Category Archives: Theology

Is Christian Theology Possible Without the Fall?

by Paul Ladouceur

Over the centuries the notion of a fall of humanity from a state of primeval bliss and communion with God has been, faute de mieux, a convenient theological coat-rack to hang such important Christian doctrines as the origin of evil and death, original sin, human moral weakness, the Incarnation of Christ and baptismal theology. The problem, as we pointed out in an article in 2013, is that it is not possible, despite brave attempts to do so, to reconcile a historical understanding of the biblical account of paradise and the fall of Adam and Eve with scientific data and theories. Genesis 1-3 must instead be read as allegory or literary myth, intended to convey certain fundamental truths, such as the divine origin of creation and of humanity and the reality of human evil.

In the project of de-historicizing Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden and the fall, three areas predominate: the nature of human existence; the origin of evil; and the motivation for Christ’s Incarnation. Genesis predicates a form of human perfection prior to the fall (“prelapsarian”), and a much-weakened human existence after the fall (“postlapsarian”). In the standard interpretation, Adam’s fall introduced evil (and the decay and death which accompanied it) into creation. The alternative narrative, we argued, is that God created a world which was neither perfect nor imperfect, but perfectible; decay and death, whether on a galactic or microscopic scale, were inherent in creation from the first moment.

Did God create death? At first blush, the answer is evident: A good God could not have created something as evil as death; to suggest otherwise is outrageous, if not blasphemous. Continue Reading…

(Review) “The Wheel” Issue 13/14- Being Human: Embodiment, Sex and Marriage, Pastoral Challenges

by Luis Salés

The Wheel is a quarterly journal that strives to articulate the Gospel “intelligently and constructively for the 21st Century” from Orthodox perspectives. It offers an accessibly thoughtful and well-researched platform for Orthodox self-expressions and often features world-renown contributors. Andrew Louth edited this volume, which “initiates discussion” (14) concerning Orthodoxy and sexuality. I commend the editorial decision to incorporate vehemently disparate viewpoints as an overture to a multi-partisan and long overdue conversation. I treat here some of the salient discussions in this issue, though I warmly encourage reading it in full.

Louth calls attention to an increase in cultural sexualization and a positively correlated “coolness and lack of physicality” (17) that runs the risk of reducing all human relations to sexual terms. Behr proposes a different vision whereby Christian asceticism (married or not) ought to sublimate sexual difference by becoming human in Christ (28). On Behr’s reading, sexual difference corresponds to being “in Adam, not in Christ” (29). This framework invites deeper reflection on human embodiment. Kelaidis’ article calls for just such an engagement with “the human body as a site of divine revelation” (33), but unfortunately it sometimes deals in platitudes (e.g., its handling of Platonic dualism and “Gnosticism,” pp. 34–35) and I would suggest that the author’s tacit disappointment (33) that Orthodoxy has not produced something of the same “scope and magnitude” (33) as John Paul II’s Theologia corporis is misguided. Collectively, the many extant Orthodox meditations on the body and sexuality are tesserae in a kaleidoscopically shifting mosaic, whose complexity hints—and no more—at the mystery of embodied personhood. Continue Reading…

Fundamentalism: Theology in the Service of Psychosis

by Rev. Dr. Vaseilios Thermos

The academic literature connecting religious fundamentalism and psychosis is extensive. In my experience as both a clinical psychiatrist and priest, I believe that we see this illness both individually and collectively within the Orthodox Church. Fortunately, the solution to this spiritual illness lies in the very proclamation of the incarnation.

Paradoxically, although religious fundamentalism is a fanatical opponent of the discipline of psychology, it actually is a form of psychologism. It assesses through habit, not through truth. For fundamentalism, it is “familiar identity” that is at risk. Fearful of the complexity of the modern world (which has already evolved to the chaos of the postmodern one), it resorts to oversimplified solutions, because it cannot tolerate doubt, perplexity, or coexistence. In other words, fundamentalism “freezes” certain created and external elements of the tradition, which it believes to contain the truth of God. In doing so, fundamentalism immobilizes history, unaware that by doing so it enacts the very sin it claims to fight. Continue Reading…

American Evangelicals, Theological Fantasy, and the Jerusalem Embassy

by David P. Gushee

The uncritical US evangelical embrace of the Trump US embassy move, as well as of the hard-line Netanyahu government in Israel, has important but odd theological roots.

America’s most visibly pro-Israel evangelicals, fundamentalists, and dispensationalists act as they do, in large part, because for them what the modern State of Israel does matters far less than the fact that a modern State of Israel is. Their interest in Israel is theological, even mythological, rather than ethical or this-worldly political.  Their unwavering defense of Trump’s Jerusalem policy and his partnership with Netanyahu is rooted not just in their loyalty to Trump but also in their highly questionable eschatological scenarios, in which a return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland is viewed as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy and a decisive event in the end-times before Jesus returns. Continue Reading…