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“Happiness in the Christian Life”

Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013
7 p.m. Lecture 
Fort Howard Theater, Bemis International Center

Professor Ellen Charry is ideally suited to address the theme for the 2013-14 Killeen Chair lecture series: “Happiness and the Good Life”. 

Ellen T. Charry is the Margaret W. Harmon Professor of Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. She earned the M.A. and the Ph.D. in religion from Temple University following the M.S.W. from Yeshiva University and the B.A. from Barnard College. Her interest is in human flourishing in Christian perspective. Her monographs are Franz Rosensweig on the Freedom of God (1987), By the Renewing of your Minds (1997), and God and the Art of Happiness (2010). Her edited works are Inquiring after God (2000), Same-Sex Relationships and the Nature of Marriage: A Theological Colloquy (Anglican Theological Review, 2011), and Austin Dogmatics of Paul M. van Buren (2012). She is past editor of Theology Today (1997–2004) and was a member of the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (1998–2010) and a member of the Pursuit of Happiness Project at the Center for Law and Religion at Emory University sponsored by the Templeton Foundation (2007–10). Charry has served on the editorial boards of the Scottish Journal of Theology and Pro Ecclesia. She currently serves as an editor-at-large for The Christian Century.

Some Christians, not usually Roman Catholics or Anglicans however, are skittish about connecting happiness with life in this world. Given its trials and tribulations, western Christians since Augustine of Hippo have sought happiness in heaven because all the joys of this life must be left here. Fortunately, Thomas Aquinas, a theologian thoroughly grounded in the doctrine of creation, had more to say about temporal happiness although the eschaton beckoned him. He appreciated that good health, adequate financial stability and good friends for enjoying life here encourage us to anticipate utter bliss “there.”

Dr. Charry maintains that more remains to be said about temporal happiness than meets the eschatologically oriented eye. While modern Christian (primarily Protestant) ethics has prized unconditional self-sacrifice (agape) as the Christian norm, and often shuddered at Thomas’s embrace of Aristotle’s eudaimonia (flourishing), that seems to them to countenance self-enjoyment rather than sacrifice, if we believe that God truly enjoys watching us flourish and not languish in this life we must forge ahead and explore just how God envisions, enables and enjoys our flourishing as essential to creation’s flourishing.  

You may search the Mulva Library catalog for a selection of books available by Ellen Charry. Books are also available to purchase after the lecture and at the St. Norbert College bookstore.