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 ›

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 ›

Fr. Matthew Baker: Memory Eternal!


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 ›

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


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 ›

Is Orthodoxy Really United?: A Question from a Reader

The Synaxis of the Apostles

(From Wikimedia Commons)

I recently received the following question from a reader (slightly edited to remove identifying details): I am aware of one Orthodox church parish leaving one Orthodox group to go to another Orthodox group because of some issue. Doesn’t this kind of dispel the idea of the Orthodox being a unified church organization as it is in the case of the Roman Catholics? This would have been impossible in the RCC. Thank you for any insight. Since this is a question that comes up every so often, I thought I might share my response (again edited a bit): For Orthodoxy, the unity of the Church does not lie primarily in external administrative organization, but in a unity of faith and communion. Rome places … Keep Reading ›

Patriarch Bartholomew on Union with Rome


Pope Francis of Rome recently made a visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and made a grand gesture of asking for the blessing of the Ecumenical Patriarch on himself and his church. So once again we are treated to all sorts of commentary from both the “left” and the “right” on the supposed imminent reunion with Rome, bolstered especially by words from the Ecumenical Patriarch regarding Orthodoxy and Rome being “sister churches,” that the Church is “divided,” etc.—words which, if taken as precise dogmatic statements, would seem to be contrary to Orthodox tradition, which sees the Church as undivided and uniquely identical with the Orthodox Church. And of course, while his gestures are not so grand as those of the Jesuit Pope, Ecumenical … Keep Reading ›

My Presbyterian Field Trip: A Fragmenting Tradition

From Wikimedia Commons

This last Thursday evening, I was supposed to be concelebrating at the festal services for a nearby Orthodox church, but over the days preceding I had so strained my back that I knew that if I followed through on my plans, even just standing during the services, I would likely not be able to stand the next morning. So I stayed home while my family went. While settling in for the evening, I remembered that a local Protestant clergy acquaintance had posted on Facebook that his church—a large Presbyterian congregation in a nearby city—was going to be hosting a dialogue that evening between representatives of the Presbyterian Church (USA) (PCUSA) and ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. It seems that the … Keep Reading ›

Protestants and a Churchless Tradition: “Sola” vs. “Solo” Scriptura

Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms, by Anton von Werner, 1877

One of my ongoing fascinations is what I have come to refer to in my head as “the Evangelical appropriation of tradition.” Charismatics are celebrating Lent. Baptists are talking about the Eucharist. The inscrutable maybe-universalist and now Oprah-darling Rob Bell is even using the phrase the tradition. Maybe this tradition stuff isn’t so bad. I can branch out a little. I can line up some Athanasius next to my MacArthur, and a volume or two of Gregory of Nyssa next to my Bonhoeffer. Osteen still goes somewhere preferable near the bottom. (Who gave me that book, anyway?) Maybe we’ll put Origen down there with him. Both are questionable, right?. Oh, hey, I’ve heard Ratzinger is kind of interesting. And that “wounded healer” … Keep Reading ›

7 Reasons that Reading the Bible = Tradition


I recently came across a conversation online in which someone insisted that he didn’t need tradition at all, because he had the Bible. Why trust the word of men when you have the word of God? I was reminded again of just how complicated it is to try to believe in what the Bible says while rejecting Christian tradition. We’ve covered matters relating to sola scriptura (“by Scripture alone”) and Christian tradition here before, but I thought I might do a little thought experiment here to illustrate just how complicated it is to try to hold these two beliefs, namely, that the Bible is true and also that Christian tradition is false or at least unnecessary. For the purposes of this thought … Keep Reading ›