Thinking about the Atonement: the Old Testament

It is perhaps significant that there is no obvious and complete explanation of atonement and how it functioned in the Bible.  My guess is that this was because it was too obvious to the ancients to require stating.  People just knew instinctively that they were in need of help and closer union with the gods/ God and that offering sacrifice was the way to make it happen.  Today we look at the…

Patience and Reception

Recently I was asked a very important and perceptive question by a very smart catechumen, a man converting from Roman Catholicism.  He knew that at the Council of Nicea (325 A. D.) the assembled bishops voted for the homoousios teaching of Christ’s full divinity by an overwhelming majority of something like 318 to 2.  He also knew that at the Council of Florence (ca. 1439 A. D.) the assembled bishops also voted…

Is Christianity on the Decline in the West?

This question is often asked by concerned Church people, especially those in the “mainline” churches here in Canada such as the United Church, the Anglican Church, and the Roman Catholic Church.  Church statisticians, usually with long faces and deep voices, solemnly announce that Christianity is on the decline and has been for decades.  One such statistician from the Anglican Church here predicted that by 2040 the Anglican Church could run out of…

The Limits of Christian Obedience

Christians are law-abiding almost by definition.  At the very beginning we were told by Christ to “render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”, without of course rendering to him what belongs not to him, but to God (Matthew 22:21).  Furthermore, Christians believe that they inhabit a hierarchically-governed universe.  That is, even before (Pseudo) Dionysius penned his works in about the late fifth century and painted a portrait wherein all grace flows down…

Icons…and Nationalism

Icons are an essential part of the Orthodox life, and so are found in all Orthodox Churches.  Some churches have just a few icons on the icon screen up front, while other churches have every inch of wall space covered with icons, but all Orthodox churches have icons.  The identification of icons with Orthodoxy is so complete that the annual commemoration of the restoration of icons to the churches after the period…

Angels in our Life

Having looked at the development of angelology in the Scriptures and the figure of the Angel of the Lord, we conclude this series by talking about the role of angels in the life of the Christian.  Their importance can be gauged by their presence in our liturgical tradition.             First, a word of cultural clarification:  the angels in the Orthodox tradition are not the angels as often portrayed in our western culture. …