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. …

The Angel of the Lord

In our last post we looked at the long process whereby angelology developed in the Bible.  Now we will look at one particular aspect of this:  the mal’ak Yahweh, “Yahweh’s messenger”, usually translated “the Angel of the Lord”. We have seen that the Hebrew word mal’ak could mean several things.  In Genesis 32:3 it meant the human messengers that Jacob sent on ahead to meet Esau.  In Psalm 104:4 it referred to…

Angels: A Long Development

In order to fully understand angels in the Bible it helps to embrace a bit of temporary amnesia and forget most of what we know about angels.  That is because angelology has undergone a long development from its ancient Near Eastern pre-history before the days of the Bible to its final formulation at the hands of St. John of Damascus (d. ca. 749 A.D.) and we must avoid the temptation to anachronistically…