I’ve neglected writing a blog on this subject matter because of how overwhelmingly divisive it is, as a topic, among Christians. In the midst of our battles back and forth with one another, we have piled up many casualties who never saw the love of God because they only saw our wrath. In our pursuit of “being right,” we have forgotten to “be Christ.” We spend our resources on trying to make sure that homosexual marriage never occurs because we believe it will ruin marriage — all the while, we oftentimes neglect to mention the amount of divorces that occur each year, the shotgun weddings that take place, or the abusive relationships that turn into abusive marriages. 

Recently, I read the book Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gay vs. Christian Debate by Justin Lee. Lee is the founder of the Gay Christian Network (GCN) and works to bridge…

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The Struggle To Be Real

My priest has written some delightfully wonderful stuff here. Give this a read and make sure to check out his blog “Glory to God for All Things” too! 

The Struggle To Be Real


Very few modern Christians who read English are unfamiliar with the writings of CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. Lewis’ expositions of Christian thought as well as his popular fiction (The Screwtape LettersThe Chronicles of NarniaOut of the Silent Planet, etc.) have become modern classics. Tolkien’s The Hobbitand The Lord of the Rings has become something of an industry unto itself and has spawned an entire genre of literature. Many people know that the two writers were friends and colleagues, and some are aware that they belonged to a group of friends known as the Inklings. Few, however, are aware of the conversations and ideas that bound the Inklings together. They were not only Christians (for the most part), but committed Realists who struggled to put into words something of the world as they believed it truly exists. This is the deeper side (the Deep Magic) of their writings – a side I think that speaks to the heart of many in the modern world – though they don’t know why. I’m going to tell you why.

lewisThe Inklings were not a group of men who invented something. They were a group of men who had a shared affinity, something which brought them close to one another despite their differences (It is said that Lewis always had something of his native Northern Irish prejudice towards Roman Catholicism, a troublesome point for Catholic Tolkien). What they shared was a Realist view of the world – a belief that the material world is more than material, and that the symbols, meanings, values, etc. that coinhere within matter are more than ideas – they are real.

Beyond this theological/philosophical commonality, they also shared a belief about the nature of myth. And here I must be careful to define what is meant by myth. In popular usage, myth means a story that is not true, much like the popular usage that says that a symbol stands for something that is not present. For these men, myth was a form of story – but of a primal story, a shaping story. Myth was a story that is profoundly and deeply true, even if its various manifestations have deficiencies and discrepancies.

In the process of his Christian conversion, Lewis relates the account of an evening with a visiting atheist.

Early in 1926 the hardest boiled of all the atheists I ever knew sat in my room on the other side of the fire and remarked that the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels was really surprisingly good. “Rum thing,” he went on. “All that stuff of Frazer’s about the Dying God. Rum thing. It almost looks as if it had really happened once.” To understand the shattering impact of it, you would need to know the man (who has certainly never since shown any interest in Christianity). If he, the cynic of cynics, the toughest of the toughs, were not-as I would still have put it — “safe,” where could I turn? Was there then no escape?

Eventually this would become a core belief for Lewis. “It all happened once.” And so, he would eventually not only not be surprised that there should be other stories of dying and rising gods – he expected it. And he expected it, because the the death and resurrection of Christ are not just historical but also mythic. It is a primal story, even the primal story, one that shapes all stories.

Lewis again said that the ancient pagan myths were “good dreams sent to us by God to prepare for the coming of Christ.”

Tolkien said less about such things than Lewis, but they were equally part of his thought. His creation of Middle Earth, complete with languages, grammar and a back-story (The Silmarillion) that would rival the ancient epics of most civilizations, was not the hobby of an eccentric Oxford don. It was the life-work of a man whose instinct for the mythic required such an effort. On some level, certainly as an expression of myth in the way it is being used here (and as the Inklings themselves used it), the stories of Middle Earth are true. They are certainly far more true than any story found in the pages of a modern Newspaper.

Another member of the Inklings, Owen Barfield, was a lawyer by profession. However, Barfield was a former Anthroposophist and a profound Realist. His theoretical writings, such as Saving the Appearances, are much harder to read than the relatively popular works of Lewis and Tolkien. But both men thought of Barfield as the true theorist within their number.

Tolkien, reflecting on Barfields’s work, said, “If God is mythopoetic, then we must become mythopathic.” This is to say that if God’s primary mode of revelation is through the instrument of mythic stories and events, then we ourselves must be open to understanding such mythic expressions of realities. Strangely, myth (in their use of the term) is far better suited to expressing Realism than any possible materialist account.

And this brings us to my original point: Why do the imaginative works of Lewis and Tolkien speak to the modern heart as much as they do?

They do so because they are true! But the truth that they relate is a truth known primarily by the heart and it is this dynamic that gives myth both its nature and its effectiveness.

In the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Lewis introduces us to Eustace Clarence Scrubb. Eustace has been raised by “modern” parents and has a thoroughly materialist view of the universe. This renders his character deeply problematic in the mythic world of Narnia. It is his inward change that forms the primary narrative of the novel. Becoming mythopathic in Narnia is more than a philosophical change for Eustace – it is salvation.

The same can be said for the rest of us. The assumptions and narratives of materialism (both in its atheist and Christian forms) are not only incorrect, they can be productive of bad character, leading us away from God. The mythic nature of the world (reflected in the Inklings’ version of Realism) is a reflection of the child-like innocence that Christ enjoins on his followers. Adults who are too “wise” to be fooled are always dangerous characters in Lewis’ novels.

In the life of the Church, there is a primary “mythic” experience: the Liturgy. Liturgical action is more than an antiquated manner for having a Church meeting. It is the ritual, sacramental and symbolic enactment of a Reality that might otherwise not be seen, understood, or experienced. That same reality, presented in a non-mythic manner, would be less accessible and probably misunderstood. Tolkien was right: we must become mythopathic.

The attraction of Lewis’ and Tokien’s writings are witness to the fact that there is a deep mythopathic part even in the modern heart. This is not a modern phenomenon – it is a human phenomenon. It is the anti-mythic character of modern culture that sets it apart from all human cultures that have come before. The reduction of the world to a narrow, materialist understanding of fact, is simply a world unable to communicate God.

Lewis used the term Tao to describe one aspect of this mythic Reality in his book, The Abolition of Man. He meant no particular version of Taoism – only that there is a deep Way (Tao) of things that anybody with any sense at all (to say it in a Lewisian fashion) should know. That so many no longer perceive the Tao of things is a testament to a world increasingly populated by versions of Eustace Scrubbs.

But even Eustace came to know the Tao of things. We may pray for the same.

The Mark of the Beast Demystified—Or, I’ve Got 666 Problems but the Rapture Ain’t One of Them

“Like other apocalyptic texts, the Book of the Revelation of Saint John the Divine is not a prediction of events expected to take place two millennia after the author’s death. Rather, it is a message aimed at a contemporary audience, one that relies on a knowledge of people and events from the author’s own time.”

Is That in the Bible?

Growing up with dispensationalist parents and acquaintances, the end times, Antichrist, and mark of the beast were topics that came up not infrequently. Add in Pentecostalism, Satanic Panic, and an unhealthy preoccupation with flavour-of-the-month charismatic prophets, and you have the makings for some bizarre biblical hermeneutics.

The fact of the matter is that end times prophecy, the mysterious number 666, and the identity of the Antichrist have all been subjects pursued with pseudo-scholarly gusto by Christian writers and evangelists (particularly in the Anglosphere) over the past few decades. For the lay Christian with a casual interest in eschatology, deliberation over who the Antichrist is (present tense intended) and the meaning of 666 offers a fascinating opportunity to involve oneself in things that seem both spiritual and important. In fact, the discussion has become productized, with each self-styled end-times teacher and prophet hocking his or her own theories as truth.

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Start your day out Right!


Give the first fruits of your day to the Lord
The “Four Bows”

If we are honest with ourselves, we should lament our inattention to God, our weak and inconstant prayer, our false priorities, the time we waste on things that are not effectual for our salvation. We are weak creatures, driven by habit, and many of these habits are sinful and destructive. So many of our activities are thieves – they steal time from prayer.

It is precisely because of our nature that I have counseled most of you to do “4 bows” in the morning. There is a superb article, from an old “Nicodemus” publication (which later became “Orthodox America”) which provided the seed for this instruction. In the article, a bishop was instructing a group of children. I will try to reproduce the gist of his words here.

Our hearts are like coal, which is cold, but…

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Widening Our Vision (Windows to Heaven)

ImageWhy do the Orthodox venerate and incorporate icons into their worship? It comes down to the belief that we see the world, as Father Stephen says, as a one-storey universe. God is here and now. The Church here on earth is the same as in heaven. The incarnation is what brings this about.

Basically, icons give us a picture of the worship in heaven. As we worship here on earth the saints are worshiping in heaven. The icons help us in seeing that. They give an incarnational presence. 

It has a lot to do with our view of the Church being the same on earth and in heaven. The communion of the Saints is key in this. We believe that since heaven is here and now that the saints are with God and worship Him. If heaven is here and now that means it is among us and we are all one Church. We are never alone for the saints are with us. We just aren’t able to see that; we aren’t able to perceive it with our limited vision. However, I think we can learn to see; we can enlarge our vision, our understanding.

When I enter into the nave of our parish and I see the icons making present the reality of worship I feel at home.  It is an overwhelming feeling to be connected to the Church in heaven and on earth as we participate in the Divine Liturgy that has been prayed for 1,500 years in its current form by billions, if not trillions, of Christians.  It is an overwhelming sense of belonging to know that that many people have said those same prayers and that millions more are saying them with us in the presence of the saints as we worship the Holy Trinity together.

The icons give us a picture of reality. We can widen our vision, our spiritual vision,  if we begin to understand that there is no dividing line between heaven and earth; we can widen our vision by realizing that there is one Church in heaven and one Church on earth. The Church is fully one and united in Christ in heaven and earth. When venerate the icons because they are worthy of our reverence. They make present the lives of the Saints.  We have respect and love for those who went before us. We honor them. We participate in worship of the All Holy Trinity with them. There is a richness to the Orthodox form of worship. It engages us fully, holistically. One Orthodox Christian said, “We see the Gospel in the icons.” Words fall short when spoken alone. The icons helps us to see the Gospel, to see reality in a way in which our eyes prohibit us.

This is not a full theology concerning the icons, but a basic induction to them as I have come to understand them. In summary, I once read that the “icons do with colors what the Scriptures do with words.” I wanted to write this up to give a basic, simple understanding of the icons. I’m sure others can answer the question of why we have them and venerate them better, but this is how I have come to understand them.



The Secret of the Universalist Hope

Eclectic Orthodoxy

“Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee” (Confessions I.1)—perhaps the most famous sentence from one of the most famous prayers (and most certainly the longest) in the catholic tradition. St Augustine’s words have been quoted by preachers ever since they were penned. They point us to the most fundamental truth of our existence—we are created for God and can only find lasting happiness and fulfillment in him. Stephen J. Duffey offers the following commentary:

Grace is a comprehensive ambience for Augustine. No person, event, aspect of his life stood outside the divine intent to bring him to fulfillment. Conversion was not the first entrance of grace into his life, only the compass point from which he could read the presence of grace from the very beginning of his days. Wherever…

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