Analyzing the Hartford Appeal – Part 3

It was not too long ago that the “New Atheists” ruled the discourse of religion in the public sphere. The agitations of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennet, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris rocked the bookshelves and journals for some time. This was the popularization and revalorization of certain criticisms of the Christian faith that have been with us for some time. Put simply, the God of Christians cannot be good or even believable according to our current understanding of science and morality. Religion must submit to the strictures of the empirical and the parameters of the scientific…

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…

An Orthodox Defense of Patriarchy

“Patriarchy” is not a monolith. There is the patriarchy of fallen nature, whereby fallen men rule for the sake of ruling, and the patriarchy of Christianity, whereby men rule lovingly for the sake of peace. Christian patriarchy is feared or hated because of the abuses of natural patriarchy, and it’s admittedly difficult to distinguish the two because men sometimes use faith to legitimate their selfish desires. They are distinct, nonetheless, and in what follows, I’m going to expound on and defend this particular form. The Marital Polity The marital union could be described as the smallest…

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…

Christian Sexual Ethics: What Went Wrong? pt. 4

This is the final installment of this series. For the full series here is Part 1,  Part 2, Part 3, of this series. This brings me to the second way in which Christianity performed an end-run around the entire complex of assumptions that governed ancient thought about sex and marriage. It did so, not by addressing these subjects directly, but by presenting a model of holiness even higher and more exalted than the ascetics. I have in mind, of course, the Virgin Mary. Her elevation to a central place in Christian life and devotion revolutionized how…

Christian Sexual Ethics: What Went Wrong? pt. 3

This is the third installment of this series. For the full series here is Part 1,  Part 2, Part 4, of this series. The first was monasticism. It is unfortunate that early in western Christianity monasticism came to be set in opposition to the married life, as if the two are rivals that must be judged against one another. Views on this subject were crystallized by the writings of a monk named Jovinian, who held that virgins, widows, and married women, if they are equal in other respects, are of “equal merit.” St. Jerome and others…

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…