– By Hayley Lukabyo
“As emotional, created beings we also want to be happy. Moreover, the Bible speaks about joy and rejoicing repeatedly – is that the same as being happy?”
This is one of the central questions about the Bible’s teaching on the role of happiness in human life that Rev. Dr. Kirsten Birkett, 2018 ADM Senior Research Fellow, poses in her research. Dr. Birkett, who lectures in ethics and philosophy at Oak Hill Theological College, notes that happiness is a field of academic study that is gaining increasing academic attention.
“Happiness is a subject that is pursued obsessively by the non-Christian world,” Dr. Birkett says. “It is the assumed object and purpose of life”. However, there is still a lack of biblical reflection on the topic, and Dr. Birkett’s work seeks to fill this gap in academic literature.
Dr. Birkett’s research provides a theological understanding of happiness, and demonstrates how the Bible challenges these assumptions made about the role of happiness in human life. “This is a topic that needs exploring exegetically and theologically, with a philosophical and historical perspective, as well as a practical perspective on happiness: is it something Christians should care about? If so, what does it look like for Christians and how does one go about it?”
In January this year, Dr. Birkett took part in ADM’s School of Theology, Culture and Public Engagement (STCPE), where she taught a two-part masterclass on happiness and also spoke alongside Katelyn Beaty and Alison Milbank at ADM’s inaugural Girls Do Theology event, engaging 46 teenagers on what the Bible has to say about happiness. Her research and talks from the STCPE were recently published by Eternity News.
Dr. Birkett has also published works on Christianity and science, theology, church history and psychology. She is currently turning her research into a book on a theological approach to happiness.