Russian Orthodox Leader Stands for Principle

Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev
Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev

by Janice S. Crouse and George Tryfiates –
The “great man” theory of history — that strong, unique, and highly influential individuals shape history (for good or ill) through their commanding personal characteristics that imbue them with power and influence over a specific period of time or during certain circumstances — may not be as widely accepted today among professional historians as in the past, but for many of us there is no denying what our own experience shows us: An individual’s influence can have dramatic impact in specific situations or historic eras.

One contemporary leader who has that potential is Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Moscow, who serves the Patriarch of Moscow as chairman of External Relations for the Russian Orthodox Church. [Read more…]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

In Defense Of The Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree Not Pagan, Christian Originby Fr. Daniel Daly –
The use of evergreens at Christmas may date from St. Boniface of the eighth century, who dedicated the fir tree to the Holy Child in order to replace the sacred oak tree of Odin; but the Christmas tree as we know it today does not appear to be so ancient a custom. It appears first in the Christian Mystery play commemorating the biblical story of Adam and Eve.

Several years ago during the Christmas season, a religious program on television caught my attention. The program featured a discussion on the dangers of cults, especially to young people. I found myself agreeing with the panelists as they warned young people about the hazards of involvement in occult or “new age” spirituality.

During the interview, however, one participant made a statement that shocked me: “…and the Christmas tree is pagan too…,” he asserted. The Christmas Tree? Pagan? Could it be that something most of us enjoy so much might be actually pagan in origin? Despite its growing commercialization, the Christmas tree is still associated with the fondest memories of our early childhood. Who does not remember approaching the tree on Christmas morning? [Read more…]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

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…]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

The Glory of Humility

St. John the Baptist
St. John the Baptist

11/15/2010 – Deacon Douglas McManaman –
The word ‘human’ comes from the Latin ‘humus’, which means ‘dirt’ or ‘soil’. Man is from the earth.

I often tell my students that what they learn in the course of a semester, in their math class, for example, or in their chemistry classes, or physics, etc., took centuries for the most brilliant human beings to uncover. Once it has been uncovered, however, it appears to be so simple. Why did it take so long? This is true especially for philosophy. It takes years and years to dispose the intellect to learn such abstract truths, and from these truths it is possible to go on to demonstrate, through reason alone, the existence of God, and it is also possible, through reason alone, to show that God is one, eternal, the source of all that is good and beautiful, that He is Beauty Itself, Goodness Itself, and Truth Itself. And when we finally come to see it, we inevitably think: “This is so clear and simple; why did it take years to get this?”

The reason is that human beings, by nature, are slow. We are the highest beings on the hierarchy of material beings, but we are the lowest beings on the hierarchy of God’s intellectual creatures. [Read more…]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Go With God

Nov. 2010 – Stanley Hauerwas –
An open letter to young Christians on their way to college
“The Christian religion,” wrote Robert Louis Wilken, “is inescapably ritualistic (one is received into the Church by a solemn washing with water), uncompromisingly moral (‘be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect,’ said Jesus), and unapologetically intellectual (be ready to give a ‘reason for the hope that is in you,’ in the words of 1 Peter). Like all the major religions of the world, Christianity is more than a set of devotional practices and a moral code: it is also a way of thinking about God, about human beings, about the world and history.”

Ritualistic, moral, and intellectual: May these words, ones that Wilken uses to begin his beautiful book, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, be written on your soul as you begin college and mark your life—characterize and distinguish your life—for the next four years. Be faithful in worship. In America, going to college is one of those heavily mythologized events that everybody tells you will “change your life,” which is probably at least half true. So don’t be foolish and imagine that you can take a vacation from church. [Read more…]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Liberty, Youth, and Fidelity to Truth in the Open Society

Dr. Pedro Blas González
Dr. Pedro Blas González

10/16/2010 – Pedro Blas González –
Traveling through the world today, I get the vivid impression that a vast number of the people I meet are living with the self-conscious belief that life is a purposeless thing to be occupied with pointless, daily tasks. I encounter this in spontaneous conversations that arise in diverse places, and with many different people. I am never surprised to hear this same complaint from others. I find it important to listen intently to what others have to say in this matter.

I suppose that to some ears this may sound presumptuous on my part. After all, we are living in a time when most people claim the right to be critics. Critics are everyone in our age. This is as comical as it is deplorable. People who have never studied or read history, literature, philosophy or much of anything else of lasting value are more interested in attacking the contemplative character of genuine ideas than they are in learning and incorporating these in their own lives. And, if these critics perceive or imagine that they are in the presence of a morally upright, righteous person, then they intensify their resistance to knowledge, to advice, to the other person before them like beasts of burden who grudgingly anticipate a difficult task. Unfortunately, today cynicism has filled in the vacuum where virtue once ruled. [Read more…]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Anne Rice Loses Her Religion

9/26/2010 – Miguel A. Guanipa –
“I quit being a Christian.” “I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of … Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.”

In this Tweeter feed read around the world of pubescent vampire novel bookworms, author Anne Rice — who claims to have become a Christian a few years ago — resolved once and for all to forswear the faith. A rather momentous decision, betraying a crass impetuosity on her part, but also a welcomed vindication of G.K. Chesterton’s keen observation that many refuse to seriously engage Christianity not because it has been tried and found wanting, but because “it has been found difficult and left untried.” [Read more…]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

St. John Chrysostom vs. Communism

St. John Chrysostomby Editors –
This quote was supposedly written by St. John Chrysostom. Those warnings regarding core principles that form the foundation of socialist/communist ideologies should have been heeded by the Church and taught to the people.

St. John Chrysostom:

“Should we look to kings and princes to put right the inequalities between rich and poor? Should we require soldiers to come and seize the rich person’s gold and distribute it among his destitute neighbors? Should we beg the emperor to impose a tax on the rich so great that it reduces them to the level of the poor and then to share the proceeds of that tax among everyone? Equality imposed by force would achieve nothing, and do much harm. Those who combined both cruel hearts and sharp minds would soon find ways of making themselves rich again. [Read more…]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

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…]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Godly and Ungodly Violence

St Andrew Orthodox Church8/25/2010 – Fr. Josiah Trenham –

A Parishioner Inquires: “I understand that Leo Tolstoi was an excommunicant of the Orthodox church, but in his book The Kingdom of God is Within You, he raises an interesting question. Tolstoi posits that since Christ commands us to ‘resist not’, and to ‘turn the other cheek’, we should not resist physically anybody who would harm us. I have never been able to reconcile this notion to my own experience in life, considering that on more than one occasion, in order to protect those for whom I care, I have resorted to violence or to the threat of violence. In addition, in the life of Father Arseny, there is a passage in which a soldier-turned-priest beats a group of would-be rapists to preserve the honor of his wife. He experiences a measure of guilt for this, but is consoled by his bishop, since the safety of another was concerned. Can you give me an idea of the Orthodox position on the use of violence as a defensive measure?”

Fr. Josiah writes, “We have 20 centuries of warrior saints. Some of our greatest are St. George, St. Demetrios, St. Theodore the General, etc. They were men who utilized immense physical force to suppress evil and defeat injustice. [Read more…]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

The Mystery of the Resurrection

Resurrection Christ

5/1/2010 – Regis Nicoll –

The resurrection is one of Christendom’s deepest mysteries and, yet, no different in kind than the mystery of creation—whereby, man was formed from the dust of the earth, and the earth, ex nihilo, by the utterance of God. Consequently, folks who are put off by the resurrection of the dead will likely find the creation of the living a difficult pill as well.

It suggests that the real objection to the resurrection mystery is not so much over the process, but over what the process implies. Someone who is able to reassemble, refurbish, and reinvigorate our remains is Someone who can assert cosmic authority over us and make demands of us. And that is Someone some people would rather not think about, for now. [Read more…]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

The Earth Is Not My God

God Creation

by Bob Lonsberry | 4/22/2010

Earth Day is a crock.

It is the high holy day of the environmentalism cult and I choose not to engage in that particular brand of idol worship.

I choose not to worship the earth as if it were a god and I were a savage. I am its steward, not its slave. I wasn’t created for it, it was created for me.

Man exists not as an accidental product of earth’s evolution, the earth exists as a home for man. It did not produce us, it was produced for us.

God made the heavens and the earth, and he made them for a purpose – and humankind is that purpose. [Read more…]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

The Witness of the Holy Spirit

BreakPoint | by Regis Nicoll | 3/12/2010
Holy Spirit icon Orthodox
God: “He is there,” wrote the late Francis Schaeffer, “and He is not silent.”

As I have noted elsewhere, God not only is there, he has given us ample evidence of that fact through his Word: the incarnate Word of Jesus Christ, the written Word of Scripture, and the Word of creation, conscience, and the Church, with the indwelling Word of Holy Spirit as light and guide.

Misunderstood, ignored
Few doctrines of the Church are as misunderstood as that of the Holy Spirit. I suspect this is partly due to His title. The word “spirit” conjures up a fuzzy, if not, spooky image—a mysterious life-force, a formless immaterial being, a wraith—that inclines us to think of the Holy Spirit as “it” rather than “Him.”

There’s also the matter of instruction. Although we give the Holy Spirit a nod in our slogans, mission statements and church talk, He is largely ignored in our teaching, except as he relates to our spiritual gifts and prayer life. [Read more…]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

The Wonder of the Incarnation

Center for a Just Society | by Ken Connor | Dec. 24, 2009
Nativity_Icon_01_sm

Have you ever noticed how, when it comes to the rich and powerful, the most impressive people are those that eschew the many benefits of their position in favor of a modest, down to earth existence? When those from whom we expect arrogance surprise us with humility, something resonates within the human soul. For Christians, one of the most breathtaking things about our savior Jesus Christ is that he willingly surrendered the privileges of his Lordship and descended from Heaven to walk among us, as one of us.

Who for us men and for our salvation came down from the heavens, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man; (The Nicene Creed)

This is the miracle of Christmas, that in order to reconcile humankind to Him forever God Himself became a man, taking the form of a bondservant and offering an example of holiness and love to the world. In his letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul tells us that we are called to imitate Christ: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8 NIV) [Read more…]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Idol Worship, Counterfeit Gods

BreakPoint | by Marcia Segelstein | Oct. 27, 2009

What we worship defines us and controls us. And sometimes figuring out what we really worship isn’t easy. Timothy Keller is pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and author of the just-released book, Counterfeit Gods. He writes that while some cultures still practice idol worship in the traditional sense, “internal idol worship, within the heart, is universal.”

Anything and everything we turn to in order to satisfy our deepest needs and longings can become idols. Even good things such as family, love, and morality become idols when they take the place of God. As Keller writes, “If anything becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, and identity, then it is an idol.” [Read more…]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail