Interviewed on Ancient Faith Radio

Ancient Faith Radio interviewed me yesterday on the launch of the American Orthodox Institute (AOI). Listen here.

Comments

  1. Excellent interview! It brings to light the essence of AOI in a clear, reasoned, and very professional tone. You would think Fr. Hans had been doing these interviews for years. Great work!

    More audio segments like this would help bring the light of truth and moral clarity to a culture that thirsts for it. I know I feel illumined, even though I had heard Fr. Hans speak and write about these same issues previously. There’s something about the spoken word that connects with one’s mind and soul that’s really powerful.

  2. I listened to the podcast and I wish I could be excited about AOI but, to be honest I find it alarming.

    If it is anything like this website, it will have very little to do with Orthodoxy and more to do with Conservative political ideology. In addition, the last thing we need here in America is more Orthodox Ecumenism. The big three, those who desire to be in communion with one another do that enough already. Blinded by money and power, they forget that simply converting Protestants to Orthodoxy is not the finish line for those people but, rather the starting line, If we do not effectively teach them Orthodoxy, it is of little benefit to them and we are perceived as just another “flavor” of Christianity.

    Remember, Conservatives are cut from the same mold as Liberals and only differ by how close they are from accomplishing the common goal they both share, Humanism. Neither of which are truly compatible with Orthodoxy.

    Molding our faith so that it better appeals to the American culture is a really bad idea. We should preserve the Teaching and Traditions of Christ’s Church for future generations, not water it down
    into politically correct sound bites. (This is basically what the Orthodoxy Today website does)

    I wish you the best of luck in any good things your may accomplish and pray to God the damage is minimal. Please do not forget to teach them of God’s love for His creation.

  3. Christopher says:

    note #2:

    If it is anything like this website, it will have very little to do with Orthodoxy and more to do with Conservative political ideology.

    As far as I can tell, this site is about the meeting point of Christianity with “the culture”, which necessarily includes politics. Perhaps you are a political liberal, and don’t like the tension of your politics and Christianity. Perhaps your “apolitical” and don’t like the tension between Christianity (which is not apolitical) and yourself. What ever the reason, I can’t agree with your characterization.

    In addition, the last thing we need here in America is more Orthodox Ecumenism.

    As far as I can tell, AOI has nothing to do with ecumenism. I agree we don’t need any more of that.

    Remember, Conservatives are cut from the same mold as Liberals and only differ by how close they are from accomplishing the common goal they both share, Humanism. Neither of which are truly compatible with Orthodoxy.

    Ah, so your not apolitical. I disagree that conservativism is about Humanism, at least not in the connotation you are likely using Humanism. Conservativism (as a political position) is very much compatible with Christianity, liberalism is very much not.

    http://www.kirkcenter.org/kirk/thought.html

    not water it down into politically correct sound bites. (This is basically what the Orthodoxy Today website does)

    I don’t think so. Not to say it is not problematic, but this is a caricature. It seems to me it’s more of an experiment, a good faith effort to engage the culture and find a language that post humans can somehow use to hear the Gospel.

  4. CFL Conservative says:

    Molding our faith so that it better appeals to the American culture is a really bad idea. We should preserve the Teaching and Traditions of Christ’s Church for future generations, not water it down
    into politically correct sound bites. (This is basically what the Orthodoxy Today website does)

    A reverence for hardwork, the ability to spontaneously organize to meet challenges like Katrina, a commitment to individual liberties, concern for neighbors, social responsibility, exceptionally giving rates to charity, volunteerism, a dedication to education (witness the rise of homeschooling), and a spirit of innovation second to none leading to a tremendous rise in the living standards of the world.

    Are those the American values which are so incompatible with Orthodoxy?

    Look, I’ve been as hard as anybody on some American suppositions which are grounded in the Puritan ideals of America as the ‘New Israel.’

    We aren’t the ‘New Israel.’ The Orthodox Church is the new Israel, and I am highly critical of those who confuse the United States and its role in the world with that of the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

    But, at the same time, the idea that the sum of our whole culture is Britney Spears and is in need of being consigned to the garbage heap is just plain crazy.

    The United States is a unique nation with a unique culture which grew out of the Anglo-Saxon cultural tradition. The Orthodox Church, if it is serious about becoming the majority church in the United States, needs to engage, baptize, and transform that culture. There are many admirable parts of it that should be kept, some things need to be dropped, and others need to be modified.

    This same process took place in every nation the Orthodox Church entered, whether Kievan Russia or ancient Serbia.

    It should be no different here. The fact that we are doing it differently here is one reason why we have failed to live up to our obligation to be the One, True Church.

    I know that a lot of Orthodox are more comfortable being in little enclaves, either out of ethnicity or because they like to play at being Gnostics with their secret knowledge of the ‘true church.’ But that isn’t the role we are called to play.

    This is the universal church. It is ‘Catholic’ and ‘Orthodox.’ The goal should be to convert the United States, a no more impossible task than once upon a time converting the whole Roman Empire.

  5. Michael Bauman says:

    CFLConservative. I agree with your analysis. The Orthodox missonary approach has always been to listen and perceive what is a reflection of divine wisdom, then to tell the rest of the story. That is not easy. Personally, my experience here has led me to the conclusion that it was far easier to tell the rest of the story to real pagans than to tear out chapter after chapter of the story that has become like an H.P. Lovecraft version of Christianity that has been written by what Christopher aptly calls post-human philosophy. How does one convey sacredness and holiness to people who have systematically stripped sacredness from their lives and laugh at even the possibility of holiness as insanity.

    However, if we simply “try to perserve” what we have been given, we will be as the unfruitful servant who was thrown into outer darkness because he simply buried the master’s money.

    There is nothing to perserve anyway, only to share and to live.

    IMO we have to be prophetic before we can evangelize.

  6. CFL Conservative says:

    Hey Michael,

    We probably want to start by actually trying to present Orthodoxy in an understandable way:
    http://www.ststephenoca.com/phpBB/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=200

  7. Christopher says:

    We probably want to start by actually trying to present Orthodoxy in an understandable way:

    IMO that starts with “American Orthodoxy”, not “Pan-Orthodox”, let alone “Russian/Greek/Arab/etc. Orthodox”. We really don’t have such a thing yet in America. Frankly, we are not ready for much more than ghetto status. I look at Fr. Jacobse’ AOI project as at least indirectly related to this, in that it (correct me if I am wrong here Fr. Jacobse) a moral witness to the culture would have to produce (assuming it is successful) a moral vocabulary and set of tactics that American Orthodoxy would quite naturally adopt.

  8. CFL Conservative says:

    Christopher –

    I agree. The key is to present Orthodoxy in a context that is understandable for Americans. Part of that process is defining Orthodoxy as ‘mere Christianity,’ and stripping off any kind of foreign nationalism.

    Becoming Orthodox means returning to the church of the Apostles, it does not involve changing nationalities. Nor does it mean that all things American are somehow fit only for the garbage can.

    There is much that is right and honorable in our national tradition. However, much of that cultural treasure is being lost as the dominant religious traditions in the U.S. are not structured to preserve and transmit culture. Rather, they are themselves constantly chasing the ‘new thing.’

    But, how does one build an American Orthodoxy? One person at a time, one parish at a time. I can’t make the bishops behave in a certain way, but I certainly can do something about my parish. We roll out the red carpet for visitors. We do all our services in English. We go to community events and present ourselves as church. That we have parishes doing this is a step in the right direction.

    The AOI is another step in the right direction. Orthodoxy Today is a step in the right direction. The current focus at OCN is another.

    Sooner or later, these streams will converge. Of that, I have no doubt at all.

  9. Christopher writes: “a moral witness to the culture would have to produce (assuming it is successful) a moral vocabulary and set of tactics that American Orthodoxy would quite naturally adopt.”

    That sounded somewhat muddled, but I’m assuming you meant to say that to be a moral witness, the Orthodox would have to adopt a vocabulary and set of tactics that does not also go against Orthodox teaching.

    When your response to a question is “Don’t answer that!”, when you call people who disagree with you “trolls” and “jacka**es” and other things bordering on profanity, when you label people who don’t immediately “get” Orthodoxy as “ignorant” and when any attempt to hold up your beliefs to any degree of analysis is labeled as an “attack”, I’m wondering what kind of tactics you had in mind. Do you think this approach will be embraced warmly by a skeptical public who have seen case after case of pious men caught in scandal after scandal?

    You’re in for a rude awakening, Christopher.

    Again, from what I’ve read of Orthodox theology, I think it has some good ideas to offer, so I hope that it finds some more eloquent spokesmen. I think Fr. Hans will do just fine, though. He never compromises but is usually gracious even as he shoots down your ideas. ;-)

  10. Michael Bauman says:

    There is a time for graciousness and a time for a 2X4 between the eyes. When I use the term ignorant it is not pejorative. Everyone is ignorant. I would point out to you James, that you have been given, politely, many recommendations to reduce your ignorance. Your posts seem to indicate that you either do not care to avail yourself of the opportunity to learn, don’t have the time, are not serious about your questions in the first place or (unlikely)do not have the capacity to understand. Speaking for myself when someone continues to proudly display their ignorance despite many apparently ignored opportunities to reduce it, I go for the 2X4. I’ve benefited a time or two in my own life by someone caring enough to, figuratively, whack me a good one. (Ignore and ignorant are quite similar don’t you think?)

    It’s kinda like the story of the famous mule trainer: A man had just bought a young brace of mules with good confirmation and blood lines, they just needed to be trained. The owner hired as trainer the man with the best reputation around. The trainer came the 1st day, walked up to the mules and whacked them hard between the eyes with a 2X4. The owner objected and asked why in the world the trainer had done that? The trainer just said, “You’ve got to get their attention first”.

    A note of Fr. Seraphim: He was not shy in expressing the truth and calling people to it. He made a lot of folks mad–he still does. In his early public statements he tended to get into disputations, later, he would simply make his statement to the best of his understanding and ability and let it go.

  11. Mrs. Missourian says:

    Note 10, JamesK, not fair, not true

    When your response to a question is “Don’t answer that!”, when you call people who disagree with you “trolls” and “jacka**es” and other things bordering on profanity, when you label people who don’t immediately “get” Orthodoxy as “ignorant” and when any attempt to hold up your beliefs to any degree of analysis is labeled as an “attack”, I’m wondering what kind of tactics you had in mind. Do you think this approach will be embraced warmly by a skeptical public who have seen case after case of pious men caught in scandal after scandal?

    Not true, JamesK, people have responded to your questions in great detail over many posts. Your claim is nothing more than trumped up victimization.

  12. Mrs. Missourian says:

    What is a troll?

    A person is a troll if he disagrees so fundamentally with the people that he is speaking with that there is virtually no chance of finding any intellectual common ground. Decide for yourself whether you are a troll here.

    Modern mathematicians developed a form of geometry in which the shortest distince between two points is NOT a straight-line. It is called Non-Euclidean geometry. It is a somewhat bizarre creation that has its own logic. By contrast, in standard, Euclidean geometry the shortest distance between two points is always a straight line. (Euclidean geometry is what is taught in most high schools.)

    If two mathematicians are discussing geometry, they must identify the system in which they are operating: Euclidean or Non-Euclidean. Theorems developed in one system do not hold true in the other. This is what being a troll is all about. Arguing across systems where no intellectual progress can be made.

  13. Dean Scourtes says:

    But what if one school of mathematicians claimed to speak for the “true” mathematics, publically branded all other mathematicians as “anti-math”, and even extended the scope of knowlege where they claimed to own the absolute truth beyond math and into matters of politics and economics, for example.

    Would the other school of mathematicians have no recourse but to day after day, suffer seeing the name of Mathematics which they revered attached to concepts and ideas that they profoundly disagreed with? Or could the other school of mathematicians engage their mathematical rivals in discussion in an attempt to deconstruct and better understand the underlying intellectual premises of their respective positions in order to find common ground.

  14. Michael Bauman says:

    Dean Scoutes., when you are not flaming about Bush or posting irrelevancies, you have a remarkable ability to demonstrate contempt for the faith you say you hold while at the same time miss repesenting the faith and the postings of those with whom you disagree. Sometimes you manage to do all of that in a single post. I must confess I am totally incapable of developing any empathy for your thought (and I have tried). I come away from each of your posts more and more saddened.

  15. Michael Bauman says:

    Dean Scourtes. Sorry about miss spelling your name. You might want to consider your last post in the light of this from Fr. Stehpen Freeman:

    The Pearl of Great Price
    October 16th, 2007 by fatherstephen

    Christ told the parable of a merchant in search of fine pearls, who when he had found one truly great one, sold all that he had and bought the pearl – ever since known as the “pearl of great price.” What Christ refers to in the parable, of course, is the Kingdom of God. And lest we confuse anyone – the Kingdom means everything – God Himself and all that you could possibly hunger for as well.

    Of course the problem about searching for Great Pearls is that they are only found among many false pearls, and many pearls of far lesser value. More than the “needle in the haystack” – it’s finding a pearl among pearls – even if all pearls are not alike.

    It is easy at some point to say, “Well, after all, a pearl is a pearl, and even if this pearl is not THAT pearl, it’s still a pearl.” Which, of course, is all true, but beside the point. You wouldn’t sell all that you have in order to buy just any pearl. And, in truth, as the parable is structured, no other pearl will do.

    Searching for that pearl today, the Kingdom of God, the Fullness of the Faith, etc., we have, of course, many pearls, and many stories about the nature of pearls.

    Some say there is no real Great Pearl, that this is just an ideal and all pearls, no matter how poor, really partake in the excellence of that true, abstract pearl. So take this one, please.

    Others say that there are no Great Pearls to be found among us, just lots of lesser pearls. And the point is to pick the best and know that when everything is said and done, God will turn your poor pearl into the Great Pearl and everything will be fine in the end.

    All of these stories, and their variants, make of Christ’s parable mostly a joke. Why speak of a pearl of great price if there was no pearl to be found? Why speak of selling everything in order to possess it, if it is actually as common as gravel along the side of the road?

    There are many who have sought to change the meaning of the pearl, in order to keep the parable and set us off chasing red herrings. The Apostles were merchants in search of fine pearls, and they gave up all they had. They did not think that the pearl was abstract or to be found just anywhere or with everyone’s definition of pearls in operation.

    The simple fact is that they believed this pearl to be nothing other than the Kingdom of God, manifested in the life of the Church. For this they suffered the loss of all things and purchased the pearl with the price of their blood. To take of that pearl and abstract it today – simply because we (and history) have made such a mess of the Church – is not an answer at all. It is despair.

    The pearl of great price exists and is worth all that a man has.

    Shortly after my family’s conversion to Orthodoxy, we began the hard work of planting a mission. The first major commitment (other than my need to find secular employment at a fraction of my former ecclesial salary) was to rent space in which to meet. There were very few families at the time. Signing a two-year lease for what seemed a sizable amount each month was frightening, particularly since no human being was standing in the wings and saying, “Don’t worry, I’ll cover it if we need to.” I remember saying to my wife, “This could bankrupt us.” But I also remember adding, “But it’s worth going bankrupt over.”

    That is my testimony to the Orthodox Church. This is indeed the pearl of great price, regardless of what man may do with it. It is the true faith, preserved by those who have bought it through the years and kept it as a pearl without deviation from the pearl as it was received. It is worth all that I had – even if I had been a rich merchant. To a degree I was. I had four children – and set their lives and their faith as a downpayment on this pearl. Nothing could have been more precious. And today they are grateful for the pearl it purchased.

    I cannot argue with anyone who says that they have found the pearl of great price. But there are many pearls out there, and merchants who would charge far beyond their value. I cannot overcome them with argument. But I will not recant my purchase, my gift. I will not deny the nature of this pearl.

    The wonder of it all is that the One Pearl can be had by so many.

  16. Missourian writes: “A person is a troll if he disagrees so fundamentally with the people that he is speaking with that there is virtually no chance of finding any intellectual common ground.”

    Honestly, I can’t make heads or tails out of the Orthodox “system” sufficiently to be able to either agree or disagree at this point.

    Going back to another thread: the Orthodox anthropology is derived from Scripture, we’re told, which they view as authoritative. From the Creation story and the revelations of Paul, they’ve constructed a vision of men and women. Paul’s writings further confirm this view in his statements that women should not preach, passages which are taken at face value in their most simplistic interpretation. Now, I would think that Paul’s opinion about women having certain kinds of authority over men would also hold some weight, right? Nope. Now, if the Orthodox said: “Well, we believe Scripture, and our anthropology which is derived from Scripture affirms that women must not take positions of authority over men”, I could understand. However, I don’t see any Orthodox taking offense over the role of say, Condi Rice, or that women should not have businesses that require they have any male personnel under their authority. It just doesn’t happen? Why? I don’t get it. If they stated that, there would be a consistency there, no?

    There are numerous other issues like this (divorce and remarriage is another), but you get my point. So, I’m trying to figure out *where* these positions are derived from, and I’m told I’m ignorant. Well, yes, I guess. Is this all supposed to be intuitive?

    It’s apparently going to require a good deal of reading before any of this makes sense. I’m simply highlighting that there’s no system here that can be understood by anyone not already a part of the faith.

  17. I am not clergy, so I will not counsel anything. Any suggestions Fr. Jacobse?

  18. Christopher says:

    Michael writes:

    “There is a time for graciousness and a time for a 2X4 between the eyes.”

    Mrs. Missourian writes:

    “A person is a troll if he disagrees so fundamentally with the people that he is speaking with that there is virtually no chance of finding any intellectual common ground. Decide for yourself whether you are a troll here.”

    But we have already said all this. We are past it (long past it). We are now firmly in the territory of vanity. I would have hope shame would have moved them, but apparently the post-humans don’t seem to be able to properly connect with that either. The only thing that can be done now is the 2×4, which is in Fr. Jacobse court. BUT, he has explicitly said he will not. The reason (and he has said so in as many words) is that this blog is a honey pot – it is SUPPOSED to catch flies like Jim, James, and Dean. He is a sense “uses” them to do exactly what Jim does, to “sharpen his philosophy”. I for one think it is wrong – not in line with the Gospel as I understand it, at least explicitly going against warnings of vain disputation (in both OT and NT). Even in purely human terms, it is ultimately selfish. It is one thing to write articles, etc. It is another thing to communicate, back and forth – at that point you are engaging another directly, and your responsibility is higher, in that you are more directly helping form that persons thinking and disposition towards the Gospel.

    Missourian, Michael, do you folks regularly visit other blogs? Is there an effort similar to this one (i.e. Gospel & culture)? The only one I know of is Touchstones “mere comments”, which despite having a much larger following, has no Troll problem, as the editors take a very minimalist but proactive roll against it whenever it pops up…

  19. Michael Bauman says:

    JamesK, that’s because the Church is not a system. As long as you continue to persist in trying to make the Church a system, you will continue to be perplexed. No one “understands” the Church for she is a divine/human organism filled with the Holy Spirit and the sins of those of us who call her home. Fortunately, if we submit to the treatment, our sins are healed and the Spirit remains.

    No one will choose to enter the Church who is satisfied with modernity and feels the soultions for what ails us personally and culturally can be found within the modern paradigm. That has always been the case because the Church is not of this world.

    I warn you, as long as you interpret Orthodoxy from the modern paradigm rather than the other way ’round, reading alone will not suffice. However, I recommend Fr. Stephen Freeman’s blog for an introduction of how the Church and the World intersect http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/ if you really want to pursue some knowledge. His 2X4’s are delivered with exquisite graciousness and only when most needed. Sometimes I have not even known I was hit by one until a day or so later as he does not allow any disputation from anyone.

  20. I found this link to be interesting. Entitled “A Glimpse into Eastern Orthodoxy”, it states:

    “Article on understanding Orthodoxy” is a dread oxymoron, a red flag like the phrase “committee to revitalize,” or for that matter a thick commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:11: “The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?” (NIV) Orthodoxy is something you understand by doing.

    I like that he writes as if he sympathizes with the difficulties faced when the non-Orthodox attempt to grapple with the Orthodox path (way? philosophy? religion? no term seems to fit here)

  21. Mrs. Missourian says:

    Note 18, Christopher

    I have resolved several times to refrain from responding to JamesK but as you can see my resolution is rather weak and I allow myself to be goaded into responding. Not a proud example for others.

    This is the only site that I comment on and the site would probably be improved if I took a vacation. Touchstone and Glory to God for All Things are terrific, each in their own ways.

  22. Michael, I looked at your link and found Fr. Stephen’s blog to be both very personal and informative. I probably wouldn’t find much to post about there, though, other than to perhaps comment on where our experiences intersect.

    Do you not see the radical difference in focus and tone between his blog and this one, though? I couldn’t find anything in terms of legislating Orthodoxy or on Fr. Stephen’s opinion on economics, the Iraq conflict, or other socio-political issues (unlike this site which addresses these issues extensively).

    What this site seems to do is say: “We’re going to address the popular culture from an Orthodox perspective, and we expect to make an impact on it.”

    Well, that’s fine and good. However, if you’re going to expect to impact the culture politically and socially, don’t expect to be able to throw stones at it from afar from within an Orthodox cloud and refuse to engage those in the culture on only your (Orthodox) terms. It’s not going to happen.

    I’m telling you, you are going to have to find some way to speak in a language that is common to you and those you are trying to affect change in. Otherwise, you’re going to encounter the same door slammed in your face that I encounter here, and your efforts will be for naught.

  23. Michael Bauman says:

    JamesK you were asking about the Orthodox faith. Fr Stephen’s site is about the Orthodox faith. This site is about how to apply the principals inherent in the faith in a political and cultural way. Fr. Stephen has no interest in that. I don’t post there much either. That’s not the point. The point is to read and learn because he writes theology in the context of day to day life.

    Once again I am compelled to say that no one here has any intent to legislate Christianity much less the Orthodox beliefs.

    Fr. Hans has the belief, the hope, that by engaging the wider culture from an Orthodox perspective positive change will occur. If the experience here gives any indication of the outcome of his project, it will be a failure. The truncated and inverted premisis of the modern mind make it impervious to listening on a mass basis. IMO the wider culture needs to be confronted, not engaged. Fr. Stehphen is of the belief that both engagement and confrontation are accomplished simply by living the normal Orthodox life which in its essence is transformative, evangelical and prophetic.

    If you want to try an interesting read on the subject of the modern mind (not particularly Orthodox, but does make a valid point) try Philip Sherrard’s Human Image, World Image.

    It remains to be seen, James, if you have any acutal interest in getting answers to the questions you ask as you seem to exhibit all of the signs of mere idol curiosity and often twist any answer you receive into an attack that only shows how completely you do not understand.

  24. Jim Holman says:

    Missourian writes: “A person is a troll if he disagrees so fundamentally with the people that he is speaking with that there is virtually no chance of finding any intellectual common ground.”

    If you bother to look up the definition of a troll on one of many internet sites you’ll find that that is not the definition at all. The strategy of some of the home team is to invent a new definition of the term, and then denounce some person as if he fell under the old definition. Under your definition, I could be called a troll for simply disputing your definition of what a troll is.

    Using your geometry example, were you to assert categorically that a triangle had four sides, and I insisted that it had three sides, you could claim that I was a “troll” because of our fundamental disagreement, even though you were wrong and I was right.

    But more importantly, your view implies that you have some kind of ownership of the blog, or control of the content, such that my fundamental disagreement with you makes me a troll, but your fundamental disagreement with me doesn’t make you a troll.

    Christopher uses the “troll” accusation to try to shut down discussions that he doesn’t like. For example, back on the lengthy Schiavo discussion of a few months ago, he claimed repeatedly that I was a “troll.” What was my great offense? I pointed out that much that the home team believed about the Schiavo case was simply false — that they were not in possession of the actual facts of the case. I quoted extensively from the legal record, the medical record, depositions given under oath, and so on.

    To claim that presenting the actual facts of a case is the work of a “troll” is beyond stupid. In that case, Christopher was the troll, using repeated personal attacks in an attempt to derail a legitimate discussion — a discussion that he, in his personal opinion did not like — a discussion that even the blog owner was engaged in.

    To use the word as he did in the Schiavo discussion is to cheapen the word, to make it trivial. Your definition of troll expands the meaning of the word so much that virtually any fundamental disagreement, over facts or anything else, would be “trollish.” Like the boy who cried “wolf” too often, to use the word “troll” at every turn makes it impossible to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate posts. Sometimes the home team has a legitimate beef over a post, but if almost everything posted by non-Orthodox is the work of a “troll,” no one is going to listen to them.

    I think what some on the home team would like is if “outsiders” were never allowed to post here, except perhaps to ask for their expert opinions on issues, while never questioning or challenging the opinions. That would certainly be a very different kind of blog. But it’s not the blog that Fr. Hans wants. Thus, issues concerning the administration and theme of the blog should be addressed off-line to Fr. Hans, not addressed by continual accusations of “troll.”

  25. Jim Holman says:

    Michael writes: “The truncated and inverted premisis of the modern mind make it impervious to listening on a mass basis.”

    Doesn’t that mean that you just have to move the argument to a different level? In other words, rather than arguing at the level of theology, you have to argue at a more fundamental level of assumption, premise, perception, and so on. Rather than telling people to read Athanasius on the Incarnation, you have to tell them why they should read it. What is it that Athanasius knew, how did he think about these things, how did he experience the world and how did he interpret that experience, that has been lost to people in the modern world? If the modern premise is truncated, what would it mean to expand it?

    There are people dealing with these issues. You mention one. Huston Smith’s book Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief also takes up that very issue.

    If the modern mind is impervious, that just means that you have a different task — to make it pervious, and then recommend Athanasius.

  26. Christopher says:

    Fr. Hans has the belief, the hope, that by engaging the wider culture from an Orthodox perspective positive change will occur. If the experience here gives any indication of the outcome of his project, it will be a failure.

    I’m not so sure. A blog that is Troll infested such as this one is certainly a failure, but that is by definition is it not? That really does not speak to the larger project however, just this blog. Again, Fr. Hans has said more than once that this blog is fulfilling his purposes, which I believe is to serve as a honey pot. I think Fr. Hans is wrong about this, but I assume the AOI has other key players that will help balance out any one persons limitations – though I can’t tell much about the internal make up of the AOI from the literature and web site.

    Notice Michael that you are still engaging JamesK as if what he writes is honest – how many times does he have to prove to you (day in and day out) that he is not? If yourself, Missourian, and I would stop reading and responding to the Trolls we could learn something from the occasional honest participant. We would also get more of them as Troll infested blogs are not hospitable places (although the Troll post rate is so high here that this may be wishful thinking).

    I like engaging you and Missourian and the others (even Glenn on occasion ;). If you folks know somewhere else to go (someplace that is civil) let me know…

  27. Dean Scourtes says:

    RE: The “troll” issue. When it comes to core religious beliefs, Orthodox Christians are pretty firm and unyielding in their/our convictions, not like Episcopalians for example, who share little more than a Book of Common Prayer. So I can understand the irritation of Michael and Christopher at comments challenging those religious beliefs.

    The Orthodox Church has remained faithful to a theological framework developed by the early Church Fathers over 1,700 years ago, and tracing its lineage back even further to the Apostles of Christ without any significant interuption or transformation. While Othodox Christians are interested in examining thier theological beliefs in order to understand them better, they/we are not interested in a relativist approach that puts other belief systems on an equal plane with our own. I get that. I respect that. I feel the same way.

    When it comes to matters only peripherally or tangentially related to religion, however, such as politics, science or economics, I think Michael and Christopher are wrong to take the same umbrage at the comments of other posters offering a different point of view.

    How religion informs our views on matters such as evolution or the environment, for example should be subjects of lively debate and not rigid orthodoxy. The early Church Fathers offered no specific guidnace on Global Warming, Evolution or Capitalism versus Socialism, for example, so we can only extrapolate what their positions might have been from what they said on somewhat related subjects. But to a large degree that process will be speculative ad not definitive.

    Examining an issue from all sides, deconstructing an idea and reassembling it, subjecting an intellectual proposition to rigorous questioning to expose any fallacy or weakness are exercises that can only enhance and improve our understanding. I know that I have benefited from this process and I hope others have as well. Calling people “trolls” for their comments on matters outside religion is aretrograde and counter-productive.

  28. A “troll” is a role someone takes on when they venture into a subject that they know cannot be reasoned because it is too emotional. For instance, a troll will sign up on a pro-life message-board and leave posts like “It’s just a fetus, what’s the big deal?” They do it to get an emotional response out of someone else. Trolling is “To fish by trailing a baited line”.

    I left my message here because I cannot remain silent while people within my own faith work to either destroy it or water it down to the point of being irrelevant. Too many people who actually understand Eastern Orthodoxy either are afraid to say something or simply don’t care. The ancient Christian church, tradition, history and most importantly the teaching of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is for everyone who chooses to immerse themselves in it. Ecumenism is the destruction of the heart of the church in order to make it more appealing to the modern Western mind and its preconceived notions about who God is. If you want to get a glimpse of where ecumenism leads, take a look at the Episcopal priest who says she is Christian and Muslim. That is the ultimate expression of Ecumenism.

    This blog site is immersed with conservative political commentary and presents a closed mind and hardened heart. There is no room here for spiritual discussion. Look at the topics to the left of my post – Gays, Cell phones, Republicans, Democrats, ACLU, Terry Schiavo, Islam, and Intelligent Design. It is political commentary pure and simple. It takes a weak mind to guess that my beef is with conservatives. I am neither liberal nor Conservative. I suspect, based on the podcast I listened to that AOI will be an extension of this same kind of thing. After all, the culture war is something we will leave behind when we all die.

    Finally, Conservatism is formed from the same western humanist mind as liberalism. You might not like to hear it but, it is true. It is all about how it appeals to you, makes you feel, gives you a sense of justice and righteousness. It is a false security that sets us apart from not only man but also God. Look at the most conservative churches in America 30 years ago; Fast forward to today and look at how ready they are to change the church to appeal to man’s modern desires. (marry gays, ordain gays, Rock and roll worship service, Karaoke, Ordaining women, megachurches, do I need to go on?)

  29. Jim Holman says:

    Dean writes: “While Othodox Christians are interested in examining thier theological beliefs in order to understand them better, they/we are not interested in a relativist approach that puts other belief systems on an equal plane with our own.”

    Which is another way of saying that the Orthodox worldview doesn’t coexist very well with other worldviews, isn’t it? Here in the U.S. it pretty much has to, but I don’t think it’s very happy about the situation. For example, in the thread on gay marriage one poster said that for the Orthodox it may come down to “martyrdom or apostasy.” That sounds to me like someone is not very comfortable having to rub shoulders with other worldviews.

    Dean: “How religion informs our views on matters such as evolution or the environment, for example should be subjects of lively debate and not rigid orthodoxy. The early Church Fathers offered no specific guidnace on Global Warming, Evolution or Capitalism versus Socialism, for example, so we can only extrapolate what their positions might have been from what they said on somewhat related subjects. But to a large degree that process will be speculative ad not definitive.”

    I don’t know about that. I think there is a kind of tension between two different positions. On the one hand, I have never read anything here that would indicate that anyone here thinks that there is only one “correct” Orthodox position on every issue. On the other hand, the concept of Orthodox “anthropology” does seem to extend the worldview out to cover a large number of issues, to the point that issues that might appear to be “tangential” are not really tangential.

    For example, contrary positions are often described in religious language. So global warming is seen as a “secular apocalypse.” Evolution is seen as a secular competing view of “origins.” Even certain positions on healthcare or the economy are seen as flowing from a defective “anthropology.” In another thread Democrats were recently described as being like demons, destroying everything in their path – cities, schools, the justice system, and so on. Liberalism is seen as a kind of pervasive spiritual force, somehow always ruining everything. Even the mere assertion of facts is seen as a “materialistic” activity. End of life cases must be decided, not on the basis of a patient’s wishes, but on the basis of “spiritual discernment.”

    So on the one hand, there may not be an “official” correct Orthodox position on many issues. But on the other hand, the use of the concept of Orthodox anthropology in effect creates an unofficial correct Orthodox position.

    Traditionally, people have tended to see things in terms of secular and sacred. The realm of the sacred contained certain, immutable truths, whereas in the realm of the secular things are, as you say, open to debate. Over the last thirty years, religious conservatives (not just Orthodox) in the U.S. increasingly do not see things in terms of secular and sacred. Instead, almost everything is seen as sacred; almost every issue is seen as in some way religious at the core. And the same kind of certainty that was once reserved for religious beliefs now often also attaches to political, economic, and social beliefs.

    Conservative Christian organizations now have positions on many different issues — taxation, healthcare, social programs, foreign policy, etc. The problem isn’t that they have positions on these issues; the problem is when they see these issues as fundamentally religious. (E.g., support for Israel is not a matter of secular foreign policy, but a religious obligation.)

    Personally, I think that is a dangerous trend. If there exists a secular space, then we can have competing points of view and in the end come to a compromise. But if everything is ultimately religious, then everything is certain and immutable, and there is no possibility of compromise, and no room for competing points of view.

  30. #28 So MichaelP what is your solution withdraw from the world like a hyper-Calvinist?

  31. Michael P. #28:

    “Finally, Conservatism is formed from the same western humanist mind as liberalism. You might not like to hear it but, it is true. It is all about how it appeals to you, makes you feel, gives you a sense of justice and righteousness.”

    I don’t think so. While some people may be self-righteous, conservative thought (and liberal thought) is based on certain ideas. These political orientations aren’t just “fluff” that can be ignored. Different people have different worldviews that result in their taking sides on various issues. These worldviews also determine how much one is willing to compromise on certain issues.

    What are we to do as Western Orthodox Christians? Most of us are Westerners, and were born and raised in the West, and in a country with a representative form of government. I would argue that these facts are not in and of themselves inherently bad.

    The teachings of Orthodox Christianity are pertinent to and should influence our opinions regarding many of the issues you address (“Gays, Cell phones, Republicans, Democrats, ACLU, Terry Schiavo, Islam, and Intelligent Design”). Perhaps not cell phones.

    Unlike most Orthodox Christians throughout history, we do not have an autocrat who dictates what will happen in this country and we do not live in dhimmitude to Muslim overlords. Because we live in a country with a representative form of government, which is ultimately accountable to its people, I think we have a responsibility to do our part to engage and be involved with the society, and this necessitates the sort of political commentary that you seem to dislike. As Orthodox Christians, our worldview will necessarily influence how we approach these debates. Now, we all have a right to be apolitical, and if you wish to be so, go ahead. But I don’t think there is anything in Orthodox belief that mandates disengagement from political discourse. And if, during such political discourse, some of us are identified as conservatives or liberals, so be it.

    I don’t see how individual Orthodox Christians engaging American society is tantamount to ecumenism. If Orthodox Christians cannot engage our society without our faith being “watered down” as you suggest, then we are a weak lot with some fundamental problems.

  32. Michael Bauman says:

    JBL, no withdrawal is not the answer, but neither is immersion in politics and ideology. It is depressingly easy to cross from solid Christian doctrine into the world of ideology. MichaelP is correct. Western political ideology is all formed from the same mind which, at best, is heretical Christianity. Fr. Seraphim Rose took that position that western political thought all led to nihilism. I find it hard to disagree with him because it is all founded upon the dualistic rationalism that is a fundamental denial of Christianity.

    Fr. Alexander Webster in his book, The Pacifist Option, makes the clear point that the more specific we become on policy, the more apt we are to become ideological.

    There are certain topics, issues if you will, that are a clear matter of Church teaching on which we can speak forcefully: abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality and other types of sexual license, racism, and Islam, for instance. On other issues such as global warming the Church needs to speak to the attitude of fear atttempting to drive the decisions. Anytime fear is used to motivate a specific political agenda, the agenda and the solutions proposed are wrong. Capitalism seasoned with Christian asceticism, charity and community is a better economic system that socialism, fascism or communism, but it is in no way identical to Christianity, it has to be Christianized (that does not mean lapsing into socialism and giving all control to the state for the “greater good” that is not Christian either just ideology).

    If we do not speak with a prophetic/evangelistic voice, MichaelP is correct. We will weaken the Church without improving the cultural situation. Rome was converted because of the power of the Holy Spirit acting on individual hearts through the preaching and the example of apostolic Christians. The politics of Rome was irrelevant.

    We need to work on acquiring the Holy Spirit within the context of vibrant worshiping communities. The rate of divorce, abortion, drug use, euthanasia, sexual license with Orthodox communities needs to be signficantly less than in the culture at large. We need to put aside the political ideology within our own parishes which means we have to recognize political ideology for what it is and the teaching of the Church for what they are. My constant complaint about Dean Scourtes is that he, IMO, refuses to do that.

    Ultimately, we have to recognize the modern mind (the mind of the world) is nothing but sin filled. No real solution can come from it. If we compromise with it, we will fail in our mission. Metanoia has to be our aim, not accomodation or respect or “input”.

    If we are clear on the teachings of the Church, then we can be clear on what political practices are in accord and what are not. Without such clarity, we will only add to the confusion.

  33. @ MichaelP
    I am a little confused. Although I, too, have problems with the conservatives (thinking America is the “chosen Nation”), sometimes the Orthodox view and the conservative position agree (abortion). Also, I agree with the stated liberal motive to help people, but disagree with their methods.

    I agree with you 100% that ecumenism is the pan-heresy of our time, and that those people within our community, the Church, should be instructed and/or disciplined (defrocking clergy in the appropriate cases, if necessary).

    I also have problems seeing the relevance sometimes of certain topics.

  34. Well-said Mr. Bauman. We need only become holy ourselves, and thousands around us will be converted.

  35. Michael Bauman says:

    Dean, It is not just a matter of “becoming holy” ourselves, it is accessing the deep well of holiness and wisdom that is the Church rather than relying on the erstatz wisdom of political theory and political ideology or our own state of being. We can act in accord with holiness without ourselves being yet holy. We can also call others to holiness without yet attaining it ourselves and not be hypocrites because we are not calling people to ourselves or a man made system, but to Christ Himself, His Life, indeed His Body, the Church.

  36. I know that. The Church is the Way. I am just stating what is a fact. Thank you for expanding on my comment.

  37. Note 29. Jim writes:

    For example, contrary positions are often described in religious language. So global warming is seen as a “secular apocalypse.” Evolution is seen as a secular competing view of “origins.”

    These two points were mine. Yes, global warming is defined as “secular apocalypticism” (my term), but this conclusion is drawn from the language and doomsday scenarios of the man-man global warming advocates themselves. Look at Gore’s apocalyptic scenario for Florida for example — about half the state flooded in, what? — fifty years or less. (I better move!).

    We’ve heard the apocalyptic scenarios before of course (remember Paul Erlich? The Little Ice Age? Nuclear Winter? Silent Spring?). This is nothing new.

    As for Darwinism, my contention is that Darwin’s theory of origins is a creation story. This is becoming clearer every day as the scientific evidence against the Darwinian synthesis mounts (neo-Darwinists notwithstanding). And if the synthesis is not science, it functions culturally as something else, in this case a creation narrative. And if this is correct, the next logical question would be: what cultural narrative does the Darwinist creation “myth” inform? (Answer: a materialist [philosophical materialism] narrative. It cannot be anything else.)

    So, it’s not so much that “contrary positions are often described in religious language”, but that secularism has profoundly religious dimensions although never named as such. Strip away the rhetorical veneers and the religious trappings are self-evident.

  38. Jim Holman says:

    Fr. Hans writes: “Yes, global warming is defined as “secular apocalypticism” (my term), but this conclusion is drawn from the language and doomsday scenarios of the man-man global warming advocates themselves.”

    In that sense I suppose there are all sorts of possible apocalypses around. There have been massive geological changes, mass exterminations, ice ages, plagues, meteorite strikes, and so on. More recently we have the prospect of nuclear war. The difference between scientific and religious apocalypses is that scientific apocalypses are seen as bad things, things to be prevented, whereas religious apocalypses are see as good, something to be encouraged and brought about. A scientific apocalypse is seen as destructive. A religious apocalypse is seen as ultimately constructive. In a scientific apocalypse potentially no one is saved. In a religious apocalypse the “chosen” are saved. There are so many differences that I think calling scientific apocalypses “religious” just confuses things. Think what you will about Gore, he’s trying to avert what he sees as an apocalypse. He’s not, as some, supporting Israel so as to help bring about the last days. I think that is a significant difference.

    Fr. Hans: “As for Darwinism, my contention is that Darwin’s theory of origins is a creation story.”

    It is a scientific view of origins that also can be used as a creation story.

    Fr. Hans: “This is becoming clearer every day as the scientific evidence against the Darwinian synthesis mounts (neo-Darwinists notwithstanding).”

    I guess you and I are reading very different sources, because I simply do not see scientific evidence mounting against evolution. If you want a scientific consensus, evolution is where you’ll find it.

    Fr. Hans: So, it’s not so much that “contrary positions are often described in religious language”, but that secularism has a profoundly religious dimensions although never named as such. Strip away the rhetorical veneers and the religious trappings are self-evident.”

    Again, I think distinctions are important. Not every worldview is religious. Some worldviews are secular.