God By The Numbers

Math is very strange stuff. A serious question within the community of science and math is whether math is an invention or a discovery. Is it something that we have just made up out of our head, or is it something we observed and discovered (because it is already there)? This might sound like a silly thing to wonder about, but it is indeed most serious. The ancients (Plato in particular) thought…

Making It Up in America

As I noted in my previous article, stories are essential in the formation of character. We do not simply exist, we think about our existence and are driven to make sense of it. The sense we make takes the form of a story. For people in the contemporary world, this is simply problematic. Stanley Hauerwas states the essence of the problem: The project of modernity was to produce people who believe they…

Human Tradition in a Modern World

Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.  – Monty Python and the Holy Grail The comic genius of Monty Python often shows it face when interjecting the present into the past. The charming Arthurian legend of the transmission of Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake is demolished with the…

A Gifted Existence

You cannot give thanks for what has not been given to you. This simple maxim goes to the heart of the Christian life. If I steal your money and burn down your house, I cannot offer thanks for what I have done. It was not given to me from God. Anything that is not a gift has the nature of sin. I can give thanks to God that He meets me in…

The Priest’s Wife

It is hard to explain to the non-Orthodox the position and role of a priest’s wife. As a priest with an Anglican background, my family life extends to both Protestant and Orthodox experience.  I have been married for 40 years and ordained for 35 of those years. I cannot imagine my life or my ministry without my wife.  Despite the experience of married priests, the canons of the Church in the West…

A Practicing Christian

My father was an auto mechanic. He learned the trade by working on cars (airplanes before that in the war). He liked his work and would come home in the evenings with stories of things he had diagnosed and fixed. I thought he was amazing. Stanley Hauerwas tells similar stories about his own father who was a brick mason. A brick mason learns his trade by working with another mason until he…

The Need to Know

There is a deep nagging sense in our culture of the “need to know.” We want to know government secrets, intimate details of private lives, pretty much everything. I think this felt need is often present because we lack trust in those who are keeping secrets. We want to know what they’re up to. The secrets of other lives, however, are interesting to us, primarily out of envy and a strange curiosity.…

Things You Can’t Invent

Most of the things in our lives are not of our own making – they were given to us. Our language, our culture, the whole of our biology and the very gift of life itself is something that has been “handed down” to us. In that sense, we are all creatures of “tradition” (traditio=“to hand down”). Of course, these things that are not of our own making and are the least controllable…

History’s Detectives

The search for the historical anything is an exercise in fantasy and imagination, a good movie, but not good for much else. C.S. Lewis noted that reviewers of his books, speculating on how they were written and other such intimate historical matters, were almost universally wrong. He wondered out loud why we should presume historical critics of the past, sometimes of a past stretching back for millennia, should be taken at all…

Marriage as a Lifetime of Suffering

When couples come to ministers to talk about their marriage ceremonies, ministers think it’s interesting to ask if they love one another. What a stupid question! How would they know? A Christian marriage isn’t about whether you’re in love. Christian marriage is giving you the practice of fidelity over a lifetime in which you can look back upon the marriage and call it love. It is a hard discipline over many years.…