The Change We Should Believe In

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2Co 3:18) Among the many losses within modern Christianity has been the place of transformation. Nineteenth-century revival movements and theology emphasized a single experience that was associated with salvation. Those who concerned themselves with what came later,…

When Words Fail – The End of Morality

I can think of two experiences where words fail: before the presence of God and in the presence of deep shame. The first is too great and too wondrous for words, the second too bitter and painful. Both are essential for our humanity if it is to be lived to the fullest. They represent not only the boundary of our vocabulary, but also the boundary of our existence. I have stood by…

You Barely Make a Difference and It’s a Good Thing

You are not saving the world. In fact, you barely make a difference. These are harsh words. They are meant like a splash of cold water to wake us up from the dream in which we live. They are by no means meant to say that you don’t matter. In fact, you have infinite value. But your value is not based on saving the world or making a difference. I’ll start at…

Bob, His Doctor, and Your Moral Life

Bob woke up one morning and felt terrible. He had no energy and his head hurt. After a while, he decided to go to see his doctor. When he got there the doctor had a number of questions for him: “Are you eating good meals? A balanced diet?” Bob replied, “Yes.” “Are you getting enough exercise?” the doctor continued. “Yes,” Bob said. “Do you smoke?” “No.” “Then, I think you’re well,” the…

A Gifted Existence

You cannot give thanks for what has not been given to you. This simple maxim goes to the heart of the Christian life. If I steal your money and burn down your house, I cannot offer thanks for what I have done. It was not given to me from God. Anything that is not a gift has the nature of sin. I can give thanks to God that He meets me in…

Understanding Evil and Doing Good

The Fathers commonly spoke of three things together: Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. The three are related. And it is necessary to understand these three in order to understand the nature of evil – both why it is evil and how it behaves. The root of Truth, Beauty and Goodness in the Fathers is Being and Existence. God alone has true Being and all things exist and have their being as a gift…

Math, Reason and Civilization

“If math should suddenly disappear, it would set physics back – a week.” Nobel Prize Winner – Richard Feynman Mathematician’s response: But that week would be the one in which God created the universe. Galileo is said to have remarked that the universe is a wonderful thing, written in the language of mathematics. There is a remarkable correlation between things as we see them and math. Particle physicists have managed, on occasion, to…

A Light Thing

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (Joh 3:19) I have a vivid memory within my childhood of a serious sin. I was probably around seven or eight and an object had captured both my eye and my young heart: a baseball glove. It’s cost was probably less than ten dollars, and yet, a…

A Matter of Life and Death

There are very few categories more basic than life and death. For Classical Christian thinking, they are essential. There has also been a tendency in both theology and philosophy, however, to move away from these fundamental categories and become lost in the complexities of other language. Thinking about the moral life is a prime example. A word like “sin” becomes an obscure subset of legal wrangling and tortured logic. The legacy of…

Dostoevsky and the Sins of the Nation

For many, the idea that we are somehow responsible for the sins of others, or can repent on their behalf is counter-intuitive and deeply troubling. It is distinctly non individualistic. However, it is a cornerstone of Orthodox devotion. Dostoevsky presented a very popular version of this teaching in the words of the fictitious character, the Elder Zosima, in his The Brothers Karamozov. The elder was modeled, many say, on the elders of…