Theology

Salvation and the “Pursuit of Happiness”

by Paul L. Gavrilyuk

selfhelp

Our pop culture is presently awash with books offering assistance in the “pursuit of happiness.” A search for “happiness” on amazon.com produces nearly 250,000 results, with books ranging from The Positivity Kit (“instant happiness on every page”), to a volume that more realistically guarantees to make you 10% Happier, to a teen’s guide How to Like Yourself, to How to Be Happy in an Unhappy World, to Happiness is a Serious Problem, to, finally, Authentic Happiness. Then there is more specialized literature, such as The Happiness Diet (featuring a yummy chocolate-dipped strawberry on the cover), The Weight of Happiness (combining both a diet and an exercise program), Financial Happine$$ (with the appropriate dollar signs), and of course, Complete Guide to Sexual Happiness after Age 60 (this one is self-explanatory). Should you feel cheated in this brave new world, there are also titles such as Who Stole My Happiness? and even The Happiness Trap. The books that tap into the spiritual dimension of happiness generally serve “religion lite,” such as Gratitude Works!, which assures us that becoming more grateful helps with depression. While there are notable exceptions,[1] the vast majority of self-help books confidently locate happiness in this life and this world.

In contrast, the Christian understanding of salvation, as it is traditionally expressed, involves everlasting life and the reality that transcends this world, namely, the kingdom of God. Continue Reading…

On Behalf of Thinking

by Crina Gschwandtner

Do we still think in our culture today? We are increasingly living in a world where reflection is reduced to superficial slogans and short soundbites, where communication is conducted in a homogeneous echo chamber of my own opinions rather than genuine discourse, where meaning has become the unthinking repetition of platitudes rather than deep engagement with the issues at stake.

This is true both outside the church and, regrettably, within it. Yet, in the current climate we cannot afford simply to parrot spiritual platitudes, to feed our children facile and simplistic versions of the faith, to remain theologically at the level of kindergarten conversation. If Orthodoxy is to be a vibrant tradition today, if its faith is to make sense to and in a postmodern culture, it has to grapple with the contemporary reality in all its complexity. Continue Reading…

Toward a Multicultural Symphonia: Orthodox Solidarity in an Age of Diversity

by Chris Durante

With all of the controversies concerning non-attendance at the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church that took place in Crete this past June, I would like to propose that a re-conceptualization of the Byzantine religio-political ideal of symphonia might be able to speak to the issue of the Orthodox world’s internal cultural diversity and the tensions that arise amongst its autocephalous ecclesial communities. As an ethical ideal grounded in the pursuit of social harmony and concordance amongst distinct voices, symphonia can be re-conceptualized as implying a more robust and polyphonic understanding of its purview, whereby symphonia may serve as the foundation of an Orthodox Christian multiculturalism. Continue Reading…