Priest vs. Priest on Homosexual Orientation

St George Slays Dragon by Editors -
In an online exchange on the popular Monomakhos Blog, the topic of discussion focused on the views on homosexuality expressed by Fr. Alexis Vinogradov a priest in the OCA, rector of St. Gregory the Theologian Church in Wappingers Falls, NY. Fr. Hans Jacobse, a priest in the AOCA, rector of St. Peter Orthodox Mission in Naples, FL, challenged the presumptive opinions of Fr. Alexis and presented the truth from a proper Orthodox Christian understanding.

Fr. Alexis Vinogradov’s views were originally published in 2011 in an article titled New beginnings in community Gender issues and the Church on ocanews.org. Here’s the relevant excerpt that Fr. Hans responded to in the comments section of Monomakhos Blog:

“Homosexual persons did not decide to become homosexual. It was not the fruit of their supposed depravity or sin. That much we know today. There can only be a continuing conversation if we can cross that hurdle of blatant intransigence by those who refuse to acknowledge this fact. But homosexual persons, just as much as heterosexual ones, need to feel the warmth and love and nurture of other persons. God created them for that love, that love is the substance of our humanity; it is what constitutes all of us in bearing his image within us.” ~ Fr. Alexis Vinogradov

[Read more...]

Losing our Religion: “Retaining” Young People in the Orthodox Church

Young People in the Orthodox Church Youthby Seraphim Danckaert -
A person is most likely to retain Christian faith throughout adult life if he or she had three (3) meaningful and healthy relationships in their early to mid teenage years: one with faithful Christian parents, one with a faithful Christian mentor outside of the family, and one with God Himself.

Seraphim Danckaert at Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy critically evaluated a recent article that claims that “90% of Americans with Greek roots are no longer in communion with the Orthodox Church.” The excerpts below are from Seraphim’s insightful analysis on why the youth leave the Orthodox Church and what must be done to retain them.

The article assumes (but does not show) that the reason for this mass apostasy is two-fold: (1) the inevitable rise of interfaith marriages in America’s multicultural, religiously pluralistic, and secular society; and (2) the Greek Orthodox Church’s failure to respond to the “critical and immediate need for a broad religious outreach; to make room for interfaith families,” and thereby follow St. Paul’s example in extending “Christianity’s outreach to all nations.” [Read more...]

Contemporary Tolerance Is Intrinsically Intolerant

Contemporary Tolerance Is Intrinsically Intolerant by Don Carson -

The notion of tolerance is changing, and with the new definitions the shape of tolerance itself has changed. Although a few things can be said in favor of the newer definition, the sad reality is that this new, contemporary tolerance is intrinsically intolerant. It is blind to its own shortcomings because it erroneously thinks it holds the moral high ground; it cannot be questioned because it has become part of the West’s plausibility structure. Worse, this new tolerance is socially dangerous and is certainly intellectually debilitating. Even the good that it wishes to achieve is better accomplished in other ways.

Let’s begin with dictionaries. In the Oxford English Dictionary, the first meaning of the verb “to tolerate” is “To respect (others’ beliefs, practices, etc.) without necessarily agreeing or sympathizing. 3. to put up with; to bear; as, he tolerates his brother-in-law. 4. in medicine, to have tolerance for (a specified drug, etc.).” Even the computer-based dictionary Encarta includes in its list “ACCEPT EXISTENCE OF DIFFERENT VIEWS to recognize other people’s right to have different beliefs or practices without an attempt to suppress them.” [Read more...]

The Heart of Worship is Surrender to God

Heart of Worship is Surrender to God by Rick Warren -
The heart of worship is surrender. Surrender is an unpopular word, especially in the American culture. Surrender means, to many, defeat. We love winning so surrender is unthinkable. But surrendering to God is the heart of worship. It is the natural response to God’s amazing love and mercy. We give ourselves to Him, not out of fear or duty, but in love, 1 John 4:9:10, 19. Paul urges us to fully surrender our lives to God in worship, Romans 12:1. There are three barriers that block our total surrender to God: fear, pride and confusion. We want to control our own lives so we misunderstand the meaning of surrender.

1. Can I trust God? Trust is essential to surrender. I won’t surrender to God unless I trust Him, but I can’t trust Him until I know Him better. Fear keeps me from surrendering, but love casts out all fear. The more I realize how much God loves me, the easier surrender becomes. How do I know God loves me? God says He loves me, Psalms 145:9. I’m never out of His sight, Psalms 139:3. He cares about every detail of my life – Matthew 10:30. [Read more...]

Tolerance and Charity, from a Christian Perspective

Tolerance is Not a Christian Virtue by Brian A. Graebe -
Tolerance is a nice word, but is it a Christian virtue? Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver doesn’t think so, and his claim has occasioned no small amount of protest. In a smug editorial, America magazine recently chastened Chaput for coarsening the tenor of intra-ecclesial discourse. While no call for courtesy and civility should go unheeded, an apology for toleration that ignores its niceties only furthers the intellectual and moral torpor plaguing the public square.

Proponents of a kinder, gentler discussion on the great issues of our day often attempt a rhetorical sleight of hand, coupling tolerance with charity. Such a pairing is ambiguous at best. The call to charity “loving one’s fellow man as a child of God” is universal and, one hopes, uncontroversial. But what does it mean to be tolerant of those with whom we disagree on serious matters? If used as a synonym for charity, combined patience and magnanimity, one can make a case, but that case remains weak and the term imprecise. [Read more...]

Animal Immortality: Do Animals Go to Heaven?

Animal Immortality: Do Animals Go to Heaven? by Carol Apple -
Do our pets go to heaven? C.S. Lewis imaginatively addresses the question of animal immortality in his book The Problem of Pain.

When a beloved pet dies people can feel desperate to know if animals, at least some animals, have an eternal destiny. The Bible does not say one way or the other, but C.S. Lewis gives animal lovers reason to hope. Although he acknowledges that his ideas are only guesses, what compelling guesses they are, and how comforting to those of us who have loved an animal.

Lewis discusses animal immortality in Chapter 9 of his book The Problem of Pain, in which he discusses the theological issues involved in animal suffering. Lewis asks the question of how we can reconcile God’s justice with the pain of innocent creatures who can neither benefit from nor understand their suffering, and finds no answer in this world. Therefore, he ventures forth to consider the mystery of animal immortality and how it might work. [Read more...]

Poverty in Spirit More Important Than Material Poverty

St. Basil the Great Orthodoxby St. Basil the Great -
Poverty is not always praiseworthy, but only when it represents a free choice according to the Gospel commandment.

Many are poor in terms of possessions and very miserly in spirit, and those people will not be saved through their poverty but damned by their attitude of mind.

Not every poor person therefore is worthy of praise, but only those who of their own choice put the commandment of the Lord before all the treasures of the world.

Those people the Lord says are blessed when he proclaims “blessed are the poor in spirit.” He does not say the poor in possessions, but those who have freely chosen poverty in spirit.

What is involuntary cannot merit blessedness. Every virtue, and poverty in spirit more than any other, must be a free choice. [Read more...]

Atheists are Wrong – Five Reasons Why God Exists

Atheists are Wrong - Five Reasons Why God Existsby William Lane Craig -
Most atheists, in my experience, have no good reasons for their disbelief. Rather they’ve learned to simply repeat the slogan, “There’s no good evidence for God’s existence!”

In the case of a Christian who has no good reasons for what he believes, this slogan serves as an effective conversation-stopper. But if we have good reasons for our beliefs, then this slogan serves rather as a conversation-starter.

The atheist who merely repeats this slogan after having been presented with arguments for God’s existence makes an empty assertion.

So what reasons might be given in defense of Christian theism? In my publications and oral debates with some of the world’s most notable atheists, I’ve defended the following five reasons why God exists: [Read more...]

Freedom from a Godly Perspective

Freedom from Godly Perspective, God and Freedomby Fr. Patrick Reardon -
With respect to the life in Christ it is important to keep in mind two aspects of freedom:

First, a correct concept of freedom disinclines us to reduce it to the mere ability to make choices. Thus reduced, indeed, freedom looks more like a potential than a reality. Freedom is counted, after all, as a great human blessing.

But how can the mere capacity for choice be —without reservation— a blessing? Is that man to be called blessed who chooses to fling himself into a fire? Is freedom truly a blessing if someone deliberately enslaves himself? If freedom is to be counted a blessing, choice must in some measure be qualified by its object. [Read more...]

I Can Do All Things Through Christ, Who Strengthens Me

St. Isaac the Syrianby Fr. Matthew Jackson -
There is an article (a few of them, actually) making the rounds on social media right now which tries to make the point that the phrase “God will not give you more than you can handle” is not an accurate thing to say. Unfortunately, these articles themselves don’t quite have things right.

They refer back to the quote from 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “God is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able.” (This is where the quote ‘God will not give you more than you can handle’ originates). The point is then attempted: this verse doesn’t mean you won’t be given things that can’t be handled, only that God will not allow a temptation you can’t bear – that the verse doesn’t say anything about other experiences you may have within life. Pointing out difficult situations – Auschwitz, cancer, rape, etc. – the authors then say that these things crush people and are more than can be borne (cf. 2 Cor. 1:8-9 for their Biblical example – where Paul says they are at the *point* of breaking in order to learn to trust in God, Who then enabled them to handle their temptations). [Read more...]

Making the Most of Your New Year – 2014

How to Make the Most of Your New Year 2014by Allen West -
On his blog, Allen West reflects on Pastor Scott Eynon’s sermon titled “How to Make the Most of Your New Year” based on the core scriptures in Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV): “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Pastor Scott emphasized four points:

1. Accept responsibility for your life, your actions, no blame game. He emphasized that you will never reach God’s potential for your life by blaming others. The Bible even addresses that premise in Galatians 5:6, “for each one should carry their own load.” I also liked this quote from John Maxwell: “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it.”

2. Believe you can change and set goals. If you want something to be different, first you have to want it, and second you have to commit to hard work, focus, and discipline in achieving it. [Read more...]

The Twelve Days of Christmas in the Orthodox Tradition

Twelve Days of Christmas in the Orthodox Traditionby Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse -
In the Christian tradition of both east and west, the twelve days of Christmas refer to the period from Christmas Day to Theophany. The days leading up to Christmas were for preparation; a practice affirmed in the Orthodox tradition by the Christmas fast that runs from November 15 to Christmas day. The celebration of Christmas did not begin until the first of the twelve days.

As our culture became more commercialized, the period of celebration shifted from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day. Christmas celebration increasingly conforms to the shopping cycle while the older tradition falls by the wayside. It’s an worrisome shift because as the tradition dims, the knowledge that the period of preparation imparted diminishes with it.

Our Orthodox traditions — from fasting cycles to worship –exist to teach us how to live in Christ. The traditions impart discipline. These disciplines are never an end in themselves but neither can life in Christ be sustained apart from them. [Read more...]

Duck Dynasty Patriarch Invokes Natural Law

Conservative Orthodox Christians stand with and support Phil Robertson and the entire Robertson familyby Monomakhos.com -
Get past the raw language that Phil Robertson, the Patriarch of the Duck Dynasty, used to criticize homosexual acts in his recent interview, and you see some sound logic behind it. First a look at the Patriarch’s comments:

“It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus,” he said. “That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying?

“But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

Let the shock wear off and then ask yourself this: “Is the anal canal really a sexual organ? Was it really created for penetration? [Read more...]

A Plea for Intolerance

 Archbishop Fulton J. Sheenby Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (published in 1931) -
America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance. It is not. It is suffering from tolerance: tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos. Our country is not nearly so much overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broad-minded. The man who can make up his mind in an orderly way, as a man might make up his bed, is called a bigot; but a man who cannot make up his mind, any more than he can make up for lost time, is called tolerant and broad-minded.

A bigoted man is one who refuses to accept a reason for anything; a broad-minded man is one who will accept anything for a reason—providing it is not a good reason. It is true that there is a demand for precision, exactness, and definiteness, but it is only for precision in scientific measurement, not in logic. The breakdown that has produced this natural broad-mindedness is mental, not moral. The evidence for this statement is threefold: the tendency to settle issues not by arguments but by words, the unqualified willingness to accept the authority of anyone on the subject of religion, and lastly the love of novelty. [Read more...]

Motivated by Fear

Christ Fear Not Calm the Storm Tempestby Fr. Basil Zebrun -
Following His Resurrection Jesus said to the apostles, “peace be unto you” (John 20: 19,21,26). Furthermore, He distinguishes the peace He bestows from that which is given by the world (John 14: 27). St. Paul describes it as, “…the peace of God which passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Christians experience this peace as not merely the absence of fear or strife, but the presence of Christ in the lives of the faithful.

Additionally, during a storm at sea Jesus offered His disciples these words of comfort, “fear not” (Matthew 14:27, Mark 6:50, John 6:20), and prior to raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead He said to the father, “Do not be afraid” (Mark 5:36). At the Annunciation and at the announcement of the Baptist’s conception, the angel also reassured both Mary and Zacharias that there was no need for trepidation (Luke 1).

The statements, “peace be unto you” and “fear not,” were meant to allay the personal anxieties of those whose lives were radically changed by divine grace, freely received. [Read more...]