The Politics of the Cup

“I don’t know about the Church thing.” This is a quote from a recent conversation – wonderfully post-modern and summing up the tragedy of modern Christianity. The great failure of Protestant theology (in all forms), despite its wide-ranging thought on the nature of God and human salvation, has been “the Church thing.” The careful parsing of every verse of Scripture pertaining to justification is met with generalities and vagaries when the Scripture…

The Priesthood That Never Was

A recent question concerning the “priesthood of all believers” has been an occasion for personal reflection. What is it about the priesthood of all believers that seems so important for Protestant thought? The idea is rooted in Scripture: You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ….But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood,…

There Is No Such Thing As Secular

Just so that we can be clear: there is no such thing as a secular world. By that, I mean that there is no such thing as the world apart from God, a world without God, or a world existing in a “neutral zone.” The good God who created the heavens and the earth, sustains them in their very existence. He has not made Himself absent, nor so endowed the world that…

It Is Not Good to be Alone

One of the greatest tragedies of the modern world is the continuing collapse of social systems. The most prominent and important of these is the family itself – but many other social systems, including the Church, are equally in collapse. Our consumer culture seeks to maximize our individuality (individuals buy more than groups) and false ideologies of freedom stress the priority of individual over group demands (with the exception of groups chosen…

No Wedding Vows

Few things differ more clearly between Eastern and Western Christianity than the service of Holy Matrimony. There are things found in Western Christian Marriage ceremonies that cannot be found in the East just as there are things in the East that cannot be found in the West. In many languages of the Eastern Churches, the service for a marriage is referred to as the “Crowning” – named for the central act within…

Back to the Future

History is tyranny. A seemingly inescapable part of human life is its history (and the baggage it brings with it). So much that shapes our identity: language, culture, economics, health, personality (and the list goes on), are largely products of history. As such, all of these things are outside of our control, not a part of our choosing. I am white, Anglo-American, lower middle class, with high blood pressure and attention deficit…

Spiritual…but not…

It has become a commonplace to hear someone say, “I’m spiritual but not religious.” Most people have a general understanding of what is meant. I usually assume that the person holds to a number of ideas that are considered “spiritual” in our culture, but that they are not particularly interested in “organized religion.” I understand this, because organized religion can often be the bane of spiritual existence. I am an Orthodox Christian –…

The God Who Is No God

My mind has been returning lately to this article as I think about issues between Christianity and the State. It has become an increasingly common legal opinion in the Western world that religion is an inward belief, a private matter. At the same time it has used this understanding to restrict various expressions of belief. In some nations the hijab (scarf) is being forbidden in schools. Personal crosses have been banned from…

Pentecost and Creation

Earth is a wondrous place – no matter where we go – how deep, how far, how high, how hot, how inhospitable – in this place we find life. Everywhere we look on our nearest neighbor – Mars – we find – no life. We want to find life. We hope to find life. We theorize life. But we have yet to find it. There is something about life, at least in…

Prayers and the One God of All

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! So runs a common exclamation in Orthodox services of prayer. And so begins another offense for those who wonder why the Orthodox “don’t pray directly to God”…or “why do you pray to the saints”…or, worst of all, how do we dare to say, “Most Holy Theotokos (Birth-giver of God), save us!” For…