Excerpt from a letter to Clancy Martin (Nietzschean scholar):
Christian obsession with political power drives me crazy! It is so damaging to the Christian message. The notion that Christians should "change the world" is little more than a quest for dominance (Will to Power?). In any case I'm absolutely convinced that what fuels the deep passion of the Religious Right is what Nietzsche called ressentiment. The Religious Right feeds on a narrative of perceived injury and lost entitlement leading them to blame, vilify and seek to in some way retaliate against those they imagine to be responsible for the loss in late modernity of a mythical past that was "Christian America." This is ressentiment.
Once we recognise God's great secret, that we are all made to be God's sons and daughters, we can't avoid the call to see one another differently. No-one can be written off; no group, no nation, no minority can just be a scapegoat to resolve our fears and uncertainties. We can't assume that any human face we see has no divine secret to disclose: those who are culturally or religiously strange to us; those who so often don't count in the world's terms (the old, the unborn, the disabled). And this is what unsettles our loyalties, conservative or liberal, right wing or left, national and international. We have to learn to be human alongside all sorts of others, the ones whose company we don't greatly like, the ones we didn't choose, because Jesus is drawing us together into his place, into his company.
So an authentic church has a difficult job. On the one hand, it must be constantly learning from the Bible and its shared life of prayer how to live with Jesus and his Father; its life makes no sense unless we believe that the secret Jesus reveals to those hungry for life is the very bedrock of truth. The Church can't believe and say whatever it likes, for the very sound reason that it is a community of people who have been changed because and only because of Jesus Christ. I am a Christian because of the change made to me by Jesus Christ, because of the gift of the Holy Spirit, which gives me the right to call God 'Abba Father; what other reason is there?
Archbishop Lazar Puhalo Abbot of the Monastery of All Saints of North America
Civil Liaison for the Orthodox Church of Canada
An Invited Paper
The Risale-i Nur: Faith, Morality and the Future of Humankind
An international conference of The Istanbul Foundation for Science and Culture
THE LAMP OF BELIEF
(The illumination of the soul)
For those of us non-Moslems who have recently been introduced to Sa’id Nursi, his writings are enlightening. The more I read of his thought, the more attracted to him I become. His views and concepts should especially resonate with Orthodox Christians whose formation is rooted in the spiritual milieu of the near and Middle East.
Had I been able personally to dialogue with Nursi, I should want to have begun with a discussion of "relationships as the manifestation of belief and faith." When we in the Orthodox Christian community speak of "energies," this is precisely what we are referring to, so let me begin with a few words about energy as relationship. In both physics and Orthodox theology, this is the essential meaning of "energy." "Energy" is the manner in which our inner person relates to God and to other human beings. The uncreated energy of God is the manner in which He establishes His relationship with us. We call this uncreated energy of God "grace." The energy with which we establish our relationship with God, we refer to as "faith." Faith is a higher fruit of "belief," for belief opens our hearts toward God so that we can receive the illumination of faith by means of grace. Our energies form the mode in which we relate to other human beings, and this relationship is truly appropriate only when we have a vital relationship with God.
In the Signs of the Miraculous (V3, p.50.), if I understand Nursi correctly, he tells us that belief in God shines a light into our minds that allows us to seek a reconciliation with our own conscience. Belief is ultimately a gift to those who seek it. Once established in us, belief — which has opened for us the possibility of a relationship with God — provides us with consolation in the face of adversity, and the strength to endure even in the midst of suffering.
In the Orthodox context, we would refer to this light or lamp of consolation in belief as "the Holy Spirit." Though we express this gift in different forms, the end result, the "relationship" is the same. Here, then, we begin to see the fount of loving dialogue. Nursi would lead our souls to the green pastures that are ever verdant even when the world around us is perishing from spiritual drought and desiccation. This is a quest which is mutual for both Orthodoxy and Islam.
I'll never forget the time I was sitting at the Starbucks in downtown Estes Park, Colorado with my friend Brad Jersak and his relating to me how Archbishop Lazar Puhalo of the Orthodox Church of Canada had replied upon being asked, "What message would you have for the evangelical church?" The Archbishop's reply was this:
"Your moralism is killing you."
Wow! That hit me like a ton of bricks. And the line has stuck with me ever since. "Your moralism is killing you." Sometimes it takes the perspective of an outsider to get to the heart of the matter. Orthodoxy has its own issues to contend with, but as far as I'm concerned Archbishop Lazar's diagnosis of the chief malady within evangelicalism is right on target. Our moralism is killing us. But Jesus wants to save us! Here is another quote from Archbishop Lazar which expounds upon the topic.
"If our faith is primarily a mantra to drive away punishment, our faith isn’t really a faith, it is a fear. We feign faith in order to keep from being punished. When we do that it usually manifests itself as a kind of harsh and brutal moralism. Because in this system it is psychologically comforting to see ourselves as better than other people. Thus trying to hype up our ego leads us to a kind of moralism where we have to denigrate others in order to make ourselves feel better." -Archbishop Lazar
Alright, that's all I wanted to share with you, but if you are interested in more of this conversation you can view theSymposium on Deep Structural Fear with my friends Brad Jersak, Ron Dart and Archbishop Lazar. It will be well worth your time. Grace and Peace, BZ Symposium on Deep Structural Fear from Orthodox Canada on Vimeo.
The Christian Tradition has many a heart rending tale to tell, but one of the most vivid and compelling dramas is the endearing relationship of John Chrysostom and Olympias (both leaders and visionaries of the highest calibre). Chrysostom (349-407) is well known within the Orthodox tradition as one of the most respected Biblical exegetes, theologians, public activists for justice and Archbishop. Constantinople was one of the primary urban centers of Christianity in the Classical world, and Chrysostom was consecrated bishop of Constantinople in 397. It did not take long for Bishop John Chrysostom, the eloquent and golden mouth social reformer, to locked horns with the indulgent and wealthy class of the city.
Olympias (360- 408) lost both her parents when she was young, and she married the prefect of Constantinople when she was 18 years of age. Gregory of Nazianzen sent her one of the earliest Christian poems, ‘Mirror for Women’, and her husband died within two years of their marriage. The emperor (Theodosuis) insisted Olympias remarry, but she refused to obey his command. Instead, she slowly built up, with her wealth, the largest convent in Constantinople. Olympias was consecrated a deaconess by Archbishop Nectarius (there were many women in the early church that played significant roles as leaders), and in her role as spiritual mother to a community of more than 200 women, she was active in works of charity, generous with her wealth to the marginalized and built a hospital and orphanage.
The “External Philosophy”: The Fathers and Platonism
It is a commonplace of modern scholarship that the Fathers of the Church, Latin and Greek, were Platonist, with exceptions of Sts Leontios of Byzantium, John of Damascus and Gregory Palamas who were ostensibly Aristotelians. In the case of Platonism, it has a long tradition from ancient to modern times. There is more than one “Platonism.” The Platonism of Plato himself and Hellenic Platonism (before Alexander the Great), finally, there is Hellenistic Platonism (after Alexander’s conquest). The latter consists the schools of Plotinus (Neo-Platonism) or Antiochus of Ascalon (Middle Platonism) or some combination of the three above mentioned.
With special regard to the influence of Greek philosophy in general and Platonism in particular on Christianity, many academics tend to agree with the thesis of the liberal Protestant church historian, Adolph von Harnack (1851-1930), that beginning with the Fathers of the second century, the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ, was overwhelmed by Greek philosophy. He described this era in the life of the Church as “hellenization.” Not a few scholars believe that the Fathers were complicit with St Paul in the formation of a Christian metaphysic, or a Christian version of Greek philosophy. Roman Catholic theologians argue that in fact the Fathers, like the medieval Scholastics, created a synthesis of Plato or Aristotle and Christianity. Most Protestants like to think of these syntheses as a detriment to the Gospel and, therefore, justification for the Reformation and its adoption of the “original” ecclesiology.
How can we as Christians reconcile the apparent violence of Old Testament texts with the self-sacrificing, non-violent life and teachings of Jesus? Many on both sides of the issue use Scripture to justify their stance on war, the death penalty, and violence in our culture. This short (1 hour) but informative recording by Bob Ekblad delves into the difficult and often divisive questions surrounding non-violence perspectives and the way of the cross. Very useful for personal study or small group discussion.
Click here to visit our podcast site and listen to this podcast online. No special tech knowledge required.
The centre cannot hold—mere anarchy is loosedupon the world.
so that they may be one as we are one.
My theological journey, as a young man in my early twenties, took me to L’Abri in Switzerland from 1973-1974. I was quite taken by Francis Schaeffer, but I was never fully convinced by his brand of an updated version of Calvin and the Calvinist tradition. In short, I was never held by the Reformed tradition. The Reformation is the womb of modernity, and much of the fragmentation we face today is the consequence of the reformation. The children are out of the womb, now adults and each doing what is right in the sight of their own eyes (and few agree on what the right is).
I had been reading a great deal of C.S. Lewis in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and I was quite aware that Lewis and Schaeffer dwelt in different environs. Lewis was grounded in the classical way, a Medieval-Renaissance scholar, a catholic Anglican and he had serious doubts about both the Reformation tradition and puritan Calvinism. Schaeffer was a true believer in the Reformed read of the reformation, and its implications for the church and society. Lewis could argue the case for mere Christianity, but there comes a point in the trail when Schaeffer and Lewis part paths for substantive theological, ecclesial and cultural reasons.