there is favoritism at play. Sometimes we just want the people we want in the circle, right? Sometimes there are those we don’t want in, who are looking to get in. And (relative to point 1) there’s this nagging inconvenience when the former is not remotely qualified, while the latter immensely is.


Jealousy could be involved too. Sometimes, there is a desire to not appear less qualified than another, who is (objectively) more qualified. So, this idiom is employed as a means to dismiss that … level the playing field as it were.  


But mostly, in my view, I suspect slinging this around is rooted, above all, in control. It’s predicated on being in charge of the narrative, the vision, the direction. I’ll leave it at that.


Nevertheless, this defies the biblical witness.


Take, for instance, the Apostles. When did Jesus call them? It was among the very first moves of his public ministry. When were they qualified to actually BE what he was qualifying them to become?


It was the end of the story, according to Matthew. “… Jesus approached and said … ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore …” (28:18-20).


Go and do what? All that he had been training them up to do the prior three or so years.


But notice the KEY POINT. He didn’t pass along his authority to do it (the qualification) until he knew they had finally been prepared (qualified) to receive it.


God DOES Call the Qualified?


He absolutely does.


“Oh, but what about Paul?” you ask.


You mean the man who for years of his life gave himself to becoming exceedingly well educated and practiced in Jewish Law, as well as expertly trained in the Stoic philosophy and rhetorical arts of Tarsus, PRIOR to his “calling.”


If you ever wondered why St. Paul was so effective among the Jewish diasporas of the Hellenized world, it was because he became so qualified.


That’s right … qualified, before he was called.


And after his calling, Paul travelled to “Arabia” (Gal. 1) for around three years, where he studied the Law of the Jews and the thought of the Gentiles in light of his revelation. It was only then that he made his way to Jerusalem to meet the Apostles, who … seeing his qualifications, trusted him (Acts 9:28-29).


Final Point


This sentiment, in conclusion, is a delusion.


It’s bunk. It comes from the same place as another of my favorites, “We’re all theologians.”


That is a place that seeks to capitalize on mindless spirituality to evade the accountability of a historically proper and fully orbed dialogue with voices across the Christian Age, about the nature of the Faith, theology, and ecclesiology.


Despite the catchy ring, it’s a completely vapid sentiment, employed to maintain an order and an outlook that is preferable to a select group and the ad hoc foundations of it.  


At the bottom of it, I contend, is the desire to smoke screen the unqualified off in a haze of pseudo-spiritual Christian-eze, and to delegitimize the qualified who stand as a threat to their fortresses.


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