Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tom Wright on human flourishing

The Following Christ grad/faculty/professionals conference wraps up today. It's been an invigorating and exhausting week, with lots of great sessions and meetings with folks. Tom Wright has been our main plenary speaker (as he was in 1998 - free audio here), and he's been speaking on the theme of human flourishing through the lens of Colossians. He cited Irenaeus that the glory of God is a living human being, and that humans act as something of "angled mirrors" at a 45-degree angle that both reflect God's image/glory to the world as well as reflect worship back to God.

Random snippets from my notes: In keeping with his themes in Surprised by Hope, Wright continued to emphasize that salvation is not just about an escape ticket to heaven and merely saving souls, and that we are not rescued out of the world, but are called to flourish within the world. The world needs wise and wisely flourishing humans. The more full of God we are, the more human we are. What it takes to be truly human is wisdom. In Proverbs 8, Wisdom is personified as delighting in human beings and invites us to come and learn how to be genuinely human.

Colossians 1 shows that Jesus is the personification of wisdom, that everything in Genesis 1 and Proverbs 8 is embodied in Christ. Col. 2:3 says that all wisdom and truth are in Christ, which points to the significance of all disciplines of study, whether physics or music or literature or sociology. There's truly a delight and joy in academic study and discovery, and these are expressions of human flourishing.

Also, human flourishing is not merely blissful enjoyment of human experience. It also includes bearing suffering. We bear the cross and take on our share of human suffering. Wright described the British Museum's "Tree of Life" exhibit, which is a sculpture of flourishing life created out of decommissioned weapons. Even in the midst of pain and death, God is at work to restore the glory of humankind. And the hope of glory is not escape from this world, but Christ in us, the global church, who inhabit and permeate the whole world and herald his good and glorious kingdom.

So what does it mean for me to be a flourishing human? At work, in my studies, in my family, at church? And how best to contribute to the flourishing of others? It's not merely that I delight in stuff that I think is fun and shun things that I find difficult or boring. As an Enneagram Seven, I tend to evaluate things in terms of whether I find joy and delight in them (rather than a sense of what is important, or right or good or strategic). I'm trying to figure out what might be a more holistic, wise way of living. And to not merely flourish in a secular sense of human accomplishment, but in a biblical sense of being filled with a sense of God-given vocation, calling and even cross-bearing. So maybe I should not do stuff just because I think it's fun (as much as I enjoy the new official Force FX blue lightsaber I got for Christmas) but rather think in terms of where I can best contribute to the flourishing of not just myself, but of others around me. Much to contemplate as we enter a new year. Happy 2009!


Pilgrim said...

Thank you for linking to this. I always enjoy listening to Wright.

Friar Tuck said...

As one who is preaching through Colossians, I think your closing questions are interesting.

Because most of chapter 3 gets at this question in one way or another. This week I am preaching on the household code stuff...and thinking it is very important to be living that life you are describing in the most modest and least visible ways.