That Thing You Do – Right Worship

In my Anglican years I watched the introduction of a new prayer book. Among its most notable features was variety. In a certain manner, it brought under one roof that most obvious feature of modern Christianity: options. Our culture has an understanding that ideas, thoughts and sentiments are what matters; how they are embodied is largely a matter of private choice – perhaps a lifestyle preference. Confronted with radical differences in worship…

A Cruciform Providence

The entire mystery of the economy of our salvation consists in the self-emptying and abasement of the Son of God – St. Cyril of Alexandria Trust in the providence of God is much more than a general theory of how things are arranged in our lives and in the world. We tend to discuss the notion in the abstract, wondering whether this action or event is to be properly attributed to God.…

Providence and the Guarded Heart

Imagine that you have been sentenced to seven years in a labor camp. The Church is weak, often riddled with spies, while the state proclaims that it is building a better world through its brutal efforts. Many of the laws specifically target the Church and activities within its normal life. Already in your lifetime, you have known thousands who have been executed for nothing more than faith in God. And to this…

Honor, Subversion and the Kingdom of God

Many who read the New Testament see it as advocating for and supporting the oppressive structures of its time. They argue that it is patriarchal and pro-slavery. St. Paul’s instructions for slaves to obey their masters is thus seen as an endorsement of slavery as an institution. His admonition, though, belongs to a category of teachings known as the haustafeln (household rules). An example is found in Colossians: Wives, submit to your…

Church and State Are Not Separate – They Are at War

There are ideas that are so common, so oft-repeated, that they are critically examined only with great difficulty. Among the most powerful such ideas is the concept described as the “separation of Church and State.” The history of the phrase is its own study (it’s not actually in the Constitution, much less the Bible). It is repeated, however, as though it were not only obvious but morally obvious. Thus, it has come to…

Democratic Madness

Dostoevsky’s The Demons tells the story of a revolution within the context of a small village and a handful of personalities. The strange mix of philosophy and neurosis, crowd psychology and fashionable disdain for tradition all come together in the madness of a bloodbath. It is a 19th century Helter Skelter that presciently predicted the century to come. Our own version of the same sickness plays out with less bloodshed though with similar passion. This article attempts to describe…

Politics and the Kingdom of God

The modern project holds that the world can be improved and made better. It also holds that human beings can be improved and made better. And finally, it holds that the means of that improvement and betterment are political. Modernity began only partly as a philosophical assertion. It found its voice first, and foremost, in the political experiments of the 18th century. During the 19th and 20th centuries, the rapid growth of…

The Fiction of Relationships and the Fullness of Life

It is very interesting that we use the word “relationship” to describe everything from God to our lifestyle. More interesting still, is that, used in this manner, the word dates back to only around the mid-20th century. There are older examples, but the psycho-social meaning that it carries today does not appear until around 1940. This also means that no one, prior to that time, spoke about having a “relationship” with God.…

Rest For Your Soul

If…then… Among the most alluring ideas in our lives are the notions of cause and effect, performance and award. Nothing seems more soothing than the simple promise that doing one thing leads to the reward of the other. It is predictable, subject to control, clearly delineates the rules of reward and punishment and makes obvious who deserves what. Nothing could be neater. The limit to this idea comes when we encounter living,…

The Morality of Christmas

Morality is tricky business in what is an extremely moral society. I pray my readers to be patient with me as I explain what I think is the problem. First, I will note that morality is all that is left when the most fundamental grounds of a culture have been destroyed. We indeed live in just such a time, hence the rise of a vehemence in the moral life. Second, I will…