“God Desires All to Be Saved” (1 Timothy 2:4)

Here is an immensely helpful essay by Met. Kallistos Ware, in which he traces the careful path between assuming that all will be saved (universal salvation) and praying that all will be saved—praying with yearning and tears, for “God desires that all may be saved and come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). He does this by examining the thought of St. Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938), a Russian monk with little education who became a very wise elder. St. Sophrony (1896-1993), also mentioned in this essay, was a spiritual child of St. Silouan and wrote his story. There’s a distinction that is often missed between praying that all will be saved and assuming that all will be saved. That’s especially the case in our time, when the more challenging aspects of faith are routinely played down, and God’s mercy is emphasized to the near exclusion of any other characteristic. Of course he is great in mercy, and what we say of that is true; yet in emphasizing it we can lose our balance, tipping too far toward one side. In a comfortable age such as ours, we assume God wants us to be comfortable, and we skip over the Scriptures that tell the tougher things Jesus said.

Bringing It Home

Yesterday I received an email from a priest in Australia, who said he is reading my new book, Welcome to the Orthodox Church. He likes it, but notes that it is aimed at people already familiar with Christianity. In his case, he said, he dealing with two generations of nonbelievers. He said something next that I’m not sure I agree with. He said that he thinks in the future we will need to be like John Wesley, who went out directly to the people, preaching in towns and fields to preach.  But, he said, we’ll need to reach them in different ways, through the internet or mass media.

Welcome – Discussion Questions

Part One: Inside the Temple Exploring the empty church 1  “Enter His Gates”        3  In the narthex, the church’s lobby or foyer 1. Icons are images of our Lord, and of our fellow-believers who are now with him. We keep these images near us wherever we pray, because they help us feel a connection to the people they depict. Do you have a photo of a loved one that affects you that way?

Open Question: Tithing

Q.  Is it robbing God to tithe on your after-tax (not gross) income? A.  My husband and I were in seminary and still newly-Christian when a friend told us about tithing. She stressed the importance of giving the full 10% before taxes, before anything else, so that we would be giving God the “first fruits” of our labor. We recoiled at the thought of such an unexpected expense, but she said that, in her experience, it had given God room to work miracles in her life; once she and her husband had put their last dollar in the plate, only to have the pastor turn around and give them the whole collection.

Tomorrowland

“When I was a kid, the future was different.” So says George Clooney at the beginning of “Tomorrowland,” looking directly into the camera. Before you can wonder what he means, you see it: the 1964 New York World’s Fair, where everything is shiny, sunny, and rocket-shaped. Clooney’s character, young Frank Walker, has arrived with his homemade jetpack (powered by twin Electrolux canister vacuums), and waits in line for an expert’s evaluation. But the jetpack suffers from the technical flaw of not, actually, working. The sour evaluator, Nix (Hugh Laurie), sends Frank off with a discouraging word.

Welcome to the Orthodox Church excerpt (What does it mean to be unchanging?)

…Next come three short hymns known as the “Antiphons.” In the earliest centuries, these hymns were sung by people as they were on their way to worship, or waiting outside church for the official entrance of the clergy. The hymns (which, despite the name, aren’t necessarily sung antiphonally) are composed of verses from the Psalms or Beatitudes, or offer brief prayers of intercession (such as, “Save us, O Son of God, who rose from the dead”). After the second antiphon we sing a hymn attributed to the emperor Justinian (AD 483–565). O Only-begotten Son and immortal Word of God, Who for our salvation willed to become incarnate

Why I Haven’t Spoken Out — More Thoughts

Here are some other points, which didn’t find a place in the main essay. They are just random thoughts, and not arranged in any particular order. (I’ve included here the main points from three rambling essays on the topic that I posted in 2013, and taken down the latter.) 1. After Rod Dreher posted a link to my essay, “Why I Haven’t Spoken Out on Gay Marriage—Till Now,” a flood of comments flowed in to his blog. Several people rejected my statement that gay sex is damaging to the soul, saying that there was no reason people in a gay marriage couldn’t have a close relationship with God.

Why I Haven’t Spoken Out on Gay Marriage–till Now

With some kind of genius for stupidity, I said on my Facebook page recently that I am not particularly opposed to gay marriage. No, it was worse than that; what I said was, “I was asked why I don’t oppose gay marriage, and I’ll try to make this brief. It’s because I don’t agree that gay marriage harms society, or harms marriage.” I’m no big-time writer, but it caused an outsized stir. My readers are mostly Christian and conservative, and the comments overflowed. Clearly, I struck a nerve.

The Democratic Man, or the Consumer?

Here’s a provocative and compelling post by Fr Stephen Freeman, explaining why it is hard for people in a democratic society to grasp the very idea of God. It is hard even for people who consider themselves “religious.” The assumptions of democracy, that every person freely defines himself and determines…

A Sacrifice for a Friend

 I recently received an email from a young man, an Orthodox catechumen, who is concerned about his best friend. This friend recently came out as gay and, after being scolded by family and church friends, has joined an “affirming” church that will endorse his choices. The young man writing to me said he was encouraged by something in one of my podcasts. I had said that there is room in our faith for people of the same sex to form loving relationships. This kind of love is called “friendship.” It has always been held in honor, and appears in the Bible and throughout Church history.