Christ Our Passover

St. Paul offers the familiar words: “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us!” (1 Cor. 5:7). Most readers of the Bible will find nothing surprising about this – though they should. It is an extremely sophisticated commentary on the death and resurrection of Christ uttered at a very early date in Christian history. For what is equally as remarkable as the eye-witness accounts of the resurrection, are the primitive proclamations about what…

Dying to Become Human

St. Irenaeus was perhaps the first to suggest that the creation of man was a “project.” “Let us make man in our own image,” is strikingly different from “Let there be man!” And the project goes wrong from the beginning. Rather than becoming fully what he is created to be, man breaks communion with God and brings death upon himself. The first time we hear, “It is not good,” is spoken of…

Saving the Atonement

I am speaking this week in Mississippi, in a place where Orthodoxy is thriving, but not a place where you would expect to find it. The parish (a former Presbyterian facility) has a sign with variable letters, where a changing “message” can be displayed. It reads something like, “Father Stephen Freeman speaking Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday on Salvation, Heaven and Hell.” Those are indeed the topics, but the sign fits so well…

Baptism and the Final Destruction of Demons

Final is not a word you often hear in Christian teaching. Most Christians leave the final things until, well, the End. But this is not the language of the fathers nor of the Church. A good illustration can be found in the Orthodox service of Holy Baptism. During the blessing of the waters the priest prays: And grant to [this water] the grace of redemption, the blessing of Jordan. Make it the…

Thanksgiving Communion

Whom should I thank? The question is normally a matter of polite acknowledgement. A gift was given and received. Who gave it? Whom should I thank? It is inherently the nature of giving thanks that thanks must be given to someone. I cannot give thanks to nothing or no one. As such, the giving of thanks is an act of communion on one level or another. Fr. Alexander Schmemann, in the last…

The Death of Christ on the Cross – the Life of Man

Several years ago, someone wrote and asked, “Why did Christ have to die on the Cross?” It is the question that prompted this article. On September 14th (New Calendar), the Church marks the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross. It is a fitting time to ask, “Why did Christ have to die?” His death and resurrection are the utter foundation of the Christian faith. Either we can answer this question, or…

Thinking about the One God

There are many things Christians can learn from science – among them is how to think. In thought about the deeper matters of science (particle physics, mathematical theory, etc.), there are a number of accepted rules that are useful in theology as well. One of those is the requirement of “elegance” when constructing a plausible theory. It is understood within scientific and mathematical thought that what is true and accurate as explanation…

Double-Minded

A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. James 1:8 The debate between an ontological atonement and a forensic atonement will doubtless continue – they represent two very different world-views and understandings of our relationship with God. The details of that debate will likely be tedious for most people and seem like much ado about nothing. But since they are world-views, even people who have no position in the debate will…

Therapeutic Substitutionary Atonement

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures… (1 Cor. 15:3-4) No statement is more central to the Christian faith than St. Paul’s rehearsal of the Apostolic Tradition – for his words “delivered…received…” are specifically the words that describe the…

Justice Enough?

The human desire for justice is insatiable. And that is a problem. It is a problem because an insatiable desire can never be satisfied: there is no end to our desire for justice. It is a problem because many Christians use justice as a lens for understanding the work of our salvation. The fathers have a term for insatiable desires: passions. What human beings experience as a desire for justice is not a virtue –…