Into Orthodoxy

Via Wikimedia Commons
Via Wikimedia Commons

“I became Orthodox because…”

How would you finish that thought? That is the challenge of this new blog series titled, “Into Orthodoxy.” Many come to the Orthodox Church from other traditions. This series asks, “Why?” Several guest authors have agreed to answer that question in about 500 words. Authors include poets and priests, scientists and broadcasters. Some have been Orthodox for many years; others are just beginning their journey. So starting April 1, look for posts from guest authors, including…

Why 500 words? Because truth reveals itself in brevity. The greater the word-count, the greater potential to obfuscate, not necessarily to others, but (most importantly) to ourselves. Lent is a time of self-reflection. It demands we take a long, hard look at ourselves, and that we be compassionate towards others. That means we have to listen to each other and learn from each other. We need to tell stories and hear stories, and we need to embrace each other in our differences, especially during Lent. Listening becomes a means of grace, a path toward theosis, because God is love. So when we embrace others in love, we embrace God.

Why #Doctrine: Theology in #140 Characters or Less

My weekend was not very relaxing. I got home from work Friday to prepare to teach my SAVY students on Saturday morning (where I sometimes stand on chairs). On Saturday afternoon, I was in a rental car, driving to the annual conference for the Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion (SECSOR). I was invited to present on the topic “Theology 2.0,” which was about the role of public theology in the age of social media. After filling up on some Indian food on Main Street in Greenville, SC, I drove back home again. I got in at about 9:00 last night. I am both tired from the trip and energized at the great conversation with other scholars trying to figure out how to be theologians in this new digital landscape.

Oddly enough, actually brings me to the topic of my paper itself, which was titled, “#Doctrine: Theology in 140 Characters or Less.” Rather than tell you what I said, I think I’d rather just say it. So over the next few posts, I will break up the manuscript of my talk, which I hope will help generate some discussion about what public theology actually is, why it matters, and how to do it in a way that is both effective and faithfully Christian. The first part of my presentation dealt with “Why #Doctrine?” Continue reading “Why #Doctrine: Theology in #140 Characters or Less”

“Paul Evdokimov on Marriage” by Fr. Michael Plekon

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

Tjaarke Maas via Wikimedia Commons
Tjaarke Maas via Wikimedia Commons

I became familiar with the work of Fr. Michael Plekon early in my graduate work. I contributed to the (now defunct) Graduate Theological Society by following the latest articles in St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly. That is where I read Plekon’s on The ‘Sacrament of the Brother/Sister’: The Lives and thought of Mother Maria Skobtsova and Paul Evdokimov.” Fr. Plekon focuses on contemporary “hagiography” – what makes someone a saint in the modern world? His work introduced me to Mother Maria Skobtsova (now St. Maria of Paris) and deepened my understanding of Fr. Sergei Bulgakov. Fr. Plekon is deeply formed by the tradition, yet also understands that the tradition is living and active. Like the liturgy itself, it takes up the world and offers it as a gift to God. Continue reading ““Paul Evdokimov on Marriage” by Fr. Michael Plekon”

“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.

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

“Interactions in the Family: Can Biology Explain it All?”

The following post is part of a series of responses to the Sophia Institute conference on Love, Marriage, and Family in the Orthodox Tradition, December 7, 2012.

Second Keynote: Dr. Andrei Holodny, “Interactions in the Family: Can Biology Explain it All.”

The second plenary paper was delivered by Dr. Andrei Holodny, a practicing doctor and professor of medicine. His talk explored the interaction of evolutionary biology and family life, and it considered the extent to which biology is capable of explaining both our good and bad human behaviors. Continue reading ““Interactions in the Family: Can Biology Explain it All?””

Ancient Faith Continued: Elastic Tradition

I was in the library last month, looking for something from Fr. Dumitru Staniloae when I came across a book by David N. Bell. It’s title immediately caught my attention: Orthodoxy: Evolving Tradition. I had been thinking about what it means to be a modern member of the so-called “Ancient Faith” (read more here), so I picked it up. It reads a lot like an introduction to Orthodoxy, except that it is more frank about our warts than some other primers.

One of the things I loved about Bell’s book was that he constantly stresses the internal diversity within Orthodoxy. The church is not monolithic either in terms of belief or practice. This gets personal for me in the last chapter of his book. Continue reading “Ancient Faith Continued: Elastic Tradition”