The God Who Fights For Us

I was small for my age as a child, and quite thin at that. I liked to play, but was not particularly rugged and did not enjoy sports that involved getting knocked around. I grew up with another “Steve” next door to me, who was big for his age. Inevitably, I was nicknamed “Little Steve,” and he, “Big Steve.” I confess to being glad when he moved away, at least for my…

Getting Your Mind Right

In the classic movie, Cool Hand Luke (1967), the lead character struggles in a Deep South prison chain-gang setting. Very cool towards authority, he is finally, at the Warden’s direction, beaten by the guards. There is a memorable bit of dialog: Luke (lying in a grave he’s been forced to dig): Oh God! Oh God! I pray to God you don’t hit me anymore. I’ll do anything you say, but I can’t…

The Ladder of Divine Ascent and Moral Improvement

The Fourth Sunday of Great Lent in the Orthodox Church, is dedicated to St. John Climacus, the author of the ancient work, The Ladder of Divine Ascent. It is a classic work describing “steps” within the life of the struggling ascetic. There is an icon associated with this work, picturing monastics climbing the rungs of a ladder to heaven, battling demons who are trying to pull them off. However, ladders are dangerous…

You Are Not Your Sin – Part 2…the Chains that Bind

Imagine that you have been shackled with chains on your ankles. The chains are heavy, make a lot of noise, and make it impossible for you to run. You cannot successfully climb over anything or dance. The chains are heavy enough that you quickly become exhausted and are limited in the things you can do and for how long you can do them. Imagine that not only are you shackled, but so…

Knowing the Knowledge that Transforms

“If only I had known…” These are, not infrequently, the words of an apology. They are also an explanation of why we are sometimes the way we are. Ignorance is, in the mind of the Fathers, a major cause of sin. Of course, if sin is understood in a legal/forensic framework, then ignorance would be nothing more than a form of innocence. Not knowing is excusable in most cases. But the teaching…

Judgment with a Mixed Bag

If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? -Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago Solzhenitsyn puts his finger on the…

Feeling Like a Fool

No one wants to feel like a fool. When it happens, our faces flush, we turn our eyes away (usually towards the ground). We usually want to hide or disappear, and, just as likely the burn in our face quickly passes to the hot burn of anger. Often what follows are words or actions we regret later. Having felt like a fool, we often act like one, unable to muster the calm…

Is the Universe Tragic?

Tragedy is among the older forms of story-telling. The ancient Greeks can be said to have perfected it, and theorized about it with great care. One need only read the plays of Aeschylus or Sophocles to come away with a deep appreciation of the very nature of tragedy. I will not offer anything like the sophisticated analysis of Aristotle. However, I will make a single observation that seems apt in thinking about…

An Unnecessary Salvation

One of the oddest thoughts to have crept its way into the Christian mind is the notion of what is “necessary to salvation.” The simple questions within the New Testament, “What must we do to be saved?” quickly become the stuff of bumper-stickers and a reduced version of Christianity unable to sustain a genuine spiritual life. In my seminary years (Anglican), I had a professor who stated that he did not believe…

Modern Illusions

A “better world” and “making a difference” are deeply embedded in our cultural consciousness. They seem to be obvious goals for the human life. My recent articles questioning this consciousness have touched a deep chord for many, some wondering that if such things are wrong, “why bother?” There are two thoughts I want to offer in this article. The first addresses the illusion of the better world and making a difference, while…