Saving A Democratic Man

Everywhere he goes, he meets his equals. All of the world is open to him, bidding him enter in, take what he wants and go his way. Early on he learns to negotiate his way through competing crowds of others, jostling for position, asking for attention, making his way forward. His direction is a matter for decision – first this way and then that. He migrates at will, following an inner guide…

The Problem with Going to Heaven

“That man might become God…”  On its surface this statement simply sounds blasphemous. Interpreted in a wrong manner, it would  be worse than blasphemous. When read correctly, however, it is the very essence of salvation itself. “To go to heaven…” from my childhood this phrase has been used as the goal of a Christian life. But, interpreted in its most common manner, it is only a Christianized version of paganism. The distinction between…

The Unmoral Christian Revisited

My article, The Un-moral Christian, along with You’re Not Getting Better, have continued to generate conversation around the internet, and within parishes. At least that’s the impression I get from numerous conversations, emails, social media, and even phone calls. Most of those conversations seem to be serious and are engaging the question of how Orthodox Christians should think about the moral life. A recent conversation in my parish has yielded some additional…

The Doors and God

You cannot attend an Orthodox service and not be aware of doors. There are the doors that form the center of the icon screen, opening directly upon the altar. There are the two doors that flank them, one on either side, known as the “Deacon Doors.” Someone always seems to be coming out of one and going into another. One visitor to my parish confessed that the service reminded her of a…

Messiness in the Modern World

Salvation can be messy. I believe this with all my heart and so I state it at the outset of this article. As such, it marks me as a heretic in Modernity. I not only believe that salvation is messy – I believe that messiness is pretty much inherent to salvation. And along with that, I believe that our aversion to messiness (in all things) is a peculiar affliction of the modern…

Abraham at the End of the World

This is an exercise in the Orthodox reading of the Scriptures. My thoughts frequently return to this story and this line of thought. This article is greatly expanded from an earlier version. The habits of modern Christians run towards history: it is a lens through which we see the world. We see a world of cause and effect, and, because the past is older than the present, we look to the past to…

The Problem of Goodness

Though many struggle with the so-called “Problem of Evil,” the greater moral problem is that of goodness. How do we account for goodness in the world – particularly self-sacrificing heroic goodness? It is not uncommon for a person in a dangerous situation to place their own life at risk in order to save the life of another. It is by no means universal (some act first to save themselves or are paralyzed…

Theophany and the Gates of Hades

For an Orthodox priest, the services of the Church involve many “comings and goings.” Part of any service takes place within the altar area, which is usually enclosed by an iconostasis, a wall on which icons are hung. The wall does not truly separate one area of the Church from another so much as it marks one area off from another – the space of the Church is itself an icon. But…

The Un-Moral Christian

In recent articles I have challenged the place of contemporary morality in the Christian life. Some have had difficulty with this, wondering how we should then think about the commandments that are directed towards our behavior. Others have suggested that my challenge is merely semantic. There are certainly semantic distinctions being made here – but the reason for them is important and goes beyond mere words. But if it is not proper to think…

Going to Hell with the Terrorists and Torturers

In 988, Prince Vladimir of Kiev was Baptized and embraced the Christian faith. Among his first acts as a Christian ruler were to tithe his wealth to the Church and the poor, and to outlaw capital punishment and torture. It is said that the Bishops advising him counseled him that he might need to keep the torture in order to rule effectively. This anecdote has always brought a wry smile to my…