News Center

New book encourages a theology of Christian happiness
By Sam Lewis | Emory Law | May 24, 2016 12:05:00 PM

CSLR Senior Fellow Ellen T. Charry argues in God and the Art of Happiness (Wm. B Eerdmans, 2010) that God wants Christians to be happy in the here and now, rather than waiting for the afterlife, as many Christians believe.

“The gap between eschatological happiness and temporal happiness needs to be addressed because people experience hardship and grief that sets them off balance, and they wonder whether they can ever be happy again in this life, or whether life amounts to no more than a vale of tears simply to be slogged through somehow in hopes of a heavenly reward,” she writes.

Charry proves her point by first exploring how the views of Augustine, Boethius, Aquinas and Joseph Butler shaped Christianity and the belief that suffering in this life is good. In observing the influence of Boethius she writes, “[For Boethius] the redemptive dimension of Christian theology that gives hope is missing. His notion of happiness is tinged with despair about the need to be ever striving for intellectual perfection and vigilant against feelings of dejection, anger and defeat.”  

She then makes an argument for happiness within Christian theology, highlighting asherism as the path forward. Asherism, from the Hebrew word “asher” which is often translated as “happy” or “blessed,” is used extensively in the Psalms and in the book of Proverbs. In Psalm 1, for example, it is “Happy is the one who does not walk in the path of the wicked.”  Charry explores the relevance of this principle throughout the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, looking especially at the happiness presented in the Pentateuch, Psalms, Proverbs and Gospel of John.  

“Across epochs, locations, languages, circumstances, cultures, and discourses, texts in both Testaments of Scripture agree that the maker of heaven and earth seeks creation’s flourishing,” Charry says.

The book serves as a sequel to her 1997 book By the Renewing of Your Minds: The Pastoral Function of Christian Doctrine.