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Episode Summary

New York Times columnist David Brooks interviews theologian Miroslav Volf about his book Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World.

What is the shape of a flourishing human life? Once upon a time this question came pre-answered—by culture or tribe, by religion or philosophy, by tradition or way of life—but these days, given our increasingly individualized world and its emphasis on autonomy and self-expression, given the breakdown of social trust and the increasing degree of polarization and suspicion of the other: we each have to ask and answer these questions for ourselves: What is the good life?

What does it mean to live a flourishing life, and how can we actually do it? These are difficult questions on their own. They require intellectual muscles we've long let atrophy; they require reading deeply and at length; they require a willingness to listen across the chasm of disagreement. But one begins to wonder: if each of us must answer these questions for ourselves, how do we even begin to have this conversation together? The fact is, we need one another. Not just to answer them well. But to ask them well.

For the coming two weeks, we'll be airing a conversation between New York Times columnist David Brooks and theologian Miroslav Volf. In this first part of the dialogue, David interviews Miroslav about his 2016 book, Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World. In next week's follow up, Miroslav and David discuss his 2015 book The Road to Character.

Show Notes

  • Life going well, life led well, life feeling right
  • "Flourishing extends over long periods of time."
  • "Does flourishing involve some eternal standard?"
  • How can we engage in meaningful debate about religion and flourishing in a globalized world?
  • Reading Nietzsche devotionally as a Christian theologian
  • The world is becoming, for ill or for good, a more religious place
  • What does religion offer the individual person today?
  • "I don't see any reason why washing the feet of the destitute... why that wouldn't be an even more noble calling than working for Goldman Sachs."
  • Market economy and flourishing
  • "Religious traditions take us out of ourselves, into something transcendent."
  • Can you be good without God?
  • "You can be good without believing in God, but you can't be without God."
  • If you have no connection to the transcendent realm, do you have a chance at being good?
  • Secularization
  • The state of the world: Globalization and religion are in crisis, tearing human communities and nations and cultures apart.
  • Global capitalism letting down our hopeful expectations, because it's not delivering on the creation or distribution of wealth
  • Sin and grace in public debate—"Why did the secular sermons go away?"
  • Life Worth Living course at Yale College
  • The unbearable lightness of being
  • Two nihilisms
  • Is it possible to combine the pleasure of freedom and belief in God?
  • Joy in and joy of the world: taking pleasure in the created order
  • The sacraments of relationships and admiring the good of the world
  • Pluralism and contending particular universalisms

Production Notes

  • This podcast featured journalist and columnist David Brooks and theologian Miroslav Volf
  • Edited and Produced by Evan Rosa
  • Hosted by Evan Rosa
  • Production Assistance by Martin Chan & Nathan Jowers
  • A Production of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture at Yale Divinity School
  • Support For the Life of the World podcast by giving to the Yale Center for Faith & Culture:

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May 15, 2023

Tolerating Doubt & Ambiguity

Is your faith a house of cards? If you were wrong about one belief would the whole structure just collapse? If even one injury came to you, one instance of broken trust, would the whole castle fall? If one element was seemingly inconsistent or incompatible—would you burn down the house? This depiction of the psychology of faith is quite fragile. It falls over to even the lightest breath. But what would a flexible faith be? Resilient to even the heaviest gusts of life’s hurricanes. It would adapt and grow as a living, responsive faith. Psychologist Elizabeth Hall joins Evan Rosa to discuss the domains of psychology and theology and what it means for each to “stay in their lane”; she introduces a distinction between implicit and explicit knowledge, and identifies the social- and self-imposed pressure to know everything with certainty; we reflect on the recent trends toward deconversion from faith in light of these pressures; and she offers psychologically grounded guidance for approaching doubt and ambiguity in a secure relational context, seeking to make the unspoken or implicit doubts explicit. Rather than remaining perched upon our individualized, certainty-driven house-of-card faith; she lays out a way to inhabit a flexible, resilient, and relationally grounded faith, tolerant of ambiguity and adaptive and secure amidst all our winds of doubt. This episode was made possible in part by the generous support of Blueprint 1543. For more information, visit

Elizabeth Hall