Theology of Joy and the good life

The Theology of Joy and the Good Life project seeks to restore joy to the center of Christian reflection on the nature of the good life and to restore the question of the good life to the core of Christian theology, the world’s colleges and universities, and our most significant global conversations.

Joy is increasingly absent in contemporary society. Although poets, sages, and saints have commended joy for centuries as an essential dimension of the good life, joy and reflection on joy—and on the good life more generally—have been marginalized as matters of cultural concern and subjects of academic inquiry. As a result, both our academic research, and more importantly, our individual and collective pursuits of the good life are impoverished.

The purpose of this project is to develop a theological account of joy and the good life—in Christian theology, in comparative context, and in the lived experience of adolescents. We hypothesize that these two important questions—What is joy and how is it cultivated? What is the good life and how is it cultivated?—are intimately related.

We are pursuing these two questions in tandem through consultations and collaborative research within Christian theological traditions, research on joy in other religious traditions, as well as research and the development of resources for youth ministry. These activities are producing a new body of research on joy and the good life (articles, book chapters, edited volumes, and a monograph) as well as dissemination materials (courses, curricula, readers, and a curated video library).

Ultimately, the Theology of Joy and the Good Life project aims not only to conduct theological research, but to lay the foundations for a movement pursuing questions of the good life in the academy and the culture more broadly. From the start, the project is led by an extraordinary group of scholars and religious leaders from more than twenty institutions around the globe, including Jürgen Moltmann, Jonathan Sacks, N. T. Wright, and Nicholas Wolterstorff.

The Theology of Joy and the Good Life project is made possible by a $4.2 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation, with additional support from the Yale Youth Ministry Institute, the McDonald Agape Foundation, Yale Center for Faith & Culture donors, and the Yale Divinity School.