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,…

The Poor: The healer of our wounds

Let us hasten to cleanse the pollution of our sins, Through fasting, charity, and love for the poor, That we may enter the wedding feast of Christ the Bridegroom, Who offers us great mercy! Apostikha from Monday of Cheesefare Week The Lenten Spring has sprung for us Orthodox Christians. We now stand at the end of an intense week of services. Many of us spent our evenings this week hearing the penetrating voice of St. Andrew of Crete calling us to deepen our repentance. This Wednesday, with stomachs rumbling, we laid prostrate waiting for the entrance…

The Necessity of Christian Scholarship

“If you make your enemy look a fool, you lose the justification for engaging him.” Oliver Lacon, in John Le Carré’s Smiley’s People. Years ago I became acquainted with the work of the Presbyterian scholar Robert Dick Wilson. A student of the Old Testament, he had taken up the study, one time or another, of some 25+ languages (Hebrew–and Samaritan, Amorite, the Akkadian languages, Sumerian, Hurrian, along with French, German, etc) and used them in his defense of the Old Testament’s reliability. I had a professor at Rutgers, Stephen Reinert, who knew 16. For him obtaining a…

Freedom in Marriage

In the prior essay on marriage and the theme of unity, we explored a bit how Saint John Chrysostom might answer the critics of marriage and family, who level against the institution of marriage the charges that it is too atomising and too alienating. We have seen from Saint John’s writings that the standard for marriage is that of a complete dissolution of ‘mine’ and ‘yours’, even at the level of the body and the breath. But how do we answer the charges we saw before, that marriage and the family are too stifling, too conformist,…

Orthodoxy and the Social Gospel

“Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9-10 Many high school students in my generation shared the experience of having to read selections from Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel The Jungle. The book describes the tragic story of Lithuanian immigrants working under harrowing conditions in Chicago’s meat processing industry. Sinclair hoped it would serve as a sort of tract for socialism—the book even ends with the protagonist having an “altar call” experience at a political meeting, becoming a socialist, and then…

Waging War – A Call to Arms pt 4

We ended our last entry in this series with a string of questions regarding how Orthodox Christians should approach moral issues in the public sphere. How are we as Orthodox Christians are to conduct ourselves in public discourse, especially in disagreements and clashes over the meaning of our life together? Culture war at its heart is a conflict of meaning and how to order our lives together. There are grotesque and even cartoonish ways in which we can engage in disagreement. Slander, misrepresentation, and arguing from a place of bad faith pervade so many interactions. The…

Orthodoxy and Lutheran Social Thought

“For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” Colossians 1:19-20 In 1987, rock star, sex symbol, and later literal symbol Prince released a song replete with apocalyptic overtones: “Sign o’ the Times.” The events of the year provided a powerful backdrop—the AIDS crisis (“In France, a skinny man died of a big disease with a little name”), gang violence, drug addiction, natural disasters (“Hurricane Annie ripped…

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…

Marriage, unity and the ends of the person

One of the unfortunate genres of opinion writing that has cropped up in this past year, from the left-liberal magazine The Nation to the editorial pages of the centre-right Washington Post, is that the coronavirus has exposed the fundamental faults and flaws of the family unit. The feminist radical Sophie Lewis writes: ‘the unfolding of Covid-19 in the United States makes more palpable, among other things… that the family—as the property logic and mode of social reproduction central to capitalism—is killing us.’ A month and a half before this, the capitalist Harvard professor Ian Marcus Corbin…

Culture War? A Call to Arms pt 3

We ended our last post in this series by pointing to “strategies of retreat.” But, I think it best we first address the infamous conflagration known as “culture wars.” For it is concern about “culture wars” that spurs other forms of retreat.  In some of the responses to this series, I was surprised to see this discussion labelled as “culture war.” Why was I surprised? Well, I have done little in the past two posts but assess how I think Orthodox Christians would hear and react to Robert George’s article. If I am being labeled as…