Expectation and Human Flourishing (2015)

June 22-23, 2015

Expectation is a central feature of human existence, one that is especially lifted up and placed in the context of Christian discipleship in the liturgical season of Advent. What role does expectation play in the life worth living? How do we attend rightly to our own expectations throughout the course of our lives, and how ought we comport ourselves with regard to others’ expectations of us?

Advent cultivates in us the spirit of Messianic expectation that attended Jesus’s first coming as a fragile child born at Bethlehem, and through this, invigorates also our expectation for his second coming, this time with “power and great glory” (Mt 24:30). This is a future we await, a future that has been characterized by Jürgen Moltmann (who joined us for this consultation) under the rubric, indeed, of adventus as distinct from futurum: our future is the future of Christ; it is him that we expect. But what is it that we expect as we expect him?

When a child is conceived and we await his or her coming, we expect something both for the child and from the child. In many ways, all our expectations—our fears as well as our hopes—zero in on a life coming into the world. All human beings who come into the world enter into a field of expectations, some of those expectations being tacit and others articulated. They gradually take them up, reshaping them as well as being shaped by them; and they project themselves even onto a life that has already run its course as hope for certain kind of legacy.

Of what import to the good life, then, is the Christic expectation Advent constellates and cultivates? Or, of what effect are the expectations others have for us and into whose field we enter from the very moment of our births—those hopes and fears which, in Jesus’s own case, constituted all that Mary treasured up and pondered in her heart (Lk 2:19)? What form of expectation is proper to the good life—not just what ought we expect if we are committed to the good life, but how ought we go about expecting what we expect? Our summer 2015 consultation pursued these questions, among others, as we explored the anthropological significance of expectation, with particular attention to its place in a flourishing life: the life that’s lived well, that goes well, and is marked by joy.


Contributing Scholars

Nancy Bedford
Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Nancy Bedford has been the Georgia Harkness Professor of Applied Theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston since 2003; she is also Profesora Extraordinaria No Residente (Nonresident Professor) at the Instituto Universitario ISEDET in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she taught systematic theology from 1995 to 2002. She was born in Argentina and obtained her doctorate in theology at the University of Tübingen in Germany, studying under Jürgen Moltmann.

Nancy Bedford, “Expectation

Andrew Chignell
Cornell University

Andrew Chignell is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Cornell University’s Susan Linn Sage School of Philosophy, with secondary appointments in German Studies and Religious Studies. He works primarily in 17th-18th century philosophy (especially Kant), epistemology, aesthetics, and philosophy of religion, and has also written on hope, acceptance, and the ethics of belief. He has co-edited several volumes, and his book on Kantian conceptions of hope, What May I Hope? Answers to a Kantian Question, is forthcoming as part of Routledge’s Kantian Questions series.

Andrew Chignell, “Expectation and Hope in the Anthropocene

Craig Keener
Asbury Theological Seminary

Craig S. Keener is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary. Dr. Keener has authored 17 books, four of which have won book awards in Christianity Today, and has published more than 70 academic articles and more than 170 popular ones. His IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (1993), now in its 2nd revised edition (2014), has sold more than half a million copies. He is coeditor of the New Covenant Commentary Series and of Global Voices: Reading the Bible in the Majority World, is a consulting editor for the Africa Study Bible, and recently served as program chair for the Institute for Biblical Research (2010-12).

Craig Keener, “Messianic Expectation

Jürgen Moltmann
University of Tübingen

Jürgen Moltmann is the Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at the University of Tübingen. He was a member of the Faith and Order Committee of the World Council of Churches and also the Robert W. Woodruff Distinguished Visiting Professor of Systematic Theology at Candler School at Emory University. He won the 2000 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion for his book The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology.

Jürgen Moltmann, “Expectations



The God and Human Flourishing consultations are sponsored by the McDonald Agape Foundation.