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Commonweal Project Lecture on “Human Flourishing and the Bible”

Stemming from my 2013 ETS paper on “Blessedness and Wholeness” in Scripture I received a grant to do further work on the language and idea of human flourishing throughout the Bible. I wrote a rather technical paper on this. This led to another invitation to write a book chapter stemming from these same ideas. The video of the lecture I gave here comes from this chapter. I took that material, with some slight modifications (particularly the references to John Piper’s Desiring God), and read it at an invited luncheon for the Commonweal Project at my seminary, Southern.

Here is the video via YouTube:

“Human Flourishing and the Bible”

Enjoy especially the occasional “jazz hands” and my accidental reference to the “urinization” of the world when I meant to say “eireneization.”

Here is the lecture outline handout that was distributed at the luncheon:


What Do All Humans Want?

The Great Question (and Answer) of Ancient Philosophy

         eudaimonia = flourishing

The Great Question (and Answer) of Ancient Religion

Like all philosophies and religions, biblical Christianity offers a vision for and promise of human flourishing.

Human Flourishing According to the Bible

Human Flourishing in the Old Testament

1. shālôm

Wolterstorff – The Bible has a clear vision of what God wants for his creatures, “a vision of what constitutes human flourishing and of our appointed destiny. The vision is not that of disembodied individual contemplation of God . . . it is the vision of shalom.” (Educating for Shalom: Essays on Christian Higher Education, 22-23)

2. ʾashrê

3. tāmîm

Human Flourishing in the New Testament

eirēnē, makarios, teleios/telos

Christian Human Flourishing   

Different Values

Different People

Different Means

Different Goals

This orientation to God means that (1) full flourishing can only be experienced when one is in relationship to and communion with God; (2) full flourishing will only be experienced in the eschaton when God establishes fully his rule and reign (the kingdom of God); (3) flourishing directs all glory ultimately to God as the source of our glory; and (4) flourishing is missional, priestly, and outward focused, spreading God’s glory throughout the earth.

Implications and Conclusions

Some Helpful Resources:

  • Ellen Charry, God and the Art of Happiness (Eerdmans, 2010)
  • Brent Strawn, ed., The Bible and the Pursuit of Happiness: What the Old and New Testaments Teach Us About the Good Life (Oxford University Press, 2012)
  • Nicholas Wolterstorff, Justice: Rights and Wrongs (Princeton University Press, 2008)
  • Wolterstorff, Educating for Shalom: Essays on Christian Higher Education (Eerdmans, 2004)
  • Martha Nussbaum, The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics (Princeton University Press, 1994)
  • Servais Pinckaers, Morality: The Roman Catholic View (St. Augustine Press, 2003)
  • Paul J. Wadell, Happiness and the Christian Moral Life (2nd ed.; Rowman & Littlefield, 2012)
  • Eleonore Stump, Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering (Oxford University Press, 2012)
  • NT Wright, After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters (Harper Collins, 2010)
  • Tobias Haffman, Jörn Müller, and Matthias Perkams, eds., Aquinas and the Nichomachean Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 2013


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  1. […] I gave a paper on this at ETS in November of 2013, followed by further work that contributed to my broader arguments about human flourishing in the Bible that can be found here and here (see also earlier mention here). […]