The Divine Compass

I was in a small shop yesterday in a coastal town. Among its many knick-knacks were a large variety of compasses. We have become a compass-driven culture today, after a lull in which they were largely passé. Of course, the compass is now a very passive thing, hidden within the workings of the resident GPS system in our phones. There has long been a debate about the presence of an “inner compass”…

The Long-Range Option

  In 1981, Alasdair MacIntyre published his book, After Virtue. He offered a historical analysis of the breakdown of moral conversation, essentially noting that a once classical agreement about the grounds of moral thought and action had been shattered into many conversations, most of which were incompatible and mutually contradictory. To make matters worse, he noted that a single speaker was likely to change moral horses in mid-stream. His conclusion was that…

A Truly Rational Faith

St. Paul notes that “faith works through love” (Gal. 5:6). This describes the very heart of the ascetic life. Only love extends itself in the self-emptying struggle against the passions without becoming lost in the solipsism of asceticism for its own sake. It is love that endures the contradictions of reality without turning away or reducing them. And it is love that finally comprehends the reality hidden within the contradictions that confront…

A Simple, Great Soul

For a variety of reasons, I have been spending a fair amount of time with A.I. Solzhenitsyn, the great Russian writer who died in 2008. I am working through a collection of his writings and have been watching videos on his life along with detailed interviews. If any man lived through the maelstrom of the 20th century, it was he. Born in 1918 to a pious, Orthodox family, he was raised by…

Learning Like a Saint

The preparation for Baptism in the early Church often lasted as long as three years. Of deep significance is the fact that during that three-year period, many basic doctrines were not explored. The “mystagogical catechesis” (instruction in the sacramental mysteries of the Church) did not begin until after Baptism. What, we may wonder, were they doing for those first three years, and on what basis were individuals making lifetime conversion decisions? If…

Why Does God Hide?

God hides. God makes Himself known. God hides. This pattern runs throughout the Scriptures. A holy hide-and-seek, the pattern is not accidental nor unintentional. It is rooted in the very nature of things in the Christian life. Christianity whose God is not hidden is not Christianity at all. But why is this so? In my previous article, I wrote: Our faith is about learning to live in the revealing of things that…

The Church and the Cross

The following article is a series I wrote during the early months of the blog. I think it worth reprinting (surely people aren’t going back to read everything I’ve written). It is also available in the “Pages” section of the blog. As the Sunday of the Cross is this weekend, I offer this as a meditation for that event.  Part I Writing to the young Timothy (first letter) St. Paul gives this homey…

Do You Know God?

My childhood was surrounded with very committed Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians. Street preaching was quite common and even expected. In the downtown, the bus stopped in front of the Dollar Store before it made its trip to the Southside where I lived. Those waiting for buses were a captive audience. Saturdays especially brought bright young men with floppy Bibles and crew-cuts. They were largely students from Bob Jones University. They expounded a version…

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…

When Belief Is Complicated

“It’s complicated.” This statement sums up much of the modern experience. I don’t think the world we encounter is actually complicated – but our experience is. Simplicity is the reflection of an inner world free of conflicts and undercurrents. The truth of the modern inner-world is that it is generally pulled in many directions. Modernity is a juncture in history – a place where many rivers meet to form one raging torrent. The…