From Publishers Weekly
In a study that is sometimes dull and sometimes lively, Charry (By the Renewing of Your Minds: The Pastoral Function of Christian Doctrine) enters the by now tired cultural conversation regarding happiness. As she did in her earlier book, Charry seeks to make theology practical; in this study, she addresses her concern that Christian theology lacks a substantial doctrine of human flourishing. In the book's first section, Charry surveys the history of philosophy and Christian doctrine to reveal overlooked thinkers from Augustine to the Anglican divine Joseph Butler who encourage human flourishing. In the second section, Charry examines the biblical foundations of a doctrine she calls "asherism" (from the Hebrew asher, to be happy) and finds that Scripture encourages Christians to organize life around God so as to be buoyed by God's love, beauty, goodness, and wisdom. Happiness, she concludes, is celebrating our own spiritual growth and well-being and God's enjoyment of these. In her typically thoughtful and engaging style, Charry demonstrates that Christians need not be dour and gloomy about life, but that their traditions do encourage them to put on a happy face. (Oct.) (c)
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This original and powerfully argued book is destined to become a standard cite for scholars of theology and ethics. Ellen Charry critically reviews the idea of happiness in Scripture and tradition, with a particularly interesting analysis of Anglican divine Joseph Butler. What makes the book memorable, however, is its innovative teaching of asherism. Asherism avoids the dangers of self-denying agapism and self-serving eudaemonism by confirming our perennial need to love God, neighbor, and self at once and to live out our lives and vocations by the letter, spirit, and telos of both the law and the gospel.
John Witte Jr.
Across epochs, locations, languages, circumstances, cultures, and discourses, texts in both Testaments of Scripture agree that the maker of heaven and earth seeks creations flourishing. . . . Reverent devotion to the creator and redeemer of the world is the happy life, for it crafts one into an instrument of divine wisdom, love, and goodness. The various patterns of life that Scripture intends to draw the reader into drive toward one goal: organizing ourselves around life in God that we may enjoy ourselves as we are buoyed by the love, beauty, goodness, and wisdom of God, which hoist us aloft.
from chapter 12
Ellen Charry has the gift of making deep connections between theology and ordinary life. In happiness she has identified a wonderful theme through which to explore some of the heights and depths of human existence. She revels in her topic and constantly draws the reader into fruitful, wise reflection on important matters.
David F. Ford
University of Cambridge
A frequently voiced complaint today is that academic theology writes only for its own guilds and too often tumbles into an ugly and lazy jargon-ridden abstraction. In this subtle, nuanced book, born from both hope and personal anguish, Ellen Charry reconnects knowledge and healing, thereby responding to a deep need.
Iain R. Torrance
Princeton Theological Seminary