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…

Singing and Dancing through Great Lent

I grew up in a rural American Protestant culture. In many ways there was a level of piety that was beneficial. God’s name, particularly the name of Christ, was held in great reverence.  Stores closed on Sundays – and if many people used the afternoon for recreation – most used the morning to attend Church. The knowledge of Scripture, though somewhat superficial, was still widespread. The first psalms I memorized were in…

Creation and Evolution

The crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ is the proper beginning point for all Christian theology. Christ’s Pascha should be the source for all Christian reflection. It is clear that the disciples themselves did not understand the Scriptures nor Christ Himself until after the resurrection (Luke 24:45). We cannot approach Pascha as a midpoint in a historical narrative. It is the beginning. That which came before is only understood by reading backwards…

Evolution, Creation and the Hidden Cause

Recent pop culture presented a debate between a scientist and a fundamentalist Christian over evolution and creation. The Christian, a Biblical literalist, holds to the idea of a “young creation,” a universe that is roughly 6,000 years old – this – based on calculating from the Biblical record. It is the most extreme form of Biblical literalism – one in which the appearances of the universe to be much older must be…

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…

Walking in a One-Storey Universe

Our modern culture celebrates the individual and his/her choices. We prize freedom above everything. But we long for something we cannot express. Human beings were created for communion and participation and we lose our way without it. The instinct for such a life has never disappeared from our culture, despite almost centuries of nurtured individualism. It gets expressed it bizarre ways. We have an almost mystical experience with certain sports and the…

Living in a Strange Land

The Scriptural narrative is littered with stories of “strangers in a strange land.” Noah, Lot, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Israelites and Moses in Egypt, Israel in Babylon, even Israel under the Greeks and Romans – beyond the Scriptures – Israel in the diaspora. It is perhaps among the most unifying threads in story of the people of God. Only the later flirtations of Christian empire have ever made believers think themselves…

In the Womb of the Modern World

A recent opinion column on the New York Times website suggested that Pope Francis should compromise on the “issue” of abortion. The sentiments offered reveal a great deal about what passes for serious thought in the modern world – including serious thought by a professor of philosophy (Gary Gutting) at a major Catholic University (Notre Dame). It illustrates much of what I have written in the last several posts about the “Modern…

The Modern Vocation

In the modern project, human beings are autonomous centers of consciousness whose choices and decisions bring about their self-actualization. What could be more impossible than inventing yourself? What imagination, courage and daring would be required? How is such a thing possible? To the young our culture offers the incredible task of “becoming.” This is not achieved through apprenticeship or through a process of deep consideration. Rather, they are offered an education with…