Orthodox Social Thought and the Gospel, Part 3

[T]he scope of our art is to provide the soul with wings, to rescue it from the world and give it to God, and to watch over that which is in His image, if it abides, to take it by the hand, if it is in danger, or restore it, if ruined, to make Christ to dwell in the heart by the Spirit: and, in short, to deify, and bestow heavenly bliss upon, one who belongs to the heavenly host. This is the wish of our schoolmaster the law, of the prophets who intervened between Christ…

Orthodox Social Thought and the Gospel, Part 2

It may come to pass that the good Samaritan of the Gospel may find someone going down from Jerusalem to Jericho … falling back from the martyr’s conflict to the pleasures of this life and the comforts of the world … [and] may, I say, not pass by him but tend and heal him. St. Ambrose of Milan   In Till We Have Faces, C. S. Lewis’s retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, one scene vividly captures a recurring phenomenon in the Gospels. As Lewis tells it, Orual, the story’s narrator and half-sister of…

Analyzing the Hartford Appeal – Part 1

On April 1, 1975 Worldview Magazine published “An Appeal for Theological Affirmation: The Hartford Statement”. The themes of this Appeal were first thought up on evening in January 1974 at the home of Peter Berger, an eminent and respected sociologist. There Richard John Neuhaus and Berger, with great fun, made up a list of major themes in mainline Protestantism that irritated them. The irritation came from what they saw as serious problems arising from the assumptions being made in so much Christian engagement with public life in the United States. They shared this list with a…

Orthodox Social Thought and the Gospel, Part 1

What then could ever be equal to these good tidings? God on earth, man in Heaven; and all became mingled together, angels joined the choirs of men, men had fellowship with the angels, and with the other powers above: and one might see the long war brought to an end, and reconciliation made between God and our nature … and hope abundant touching things to come.  St. John Chrysostom When people today want to share their thoughts about a recent TV show or movie, they often say “spoiler alert” to warn others that, if they haven’t…

Orthodox Social Thought and the Biblical Writings

[W]hen we are fully conscious of our own foolishness, and have felt the helplessness and destitution of our reason, then through the counsels of Divine Wisdom we shall be initiated into the wisdom of God; setting no bounds to boundless majesty and power, nor tying the Lord of nature down to nature’s laws. – St. Hilary of Poitiers American writer Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five tells the story of the Allied bombing of Dresden, Germany during World War II, which Vonnegut, held by the Nazis there as a prisoner of war, survived. Thousands of civilians died, and…

Orthodox Social Thought and the Prophets

[T]he law and the prophets were until John: the law, that its transgressors might desire salvation; the prophets, that they might foretell the Saviour. –  St. Augustine of Hippo One might think that after the Lord himself freed the Israelites from Egyptian slavery and gave them the Law, conquering Canaan would be a cakewalk. Despite some clear warning signs in Numbers, by the end of Deuteronomy things feel a bit like that song from the Lego Movie: “Everything is Awesome.” What could go wrong? Well … everything. Sure, the story of Israel from Joshua to the…

Orthodox Social Thought and Biblical Theology

To search the Scriptures is a work most fair and most profitable for souls. For just as the tree planted by the channels of waters, so also the soul watered by the divine Scripture is enriched and gives fruit in its season, viz. orthodox belief, and is adorned with evergreen leafage, I mean, actions pleasing to God. – St. John of Damascus Growing up Evangelical (I’m a convert to Orthodoxy), I sang a lot of songs about the Bible. In principle, there’s nothing wrong with that—the Bible is great! (Turns out, we Orthodox have one, too.) However,…

Scripture and Discernment: The Royal Road of Discernment pt. 3

We have previously underlined the need for discernment and the necessity of serious scrutiny in discernment. I want to now examine St. Moses’s advice about testing what I am deeming “pious reasoning.” “Pious reasoning” is the trap of thinking that one can be simply guided by pious presumptions or seemingly pious logic while actually falling out of line with Scripture and the precedent of the Fathers. Further, one can deceive one’s self into thinking one is making pious decisions and yet have one’s heart full of pride and vanity.  St. Moses compares the life of discernment…