God’s Power and Human Flourishing

May 23-24, 2008

The perennial question of human flourishing constitutes an important point of convergence between the values of both the Christian faith and the various cultures in which it is lived out. But what is the exact relation between theological and non-theological accounts of flourishing life?

“Flourishing” is a vague term. In non-theological and Christian theological contexts alike it has been variously named as “blessedness,” “righteousness,” “abundant life,” “happiness” and, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries, “self-fulfillment,” “self-actualization,” or “self-realization.”

These names for flourishing do not neatly divide between theological and non-theological contexts; Christian thinkers have regularly appropriated ways of understanding human flourishing from non-theological sources. However, where non-theological accounts of flourishing are often predicated on the view that human beings can and must achieve their own flourishing, Christian thinkers contend that human flourishing is inseparable from God’s active relating to human creatures. Flourishing is thus always a grace that is at least dependent on God’s assistance—and it may, indeed, be a gift entirely, one that is always contingent on God’s ongoing relating to human creatures.


Contributing Scholars

Jean Bethke Elshtain
University of Chicago

Jean Bethke Elshtain was the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics in the Divinity School, Political Science, and the Committee on International Relations at the University of Chicago. She was a Guggenheim Fellow, holder of the Maguire Chair in Ethics at the Library of Congress, and a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. She received the Goodnow Award in 2002 and served on the boards of the National Humanities Center and the National Endowment for Democracy.

“Three Meditations on Human Flourishing”

David F. Ford
University of Cambridge

David F. Ford is the Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge. He is also the founding director of the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme and a co-founder of the Society for Scriptural Reasoning. His research interests include political theology, ecumenical theology, Christian theologians and theologies, theology and poetry, the shaping of universities and of the field of theology and religious studies within universities, hermeneutics, and inter-faith theology and relations.

“God’s Power and Human Flourishing: A Biblical Inquiry after Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age“ 

David H. Kelsey
Yale Divinity School

David H. Kelsey is Luther Weigle Professor Emeritus of Theology at Yale Divinity School. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in theology from the University of Tübingen in 2012 and he delivered the Warfield Lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary in 2011.

“On Human Flourishing: A Theocentric Perspective” 

Nicholas Wolterstorff
Yale University

Nicholas Wolterstorff is the Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology at Yale University and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. Two of his most recent publications are Journey toward Justice and Justice in Love. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

“God’s Power and Human Flourishing” 



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