Orthodox Cookbook: Flavors of Our Faith

Orthodox Cookbook: Flavors of Our Faithby SOSI –

The beauty of Orthodoxy is that it encompasses all of our five senses: Seeing the incense rising like our prayers during Liturgy; hearing the bells on the censer announcing an entrance; the glorious smells emanating from the kitchen during the special seasons of the Church; touching the icon of a favorite saint; and finally tasting the sweet joys of Pascha when we break our fast together after proclaiming “Christ is Risen!”

Flavors of Our Faith was created out of a desire to put together a compilation of favorite recipes from parishioners but also to be a source for answers to questions as to why we do certain activities at different times of the year.

Within the pages of this book, you will find 350 recipes divided among eight categories (including Traditional Religious Celebration, Christmas, and Pascha recipes) and sorted by Lenten and Non-Lenten categories. [Read more...]

Divorce, Denial and the Death of God: How the West Really Lost God

Divorce, Denial and the Death of God: How the West Really Lost God by Elise Hilton –
On Christmas Eve 2011, I opened our front door to find one of my teenage daughter’s friends, sobbing. Her parents had divorced months before, and her dad wasn’t around. Her mother started bringing men home regularly to spend the night. The girl told her mom that having the men around made her feel uncomfortable. Her mom kicked her out of the house. On Christmas Eve.

This could be a single story of one young girl and the fall-out of one divorce, but it’s not. It’s becoming Our American Story: adults who do as they wish with little regard for the child, divorce, cohabitation, children with a revolving door of adults in their lives, no longer a family but a group of people with tenuous ties to each other, their community, their faith.

There are plenty of statistics that bear out that this American Story is the norm (the CDC report hereand a report from the Institute of American Values here.) How did it become Our Story? [Read more...]

Reza Aslan’s Zealot is Riddled with Errors and Falsehoods

Zealot is Riddled with Errors and Falsehoods by Craig A. Evans –
There are numerous problems with Zealot, not least the fact that it heavily relies on an outdated and discredited thesis. But it also introduces a number of its own novel oddities and implausibilities. Aslan has canvassed much of the responsible scholarship in the field, but he does not always choose his options prudently. He often opts for extreme views and sometimes makes breathtaking assertions. I cannot help but wonder if Aslan’s penchant for creative writing is part of the explanation. Indeed, Zealot often reads more like a novel than a work of historical analysis.

Aslan assumes the latest possible dates for the Gospels and Acts, dating Mark after A.D. 70, Matthew and Luke-Acts in the 90s (perhaps later), and John somewhere between 100 and 120. After assigning such late dates he declares that there is no tradition of eyewitness accounts (without engaging Richard Bauckham’s important book on this subject, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses). The circularity of this reasoning is hard to miss.

Zealot is riddled with errors, probable errors, and exaggerations. Aslan tells us a builder in Nazareth had “little to do.” Excavations at Nazareth and nearby Sepphoris suggest otherwise. [Read more...]

The Search For Meaning

The Search For Meaning in Lifeby Dan Doyle –
Suffering comes into every life. Often it is so terrible we wonder how we can ever survive it. We can’t imagine the there could be any meaning in it. One of the most important books I’ve ever read is Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.” In it he tells of his experiences as an inmate in several of the Nazi death camps during WWII. Frankl was one of the lucky ones, he survived. He was liberated at the end of the war from Auchwitz as the only survivor of his family. Out of his pain and loss, out of the hell of it all, he came away with a deeper faith in God and, ironically, in humanity. We are the lucky ones, then, who can read this small book and be edified by the powerful meaning he discovered in and through his own suffering.

When we suffer, nothing makes sense to us. We are overwhelmed with a feeling that the world is cold, indifferent to our suffering, that we are utterly alone in it and imprisoned by it. How could there be any meaning in it at all? This is the central question of Viktor Frankl’s book. The core responsibility of our individual human lives is to find meaning and purpose, not just in fame, or wealth, but in transcendent ways, through faith, hope and, most importantly through love. [Read more...]

Fixing the Moral Deficit, Biblical Principles for Debt Reduction

Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson

by Chuck Colson –
Thirty-five years ago, my friend Ron Sider published Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, a very influential book at the time. While I haven’t always agreed with Ron, in fact, we’re poles apart politically, I have no doubt of his integrity, his wisdom and his desire to bring biblical truth to all aspects of life.

That’s why so I’m happy that Ron has turned his attention to one of the most pressing issues of our time: our national debt.

His new book, Fixing the Moral Deficit, is the result of his reflections on the issue. As the title suggests, for Ron, the ballooning national debt isn’t simply a matter of accounting. According to him, there are three “crises” operating here: the first is the deficit crisis, the result of government spending more than it collects in taxes; the second is a poverty crisis, in which the bottom 20 percent become poorer, while the top twenty percent get wealthier.

Together, he says, these add up to a third crisis—which he calls the “justice crisis”–in which we “put current expenditures on our grandchildren’s credit cards,” which Sider calls “flatly immoral.” Amen. [Read more...]

This is Your Brain on Atheism

Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman –
The ranks of celebrity atheists lionized by the major media is now being joined by a psychiatrist and journalist who have jointly written the book “Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith.” The two authors claim, in short, that God is nothing more than a figment of our biologically-determined imaginations.

In a recent article about the book, J. Anderson Thomson, a University of Virginia psychiatrist, and “medical writer” Clare Aukofer repeat stale clichés from the repertoire of 19th century German atheism, dressed up as modern “science.” They begin by citing the inane lyrics of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” in which he claims that the socialist paradise he envisions will bring “peace” with “no heaven…no hell below us…and no religion too.”

“No religion,” the authors rhapsodize. “What was Lennon summoning? For starters, a world without ‘divine’ messengers, like Osama bin Laden, sparking violence. A world where mistakes, like the avoidable loss of life in Hurricane Katrina, would be rectified rather than chalked up to ‘God’s will.’ Where politicians no longer compete to prove who believes more strongly in the irrational and untenable. Where critical thinking is an ideal. In short, a world that makes sense.” [Read more...]

Stefan Kanfer: Curb Your Dogma

Catholic Schools Matter by Stefan Kanfer

Apostate David Mamet confronts the secular religion of liberalism.
“I had my first conversation with a conservative at the age of 60.” On the face of it, that claim seems absurd: David Mamet must have dwelt in a hermetically sealed environment for six decades. But the playwright/director is telling the truth; he’s spent his career in show business, an ecosystem as airtight as academia.

Unlike so many of his colleagues, however, Mamet began to question the shibboleths and doctrines he had long taken for granted. In four years, the 64-year-old moved inexorably from left to right, like the hour hand on a clock. In The Secret Knowledge, his latest collection of essays, he confesses that “I examined my Liberalism, and found it like an addiction to roulette. Here, though the odds are plain, and the certainty of loss apparent to anyone with a knowledge of arithmetic, the addict, failing time and time again, is convinced he yet is graced with the power to contravene natural laws.” But there was a profound difference; the gambler hurts primarily himself. “The great wickedness of Liberalism, I saw, was that those who devise the ever new State Utopias, whether crooks or fools, set out to bankrupt and restrict not themselves, but others.” [Read more...]

Immune to Reform

Teacher Unions Undermine Education Communist Teachers’ unions will never willingly give up their power, says Terry Moe.
by Marcus A. Winters –
Last fall, I took my wife—a well-informed, intelligent professional who unintentionally married into the contentious world of education reform—to see Davis Guggenheim’s documentary about the plight of America’s public schools, Waiting for Superman. She left the theater convinced that our schools face clear problems that have some clear solutions. But she was puzzled about why reforming the system was so difficult. She knew that the teachers’ unions had something to do with what was wrong with the schools, but just how they wielded so much power baffled her. How is it that the unions manage to protect preposterous arrangements like lifetime job security and seniority-based layoffs while forcing students to attend schools that everyone knows are failing? I’d guess that many people emerge from Guggenheim’s film asking similar questions.

In his new book, Special Interest: Teachers Unions and America’s Public Schools, Stanford University political scientist Terry Moe provides the answers. Moe traces the sources of the unions’ power and explains why they behave as they do. In the process, he blows apart several pervasive myths that have been used for far too long to let teachers and their unions off the hook. [Read more...]

Defending Constantine and Christendom

Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom by Mark Tooley
The destruction of Osama bin Laden underlines how many U.S. church voices, even since 9/11, have adamently insisted that Christianity demands pacifism.

Much of the Evangelical Left, so influential on Christian college campuses and increasingly prominent in Washington, D.C., relies on neo-Anabaptist beliefs. Sojourners activist Jim Wallis, who last week launched a crusade against “cuts” in the 2012 federal budget, adheres partly to this tradition. These neo-Anabaptists demand total pacifism and reject the military. Unlike traditional Anabaptists, they are not separatists, and many exuberantly advocate Big Government control over medical care, food, energy, and virtually all of life. The godfather of sorts for these disjointed neo-Anabaptists was the late Mennonite theologian and Notre Dame professor John Howard Yoder. He joined most Anabaptists in assuming that Christianity was massively corrupted by 4th century Roman Emperor Constantine’s embrace of Christianity. The resulting Christendom created over 1,600 years of wars and oppression ostensibly in the name of Christ.

Constantine famously professed Christianity after winning a military battle before which a cross had appeared to him in the sky. His conversion largely ended Rome’s persecution of Christians and facilitated Christianity’s eventually becoming the majority faith for the West. [Read more...]

The Sheep and the Goats: Work and Service to Others

by Jordan Ballor –
In the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:31–46), Jesus differentiates between those who have done good to others and those who have not. The king, taking the place of Christ in the parable, says that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Whatever good was done was counted as being done to the king, and whatever bad was done was counted the same way. And on this basis the king separates the righteous sheep and the unrighteous goats. The goats “go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” It is natural to think that the good the sheep do to others (“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…”) refers to special acts of kindness, things that are only done occasionally and usually within a charitable context.

Lester DeKoster, in his book Work: The Meaning of Your Life—A Christian Perspective, provides a refreshing understanding of this parable. He writes that the good Jesus refers to includes these special acts of charity, but also refers to the service we do every day within the context of work. [Read more...]

Knowing God, Crucial to Living as a Christian

Knowing God Packer
Eminent Christian theologian J.I. Packer’s best known book is Knowing God. In the book he emphasizes that a lifelong pursuit of knowing God should embody the Christian’s existence. According to Packer, however, Christians have become enchanted by modern skepticism and have joined the gigantic conspiracy of misdirection by failing to put first things first.

11/30/2010 – Chuck Colson –

According to Packer, studying the nature and character of God isn’t, as many Christians suppose, abstract and theoretical, but, instead, the most practical project we can undertake. This knowledge is crucial to living as a Christian.

In fact, attempting to live the Christian life without this knowledge isn’t only foolish, it’s a kind of self-cruelty—denying ourselves the riches of our own faith. [Read more...]

Work and the Two Great Love Commandments

Work: The Meaning of Your Life - A Christian Perspective9/4/2010 – Jordan Ballor –

Amid the threat of a “double-dip” recession, and the ongoing plight of joblessness across America, this Labor Day is bittersweet for many. For those who have the gift of employment, the right to work can seem more like a privilege. And for those looking for work, the hope of being hired soon can sometimes seem more like a fantasy. But it is precisely in this kind of challenging economic environment that we can most clearly see the blessing that work is both to ourselves and to one another.

For ourselves, work helps give life meaning and purpose. Human beings are naturally productive, tending, when unimpeded, to use our minds and hands to make things, to be creative. The very term “manufacturing” comes from root words that mean “making by hand.” Indeed, God has set up the world in such a way that work is a blessing, the way he provides for us to provide for ourselves and our families. The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer in this context called work God’s “order of grace,” the regular means he has given to take care of our material needs. Anyone who has been out of work knows this to be true: having a job and receiving a paycheck is a great blessing. [Read more...]

Dancing With Devils


5/31/2010 – Bill Muehlenberg –
One of the great unresolved questions of recent history is why so many members of the Western left have become so besotted with, and apologetic for, ruthless totalitarian regimes. There have always been Western leftists who have idolised brutal regimes — be it the Soviet Union, communist Cuba or Islamist Iran —and preferred them to their own countries in the free and prosperous West.

Others have documented this phenomenon, such as Paul Hollander in various classic works, including Political Pilgrims: Travels of Western Intellectuals to the Soviet Union, China and Cuba, 1928-78 (1981) and Anti-Americanism (1995).

Here, in his recent book United in Hate, Jamie Glazov makes an attempt at exploring and explaining the Left’s love affair with terror and tyranny. [Read more...]

Believe It or Not


First Things | by David B. Hart | 4/2010

I think I am very close to concluding that this whole “New Atheism” movement is only a passing fad—not the cultural watershed its purveyors imagine it to be, but simply one of those occasional and inexplicable marketing vogues that inevitably go the way of pet rocks, disco, prime-time soaps, and The Bridges of Madison County. This is not because I necessarily think the current “marketplace of ideas” particularly good at sorting out wise arguments from foolish. But the latest trend in à la mode godlessness, it seems to me, has by now proved itself to be so intellectually and morally trivial that it has to be classified as just a form of light entertainment, and popular culture always tires of its diversions sooner or later and moves on to other, equally ephemeral toys.

Take, for instance, the recently published 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists. Simple probability, surely, would seem to dictate that a collection of essays by fifty fairly intelligent and zealous atheists would contain at least one logically compelling, deeply informed, morally profound, or conceptually arresting argument for not believing in God. Certainly that was my hope in picking it up. Instead, I came away from the whole drab assemblage of preachments and preenings feeling rather as if I had just left a large banquet at which I had been made to dine entirely on crushed ice and water vapor. [Read more...]

The Lukewarm Generation


First Things | by W. Bradford Wilcox | 3/8/2010

Sociologist Christian Smith began his ambitious, multivolume effort to plumb the religious lives of Americans across the life course in his 2005 with Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. In that book—aimed at an audience that the author hoped would include general readers as well as clergy and scholars—Smith painted an incisive portrait of religion among America’s adolescents. Especially insightful was the way Smith explained why the more sectarian religious traditions in the United States, such as evangelical Protestantism and Mormonism, were achieving greater success than more churchly traditions such as mainline Protestantism and Roman Catholicism in transmitting their faiths to the next generation. Also notable was the way Smith explained how the guiding religious ethos of American teenagers—what he aptly termed “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”—seemed so suited for our culture. [Read more...]