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…

The Bridegroom and Judgment

Behold, the Bridegroom comes at midnight, and blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching; and again, unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless.  Beware, therefore, O my soul, do not be weighed down with sleep, lest you be given up to death and lest you be shut out of the Kingdom.  But rouse yourself crying: Holy, holy, holy, art Thou, O our God.  Through the Theotokos, have mercy on us. +…

Our Conciliar Salvation

I consider it both a strange mystery and a settled matter of the faith that God prefers not to do things alone. Repeatedly, He acts in a manner that involves the actions of others when it would seem, He could have acted alone. Why would God reveal His Word to the world through the agency of men? Why would He bother to use writing? Why not simply communicate directly with people? Why…

More Thoughts on Hell

In my recent article on hell, I offered what I called a “lesson in ontology” (the study of being). It was a way of understanding what it means to say something is real and true, and the nature of existence as a gift. But in describing hell as not “real,” many readers immediately concluded that I was saying that there is no such thing as hell. This occasioned legitimate questions about those…

The Real Hell – Is There Such a Thing?

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…

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…

Baptism and the Final Destruction of Demons

Final is not a word you often hear in Christian teaching. Most Christians leave the final things until, well, the End. But this is not the language of the fathers nor of the Church. A good illustration can be found in the Orthodox service of Holy Baptism. During the blessing of the waters the priest prays: And grant to [this water] the grace of redemption, the blessing of Jordan. Make it the…

Falling Between the Cracks

... human nature is created and so, is unavoidably mortal; with death man’s entire psychosomatic being comes to an end. All of his psychological and mental functions cease to function: his self-conscience, reasoning, judgment, memory, imagination, and desire. Man is no longer able to function through the parts of the body in order to speak, to call to memory, to distinguish, to desire, to reason, to be impassioned, and to see”  St.…

Saving Mary

“Most Holy Theotokos, save us!” At these words, heard frequently in an Orthodox service, Protestant visitors often have fear and trembling in their limbs. “How can this not be idolatry?” they wonder. “How can a mere human being save me? They are worshiping Mary!” The language of Mary’s role in the life of salvation is certainly scandalous. But the reaction reveals not the error and idolatry of the Orthodox, but the great…

Wrath!

Wrath! This is the famous opening word of Homer’s Iliad. Many translations in English fail to sufficiently convey the power of the word and its place as the opening utterance in this ancient classic. For non-classicists, citing Homer’s Iliad might mean very little. The cultural knowledge of our modern world with regard to the ancient is abysmal (as is our knowledge of even the past half-century). Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey were in…