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Joy and Human Flourishing: Essays on Theology, Culture, and the Good Life

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Joy is crucial to human life and central to God's relationship to the world, yet it is remarkably absent from contemporary theology and, increasingly, from our own lives! This collection remedies this situation by considering the import of joy on human flourishing. These essays--written by experts in systematic and pastoral theology, Christian ethics, and biblical studies- Joy is crucial to human life and central to God's relationship to the world, yet it is remarkably absent from contemporary theology and, increasingly, from our own lives! This collection remedies this situation by considering the import of joy on human flourishing. These essays--written by experts in systematic and pastoral theology, Christian ethics, and biblical studies--demonstrate the promise of joy to throw open new theological possibilities and cast fresh light on all dimensions of human life. With contributions from Jurgen Moltmann, N. T. Wright, Marianne Meye Thompson, Mary Clark Moschella, Charles Mathewes, and Miroslav Volf, this volume puts joy at the heart of Christian faith and life, exploring joy's biblical, dogmatic, ecclesiological, and ethical dimensions in concert with close attention to the shifting tides of culture. Convinced of the need to offer to the world a compelling Christian vision of the good life, the authors treat the connections between joy and themes of creation, theodicy, politics, suffering, pastoral practice, eschatology, and more, driven by the conviction that vital relationship with the living God is integral to our fullest flourishing as human creatures.


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Joy is crucial to human life and central to God's relationship to the world, yet it is remarkably absent from contemporary theology and, increasingly, from our own lives! This collection remedies this situation by considering the import of joy on human flourishing. These essays--written by experts in systematic and pastoral theology, Christian ethics, and biblical studies- Joy is crucial to human life and central to God's relationship to the world, yet it is remarkably absent from contemporary theology and, increasingly, from our own lives! This collection remedies this situation by considering the import of joy on human flourishing. These essays--written by experts in systematic and pastoral theology, Christian ethics, and biblical studies--demonstrate the promise of joy to throw open new theological possibilities and cast fresh light on all dimensions of human life. With contributions from Jurgen Moltmann, N. T. Wright, Marianne Meye Thompson, Mary Clark Moschella, Charles Mathewes, and Miroslav Volf, this volume puts joy at the heart of Christian faith and life, exploring joy's biblical, dogmatic, ecclesiological, and ethical dimensions in concert with close attention to the shifting tides of culture. Convinced of the need to offer to the world a compelling Christian vision of the good life, the authors treat the connections between joy and themes of creation, theodicy, politics, suffering, pastoral practice, eschatology, and more, driven by the conviction that vital relationship with the living God is integral to our fullest flourishing as human creatures.

45 review for Joy and Human Flourishing: Essays on Theology, Culture, and the Good Life

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael Austin

    Essay collections are always tricky things. It does no good to say, in a review, that the essays are uneven. Unevenness is a standard feature of the genre. Anytime a group of writers or scholars come together to write about a topic, they will produce essays of uneven quality and unequal value to any given reader. So, when I say that Joy and Human Flourishing is uneven, the only proper response is, "yeah, and. . . ." But unevenness is not my major critique of the volume. It is also too short. This Essay collections are always tricky things. It does no good to say, in a review, that the essays are uneven. Unevenness is a standard feature of the genre. Anytime a group of writers or scholars come together to write about a topic, they will produce essays of uneven quality and unequal value to any given reader. So, when I say that Joy and Human Flourishing is uneven, the only proper response is, "yeah, and. . . ." But unevenness is not my major critique of the volume. It is also too short. This is relative, of course. A book only needs to be long enough to reach the end. But there are really only five essays in the volume. The Introduction by Justin Crisp and the coda by Miroslav Volf are really bookends to put everything else in contect. Wolf, of course, is a rock-star level celebrity among theologians, as are two of the volumes other contributors, N.T. Wright and Jürgen Moltmann. And I admit that this celebrity component is why I purchased and read the volume. But the essay that I enjoyed most was Mary Clark Moschella's "Calling and Compassion: Elements of Joy in Lived Practices of Care." This was the only essay that had a pastoral, rather than a theological or exegetical orientation, but I also found it the most theologically satisfying. Moschella stays away from abstractions and instead roots her understanding of joy in lived experience, which, it seems to me, is the most theologically sound way to look at it. As she writes: Experiences of joy, when explored more fully, offer avenues for a deeper understanding of God’s goodness and love. When we are attentive and aware of God’s presence in us and all creation, when we feel the joy of this firsthand, we are freed from the paralysis of fear or despair, if only temporarily. We can experience what Carrie Doehring calls the “ordinary goodness of life.”[25] Moments like this, when they accumulate over time, strengthen and steady us, and teach us what is good, help us know what well-being looks and feels like. Such experiences free us to do our best creative work, and thereby enlarge the possibilities for proactive ministries that contribute to human flourishing. (p. 107) This, I think, is exactly right, and it focuses the definitional arguments of all of the contributors into something like a consensus definition of "joy" in a Christian context: joy is the overwhelming feeling that God is good, that the world created by God is a good world, and that the fabric of reality is more or less as it should be. Its closest analogues are "wonder" and "awe." The goodness of the world is the foundation of all joy, and the goodness of God is the ultimate foundation of Christian joy. Joy, then, is not the same thing as pleasure, which is a physiological sensation that can have, but does not require, a spiritual or emotional component. Nor is it the same thing as happiness, which, coming from the same root as happenstance focuses on luck, or fortune. Joy, if not necessarily deeper than happiness, is at least more stable. It does not require that we win every toss of the coin. All of the contributors also go to some lengths to distance themselves from the sort of Leibnizian optimism that Voltaire satirizes in Candide. To be joyful, one must not believe that everything in the world is exactly as it should be. Quite the reverse. A belief in the goodness of the world and of God's bounty can motivate us to correct the horrible injustices in the way that this bounty is currently distributed. To believe that the world is good should lead to compassion--and to the belief that everybody should be allowed to experience the world's goodness equally--and not to quietism or to acceptance of injustice and inequality. This is the major argument of Moltmann's essay, and it echoes throughout the book. All of the essays are good, and all are useful. But they cover more ground than five essays really can. Two of them are theological (Moltmann and Charles Matthews), two are exegetical (Marianne Meye Thompson and N.T. Wright), and one (Moschella) is pastoral. Given the importance of the topic, and the relative paucity of scholarship about it, each of these areas could have been its own section or major volume. In other words, it is one of the very few books that I have read in my life that I genuinely wish had been longer.

  2. 5 out of 5

    David

    Although some of the essays were overly written with academic jargon (but some weren't-- thanks Mary Clark Moschella and N.T. Wright), this book gets to how our present church can work constructively in our secular age. The focus on human flourishing bridges the gap between rich Christian traditions and the helpful innovations of our modern age, which nevertheless, leave us flat and joy deprived. A worthwhile read for seminary trained folks, it begs to be written for a broader audience. Although some of the essays were overly written with academic jargon (but some weren't-- thanks Mary Clark Moschella and N.T. Wright), this book gets to how our present church can work constructively in our secular age. The focus on human flourishing bridges the gap between rich Christian traditions and the helpful innovations of our modern age, which nevertheless, leave us flat and joy deprived. A worthwhile read for seminary trained folks, it begs to be written for a broader audience.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sujit Thomas

    A collection of articles on the topic of joy. Written by eminent theologians such as Volf, Moltmann and N.T. Wright, this work is a valuable contribution to theology and study of joy. As stated in the introduction, "At their center [of the articles]is the conviction that joy stands at the very core of Christian faith, life and practice, and that the dearth of sustained scholarly reflection on joy has left theologians bereft of a key resource for articulating a compelling vision of the good life A collection of articles on the topic of joy. Written by eminent theologians such as Volf, Moltmann and N.T. Wright, this work is a valuable contribution to theology and study of joy. As stated in the introduction, "At their center [of the articles]is the conviction that joy stands at the very core of Christian faith, life and practice, and that the dearth of sustained scholarly reflection on joy has left theologians bereft of a key resource for articulating a compelling vision of the good life capable both of pushing against the tide of suffering and of resisting the shifting tides of a culture unmoored from transcendence." (Introduction). I strongly recommend this work to anyone interested in Christian faith.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Steve Watson

    Worth it for Charles Mathewes' essay ("Toward a Theology of Joy") alone. So much that's good in it. One line on the point of church: "Churches are those institutions that aim to give us a communal and personal, intellectual and affective, structure to help cultivate joy, our cultivation of which is their ultimate purpose." Yes, this! Worth it for Charles Mathewes' essay ("Toward a Theology of Joy") alone. So much that's good in it. One line on the point of church: "Churches are those institutions that aim to give us a communal and personal, intellectual and affective, structure to help cultivate joy, our cultivation of which is their ultimate purpose." Yes, this!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Lum

    More Please Hope we see similar books that we'd theology and the stuff of real life. This book was an easy and informative read - dare I say joyful. More Please Hope we see similar books that we'd theology and the stuff of real life. This book was an easy and informative read - dare I say joyful.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Giles

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    Tarleton

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    Jason

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    Simon King

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    Aaron Rosales

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    Jim

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    Joey Le

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    Wesley Ellis

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    Rob

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    Chester Delagneau

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    Marbeth

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    Revpez

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    Jonathan

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    Rachael

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    Andrew Preston

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    Mave

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    Jonathan Huggins

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    Madison Grace

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    Andrew Nedelchev

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    Nathan Mladin

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    Ian Packer

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    Karleen George

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    Justin Edgar

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    Ethan

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    Pam Pretz

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    Christine

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    Greg Coates

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    Kirk

  45. 4 out of 5

    Cordell Schulten

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