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Human Flourishing excerpted from Summit Ministries
Nov 2013 Summit Journal on Human Flourishing
"Want to Win Culture? Focus on Human Flourishing"
The American Revolution has had a lasting, positive impact because its leaders focused not on angry vengeance (like in the French Revolution) but on freeing people from the barriers that prevented them from living out their full potential as image-bearers of God. They believed humans were made to create and unleash social, economic, and spiritual potential from which the entire world has benefited.
Whether America's founders were Christians (and most were) is not as important as the fact that their view of humanity can be rationally derived only from a biblical worldview. While America's founders failed to live up to their own expectations on issues like slavery, they set in motion a self-correcting system through which the young nation could grow in its recognition of human dignity.
The founders' focus on human flourishing not only changed America, it changed the world. Many of the cultural battles of our day are being lost because Christians have lost sight of this focus. From a biblical view, "winning" isn't about seizing the reins of power as much as it is creating such a robust vision of a flourishing society that human-crippling worldviews are revealed as the shriveling and anemic perspectives they are.
Applying Human Flourishing to the Big Ideas
Human flourishing is an abstract idea, but it comes to life when we apply it to issues such as economics, vocation, creativity, entrepreneurialism, and the family.
Economics - As opposed to the view that sees humans as mere consumers who need to be kept alive by secular elites, the biblical view sees humans chiefly as producers whose work increases the total economic value in the world, benefiting themselves and others. From a biblical view, work is a good thing, instituted by God before the Fall (Genesis 1:28-30).
Vocation, Creativity, Entrepreneurialism - Each of us is gifted in specific ways that lend themselves to a vocation we can exercise for God's glory and in the service of others. Take, for instance, Thomas Newcomen and James Watt. As historian Glenn Sunshine puts it:
…Newcomen and Watt were part of a long line of Christians who produced technological advancements aimed at increasing productivity and eliminating drudgery on the basis of Biblical ideas about work. Those ideas shaped the Western tradition even among those who were at best nominal Christians. No other culture had the commitment to the goodness of this world, to the unique dignity of each person, to the value of work and production, and to making work meaningful, and as a result no other culture developed technologies aimed at improving production and benefiting common workers.
Family - Also present from the very beginning of creation were the unique institutions of marriage and family. Fundamentally, marriage is the stabilizing force for societies here on earth. Marriage and families are the institution s through which we learn virtues and behaviors critical for life in a larger community. Social science research overwhelmingly shows that communities, individuals, and families fail to flourish when the biblical model of marriage isn't the norm.
Four Questions about Flourishing for your Community
As is often the case, helping others (or ourselves) flourish starts with asking questions. Consider these four questions to focus on flourishing for those in your own community: