Tolkien’s Long Defeat

“Actually I am a Christian,” Tolkien wrote of himself, “and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’— though it contains (and in legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory” (Letters 255). +++ History as a long defeat – … Read More ›

Mere Morality

What makes an action moral? I use the word to describe something done in an effort to conform to a rule, a law, or a principle. It is a matter of the will and a matter of effort. All societies require some form of moral behavior. If there were no such behavior, life would be … Read More ›

The Smashers Are Back – Lord Have Mercy

The Smashers are back. The news is carrying photos of the wanton destruction being wrought in the Middle East by ISIS. Churches, Mosques, and human beings are being subjected to a new round of destruction at the hands of one of the most iconoclastic groups to have risen in the past century. One of their … Read More ›

The Struggle To Be Real

Very few modern Christians who read English are unfamiliar with the writings of CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. Lewis’ expositions of Christian thought as well as his popular fiction (The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, Out of the Silent Planet, etc.) have become modern classics. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings … Read More ›

Face to Face – Beholding God

My mind wandered back to these thoughts as I pondered the growing phenomenon of “selfies.” Even the President cannot resist making them. Of course, the “selfie” is the passion-driven distortion of the theology of the face – existence as ego. For the mystery of the face is not to look at myself, but to look … Read More ›

Orthodoxy Versus Christian Materialism

Over the years I find myself coming back to a number of ideas within the modern world that differ markedly from Orthodox thought. These are ideas that are imbedded so deep within our culture that they seem self-evident to most people. Many Orthodox believers hold to one or more of them, distorting their understanding of … Read More ›

Harlots and Drunkards at the Last Banquet

Since we were thinking about Dostoevsky… Once a week I teach a class at a local alcohol and drug treatment program. It is on the “spirituality of recovery.” Recently I shared Marmaladov’s speech from Crime and Punishment (at the end of this article). There were tears in the room. For many, the version of the gospel they … Read More ›

The Marriage of Love and Hate

The genius of Dostoevsky lies in the profound theological insight of his tumbled novels. They can be difficult reads for many people – particularly in our modern setting. He has “too many characters” and they “talk a lot.” His characters are complex: I was a scoundrel, and yet, I loved God…  Good and evil are … Read More ›

We Will Not Make the World a Better Place

I have written previously about various aspects of the “Modern Project.” It is the world we live in. Its ideas and assumptions enter our thoughts with no critical inspection or hesitancy. We are modern. However, the gospel is not modern and many ideas of Modernity are contrary to the gospel. It is necessary, therefore, as … Read More ›

A Generous Repentance

I have learned over time to expect cultural expressions of the Orthodox faith that are mentioned nowhere in books and articles. Many of these surround major life events and their sacraments: Baptism, Marriage, Funerals. And so I was not surprised when the family of a recently deceased Romanian in my community called me for help … Read More ›

The American Apocalypse

America was founded by religious people – their imagination became a nation. Among their most powerful ideas was an apocalyptic hunger: they believed God was doing something new in the world and that they were its harbingers. One visionary described his colony as “a city set on a hill.” It’s a heady thing to invent … Read More ›