Unavoidable Suffering and Salvation – The Way of Shame

At the heart of the modern narrative is a concern to alleviate and even eliminate suffering. This understanding is rooted in the Christian virtue of compassion. In many ways, however, modern compassion has been detached from its original context and become a thing-in-itself. Modernity is an arena where compassion has run amok, and, ironically, promises to create new and unique miseries in its wake. The Christian gospel is deeply entwined with the…

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…

Unecumenism – The Saving Union

My recent articles on the Church drew attention to the topic of union and its importance within the life of the Church – indeed, it is the life of the Church. Orthodox theology, when rightly considered, has a “seamless” quality: everything fits and one thing enlightens another. Perhaps the single most important thread in this seamless quality can be summed up in the term union. The word for union (ἕνωσις) does not actually…

A Purpose-filled Life

The project of modernity was to produce people who believe they should have no story except the story they choose when they had no story. Such a story is called a story of freedom – institutionalized economically as capitalism and politically as democracy. That story, and the institutions that embody it, is the enemy we must attack through Christian preaching.  Stanley Hauerwas, “Sanctify Them in the Truth,” 197-198. +++ The chart I…

Weak, Sick, Poor and Tired: A Story for Losers

The American Dream is embodied in strength. Gen. George Patton famously said, “America loves to win and cannot abide a loser.” The spirituality of winning is probably the fastest growing and most attractive version of “Christianity” to be found on the American scene. Mega Churches, seating 10’s of thousands have sprung up as temples of success. Nobody wants to be sick. The dependence it fosters, the way it changes and shapes a life…

Is Hell Real?

Because sometimes the people of God need a basic lesson in the nature of existence… On one of the roads leading into my small city a billboard has recently appeared. It is part of a larger campaign by a nationally known evangelist who is to have a revival in Knoxville. The sign is simple. In very large bright yellow letters (all caps), the sign says: HELL IS REAL. In small letters beneath…

The Cruciform Human

In my March lecture in San Francisco, I made an assertion that is worth isolating for an article. That assertion is that we are created in the image of the Crucified Christ, and that this is essential in understanding what it means to be human. I have been asked where I got such an idea. The most simple answer is: the Scriptures. Arguably, the first reference to the Crucified Christ occurs in…

The Poetry of God

Whoever wants to become a Christian must first become a poet. – St. Pophyrios of Kavsokalyvia St. Porphyrios made this statement in the context of love and suffering: That’s what it is! You must suffer. You must love and suffer–suffer for the one you love. Love makes effort for the loved one. She runs all through the night; she stays awake; she stains her feet with blood in order to meet her beloved.…

The Work That Saves

Do we cooperate in our salvation? Do our efforts make a difference? These questions lie at the heart of a centuries-old religious debate in Christianity. Classically, the Protestant reformers said, “No,” to these questions, arguing that we are saved solely and utterly by God’s grace, His unmerited favor. The Catholic Church replied that “faith without works” is dead and that faith alone is insufficient. This debate, with various twists and turns, has…

Get Out of Hell Free

The Saturday before Palm Sunday is known as Lazarus Saturday among the Orthodox, and they celebrate Christ raising him from the dead just prior to His entrance into Jerusalem (gospel of John). It is a feast that offers something of a preview of Christ’s resurrection, and a foretaste of the General Resurrection at the End of the Age. Some years back I sat in a cave that is purported to be the grave of…