Join us in reflecting on good life
Which sources do we use to define what good (and bad) life is? How do people implement those sources? What makes a source or an activity that furthers good life in times of crisis ‘religious’? What does a Christian understanding and how do Christian practices contribute to good life? How do competing views and practices of good life relate and interact? Can various ways of looking at what good is and how it is obtained, exist side by side? Can we learn from takes on good life that differ from ours? And, importantly, is good life in times of crisis for one compatible with good life for another? Can good life for humans also be good for animals and nature – and the other way around? We invite theologians and religious scholars to reflect on these questions with us.
Good life is about meaning
Good life is often connected to living a meaningful life: a life worth living, that contributes to flourishing. It can be applied in many other contexts, as well: when coping with crises, vulnerability, fragility, hardships and suffering or in context of care and ageing, communities that deal with disaster and in response to ecological challenges.
Good life from a religious perspective
Viewed from a religious perspective, good life typically relates to a transcendent and ultimate reality. It is, for example, characterised by being created in the image of God, by a covenant, good deeds, salvation, reconciliation, liberation, grace, discipleship, love, service, responsibility, compassion, community and, what has been called, eschatological imagination.Christian theologians may refer to divine presence and intervention, to God, revelation in the Bible, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, cultural and religious experience. Other religions may call upon different sources. Religious studies scholars don’t necessarily identify with the various religious phenomena and sources they study. This may, in fact, also be the case with theologians when they refer to sources, beliefs and practices from the past. Those were once authoritative and inspiring, but are now challenged by new developments. This hermeneutical challenge also holds for developing views on what is good life in religious perspective in times of crisis.
Renegotiating visions of a good life
Visions of good life need to be negotiated time and again, within a person, within a religion, and between persons, religions, and different contexts and situations. They may coincide or collide with other forces and ideals: political, economic, national, ecological, religious, cultural and many more. This is not only a phenomenon of our time. Throughout history and across the globe, cultural and religious traditions have interacted and often clashed, triggered by processes of globalisation, human mobility, and economic disparity. Aspects of religions that were long taken for granted are challenged by religious diversity, sexual diversity, awareness of gender, racism and ecology.
Shifting visions on good life during a crisis
In times of crisis, religious identities react and shift. For example, the ecological crisis fundamentally calls into question the anthropocentric worldview of Western Christianity. The current racial struggles challenge the way we read and interpret our religious sources. Health crises involve negotiating moral views on life and death. All these factors challenge existing views of what is good.
Globalisation and good life
Globalisation is an ambivalent process, from many perspectives, including a religious one. On the one hand, a global world triggers world-wide solidarity by religious communities. A multi-cultural and (digital) network society bears the possibility for mutual enrichment of religions. It enables inter-religious dialogue. On the other hand, unchained globalisation may cause wars, excessive migration, poverty, and global natural, economic and health crises, which also bear local and personal effects. In today’s world, the individual, local, regional, national and global levels are inextricably connected. In turn, such crises may bring out the good in people. They learn to appreciate their local communities and environment and display solidarity and care for each other. They take a break from the rat race and may even decide to change their lifestyle drastically.
Religious sources for negotiating good life in times of crisis
History has known other periods with extensive globalisation, such as the periods of Persian, Greek and Roman dominion. The Mediterranean world in this period is the cradle of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, the classical rabbinic literature, and the Koran were consolidated or written in this period. These sources bear witness to similar crises and responses to crises in different periods. Yet many of them are considered authoritative or inspiring to the present day. Throughout history, theological reflections on, additions to, and interpretations of these sources have been produced continuously, and they do until the present day. These reflections and interpretations, including those of people from the margins, have led to new practices and rituals. Asian religions such as Buddhism are currently gaining followers far away from their places of origin. Together with new religious forms, they offer sources for, and ways of dealing with good life and crisis.
- Dr. Cynthia RigbyW. C. Brown Professor of Theology at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
- Dr. Allan BoesakCleric, politician, and anti-apartheid activist from South-Africa
- Dr. Aruna GnanadasonFormer director of the programme on Women in Church and Society of the World Council of Churches
- Rabbi Awraham SoetendorpReform rabbi, spiritual leader and peacemaker
More about our speakers
Dr. Cynthia Rigby
The W. C. Brown Professor of Theology at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. She is a sought-after speaker who is known for making the “so what?” of Christian doctrine clear and accessible. Latest book Holding Faith: A Practical Introduction to Christian Faith (2018). One of the leading voices of public theology in the USA.
Dr. Allan Boesak
Cleric, politician, and anti-apartheid activist from South-Africa. Doctorate of the Theological University in Kampen 1976. President of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches 1982-1991. Award winning author of 22 books. Latest book Children of the Waters of Meribah: Black Liberation Theology, the Miriamic Tradition, and the Challenges of 21st Century Empire (2019).
Dr. Aruna Gnanadason
Former director of the programme on Women in Church and Society of the World Council of Churches, Geneva, and coordinator of Justice, Peace and Creation 1991-2009. Since returning to Chennai, India, she has been active in the Indian Christian Women’s Movement. Latest book With Courage and Compassion, Women and the Ecumenical Movement (2020).
Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp
Reform rabbi, spiritual leader and peacemaker. President of the European section of the World Union of Progressive Judaism and Vice President of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders. In honor of his father, he founded the Jacob Soetendorp Institute for Human Values that aims at building bridges between religions, cultures and generations.
Young Theologians Panel
- Ruben van ZwietenOrdained minister and founder of De Nieuwe Poort Zuidas Weena Valencia
- Martijn StoutjesdijkCompleted a PhD study on slavery in early Christian and early Arabic parables
- Thandi Soko-de Jong MTh ResMAWorking on PhD study into Jesus as healer Christologies facing incurable ilness
- Almatine LeenePhD, Theologian of the Netherlands 2021, ordained minister, author, lecturer
More about our panel
Ruben van Zwieten
Ordained minister and founder of De Nieuwe Poort Zuidas Weena Valencia.
He studied Theology, Philosophy and International Relations in Leiden and Utrecht. At Tilburg University, he completed a Ph-D studie on slavery in early Christian and early Arabic parables. In the final years of his PhD, he also participated in research into the role of Judaism and Christianity in Dutch slavery.
Thandi Soko-de Jong
PhD- student at PThU. Her area of interest is exploring, through Intercultural Theology, how Jesus as healer Christologies are understood from the perspective of people/faith communities encountering incurable illness.
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