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.