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God and the Art of Happiness Hardcover – December 3, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

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.
Emory University

“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. . . . 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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.; First Edition edition (December 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080286032X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802860323
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #926,331 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Indigo Bunting on January 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The reader who gave this book 2 stars doesn't know the first thing about reading. Apparently reading is only to confirm what we already think, not to challenge and expand our minds. He has grossly misrepresented Charry's book, which does not set out to deny sin or hold God accountable to human standards, but to ask why God made us at all, what we are to do with the lives given us, what final felicity holds for us, and how we begin the process of getting from here to there now. Even after we have repented of our sins, we have lives to live! Charry presents a beautiful vision of the good (defined by God's own purposes in creation and redemption) toward which we strive, out of our sin of God- and neighbor-hating patterns. God does not only declare us forgiven now but also starts the process of healing us, through His own love outpoured and His wisdom taught through Scripture. Happiness and blessedness are not enemies. This is a good book if you have had trouble understanding how to reconcile them.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. T. W. Project on July 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Professor Ellen Charry has traced and reclaimed the
Christian roots of the biblical concept of happiness hat arises out of the love of God for Man and Man for God. She calls this happiness Asherism, or the blessings that come from God. This much needed book will be a great resource for pastors and pastoral counselors offering comfort and encouragement to those who have suffered trauma and tragedy. Healing Hope for Bruised Souls
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7 of 13 people found the following review helpful By WTM on December 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Ellen Charry has a story to tell about happiness in Christian theology, and a constructive proposal for improving on how that story has been told thus far. If you want to think seriously about what happiness means for a follower in Jesus Christ, and are not satisfied with conclusions that relegate happiness to heaven or emphasize only humanity's sinful wretchedness, this is a book for you. Read a more lengthy review / introduction on my blog: "Der Evangelische Theologe"
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9 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Travis Dougherty on June 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book stands midway between Universalism and secular Humanism. I enjoyed the book (which is why I could not give it only one star!), but found the theology of it highly objectionable.

From the outset, Charry raises very valid points that 1.)Christians have underplayed temporal happiness in favor of eschatological happiness. We have sought treasures in heaven, forgetting that there may be treasures on earth as well, in other words, and 2.)theology in general, usually having to defend itself as being a legitimate scholarly discipline, has focused on systematization and logical rigor at the expense of practicality. In other words, if you pick up your average systematic theology, you're unlikely to find a section on "temporal happiness."

I couldn't agree more with these observations and rather enjoyed the first half of the book where Charry offers a short look at several Christian and psuedo-Christian thinkers and their thoughts on happiness. She has done well to identify this problem (although I suppose John Piper has been writing the same for 30 years). In the second half of the book, Charry seeks to fill this gap with "asherism", essentially laying out a doctrine of temporal happiness. Here the book flounders on nearly every level. It is philosophically shallow and theologically speaking, it accepts 5% of the Bible at the expense of the other 95%.

She says "Asherism teaches that happiness is an enjoyable obedient life. As Aquinas and Butler point out, this begins with being ourselves ...Happiness is an effect both of forms of self-love which Aquinas and Butler might agree are of a piece in living according to nature.
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