Orthodox Social Thought in Pre-Petrine Russia

One cannot overstress the social aspect of Russian religious ethics…. [O]ne must keep in mind that through all the centuries of medieval and Muscovite Russia her religion was predominantly social…. An enforced individualism enters the Russian Church life only since the reform or revolution of Peter I. ~ G. P. Fedotov On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Low estimates count roughly 10,000 killed, nearly 4,000 of those civilians. The reality is likely much higher, and the fighting continues. Fleeing for their lives, 5.8 million have become refugees. I have views about this tragic bloodshed between…

The Mathetian Option (Part One)

The God of the Scriptures is a very specific sort of deity. He is the architect who created and fashioned all things in a logical and orderly sequence. While he does not permanently expel chaos from the cosmos, he makes clear that disorder is not good but a distortion of goodness and a movement towards non-being. God then places man in the midst of his creation and asks him to share in his work of establishing order by tending and keeping the garden.  Together with Zoe, Adam is tasked with subduing chaos and filling the void…

Orthodox Social Thought and Monastic Enterprise

Inasmuch as the present rests on the shoulders of the past, we can generally claim that our contemporary economic life is built upon the foundations set by the ascetic monastic labor of medieval Europe. ~ Fr. Sergei Bulgakov In the early twentieth-century, Adolf von Harnack observed in his historical study that “in Western monasticism we have to recognise a factor of the first importance in Church and civilisation.” The sociologist Max Weber, Harnack’s contemporary, also acknowledged this, for the West, in his major work The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. By contrast, both figures…

Orthodox Social Thought in Christian Rome, Part 2

[W]ithin three centuries of Christianity’s appearance in the world, Christians took over the seat of power and set out on a long journey to effect change in society, creating a Christian civilization in the process. ~ Fr. John McGuckin In the powerful ending of Schindler’s List, Oskar Schindler, after sacrificing so much of his own wealth and risking his own life to save the lives of some 1,200 Jews in Nazi Germany, says, weeping, “I could have got more out.” He looks around at the possessions he could have sold: “This car … why did I…

Orthodox Social Thought in Christian Rome, Part 1

If the centurion Cornelius, having fully become a Christian, remained a warrior … then it is clear that he became a Christian warrior. A collection of such warriors forms a Christian army…. Consequently, if there can be a Christian army, then by the same token and even all the more there can be a Christian state. ~ Vladimir Soloviev In the seventh Harry Potter book and the first part of its film adaptation, there is a scene where Harry, the young wizard protagonist, attends a wedding. In the previous book and film (spoiler alert!), his mentor…

Analyzing the Hartford Appeal – Part 2

Who does not love the rush of getting something new? I remember, with some shame, that this was in my youth the rush of Christmas. “What new gadget would I get? A video game? A computer? Oh, no….socks and underwear. The tragedy! My Christmas is over! So many friends of mine got cool expensive gadgets! And me? I got socks and a stupid old board game.” I needed that new video game or iPad or camera. The sense of loss was immense. While this is not my internal struggle with Christmas now, this still describes my…

The Catholic Church in Pagan Rome

More than by words, Christianity was served by the actual renewal of life which appeared in the Christian community and was in the final analysis alone capable of proving the life-giving force of the Gospel. ~ Fr. Alexander Schmemann In 1941, the liberal biblical scholar Rudolf Bultmann asserted, “We cannot use electric lights and radios and, in the event of illness, avail ourselves of modern medical and clinical means and at the same time believe in the spirit and wonder world of the New Testament.” To Bultmann, one must get beyond this primitive worldview to its…

Orthodox Social Thought and History

The starting point of the Christian faith, is the acknowledgement of certain historical events, in which God has acted, sovereignly and decisively, for man’s salvation, precisely “in these last days.” ~ Fr. Georges Florovsky In the film adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo first sees Gandalf riding down the road to the Shire in a carriage loaded with fireworks for his uncle Bilbo’s “eleventy-first” birthday, and he calls out to him, “You’re late!” “A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins,” Gandalf reprimands, “nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.” Unable…

Christian Sexual Ethics: What Went Wrong? pt. 2

This is the second installment of this series. For the full series here is Part 1,  Part 3, Part 4, of this series. We must begin by recognizing that Christianity was born into a world whose assumptions about sex and marriage were radically foreign to our own. Aristotle devotes a chapter of the Politics to discussing the ideal age of marriage. Questions of mutual compatibility or love do not enter the discussion. The issue as he frames it is that of how to maximize the couple’s childbearing potential. Since a man (as he believes) remains fertile…

Christian Sexual Ethics: What Went Wrong? pt. 1

This is the first installment of this series. For the full series here is Part 2,  Part 3, Part 4, of this series. On September 12, 1966, William F. Buckley hosted Hugh Hefner on his weekly talk program, Firing Line. Their subject was the “Playboy philosophy” that Hefner advocated through his magazine and associated enterprises such as the Playboy Clubs. Hefner was an articulate and thoughtful spokesman for his views. He described his goal as to replace the “old legalism” of “thou shalt not” with a more flexible and realistic approach to sex that truly promotes…