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…

Why We Fast

This Sunday, November 15, marks the beginning of the Nativity Fast (40 days before Christmas). The following article offers some thoughts on the purpose of fasting. Fasting is not very alive and well in the Christian world. Much of that world has long lost any living connection with the historical memory of Christian fasting. It is as though they were Jews who heard there was such a thing as kosher and decided…

Unecumenism and the Sins of All

The concept of the One Church shifted during the Reformation. I offer a case in point as well as a reflection on how it changes our current understanding. The old Anglican Book of Common Prayer offers one of the early examples of a subtle shift in Christian thinking and speech. In the Thanksgiving after Communion we read: Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee for that thou dost feed us, in…

Consequences of the One Church – Unecumenism

In thinking through a theological question, I often engage in thought experiments. The Fathers might call it a form of theoria, but I won’t presume that word for myself. But what I do is to make a concerted effort to let go of unexamined assumptions. I look at a different set of assumptions and ask, “What if that were true?” The result many times yields a dead end. But knowledge of dead ends can…

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…

No One Is Saved Alone

“If anyone falls, he falls alone. But no one is saved alone.” – Alexei Khomiakov Roughly 25 years ago I quit smoking. I never think about it now – it has become a thing of the distant past. But I can remember a period of about 10 years in which I struggled to quit. I would make up my mind, throw things away, make a clean sweep, and be back puffing away before…

Male and Female at the Cross – Part Three

In my last article, I reflected on the hiddenness of our identity, including the meaning of being male or female. Our true life is hid with Christ in God. There is more to be said on this hiddenness and its relationship to the image according to which we were created. In the Genesis account, when God created man and woman, He created them “in His image.” Most people fail to ask what…

Male and Female Created He Them – Part One

Please note that I have made some changes in this article, in listening to comments and observations. Despite all social discussion to the contrary, the most irreducible level of our human existence is binary – we exist as male or female. This intuition, stated in the story of creation, has a profound place within the Christian gospel. The story of our salvation is revealed to us in terms that are male and female. Far…

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…

The Sins of a Nation

Can a nation ever sin? If so, how can it be forgiven? The stories and prophetic writings of the Old Testament are replete with examples of national sin. There are certainly stories of God dealing with individuals, but, on the whole, His attention seems to be directed to Israel and other nations as a whole. The promises and pledges are made to a collective people and the chastisement falls on the whole…