Why Would a Calvinist or a Baptist do Confession?

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A friend shared this article today, in which one of the writers at The Gospel Coalition (a generally Reformed bunch of Evangelicals) laments the lack of confession in (his?) church: It is puzzling to see one of the defining marks of a Christian’s identity quietly disappear from a church’s worship. I’m speaking, of course, about confession – a time when the church comes together as a repentant people, and asks God to forgive and cleanse, to renew and restore, to inflame our cold hearts and fill us with overflowing love. Confession is one of the defining marks of a Christian because it is linked to repentance and faith. When we confess our sins to God, we are agreeing with God that our … Keep Reading ›

The Rejection of Universalism in the Triodion

A 1642 Ukrainian Triodion Manuscript
(From Wikimedia Commons)

One of the big problems with an Orthodox Christian embracing universalism is that he has to reject a large portion of the liturgical tradition of the Church in order to do so. The eternality of the punishment of the wicked is ubiquitous in the services of the Church. This may be less apparent if one does not have access to frequent church services, but it really becomes apparent the more time you spend in church listening to what is being sung. The Church doesn’t spend all its time talking about the eternality of Hell, but mainly focuses on encouraging sinners to repentance and to embrace the resurrection of Christ. But even though we are definitely running toward something, we are also very … Keep Reading ›

The Pastoral Malpractice of Preaching Universalism

Synaxis of All the Saints
(From Wikimedia Commons

Let us struggle with all our powers to gain Paradise. The gate is very narrow, and don’t listen to those who say that everyone will be saved. This is a trap of Satan so that we won’t struggle. —St. Paisios the Athonite We began a series on universalism here at O&H with Fr. Stephen De Young’s piece from the Biblical record. He showed that the overarching narrative of Scripture precludes all forms of universalism (however one arrives at them). More pieces are to come, further addressing the Scripture and the teachings of the Fathers. Today, I’d like to address the pastoral problem of preaching universalism. This piece is not about whether universalism is true based on the Scriptures, the Fathers or the … Keep Reading ›

Hell (Unfortunately) Yes: Why I Can’t Be a Universalist

Fresco of the Last Judgment (Voronet Monastery, Romania)

I would very much like to be a Universalist. In terms of my Christian hope, in terms of my emotional attachments, I would love to believe that in the end, no one would harden their heart against the Love of our Lord Jesus Christ, all would repent and believe, and all would find salvation in the age to come. I believe that this is at least a logical possibility, as there is no person who ever lived who could not repent, to whom God does not extend the offer of salvation. In recent years, Universalism has become a popular option in the Protestant world. This is true not only of larger mainline denominations in which the idea of any condemnation coming from … Keep Reading ›

Tributes to Priest-Scholar Fr. Matthew Baker Pour In

Fr. Matthew Baker with Hierodeacon Herman (Majkrzak)

It’s been about 36 hours, but we’re still stunned at the death of Fr. Matthew Baker, the promising and brilliant priest-scholar who somehow seems to have been the friend of so many, beloved by so many, and called “the next Florovsky” by so many. With so many who connected so deeply to him, there have been many tributes being written in remembrance of him, and I wanted to collect all the ones I could find here so that they can all be seen, if possible. Before I list them, though, I want to draw your attention to a practical way that you can pay tribute to Fr. Matthew: Support his family. Fr. Matthew leaves behind his wonderful, hard-working, sacrificial wife Presbytera Katherine, … Keep Reading ›

On Spiritual Brothers – In Memoriam

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Fr. Matthew Baker, beatae memoriae, was fond of speaking about the need for spiritual brothers. This brief word from St. Ambrose of Milan on the loss of his own brother also sums up the loss of such a spiritual brother. If you are able, please consider a gift to support his widow and their six children. We have brought hither, dearest brethren, my sacrifice, a sacrifice undefiled, a sacrifice well pleasing to God, my lord and brother … To this must be added that I cannot be ungrateful to God; for I must rather rejoice that I had such a brother than grieve that I had lost a brother, for the former is a gift, the latter a debt to be paid. … Keep Reading ›

Fr. Matthew Baker: Memory Eternal!

candles

Friends, We just learned the very sad and shocking news that Fr. Matthew Baker, a promising, brilliant scholar and priest who has contributed a number of articles to this site and is the close friend of a number of us, passed away in a tragic car accident this evening while traveling home from his parish assignment in Connecticut. The following message has been published by the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston: To the Faithful Stewards of the Metropolis of Boston: With a very heavy heart, His Eminence informs you of the untimely passing of the Rev. Fr. Matthew Baker, who tragically died in a car accident early this evening. Fr. Matthew was recently assigned to the Holy Trinity Parish of Norwich, CT, … Keep Reading ›

What Is Liturgy, and Why Do We Need It?

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A recent post by Peter Leithart questioning the role of high liturgy in sacramental theology has already sparked two responses on this site, and I wish to add to this collective response, though perhaps taking a different angle, specifically one that is surprisingly non-theological. Liturgy is as old as religion itself.  Sacrifices, altars, incense, priestly vestments, and so on, have all been found in ancient literary descriptions of human religion and in the earliest archaeological records. The following example of a ritual is from a text found at Ras Shamra, Syria (modern day Latakia), the ruins of the ancient city-state of Ugarit destroyed around 1200 BCE, which describes a sacrificial liturgy and has been called by some as an “atonement liturgy”: Section V (26) … Keep Reading ›

“Born Again” Experience or Baptismal Regeneration?

Cane Ridge Revival c. 1801

 Soon after the Berlin Wall came down many American Evangelicals saw Eastern Europe as a mission field ripe for the Gospel.  However, they overlooked the fact that Orthodox Christianity had already been there for over a thousand years!  Mihai Oara wrote “Conversions and Conversions: Romanians between Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism” which describes how Evangelicals sought to evangelize Eastern European Orthodox. The typical narrative of conversion goes: I grew up as an Orthodox, but I really did not know Jesus Christ. I used to drink, smoke and beat my wife. I was really disgusted with my life, until one day a Baptist friend invited me to an evangelistic service. There I heard the gospel for the first time in my life and I decided … Keep Reading ›

Is Liturgy Magic? A Response to Peter Leithart’s Puritan Sacramentalism

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I must admit that it always bugs me a bit when someone tells me what I believe, especially when I do not actually believe it. And so the bug in my bonnet buzzed again a bit when I read Peter Leithart’s latest musings on liturgy over at First Things. In this piece, Leithart lets the Orthodox, Roman Catholics and other “high church” types know that our preparatory liturgical rites indicate that we don’t actually believe in the potency of sacraments: The low-church Reformers (all of them, by my definition) stripped away preparatory rites because they believed that the power of sacraments rests on God’s word, and that alone. If a minister is ordained to a ministry of word and sacrament, why does … Keep Reading ›