The American Apocalypse

America was founded by religious people – their imagination became a nation. Among their most powerful ideas was an apocalyptic hunger: they believed God was doing something new in the world and that they were its harbingers. One visionary described his colony as “a city set on a hill.” It’s a heady thing to invent a nation. Nothing is more “modern” than the belief in “something new” coming. Progress is the unceasing…

The Babel Syndrome

In the liturgical life of the Church, the event of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and they began to speak in various languages, is linked to the story of the Tower of Babel in the Old Testament. There, too, people began to speak in different languages but with an entirely different outcome. Pentecost brought the unity of the gospel, Babel brought the scattering of peoples through the diversity…

Naked And Unashamed

The deepest and most primitive emotion of the human being is that of shame. It is the feeling that something is wrong with us. This should be distinguished from the feeling that we have done something wrong (that is called guilt). Shame is the feeling that we are something wrong. It is the first emotion ascribed to Adam and Eve as they hide in their shame. Shame makes us want to hide…

A Particular Scandal

A character in a Peanuts cartoon once declared, “I love mankind! It’s people I can’t stand!” The statement accurately describes our problems with the particular. It is easy to love almost anything in general – it is the particular that brings problems. Nowhere could this be more true than with God. Speaking about God in the abstract is extremely common – after all – He is “everywhere present, filling all things.” He is…

Again – The Sin of Democracy

In light of the present discussion of reading the Bible, I offer this reprint. Our modern age has drunk the kool-aid of philosophical democracy (the autonomous authority of the individual) to the dregs and seeks to use the Bible to underwrite the project. A book that could not have been owned by an individual prior to the printing press in the 15th century (by reason of cost) cannot be used philosophically to…

Making Known the Mystery

The trouble with reading Scripture is that almost everybody thinks they can do it. This idea is rooted in the assumptions of Protestant thought: only if the meaning of Scripture is fairly obvious and more or less objective can it serve as a source of unmediated authority for the believer. If any particular skill or mastery is required, then the skillful masters will be the mediators of meaning for all the rest.…

And All Our Yesterdays

Some things in the world happen very slowly – and they are less perceptible because of it. Continental drift is real, but is only noticed when viewed over millions of years. Though we live our lives in mere decades, our own existence is frequently caught up in larger, slower forces. We act out the drama within a play that often began centuries earlier. My life can easily be but the 15th Act…

Grace and the Psychology of God

We are human beings. We think, we feel. I like to think that my dog thinks and feels. The semi-imaginary conversations we have as we take our long, daily walks are entertaining for me, even though I have to supply his side of the dialog. God is not a dog. But we supply His dialog as well and we impute to Him thoughts and feelings like our own. God is angry. God…

Orthodoxy and the Global Threat

The peculiar approach of Orthodoxy to the peoples of the nations is often a point of criticism. The so-called “national Churches” are seen as hotbeds of cultural intransigence and sources of division. The modern difficulties between Constantinople and Moscow echo the ancient rivalry of Constantinople and Alexandria (a primary source for the schism with the “Oriental” Orthodox). These national Churches, with their deep-seated natural loyalties of language and custom appear to be…

A Modern Lent

Few things are as difficult in the modern world as fasting. It is not simply the action of changing our eating habits that we find problematic – it’s the whole concept of fasting and what it truly entails. It comes from another world. We understand dieting – changing how we eat in order to improve how we look or how we feel. But changing how we eat in order to know God…