For the Life of the World

Theology That Makes a Difference

series: Theology for the Life of the World

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Christianity Today 2020 Book Award (Award of Merit, Theology/Ethics)
Outreach 2020 Recommended Resource of the Year (Theology and Biblical Studies)

The question of what makes life worth living is more vital now than ever. In today's pluralistic, postsecular world, universal values are dismissed as mere matters of private opinion, and the question of what constitutes flourishing life--for ourselves, our neighbors, and the planet as a whole--is neglected in our universities, our churches, and our culture at large. Although we increasingly have technology to do almost anything, we have little sense of what is truly worth accomplishing.

In this provocative new contribution to public theology, world-renowned theologian Miroslav Volf (named "America's New Public Intellectual" by Scot McKnight on his Jesus Creed blog) and Matthew Croasmun explain that the intellectual tools needed to rescue us from our present malaise and meet our new cultural challenge are the tools of theology. A renewal of theology is crucial to help us articulate compelling visions of the good life, find our way through the maze of contested questions of value, and answer the fundamental question of what makes life worth living.

Introduction: Why Theology Matters--To Us
1. The Human Quest
2. The Crisis of Theology
3. The Renewal of Theology
4. The Challenge of Universality
5. Lives of Theologians
with Justin Crisp
6. A Vision of Flourishing Life


"An ingenious theological design: two simple cornerstones--flourishing human life and God's home in the world--and in between, the biblical story of God's indwelling and incarnation in the human being Jesus Christ. This is a theology of life that concerns every person who loves life and that is fit for academia in connection to the human sciences. In addressing the complex questions posed by our modern world, this book calls our attention to the horizon of the future of God: God's home in our world."

Jürgen Moltmann, University of Tübingen

"For the Life of the World is the perfect riposte both to critics like Richard Dawkins who say that Christian theology is good for nothing and to theologians who are so focused on God that they overlook the world. Volf and Croasmun argue that theology makes a difference precisely because it is about human flourishing. This is a brave and bracing proposal to rethink theology's role and relevance by recovering its original concern with the fundamental question of human existence: How do we live a flourishing life with others in this world, the home of God?"

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, research professor of systematic theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"This fascinating 'manifesto' reminds us all that theology can only matter if it engages what matters. While their book is directed to theologians, it asks questions so fundamental to human life, and in language so ordinary and pellucid, that many people who are not at all theologians may find themselves caught up in this text. Which is, of course, their point. Highly recommended."

Charles Mathewes, Carolyn M. Barbour Professor of Religious Studies, University of Virginia

"Miroslav Volf and Matthew Croasmun articulate with breathtaking clarity the urgency and weight of genuine theology. Our world's skepticism about the reality of transcendence makes theological work more important even as it becomes less prestigious. This is can't-miss reading."

John Ortberg, senior pastor, Menlo Church; author of I'd Like You More If You Were More Like Me

"This is a timely work with which theologians across the spectrum need to contend--and there will be some contention. Volf and Croasmun mince no words in calling contemporary theologians to task for neglecting to offer theology that matters for the world. Theirs is a call to action rooted in the conviction that Christian theology really can make a difference. They want to persuade us that theologians have a calling to fulfill--to commend accounts of the flourishing life that can offer meaning in a cultural moment marked by 'creeping meaninglessness'--and they want to see theologians begin to fulfill this calling, now. Along the way they offer incisive analysis on how the conditions of contemporary Western culture affect our lives, our universities, our churches, our very ability to find meaning. I would have loved to have a book like this to expand my imagination for what theology could be as I was first discovering theology; I'm grateful to have it now."

Kristen Johnson, professor of theology and Christian formation, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan

"Does anyone listen to theologians anymore? Theology is in something of a crisis with a dwindling audience and a reputation for irrelevance, both inside and outside the church, yet the church (and perhaps even the world) cannot survive long without theology. In this book, Miroslav Volf and Matt Croasmun make a bold and compelling proposal for a reorientation of the theological task to refocus it around articulating a Christian vision of flourishing life. This is a vitally important book for anyone interested in and committed to the future of theology, done for the sake of the church--and the world."

Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington; president, St. Mellitus College

"In this timely and compelling book, Volf and Croasmun issue a clarion call for theologians, broadly understood, to articulate and live into a theology focused on how as humans we might cultivate forms of flourishing life as revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The book recovers an ancient vision of theology as a way of life while being attentive to the internal and external challenges theology must address if it is to declare good news to the contemporary context."

Luke Bretherton, professor of theological ethics and senior fellow, Kenan Institute for Ethics, Duke Divinity School

"The vision for theology presented here is simple but not easy. Volf and Croasmun think our task as theologians is to be about the flourishing not only of the academy or the church but also of all peoples. Their work is tested in the hard laboratory of professors' classrooms and church planters' living rooms. I challenge you to read this book and not come away encouraged, enlightened, and renewed for our task of contemplating God for the good of humanity. So much of what passes for theology dies in intramural food fights and name calling. This book calls us to a task more urgent, more dangerous, and more life-giving by far than that."

Jason Byassee teaches preaching at the Vancouver School of Theology and is author, most recently, of Psalms 101-150 (Brazos Press)

The Authors

  1. Miroslav Volf
    © Christopher Capozziello

    Miroslav Volf

    Miroslav Volf (DrTheol, University of Tübingen) is the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School and founding director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture in New Haven, Connecticut. He has written more than twenty books,...

    Continue reading about Miroslav Volf

  2. Matthew Croasmun

    Matthew Croasmun

    Matthew Croasmun (PhD, Yale University) is associate research scholar and director of the Life Worth Living Program at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. He is also staff pastor at the Elm City Vineyard Church and author of The Emergence of Sin: The...

    Continue reading about Matthew Croasmun


Christianity Today 2020 Book Award Winner (Award of Merit, Theology/Ethics)
Outreach 2020 Recommended Resource of the Year (Theology and Biblical Studies)

"[A] compelling new book. . . . There is plenty of talk about human 'flourishing' these days, but Volf and Croasmun offer something better than generic self-help schemes, pointing instead toward a distinctly Christ-centered vision. . . . In everything they propose, Volf and Croasmun maintain a balance between hope and realism, avoiding both an over- and under-realized eschatology. . . . This book calls contemporary theologians to return to the big questions of life--to show genuine concern for the church, the world, and the good news centered on Christ himself. There is plenty of room for debating specific positions Volf and Croasmun take or theological assumptions on which they operate. But the authors have performed a real service in reminding us that no other discipline can offer what Christian theology does. Let all of us who write or preach heed their invitation to renew our focus on the things that matter most."

Kelly M. Kapic,

Christianity Today (5-star review)

"Volf and Croasmun give a critique of theology as we know it today: its sequestration within the academy, its entanglement with a business model of seminary and university life, and its cooperation with some forms of postmodern deconstruction that leave some of life's most vital questions unattended. But the authors also offer a positive vision for theology that serves the community of faith by articulating a model of human flourishing under God."

Nicola Hoggard Creegan,

Christianity Today

"A wonderful, accessible explanation of the value of theology, not just for thinking, but also for living."

Scot McKnight,


"The authors suggest that colleges, universities, and religious institutions now focus on equipping people to generate resources rather than undertake the search for truth and meaning, but they also insist that the world still requires a compelling theology 'to discern, articulate and commend a vision of flourishing life.' Though this work of erudite scholarship may prove challenging for the amateur theologian to navigate, Volf and Croasmun persuasively argue that faithfully practiced Christian theology can engage the challenges posed by scientific inquiry and other religious worldviews. For Bible scholars and theological historians, this fervent book will be sure to inspire conversations about the purpose of academic pursuits in theology."

Publishers Weekly

"My most anticipated book of the spring is For the Life of the World."

C. Christopher Smith,

Englewood Review of Books

"Very highly recommended for community, seminary, college, and university library Contemporary Christian Theology collections and supplemental studies lists."

Midwest Book Review

"If the world of Christian theology needs a good kick in the pants--and I think it does--this book is a good start at that. My hope is that besides appealing to professional academic theologians, this book will help people in pastoral roles draw new inspiration for ways of doing ministry that go deep into why we are here at all."

Bill Tammeus,

Faith Matters blog