The True Science of God

I had occasion this week to stand in a group of scientists. I was burying one of their own. The city I live in is a “science city,” the location of one of the primary national labs in the US. I have lived here for over 25 years. I have gotten to know many scientists. When they are at their best (and science at its best), wonder forms a large part of…

Self-Emptying Prayer

We are told that Christ “emptied Himself” in His death on the Cross (Philippians 2:5-11). Further, we are told that this self-emptying is to be the “mind” that we ourselves have. It is possible to grasp that such self-emptying can be practiced in our dealings with others when we place them above ourselves – when the “other” is our greater concern. But how is this possible in prayer? How do we empty…

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,…

Do You Care Too Much?

What do you care about? Are there issues and situations that trouble you and serve as emotional triggers? Do you care about things that are beyond your control? Does this make you feel powerless and frustrated? It is more than possible that you care too much. More than that, it is possible that caring itself is distorted in our culture. To the point, “caring” can easily be sinful if it is rightly…

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…

Wrestling with God

One of the most interesting stories in the Old Testament is found in Genesis 32. There we hear the story of Jacob wrestling with God. Or is it the story of Jacob wrestling with an angel? Jacob had to face his brother Esau the next day. His anxiety comes through even in that ancient account. The text says that Jacob wrestled “with a Man.” But this is not the end of the…

Get Real for Lent

According to St. Basil, God is the “only truly Existing.” Our own existence is a gift from God who is our Creator. None of us has “self-existing” life. We exist because God sustains us in existence – in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). Sin is the rejection of this gift of God – a movement away from true existence. +++ Much of our attention in the modern world is engaged…

St. Mary of Egypt and Moral Progress

The suggestion has been made several times recently that my criticism of moral progress is not supported by the example of the saints. Surely, it is said, the transformations we read about in the lives of the saints are clear examples of moral progress. A noted such example, perhaps the greatest story of repentance and asceticism known in the Church, is that of St. Mary of Egypt. It is worth looking carefully at her…

Let’s Get Physical

If you go to the self-help section of a bookstore, any bookstore, you see row upon row of books, all promising another method to change or fix how you think, feel or imagine. It is as though we were certain that our lives would be great if only we could think feel or imagine better than we do now. Even Orthodox titles can hold a certain promise: Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives…

Saintless Christianity

What would Christianity mean if there were no saints? To rephrase the question: What would be the meaning of the Christian gospel if there were no wonderworkers, no people who had been transfigured with the Divine Light, no clairvoyant prophets, no healers, no people who had raised the dead, no ascetics living alone in the deserts for years on end, no beacons of radical, all-forgiving love?  What would be the meaning of…