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…

Forgiveness – Do We Know What We’re Doing?

The first service of Great Lent in the Orthodox Church is “Forgiveness Vespers,” served on the eve of Monday of the First Week. There is nothing unusual about the service itself – other than the “rite of forgiveness” appended to it. In this, the priest and the faithful ask forgiveness of one another. Often this is done with mutual prostrations. Each asks the forgiveness of the other. The rite can take time,…

With Envy and Justice for All

We use many words and concepts in our daily lives without bothering to consider their true content. In my experience, few words are less examined than “justice.” It is a word that is foundational in the modern world with deep roots in religious tradition. Most people would agree that the desire for justice is virtually innate in human beings. However, it has a dark side of which very few seem to be…

Face to Face

Nothing about the human body is as intimate as the face. We generally think of other aspects of our bodies when we say “intimate,” but it is our face that reveals the most about us. It is the face we seek to watch in order to see what others are thinking, or even who they are. The importance of the face is emphasized repeatedly in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament, it…

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…

The Death of Christ on the Cross – the Life of Man

Several years ago, someone wrote and asked, “Why did Christ have to die on the Cross?” It is the question that prompted this article. On September 14th (New Calendar), the Church marks the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross. It is a fitting time to ask, “Why did Christ have to die?” His death and resurrection are the utter foundation of the Christian faith. Either we can answer this question, or…

My Daddy’s Demon

I hesitated before I wrote “My Daddy’s Demon,” as a title for this article – I mean no disrespect for my father. But it is a reference to my own life, for as I’ve grown older, I discover that the things I wrestle with are not very different than those with which my father wrestled. Perhaps his father wrestled with them as well. Recently I wrote that “we are all connected.” This…

Irony and Belief

Irony is probably too much to ask of youth. If I can remember myself in my college years, the most I could muster was sarcasm. Irony required more insight. There is a deep need for the appreciation of irony to sustain a Christian life. Our world is filled with contradiction. Hypocrisy is ever present even within our own heart. The failures of Church and those who are most closely associated with it…

Therapeutic Substitutionary Atonement

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures… (1 Cor. 15:3-4) No statement is more central to the Christian faith than St. Paul’s rehearsal of the Apostolic Tradition – for his words “delivered…received…” are specifically the words that describe the…

Sweet Commandments

Somewhere in the early ’70’s, I recall being in a group of Church youth. They were singing a song based on Psalm 19: The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring…