What Do Words Mean in a One-Storey Universe?

It seems to me that much of our religious vocabulary, defined many times within the past 500 years, is enculturated to speak a two-storey world (see the previous post for an explanation of two-storey world). Words such as “faith,” “believe,” and their relatives belong somehow to a portion of the world that is not first-storey. They are keys to the second storey, and are therefore unconvincing to the ultimate modern one-storey folk,…

The Mystery of Salvation

There is a song I recall from my childhood – sung by John Hartford – in which the operative phrase is, “I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t been there…” It runs the permutations on life’s possibilities. One thing leads to another. It is this connectedness that always seems to trump the power of choice that adds one of the greater mysteries to life. I know that I “chose” to marry my…

Finding the Problems at Home – Its All in Your Mind

If you like history (as I do) then there is always a temptation to look to history for answers. It is certainly the case that the present has much of its situation from the givens it inherited in its history. But we are none us completely explained by our forebears. I certainly have aspects inherited from my parents, but my personal world is still not the sole result of long historical forces…

Theology, the Slavophiles, and the Parish Church

Ivan Kireevsky was born on April 3, 1806, and became in the course of his lifetime one of the leading intellectual forces in the group who would later be called the Slavophiles. They were interested in a revival in Russian thought, particularly along lines they considered distinctly Russian – in comparison to Western thought. Many have noted their errors: sometimes they went too far in making distinctions with the West; sometimes they…

Via Negativa

One of the strongest hallmarks of Orthodox theology is its preference for the apophatic approach to God. By apophatic is meant, “that which cannot be spoken.” There are certain positive affirmations we can make about God, but there are many more things that we can affirm by what we do not say. Fr. Thomas Hopko is famously quoted as saying, “You cannot know God. But you have to know Him to know…

Christ Crucified

Writing to the Corinthians, St. Paul makes one his most famous statements: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1Cor. 2:2). It is among the clearest definitions of the apostolic preaching to be found anywhere in the New Testament, or perhaps I should say, “everywhere in the New Testament.” For this is not a statement of the peculiar doctrine of St. Paul, but a plain…

Where I Saw Beauty

Beauty is a deeply theological word. In both Hebrew and Greek, when God creates the world He says: “It is good (beautiful).” The word carries both meanings. I believe that to encounter Beauty is, in some way to encounter God, for it simply transcends our ability to comprehend, to challenge or even to recreate. I have always stood in marvel at artists (my youngest daughter is one). Watching them in their work seems…

Where Have You Seen Beauty?

Within the bounds of propriety I will pose the following question: Where have you encountered Beauty and how did it relate to God? I’m just interested in hearing some stories. Be reasonable about length. But bear witness to what you have seen. I’ve written about “music from another room,” my first encounter with Rachmaninov’s Vespers. I could add to that my first encounter with a couple of famous icons. In each case,…

All Things Work Together for Good

The doctrine of Divine Providence, stated in various fashions, has always been problematic for me. Years ago it was problematic because I wrestled with issues of human freedom and how they related to God’s good provision. Today it is less an issue of freedom and more an issue of faith. Simply believing on a day to day basis that God is doing good for me in all the things that happen. Famously,…

Revisiting the Problem of Goodness

I first wrote and published this reflection back in May. It seemed relevant to recent discussions. I have added an additional reflection at the end that I think is worthwhile. I hope you find this useful.  From my first class in Philosophy 101 in college, the so-called “Problem of Evil” has been tossed up as the “clincher” in arguments against the existence of God. How can a good God allow innocent people…