Concerns about the Great and Holy Council

The First Council of Nicaea
The First Council of Nicaea

Soon the Orthodox Church will convoke a Great and Holy Council, the first such council in over a millennium. Though by no means ecumenical in any official sense (at least not yet), it is a historic meeting, for which I have felt a deep and abiding ambivalence.

I am a convert to the Orthodox Church. Unlike many converts, I did not see the deep and rich traditions of the Orthodox Church as providing me with resources to be more fundamentalistic than I was before (such as I hear creationists citing Basil as proof of a young earth). I was never a fundamentalist. What attracted me to Orthodoxy was the ambiguity of it all, which is another way of saying Mystery. Jaroslav Pelikan, another convert, described Orthodoxy as the church of the seven councils that we deem ecumenical. We have a lot of other canons, synods, traditions, and opinions, but they are not finally and firmly authoritative in the same way that those minimum of dogmas are.

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Fear of Gays and Episcopalians (and Bears, Oh My!)

Fr. Robert Arida

Not long ago, Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse suggested that Fr. Robert Arida go become an Episcopalian. For those who don’t know, that’s the conservative Orthodox equivalent of, “Go f@#k yourself!” This sentiment was echoed by the always level-headed, never trollish, commenters of The ostensible source of their outrage is an article that Fr. Arida had posted on Wonder, a blog for OCA youth. According to Fr. Jacobse, Fr. Arida attempts to “legitimize homosexual parings” in clear violation of “Orthodox self-understanding and practice.” That is a pretty bold accusation, one that demands a first-hand investigation. Unfortunately, the original article was censored taken down, but I found a PDF version. In it, Fr. Arida says the following about “homosexual pairings”…


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Three Reasons Why New Atheism is Freak’n Adorable!!!

Okay! We get it!
Okay! We get it!

This is something I have been thinking of submitting to the Huffington Post for a while. If you have ever paid attention to the comments on any article in the religion section, you probably already know that it is regularly trolled by New Atheists who have too much free time. “New Atheism” refers to a particular school of atheism that has cropped up in recent years. It has roots in evolutionary scientists like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennet, possibly as a reaction to some of the unsavory elements of Christian neo-Fundamentalism (i.e. anti-Darwinian Evangelicalism). I don’t have a problem with atheism. I rather respect the atheism of Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche, but New Atheism lacks the philosophical gravitas of those thinkers. New Atheism argues that religion is dangerous, and therefore the path to world peace and enlightenment necessitates moving away from God. That’s its position in a nutshell. I normally don’t like talking about whole “schools” of thought because there can be a lot of variety among New Atheist thinkers, but when one blogs, one must often settle for conceptual shorthand.

But why do I say New Atheism is adorable? Continue reading “Three Reasons Why New Atheism is Freak’n Adorable!!!”

Why Killing in Self-Defense is Still a Sin

St. George & the Dragon, detail [Wikimedia Commons]
St. George & the Dragon, detail [Wikimedia Commons]
I recently wrote that a Christian should not carry a concealed weapon because it violated the spirit of martyrdom and self-sacrifice the church tries to teach us. One common objection to this point was that to choose not to kill in the defense of another human being would be unloving. I agree. It would be unloving to the potential victim, and it would be unloving to the potential victimizer. In the Orthodox Church, killing in defense of self and country is still a sin. Continue reading “Why Killing in Self-Defense is Still a Sin”

“Contextuality and Normality: Orthodox Visions of Human Sexuality” by Dn. Drew Maxwell


The following is a brief summary and response to a short paper delivered at the Sophia Institute Conference, December 7, at Union Theological Seminary, NY.

In this paper, Dcn. Drew Maxwell argued that an overly negative view of human sexuality is one unfortunate consequence of the modern turn to patristic sources. Theology is deeply informed by context. Most patristic and medieval theologians were monks and often wrote to celibates, which is why their writings often stressed celibacy over married intimacy. In some cases, there may have been genuine disdain for the married life; in others we are merely witnessing a kind of pastoral encouragement. If modern readers forget the importance of context, they can walk away from such resources with a distorted view of what their own marriages should be.

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Three Reasons Why Market Liberalism is a Religion

Like all fundamentalist faiths, Chicago School economics is, for its true believers, a closed loop. The starting premise is that the free market is a perfect scientific system, one in which individuals, acting on their own self-interested desires, create the maximum benefits for all. It follows ineluctably that if something is wrong within a free market economy – high inflation or soaring unemployment – it has to be because the market is not truly free. There must be some interference, some distortion in the system. The Chicago solution is always the same: a stricter and more complete application of the fundamentals.


– Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Several years ago I read Fr. Sergei Bulgakov’s claim that Marxism is not social science but a kind of religion. Recently I realized his argument could also be applied to the laissez-faire capitalism promoted by “market liberalism” (which is basically libertarianism). Beginning with Bulgakov, here are a few reasons why I think market liberalism is a religious movement. Continue reading “Three Reasons Why Market Liberalism is a Religion”