St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians (12):
28And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret? 31But eagerly desire[e] the greater gifts.
This ranks vocations in order of their true importance—not in the eyes of the world, but from the vantage point of eternity. Apostles, in current terms, are surely the priests, the formal successors of the apostles; more broadly, say, religious leaders. Prophets are second—in modern terms, artists, those who are inspired. Blake made this connection, and I think it is exactly right: an artist's work is the Holy Spirit speaking through him, or it is nothing. Teachers come third; no mean place.
Who works miracles? I think at least a case could be made that the modern profession referred to is engineering, which regularly produces visible and, quite literally, “supernatural” wonders. Surely it must be so—God would not abandon the church. The gifts of the spirit must still be with us; they would not have been withdrawn. Some modern vocation must then involve the working of miracles, or else it would be so. And if so, which other then than engineering?
Gifts of healing? Here the true physicians. Gifts of administration? The businessmen. Speaking in tongues—or, as it can also be rendered, “speaking many languages”--the translators, linguists, and interpreters.
I'd say teachers do rather well by this classification: below artists and clergy, but above doctors, engineers, and administrators. Lawyers do not even figure--which sounds right. They are no doubt of a different party.
All of these, then, are vocations. They are gifts of the spirit. They require a certain knack, if you like; and without it, nothing more can be done.
But more than that—all are essentially religious in nature. When, as in this blog recently, one wants to argue for the fruits of true prophecy, as in "by their fruits you shall know them," no doubt the presence or absence of these gifts should be taken into the ledger.
And aren't they evidence for the truth of Christianity? At its inception, Christianity set its own criterion for its truth, that it should be judged by the fruits it produced. Moreover, it cited these as its expected fruits: accomplishments in priesthood, art, education, engineering, healing, administration, and languages.
And is it not Christian civilization that currently leads, by common consensus, in all of these fields? Has it not led in all for at least the last five hundred years?
But the fact that these are gifts of the spirit leads to another, more sombre, consideration. Without that religious anchor, all these endeavours have accordingly lost their meaning, lost their direction, and must inevitably eventually lose their powers.
That is where both modern teaching, and modern art, have gone astray.
No: that is where modern teaching, modern art, modern engineering, modern medicine, modern administration, modern linguistics, and even to a large extent modern priesthood, have gone astray.
This is suicide.
But even amongst this larger group, teachers, for obvious reasons, hold a special responsibility not to do so, not to stray. What could be more perverse, more in the service of evil, than to lead others to follow a path that is wrong?
St. James sounds the warning bell (James 3):
1Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
Hence my concern. That, and for my own two children...