The Upward Calling

The Upward Calling—R. E. O. White—Eerdmans—202 pp.

The Upward Calling completes Rev. White’s trilogy, the other two books being The Stranger of Galilee (Beacon Lights, June-July 1961) and Beneath the Cross of Jesus.  One who has appreciated the Baptist minister’s stylish simplicity in previous writings will not be disappointed in this book.  The grand topic of the Christian life is set forth with clarity and poetic vigor which are the genius of Reginald Ernest Oscar White.

Scripture’s presentation of the Christian life includes many elements and aspects.  It views the believer as an athlete, a pilgrim and even as a slave.  The new man in Christ loves, hates, fights and enjoys.  In all of this, the individual child of God is called, with a high calling, to be holy and perfect as the Caller is holy and perfect.  With uncompromising rigor, but with invigorating appeal, author White points out how that calling must be answered by a human’s life.  In a marvelous section on love, he writes, “Love’s thinking, in fact, amounts to a rare intellectual charity, that will say to no man contemptuously “Thou fool!”…that delights in discovering more favorable interpretation and suspends its verdict until proof forces conviction, that searches out explanations that quicken sympathy-without excusing wrong-and when the worst is known, is gentle with human failings, remembering its own.”  Here as elsewhere, the Christian must wince as that which ought to be reveals the pitiful nature of that which so often is.  But the ultimate verdict upon the high calling can only be that it is, irresistibly, an upward one.  With love as with the other virtues, there is endurance for “by the unbreakable patience of Christ it never fails.”

More clearly than before, White gives evidence of basic weaknesses, however.  He speaks of the conditions of salvation which “are within every man’s reach” and suggests, as the principle upon which we base our love to all men, that “such love…is the practical expression of our belief in the Creator of all men…who…become fellow-members of the body of Christ, brethren, for whom Christ died.”  Discerning readers will note that such infrequent statements directly contradict White’s own avowed beliefs that the sinner is saved “never by his own effort” and that there are those who are part of a “dying world”, which could never be the case if Christ died for all.