The Church and the Cross

The following article is a series I wrote during the early months of the blog. I think it worth reprinting (surely people aren’t going back to read everything I’ve written). It is also available in the “Pages” section of the blog. As the Sunday of the Cross is this weekend, I offer this as a meditation for that event.  Part I Writing to the young Timothy (first letter) St. Paul gives this homey…

Unity, the One Cup and the Fire of God

Ecumenism is back in the news and with it comes a deluge of misunderstanding and theological confusion. For while “unity” and the very concept of “one” are actually inherently mystical, most who write about and discuss the topic substitute a merely human, political and administrative notion. Two key verses are frequently drawn from the 17th chapter of St. John’s gospel:  Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in…

The Purpose of Mystery, Paradox and Contradiction

Orthodox Christianity is deeply associated with the word “mystery.”  Its theological hymns are replete with paradox, repeatedly affirming two things to be true that are seemingly contradictory. Most of these things are associated with what is called “apophatic” theology, or a theology that is “unspeakable.” This same theological approach is sometimes called the Via Negativa. This is easily misunderstood in common conversation. An Orthodox discussion takes place and reaches an impasse. Inevitably,…

We Are Not Here to Help

My writings are sometimes treated as though I’m offering some new insight. That only tells me that the reader has only just begun to read. I pray God never to be original in my thoughts, for I long for nothing other than the Tradition. At best, I simply bring the Tradition back into the conversation again and again. I offer here a short passage from Fr. Alexander Schmemann’s For the Life of…

Unecumenism and the Sins of All

The concept of the One Church shifted during the Reformation. I offer a case in point as well as a reflection on how it changes our current understanding. The old Anglican Book of Common Prayer offers one of the early examples of a subtle shift in Christian thinking and speech. In the Thanksgiving after Communion we read: Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee for that thou dost feed us, in…

Consequences of the One Church – Unecumenism

In thinking through a theological question, I often engage in thought experiments. The Fathers might call it a form of theoria, but I won’t presume that word for myself. But what I do is to make a concerted effort to let go of unexamined assumptions. I look at a different set of assumptions and ask, “What if that were true?” The result many times yields a dead end. But knowledge of dead ends can…

A One-Storey Neighborhood

In 2010 I published Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe. The articles examined the modern, secular tendency to see God (and religion) as belonging to a sphere somehow removed from daily life. God is there if you want Him, but absent if you don’t. It is a habit of thought that conveniently ignores one of the possible dividing lines in our so-called multi-cultural nation. If religion is a private matter, then,…

A Practicing Christian

My father was an auto mechanic. He learned the trade by working on cars (airplanes before that in the war). He liked his work and would come home in the evenings with stories of things he had diagnosed and fixed. I thought he was amazing. Stanley Hauerwas tells similar stories about his own father who was a brick mason. A brick mason learns his trade by working with another mason until he…

The Sins of a Nation

Can a nation ever sin? If so, how can it be forgiven? The stories and prophetic writings of the Old Testament are replete with examples of national sin. There are certainly stories of God dealing with individuals, but, on the whole, His attention seems to be directed to Israel and other nations as a whole. The promises and pledges are made to a collective people and the chastisement falls on the whole…

A Cosmic Salvation

The conversation about Church often turns on history and doctrine. Each ecclesiological claim is shored up or torn down. In the middle of the fray, it is very easy to lose sight of what is being discussed. Church is reduced to its most institutional form. I want to suggest a larger view. My first thought is to understand the true nature of the Church. I have seen bumper stickers that proclaim, “Orthodox Christianity,…