By Gordon Govier

Human Flourishing

In the midst of a world that doesn’t currently seem to be flourishing, the aspiration to flourish burns even more brightly. As the theme of InterVarsity’s Following Christ 2008 conference (FC08), held in Chicago, December 27-31, 2008, human flourishing was presented as God’s design and desire for humanity.

Almost 1,000 students, faculty, and professionals attended FC08. It was sponsored by InterVarsity’s Graduate and Faculty Ministry, and InterVarsity Press.

“God’s new creation not only happens to you, it also happens through you,” said Anglican bishop N.T. Wright, one of the plenary speakers. He added that Jesus Christ, being fully divine and fully human, was the fullest expression of what God intended us to be, the ultimate flourishing human being.

Flourishing varies in context
Attendees at FC08 learned about human flourishing from many perspectives, including from separate discipline-specific tracks that looked at the meaning of human flourishing in the context of the arts, law, business, science, healthcare, etc. In each context flourishing is expressed in its own unique way but has in common God-designed benefits for the individual participant as well as broader society.

Plenary speaker Jeff Van Duzer, dean of the Seattle Pacific University School of Business and Economics, described how business contributes to human flourishing. “The organization exists, from God’s perspective, to serve its employees and customers,” he said, suggesting that the business decisions made solely to maximize profit, which led to the current economic upheaval, were short-sighted and ultimately unsustainable.

Human flourishing sustains.
Those who flourish approach work as an opportunity for expression, and as an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to society, often in relationship with others. Many people feel a calling from God to work in a specific field; human flourishing acknowledges and supports that call.

“Science contributes to the way we flourish,” said another plenary speaker, Francis Collins, the former director of the Human Genome Project. “It answers our questions and helps solve our problems. Science is a joyful form of worship.” Collins said that he felt that his own success as a scientist was God-given.

“At a great moment of cultural and social upheaval,” human flourishing is now more in demand than ever. “The big dreams of the last 200 years have let us down,” said Bishop Wright. “Now we have the chance of a lifetime to rethink those dreams.”

Audio from FC08 plenary sessions featuring Bishop N.T. Wright, Jeff Van Duzer, Francis Collins, and other speakers, can be heard and downloaded at InterVarsity’s audio resources page.