Category Archives: Theology

Contra “Father-ism” On Spiritual and Theological Abuse

by John A. Monaco

The Temptation of St. Anthony (Jan Mandijn, 1535)

In May 2018, I graduated with my Master of Divinity, and immediately following the graduation ceremony, I boarded a plane to Rome, where I intended to undergo the 30-day Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Although I had attended a renowned Jesuit university with one of the largest Jesuit communities in the United States, I chose to go to Rome to do the Exercises because the retreat director was an “orthodox” Jesuit, one who was not afraid to speak “the truth” and one who despised the way “liberals” had destroyed the Society of Jesus. As a reasonably conservative Roman Catholic with an overabundance of zeal and vocational angst, I seized the opportunity to make a retreat under this particular Jesuit, leaving the local Jesuits— who helped me grow as a person and a scholar—far behind.

The retreat was, to put it lightly, a torturous disaster. Continue reading

Maternal Body Incarnational Theology through a Maternal Lens

by Carrie Frederick Frost

About a decade ago I found myself pregnant with triplets halfway through work on a PhD in theology at the University of Virginia. My husband and I had thought long and hard about having a third child, so the joke was on us when—to our total surprise—we learned at a routine ultrasound that I was carrying not just our third child, but also our fourth and fifth. One of my many reactions to this news was to write a book.

Admittedly, penning a work of incarnational theology many not be the typical reaction to a triplet pregnancy, but there’s really nothing typical about a triplet pregnancy. For me, even though I had been a mother of two for several years already, the prospect of a trifecta of infants raised the spiritual stakes of motherhood: I was deeply driven to know more about how motherhood was understood within the Orthodox Christian theological tradition. Continue reading

How Catholics Have Always Believed and Taught Deification

by Jared Ortiz

Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox all have an unfortunate habit of thinking that deification is somehow the exclusive provenance of the Orthodox. This claim is unfortunate not only because it has no basis in reality, but because it blinds us to the riches to be discovered in the tradition and because it slows down ecumenical progress.

The Reformed theologian Carl Mosser has done the most interesting work on how we all came to adopt such an odd prejudice (see his essay here). The details are too complicated for a short post, but let me summarize briefly.  Many people know that Adolf von Harnack, the great Protestant historian of dogma at the turn of the twentieth century, proposed a theory about the development of Christian doctrine which cast the tradition primarily as one of decline. Starting from the simple moral teachings of Christ, Christian doctrine became corrupted due to the pernicious influence of Greek philosophy. What many people don’t know is that Harnack argued that the main culprit in this decline was the doctrine of deification which early Greek Christians imported from the pagans.  While the west was only mildly infected with this doctrine, it became, he claimed, the defining feature of eastern Christianity. Continue reading

Image and Likeness and Profound Cognitive Disability Rethinking Patristic Categories

by Petre Maican

The distinction between image and likeness is one of the recurring themes in the patristic writings and one of the main building blocks of modern Orthodox theology. But is this distinction useful for answering the anthropological question from the perspective of disability? Is it useful to speak about image and likeness in the cases of persons with profound intellectual disabilities? I think not. Especially, when the main requirement for attaining likeness is ethical freedom.  As I will point out further, since the movement from image to likeness is dependent on the use of freedom, persons with profound cognitive disabilities are excluded from attaining the goal of their own existence, perfection in Christ.

It is part of Orthodox identity to remain faithful not only to Scripture or the ecumenical councils, but also to the Tradition of the Fathers. And there are good reasons for this. Without a strong common ground, the faith of the Church becomes the sum of all individual beliefs, with personal opinions and experiences receiving the status of dogmas. Unfortunately, however, the Fathers did not answer all the questions humanity might have throughout the ages. They could not have since they inhabited a different world. They did not have access to the same technology nor did they have the same concerns. Thus, they did not have a doctrine of the Church nor a very developed anthropology. Continue reading