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Is Not Trendy Talk About 'Flourishing' For Tulips Rather Than Christians?

Is Not Trendy Talk About 'Flourishing' For Tulips Rather Than Christians?

By Julian Mann
Special to Virtueonline
March 30, 2015

The House of Bishops' five guiding principles over women in the episcopate, which all ordination candidates are required to sign, purport to be a basis for 'mutual flourishing'. How a self-contradictory and now mandatory set of bullet points like these can be that is arguably open to question. But what is not in doubt is that the 'flourish' word has now become very trendy in the Church of England.

Flourish of course has the ring of magnanimity about it - amidst our cherished theological diversity, we want or should want all churches under the CofE umbrella to grow numerically and be financially contributing to central funds.

As such, flourish is related to 'good disagreement' in high level CofE parlance.

But is it biblically Christian to harbour the aspiration and indeed expectation that, in this fallen world, I am entitled to 'flourish'?

Certainly the New Testament commends Christian growth. The Apostle Peter at the end of his second letter commands his Christian readers to 'grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ' (2 Peter 3v18 - RSV).

In the context of 2 Peter, such growth involves Christians obeying Peter's command in chapter 1 to 'make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love' (2 Peter 1v5-7).

So this growth involves intentional spiritual effort on the part of the Christian. It involves cultivating unfashionable virtues in a permissive society such as self-control and perseverance. It is thus a far cry from the narcissistic, post-modern, self-worshipping expectation that I am entitled to 'flourish' rather like a decorative tulip at an out-of-town garden centre.

Also, Christian growth is contrasted in 2 Peter with falling for false teaching. So, a growing Christian in Peter's terms would not be wanting false teachers to 'flourish' in their spiritual influence over God's precious people.

It is therefore hard to reconcile professing Christians harping on about 'mutual flourishing' amidst profound theological confusion and grave moral disorder with the spiritual standards of the New Testament, expressed in exemplary form by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians:

'Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ' (Philippians 3v8).

Julian Mann is vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge, South Yorkshire, UK - www.oughtibridgechurch.org.uk

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