Sure, evolution as such is not to be found in the book containing what God gave Moses as an explanation of origins suitable for illiterate nomads. No, and beer is not mentioned in the Bible either, though man has been making it for about twelve centuries.
Bishop Tikhon of San Francisco, Los Angeles and the West

«— Non-conformist Who Craves Touch
—» Saint Athanasius

Facing Death Unmedicated

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Sober Joy: THE DELUSION OF RELIGION

Barnabas recently looked at the relationship between religion and orthodox faith in Christ: Following Father Alexander Schmemann of blessed memory, he states that religion medicates man against the reality of death. Orthodoxy, he says, teaches that Christ has overcome death.

Dr. David Bentley Hart spoke on a similar subject when he addressed the Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Summer Institute last year. The lecture was based on his earlier book, The Doors of the Sea: Where was God in the tsunami?. According to the lecture, he never intended to write this book. It grew out of a series of columns he wrote. He found the various religious responses to the tsunami entirely inappropriate and not accurate as descriptions of Christian beliefs about death and suffering in this life.

He begins by noting an old anthropological study entitled The Primitive Mind which shows that indigenous peoples are nearly universal in seeing death as unnatural. (In my mind, this is exactly the opposite of what I expected.) In the various animist and spiritist cultures, death is always viewed as an interruption. Whether explained by spirits that come to take the soul or some other model, death is always a stranger, an interruption. It is a break, ending a story which could otherwise have continued indefinitely.

You should listen to the lecture; Dr. Hart is far more articulate in describing this than I.

Barnabas’ says that religion attempts to medicate us against the reality of death. My spiritual father frequently uses the image of medicating oneself against the various pains of this world. We use various pleasures to feel good and numb the pain, the bad feelings. We use good things that have been created by God as drugs to numb ourselves to the pain.

This pain is nothing other than death and the fear of death.

No one has to teach us to fear death. Before we even realize that the life of one we love can be ended, we learn that we die a little every time we are told no or something is taken from us. And we learn — are we taught by example or do we develop responses by instinct? — to protect ourselves from death. We learn to act motivated by the fear of death.

In the resurrection, Christ conquers death by his own death. He submits, of his own free will, to the punishment for sin, though he knew no sin. He fills death with the presence of God — the holy Trinity which gives life to the world and is the source of all life. Death is turned inside-out! It ceases to be the end and becomes the end of the beginning. Christ has conquered death; it has been down-trodden, trampled upon, and completely stripped of its power.

As a result, all the little deaths that we face are paths to new life. They prepare us for the last death, and so they prepare us ultimately to expect the resurrection. When we balk at the prospect of what we must do — whether living virtuously or merely praying a simple rule — and the same old voice says, in whatever manner, “If I do this, I shall surely die,” it is true. We will die just a little; yet be not afraid. Christ has conquered death. You will be raised from this little death, and you will be raised from the final death to an eternal, incorruptible life.

But these deaths must be faced without being numbed by religion or sex or television or food or alcohol or any other addiction that we use to numb the pain. The pain must be borne without medication; it must be faced in its full reality.

Only then, when we have learned to face reality, will we be raised to new life. We will be made real, to borrow an image from The Velveteen Rabbit. We will finally be real and alive.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 9:00 pm

«— Christus resurrexit!
—» Facing Death Unmedicated

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Filed under: — Basil @ 4:16 pm

«— Father Thomas Hopko on Scripture and Evangelical Dialogue
—» Non-conformist Who Craves Touch

Christus resurrexit!

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Dogwood blossoms, a traditional symbol of the Pasch in the South. Photo courtesy cjd.

Christ is risen!

Every Orthodox blog in the world right now is posting their Paschal blog post.

“Christ is risen, and not one of the dead remains in the grave.” — Paschal homily of St. John Chrysostom

Not one of the dead remains in the grave. What a proclamation! What universality! On this day, we have hope unbounded by a dusty dogmatism: “You sober and you heedless, honour the day! / Rejoice today, both you that have fasted / And you that have disregarded the fast.” Save your moribund objections for a more mundane day, for on this day, death is despoiled, and all creation is invited to the feast, for Christ is truly risen!

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Filed under: — Basil @ 10:55 am

«— A Kiss and a Vow
—» Christus resurrexit!

Father Thomas Hopko on Scripture and Evangelical Dialogue

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Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko addresses the orthodox approach to scripture:

CC.com: Do you think things like that could ever be modified, in terms of church practise, when the church comes into cultures where people don’t, for example, kiss as frequently as people do in the Orient, for example?

Fr. Hopko: Yeah, it could, but I think what happens is you have a culture of the Church itself, that is not bound to any human culture. The Church itself is a cultural phenomenon — I mean, it’s basically christened Judaism.

I happened to be at McGill University once when they were having one of these discussions — they had an Orthodox priest, a Jew, an evangelical, a liberal Protestant, and a Roman Catholic, and they were talking and talking, and finally somebody in the audience raised a hand and said, “I’d like to ask that Orthodox priest a question. What religion are you closest to anyway?” And just, I guess, for the fun of it, the guy answered and said, “Judaism.”

And they said, “What do you mean, aren’t you Christian?” He said, “Yeah, but in our way of hearing the Bible, worshipping the way we do, you might say that we feel that sometimes we are closer to the Jews than we are to other Christians because of the way they approach the Bible, the way they approach authority, the way they approach worship,” and I think there is a certain truth there.

But the Church itself has a culture. It has songs and icons and hymns and sounds. I think there is a kind of ethos, a culture of the Church itself, that is not just reducible to Slavic or Hellenic or Semitic, that people can relate to. And so a thing like giving a kiss, or making a bow, or lighting a candle — that’s kind of Church culture, it’s not just human culture.

Read the rest: Interview: An Orthodox professor ponders the scriptures

Hat tip: Barnabas Powell

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Filed under: — Basil @ 9:42 pm