The Pursuit of Happiness in the Way of the Cross

Evangel – Summer 2014


Ryan ScruggsDreams are about imagining an alternate and enhanced future. In many ways this was the role of the Old Testament prophets; consider for example the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah: “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more” (Is. 65:17-19). In fact, a history with a particular telos (end/purpose) is one of the defining features of the Judeo-Christian heritage. We are not trapped in an endless cycle of repetition; the future is pregnant with the possibility of divine intervention.

Of course, in the wake of Judeo-Christian influence—and only possible because of its influence—the world is ripe with utopian ideologies: Marxism, nationalism, even, it’s becoming increasingly clear, unfettered capitalism. In other words, dreams can be dangerous, especially if they demand any and every means to accomplish the desired end. (As an example of this danger, watch the relational destruction involved in the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness—all about the “American Dream.”) Somehow the Christian hope—the kingdom of God—must not be reduced to just another utopian dream.

In the same way, each of us individually must learn to discern the difference between my dreams for my life, and our legitimate call as uniquely gifted ambassadors of God’s coming reign. This is not an easy task; it has not been easy in my life. Allow me to offer only one principle to assist in this task: the way of the cross. Christ does not reign in glory at the right hand of his Father apart from the shame of the cross. And so if we are looking to reign with Christ in his body, we can never evade the call to “deny [our]selves and take up our cross daily and follow [Jesus]” (Lk. 9:23). Not exactly the “American Dream,” but the truth is that it promises so much more.

Ryan is currently Registrar and Instructor in Theology at Alberta Bible College. He holds degrees from Alberta Bible College, the University of Calgary, and McGill University. His academic interests lie at the intersection of theology and spirituality, and most of his scholarly research is focused on the work of Thomas Merton. Most recently he has published an article in the Journal of Ecumenical Studies and a chapter in the book, Thomas Merton: Monk on the Edge. Ryan is married to his beautiful wife Jani, and is the proud Father of Rowan and Danae.