Slaughtering the Innocents

On Friday, December 29, the Orthodox Church commemorated the slaying of the infants in Bethlehem by Herod, the puppet-king of Judah.

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. (Matt. 2:16)

This is the part of the story we don’t include in the Christmas stories we tell our children: The birth of Christ involved an act of mass murder. All hail the Prince of Peace. Continue reading “Slaughtering the Innocents”

Empathy for the Devil

A friend of mine contacted me recently and asked me if I would review a book for another friend of hers. Since it meant I would get a free copy, and I could ignore the book if it sucked, I accepted the invitation. A few weeks later, Empathy for the Devil arrived in the mail, and it did not suck.

Continue reading “Empathy for the Devil”

Public Theology in the Post-Secular?

Martin Marty in full regalia.
Martin Marty in full regalia.

I recently read/pillaged an article by Linell Cady which calls for a re-evaluation of the role and methods of public theology in light of our post-secular context (brill.com/ijpt).

The term “public theology” appears to have been coined by Martin Marty. It was a liberal Christian response to a growing religio-political fundamentalism. Of course, religio-political fundamentalism (i.e. the religious right) was itself responding to secularization. So, in a way, public theology attempted to be a better, more “right” kind of response. Think of it as the “B” side of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, but with a smaller PR budget. Continue reading “Public Theology in the Post-Secular?”

Hidden Holiness

When you review a book, you are supposed to summarize it, say what you liked about it, then offer some critical commentary. By those standards, this is about to be a terrible review. I have read Fr. Michael Plekon’s Hidden Holiness, and I am utterly, hopelessly in love! I wish I could stick to the formula and offer a level-headed response, but I am just too giddy.

Icon of All Saints
Icon of All Saints (via Wikimedia Commons)

Fr. Plekon is a priest and scholar, with an expertise the “Paris School” – a renaissance in Orthodox theology occurring in and among the emigres who were expelled from Russia after the triumph of the Bolsheviks. Plekon is especially interested in new criteria for saintliness for the modern world (see my summary of his presentation at the 2012 Sophia Institute Conference). For instance, he was a major advocate for the canonization of St. Maria (Skobtsova) of Paris, a woman who ministered the poor, saved Jewish children from the Nazis, and was herself a martyr of the concentration camps. But she was also a controversial figure. She lived in the world and was an outspoken critic of pious religiosity, who could regularly be seen sharing a drink and a cigarette with her poet friends in Paris’ bars. Continue reading “Hidden Holiness”

Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality

20130609-104815.jpgI have been reading John Boswell’s Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality over the past couple of weeks. Picking through it, mostly. According to my Kindle, I am 38% of the way through the book. So I thought it might be good to take a moment to offer a brief, initial reflection. Continue reading “Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality”

Christianity against Ethics

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[T]he human being must be able to rise above even ethics.

Fr. Sergius Bulgakov

I tend to work my way through several different texts at once. Lately I have been picking my way through Bulgakov’s Unfading Light. This was the book that got Bulgakov accused of heresy by some in the Orthodox Church, the outcome of which was a split-decision in Bulgakov’s favor. History seems to be on the side of Bulgakov, especially since those who continue to insist on his heresy typically have read very little of him, whereas those who read him “get” what he is doing. Unfading Light was Bulgakov’s first attempt at a philosophy of divine-human communion in the idiom of a school of thought known as “sophiology,” which attempted to understand how the absolute God could relate to that which is not God. In his mature theology, you might say the question of sophiology is, “How is Christ possible?” To some, this question is hopelessly speculative, but for Bulgakov and his “fans” (a word that never means 100% agreement) this question is essential for an Orthodox theology of culture.

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The Public Role of Church and Theology

This morning I came across six theses by Pantelis Kalaitzidis on the role the church should play in public life. They are in his book, Orthodoxy and Political Theology, which was recommended by my friend Brandon Gallaher. When the book arrived, I flipped it over and read the following question on the back cover, “Why has Eastern Orthodoxy not developed a full-throated political theological voice?” This is the same question that drove my dissertation and drives my book. (Once again, Brandon hits the nail on the head!) Continue reading “The Public Role of Church and Theology”