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February 17, 2022

Flynn Cratty Speaks at CU Gloria Lecture Series

By Tom Campisi, Managing Editor

“Harvard is a place of extraordinary achievement, but not always true flourishing.”


This statement helped introduce the theme at Doxa, Christian Union Gloria’s weekly leadership lectures series, during a fall semester Friday evening. “The Flourishing Life” featured speaker Flynn Cratty, a historian of early modern Europe, and alumnus of Duke University (B.A.), Southern Seminary (M.Div.), and Yale University (Ph.D). Cratty is the Associate Director of the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard. He is also the convener of the Flourishing Fellows Program that helps undergraduates seek the good life during their time in Cambridge.

1 a Harvard tree 2 edited

The lecture, which was followed by a Q and A session, was based on the ancient wisdom of Psalm 1, and sought to answer the question, “What does the good (or blessed) life look like?”


The first three verses of Psalm 1 proclaim:  


Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.
 He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.


“Trees grow tall. They put down roots. And as a result, they can survive storms,” said Cratty.

“The blessed person is solidly planted, not easily shaken in difficult times or dry seasons. Even when we feel empty or spiritually desolate, the blessing is continually refreshed. Even in times of deepest drought, the tree [bears] fruit repeatedly in its season, right on time.”

“The blessed man, the blessed woman, in all that they do, they prosper. What could be better than that?”

Cratty noted how flourishing is a universal human desire: “Aristotle said that happiness was the one thing that we see for itself. We don’t want it for some other reason. We want it because it is good in itself. Blaise Pascal, the great scientist and theolgian, said the same thing—that all men seek happiness. This is without exception.”

However, living a blessed or flourishing life is not without its trials, tribulations, and weariness. Cratty pointed to the ultimate example of sacrifice and suffering, Jesus Christ, “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53).

Cratty noted how the book of Psalms contains lament, difficulty, and people crying out to God in the midst of injustice. Psalms should also be viewed in the light of the blessing of eternal life promised to those who put their trust in Jesus, he said.

“If we read the Psalm 1, and read the whole Bible, it becomes pretty clear that the psalmist is not promising health and curve-busting grades on exams right now…The psalmist here is actually doing something really interesting; He's making a reference, an allusion to the tree of Life that we find in the opening chapters of Genesis.”

Tyler Parker, a ministry fellow with CU Gloria, said Cratty's lecture was "thought-provoking and winsome."

With an array of degrees from prestigious universities, Cratty is seeking to let Harvard students understand the meaning of true flourishing. Founded in 2016, the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard's Institute for Quantitative Social Science “aims to study and promote human flourishing, and to develop systematic approaches to the synthesis of knowledge across disciplines.”

“I spent a lot of my life trying to realize that learning by itself does not necessarily mean to flourish,” he said. “I've known a lot of marvelously learned men and women, even renowned scholars, whose lives are inconsequential and, perhaps, ultimately fruitless.”

As far as the students who attended Doxa, Cratty closed by praying that they would indeed flourish: “Father, we thank you for your Word that instructs us and challenges us. I pray that you would help each of us know this life, this fruitful life, this deeply rooted life...and we can truly say that we are prospering in all that we do.”

RELATED: Want to go deeper in your faith? Click here to receive a free download of Christian Union’s "Seeking God Lifestyle” Bible Course Manual.

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