Is there room in the Christian life for happiness--does God even want us to be happy? According to Charry, Christianity's neglect of happiness stems from eschatology: 'any sorrow we face now pales in comparison to the joy that awaits.' Turning to Augustine, Aquinas, and classical philosophy, she finds precedents for a Christian view of happiness associated more with a virtuous way of life than an emotional or psychological state ('happiness is enjoying being part of the divine plan'). After the Reformation, Christians lost interest in happiness altogether: where Aquinas took creation as his starting point, Protestants began with the Fall. Not until Joseph Butler, an eighteenth-century Anglican, does a voice arise that connects self-love (and love of others) with virtuous obedience to God. Charry devotes the second half of her book to 'asherism,' a 'godly self-enjoyment' that equates happiness with 'enjoying God, creation, and self by cultivating the wisdom behind divine commands that enable one to become an instrument of the world's flourishing.' Drawing on Psalms, Proverbs and the Gospel of John, she explores what it means to live with and for God, i.e., real happiness. Although drawing exclusively on western tradition, Charry's emphasis on healing and drawing near to God in this life (illumination/theosis) at times echoes the Christian East. By blending history, theology, and practical applications, she invests a familiar concept with hopeful meaning and possibilities.
An Eighth Day View:
Western Christian theology is skittish about happiness. We hope for future, eternal happiness, but we avoid considering happiness in this life as if we suspect such a thing is not allowed. That You May Have Life offers a refreshing interpretation of happiness as a way of life grounded in scripture and the incarnate Christ.
Ellen Charry here reveals how the Bible encourages the happiness and joy that accompany obedience to the Creator, enhancing both our own life and the lives of those around us. This advances the well being of creation, which, in turn, causes God to delight with, in, and for us.
With this original theory of the Christian life, this book will encourage intelligent readers to take part in truly abundant life.