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…

Obedience and the Modern World

In the modern project, human beings are autonomous centers of consciousness whose choices and decisions bring about their self-actualization. Few things make a modern person more uncomfortable than the topic of obedience. Many Orthodox read statements declaring that “obedience is the foremost rule for monastics,” and immediately thank God they are not monastics. Our minds easily race to horror stories of cult-like obedience and spiritual abuse. Some may very well have experienced…

A Modern Conversion

A few years back I had a very enlightening conversation with one of my Russian parishioners. I had Baptized her and her family some years before.  In the conversation I referred to her and her family as “converts.” She bristled and quickly spoke, “I am not a convert!” My thoughts were running ahead. I did not say what I was thinking but was mindful of the fact that I had catechized and…

The Modern Project

When I was doing a graduate degree in theology, it was not uncommon to hear discussion of the “project of modernity.” It was an academic catch-phrase to describe the social/philosophical/political/religious efforts to construct the modern world. The Enlightenment  (17th-18th centuries) brought new ways of thinking into the mainstream of Western culture (and now the world). It newly imagined the meaning and construction of the State; it pondered and reinvented Christianity; most importantly,…

The Demons of our Time

In 1872, Dostoevsky published his novel, The Demons [Бесы]. It demonstrated in a microcosm, the insanity that lay within the revolutionary movements of 19th century Russia. That insanity broke upon the world in 1917 and has remained present with us, in one form or another, ever since. The madness that he describes takes place in a small town, away from the great capitals of Russia. It involves a relatively small cast of…