Essay Competition – Theology of Joy and the Good Life

Competition Overview

Submission deadline:  June 15, 2017

Winners announced:  September 15, 2017

Awards:  1 First Prize: $2,000; 3 runners up: $500 each

Essay Questions

The Yale Center for Faith & Culture is hosting an essay competition on the topic of the Theology of Joy and the Good Life. This competition seeks submissions of up to 4,000 words that respond to questions concerning flourishing (“the good life”) and joy.

We hypothesize that the good life has three basic dimensions: agential (what you do), circumstantial (how the world is for you), and affective (how you feel). Given this formal account, our hypothesis is that, on the Christian description, joy is the crown of the good life, integrating all three basic dimensions. Joy is a positive affective response to an objective external good construed rightly and about which one is rightly concerned. Therefore, joy cannot be described without reference to the good life. Likewise, the good life cannot be described without reference to joy. Each is integral to the other.

For the purpose of this essay competition, we ask that participants submit essays that engage with one or more of the following questions:

  1. What is joy?
  2. What is the relationship between joy and the good life? How does attention to joy shape one’s vision of the good life/flourishing? How does attention to the integrated good life/flourishing shape one’s account of joy?
  3. How can recovery of joy as a central theological category and human experience return the quest for the good life to a central position in Christian theology?
  4. What features or aspects of the good life need renewed articulation in contemporary cultural contexts, and why is joy (not) among them?
  5. What is the relationship between “mundane” flourishing and “transcendence”?


The competition is open to all current (master’s and doctoral) degree-seeking students at accredited institutions.  

Winning authors consent to allow their names and excerpts of their work to be featured on the project website.

Prizes and Benefits

First Prize: $2,000

Runners up: $500

In addition to the monetary prize, winning essays will be given feedback intended to help students publish their essays in academic journals or popular outlets. Awardees will be invited to the project pivot conference in the summer of 2018 and recognized there.

Selection Process

Submissions will be (blind) reviewed by YCFC scholars and the Project Leadership Team.

Essays will be evaluated based on the following guidelines:

  1. General quality of essay
  2. Originality
  3. Relevance to the topic, particularly particularly the essay’s ability to engage the “big questions” listed above
  4. Ability of essay to contribute substantially to reviving normative visions of the good life marked by joy in the academy

Submission Instructions

All essays must be submitted in English and all payments will be made in US dollars.

Applicants should submit the following by June 15, 2017:

  • An essay of no more than 4,000 words (please do not include any identifying information on the pages that contain your essay)
  • A separate cover sheet with the following:
    • full name
    • email address
    • institution
    • degree program and current year
    • an abstract of no more than 150 words

Essay and accompanying cover sheet should be submitted by email attachment as a single PDF (in the order listed above) to

The following words should appear in the subject line:

“Joy and the Good Life Essay Competition”

The only acceptable file format is PDF. An acknowledgment email will be sent within seven days of receiving your submission. All questions about the application process should be sent to


JTF Logo The Theology of Joy & the Good Life project is made possible by the John Templeton Foundation with additional support from the McDonald Agape Foundation.