Tag: human flourishing

New EWP Talk: Andy Crouch on Isaiah’s “Posterity Gospel”

Reprinted from the Oikonomia Network.

We’re very excited to release our latest EWP Talk: Andy Crouch’s brief but powerful address at Karam Forum 2018. Drawing on the imagery of Isaiah 5, Crouch spoke about the challenge of separating real flourishing from transitory prosperity in the midst of economic growth and technological innovation. In a world where we can have instant gratification in so many ways, what is of lasting importance?

“If you want to have a biblical conversation about flourishing, you are going to end up – sooner or later – at the story of the vineyard,” said Crouch. The image of Israel as the Lord’s vineyard, most fully developed in Isaiah 5 but recurring in many other places as well, contains a wealth of potential insight that speaks to the present state of our own civilizations and cultures.

Like us, the Israelites were prosperous. But the story of Isaiah 5 is not a happy one. The vineyard produces “wild grapes,” which explode with seeming abundance, but aren’t properly tended and don’t last. Crouch compares worldly prosperity built on fragile foundations to sidewalk chalk art in the tradition of trompe l’oeil (“deceive the eye”). It isn’t what it appears to be; take one step to the side and the illusion disappears.

And it’s doomed to be washed away in the next rain. The Lord wants flourishing from his world, Crouch points out, so if we don’t pursue real flourishing we can be sure our efforts will ultimately fall apart.

The point is not that economic success is bad; the point is that we need to change our definition of what counts as economic success. We tend to seek out activities and accomplishments that are “low friction” – that involve less investment and provide a shortcut to enjoyable experiences. But low-friction activities are by their nature unstable; precisely because the barriers are low, today’s quick fix is quickly replaced by tomorrow’s quicker fix. Crouch points to the music industry, which is contracting rapidly because access to recorded music has become effectively free.

What are we producing that is worth preserving? Crouch suggests that while the Bible does not have a “prosperity gospel,” it does have a “posterity gospel” – it calls us to prioritize what kind of world, what kind of culture and what kind of civilization we leave for our grandchildren. We should invest in things that are worth passing on.

The flourishing life is a pruned life. The Lord prunes his vineyard and it flourishes sustainably.

And the irony is that once we accept the pruned life, the massive power and wealth of modern markets become tools we can use to accomplish the Lord’s purposes. An internet-based music community allows musicians to collaborate digitally and produce art that is superior to what the major labels produce. Crouch even points to fast-food restaurants like In-N-Out and Chik-Fil-A, which have been built on serious and worthy visions of what a fast-food restaurant ought to be like. It is people – from the CEO to the fry cook – who live the pruned life who produce and sustain such visions of flourishing.

“This is where the church needs to be,” concludes Crouch, “going to every part of the world of mere affluence and turning it into a vineyard.”

Faith and Work Lessons from Hidden Figures

I am always on the look out for faith and work content in unexpected places. I got my wish when I watched Hidden Figures, a powerful movie describing the lives and work of three African American females: Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson. They worked as “computers” (humans doing mathematical calculations…and yes, this is where we get the word for the…

Curriculum Review: The Story of Holy Love

I am excited to introduce you to a new curriculum titled The Story of Holy Love produced by our friends at the Center for Transformational Churches at Trinity International University. What is it all about—my life, the world, everything? How can we make sense of the Bible? The Bible is not a book about religion that also happens to say some…

I Was Told There Would Be More: Book Review of The Vanishing American Adult

Why should we think adulthood is synonymous with independence? This article originally appeared on June 22, 2017, in Comment, a publication of Cardus. by B.D. McClay The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance St. Martin’s Press, 2017. 320 pp. For the other animals, adulthood is easy. One obtains sexual maturity and there you are.…

7 Ways to Name Flourishing From the Pulpit

In the first post (5 Reasons Pastors Fail to Identify Flourishing From the Pulpit) we looked at the risk of flourishing being a buzzword that people write off, and the reason why many pastors are hesitant to name that which flourishes in one’s community. Sadly, pastors are not well equipped with helpful doctrine, definitions, or demands to identify flourishing, and…

First Presbyterian Church of Houston Announces “Project Flourish” to Renew the City

This press release came across our desk a few days ago and we thought it was well worth bringing to your attention. — TGR First Presbyterian Church of Houston (www.fpchouston.org) has unveiled Project Flourish, a creative invitation to the community to help bring fresh ideas to the issues that face a major metropolitan city like Houston. Through Project Flourish, First Presbyterian…

God welcomes creativity in your work: a report on a talk by Greg Ayers 

I was recently introduced to an organization called The Fellows Initiative which currently operates programs in 22 cities around the US. A Fellows program is a nine to ten-month spiritual and vocational leadership program that prepares the graduate to live an integrated life of faith. The content presented in the program includes the theology of work, vocation, calling, cultural engagement,…