The hope of human flourishing

Miroslav Volf and Ryan McAnnally-Linz have authored a new book called:
Public Faith in Action: How to Think Carefully, Engage Wisely, and Vote with Integrity

Their main contention is that Christian faith belongs in the public square. It’s beyond the voting booth. It is engagement and there is a goal. The goal is not to “win.” The goal is to understand the activity of the Spirit that isn’t just about our own personal “flourishing” but also about the world around us to understand what is possible in true human flourishing.

What brings “Kingdom best” to the world around us? It is about abundant life. Not just our abundant life as individuals, but the life of the world around us.

Three measurements the authors use in defining “human flourishing”:

  1. Leading life well. How do I conduct myself in the world? Have I received God’s gifts well? Am I living in discernment of how to use those gifts? Am I acting “well” in light of, and in spite of, circumstances around me?
  2. Life going well. Working for our life circumstances to be “genuinely good.” Life going well depends on circumstances beyond our control. Our upbringing, our general health, the economic and political stability/instability of our country, etc. In Jesus’ day, he lived in a place where for a lot of people life wasn’t “going well,” so he delivered Kingdom power (healing, deliverance, etc.) into their lives so it had opportunity to “go well.” It is the understanding that we don’t minister to the “spirit” alone. We need to establish physical space of “going well” so physical needs aren’t huge obstacles.
  3. Life feeling good. There is an emotional component to the whole picture as well. The flourishing life is a life of joy. It is Paul saying no matter where he found himself, he was content.

Volf’s book is a challenge to go beyond our own spiritual “well being” to understand we can powerfully engage the world around us. We must engage the world around us. We need to do it with our own souls “being well.”

A challenge I like to bring to people from time to time is this question: “Is it well with your soul?” The deepest part of who we are can indeed be satisfied in Christ. And when that goes well, we can thoughtfully and joyfully engage our world to bring human flourishing more into a reality.

 

We settle for so little

I am working my way through The Great Divorce by C S Lewis. I’ve finished McGrath’s biography of Lewis, so reading Lewis more in historical context is slightly more helpful. I’m just not a great reader of “literature.” I love reading about Lewis, but reading Lewis is just plain slogging at times.

The stories bring to life great truth. In one scene the main character witnesses two illustrations of “holding on.” One was a mother’s love for her son. The other was a man who held on to a lizard. He knew he needed to be rid of the lizard, but he didn’t want the thing killed. The mother was angry for losing her son too soon.

They both illustrated how little we know in this life of true love or of true possession. The mother, it turned out, loved her son too little. The man with the lizard finally allowed it to be killed and both he and the lizard were transformed into something more powerful and beautiful.

We have such limited perspective… but we need not be that way. 

A song is sung in this particular scene that demonstrates a prayer we need in our lives:

The Master says to our master, Come up, Share my rest and splendour till all natures that were your enemies become slaves to dance before you and backs for you to ride, and firmness for your feet to rest on…

Overcome us that, so overcome, we may be ourselves: we desire the beginning of your reign as we desire dawn and dew, wetness at the birth of light.

When we don’t allow the Kingdom to truly come in our lives, we hold on to things we think are “precious” and they can often be our ruin. Give us Kingdom perspective, Lord!

We need a thirst to KNOW God

There are those places, those authors, that continually take my breath away. I can’t hustle through their work. I am beginning the slow journey through the classic Knowing God by J.I. Packer.

Third page in:

Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfold, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.

Three pages and I’m already repenting!

To the desert go prophets

I picked up a copy of Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, which is a fascinating read. At the beginning of each chapter he has some great quotes and I loved this one by Paul Shepard (from Man in the Landscape: A Historic View of the Esthetics of Nature)

“To the desert to prophets and hermits; through deserts go pilgrims and exiles. Here the leaders of the great religions have sought the therapeutic and spiritual waves of retreat, not to escape but find reality.”