Volf Speaks on Vocation and Flourishing Human Life

Oct 29, 2018

The Trinity community was blessed to welcome Dr. Miroslav Volf, Dr.Theol., Henry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology and Founding Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, for several events on Oct. 25.

Volf discussed “Vocation and a flourishing human life” on campus and downtown Chicago as part of the College’s WorldView Series and Downtown Lecture Series.

While we live in the mundane realm, we must strive to embrace the transcendental world if we are to flourish, he said. “The world, even the flawed world, is a gift from God,” Volf told his audiences.

In his discussions, Volf explained his view of the relationship between our calling and our flourishing. “We should affirm the goodness of everyday, ordinary life,” he said. “Yet the paradox is that we find ourselves alienated precisely from the things that will satisfy ourselves.”

In our struggle to reconcile our calling with a flourishing life, Volf described the challenges presented by today’s age, with its emphasis on economic, educational, reputational, and aesthetic capital. “How much time do we spend acquiring these four modes of capital?” he asked. “We are like a dog chasing its tail.”

We also tend to inflate the negative, and become blind to the good around us. We must learn to celebrate the good in life, which is given to us by God. When we become too busy to hear God’s call, we are unable to heed his message.

He compared the struggles we face with the souls in in Canto III of Dante’s “Paradiso,” who “only long for what we have.”

He also cited Adam and Eve, their inability to avoid the fruit from the forbidden tree, and their decision to hide from God, who called to them, “Where are you?” Volf said he believes the forbidden tree was placed it the center of the Garden of Eden to remind Adam and Eve of all the blessings they had, not to torment them with what they couldn’t have. “It underscores that everything else is given to them. It was a reminder, not God’s perverse desire to taunt them.”

Volf also suggested that his audiences rethink what they strive for and encouraged them to revisit how they view the Sabbath, and to use it as a break from striving—not as a day to prepare to take up striving again during the rest of the week.

Volf’s lunchtime presentation was the inaugural event for the three-part Downtown Lecture Series, “Working toward a good and satisfying life for you, your communities, and the world.” The series is sponsored by Trinity, Chicago Semester, and Grace Chicago Church.

WorldView is Trinity’s annual community and college series for film, word, current events and music, held at the college. As part of WorldView, Dr. Scot McKnight, Julius R. Mantey Chair of New Testament at Northern Seminary, will be on campus on Nov. 7 as the guest speaker at Chapel at 10 am, and an evening lecture at 7 pm.