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…

Orthodox Social Thought and the Biblical Apocrypha

“I could not venture to reject [Revelation]…. For if I do not understand I suspect that a deeper sense lies beneath the words. I do not measure and judge them by my own reason, but leaving the more to faith I regard them as too high for me to grasp. And I do not reject what I cannot comprehend, but rather wonder because I do not understand it.” St. Dionysius of Alexandria My friend Nick hosts a podcast about UFOs. In his first episode he jokingly riffs on a John Steinbeck quote: Steinbeck once wrote something…

Orthodox Social Thought and the Apostles

“I am convinced and believe that even after the resurrection [Christ] was in the flesh. Indeed, when he came to Peter and his friends, he said to them, “Take hold of me, touch me and see that I am not a bodiless ghost.” And they at once touched him and were convinced, clutching his body and his very breath. For this reason they despised death itself, and proved its victors.” St. Ignatius of Antioch Growing up, my mother tried to enforce age-appropriate entertainment consumption for me. However, she did make exceptions, one such being legal dramas…

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…

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…