The Bible Is the Only Stable Basis of Human Flourishing
Human flourishing is not a Christian term for utopia — the idea that humans can perfect human nature and society by their own works. Utopia is an impossible and ultimately dangerous concept, as the 20th century shows us. Marx and his many followers were chasing utopia. Hitler chased utopia. Many secularists today chase utopia, with similarly murderous results.
Rather, human flourishing is intrinsically tied to the concept of shalom in the Old Testament. Theologian Cornelius Plantinga puts it this way:
The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight — a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens the doors and welcomes creatures in whom he delights. 1
As journalist Andy Crouch explains, the shalom of creation isn’t just for nature itself; it is “designed for the flourishing of exquisitely relational creatures, male and female, who themselves are very good because they bear the image of a relational God.”2
When Adam and Eve sinned, that shalom, or ability to flourish, was broken. Christ’s life, death, and resurrection not only restores our standing before a holy God but also gives Christians the opportunity to seek the shalom we were meant to seek before the Fall, though we know we will never realize it fully this side of eternity.
As Summit faculty member John Stonestreet memorably phrases it, trying to put Band-Aids on the Fall will never produce human flourishing. Christ’s redemption allows Christians to seek the fullness and wholeness of existence that God intended us to live with at creation. When we do this, the whole world benefits.
- Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, 1995, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 10.
- Andy Crouch, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, 2008, InterVarsity Press:Downers Grove, Illinois, 105.
From Jeff Myers at Summit Ministries