In a 2015 address at the University of Munich, Metropolitan John Zizioulas observed that "[t]he agenda of Theology is set by history." By "history" he meant the concerns and questions particular to a given age, as he underscores in adding, "This was known to the Fathers of the Church who were in constant dialogue with their time."
If the Church’s theology must accept the questions of history in order to be vital and serve humanity, the same is not true of the conclusions history may hurriedly reach. Christians have sometimes not readily enough accepted history's questions and sometimes too readily accepted its answers. Of relevance to this dynamic is how Church teaching is understood---specifically, in relation to the place of dialogue in the Church.
When in the flow of history an issue erupts, becoming a real question for human beings, the fact that there is already Church teaching on it---if that is the case---can be taken to mean it is unnecessary and even impermissible for Christians to take it seriously as a question. Instead of rediscovering and deepening the teaching through the question, those who appeal to the teaching in order to beat the question back cannot really speak to the question the present age has posed, because they have not entered into it in a sufficiently real and searching way. Continue Reading...
Anyone watching the news today is aware that we are living in an age where secular forms of diversity and pluralism are valued over and above biblical truth. This applies especially to issues of gender and sexuality. Activists in the so-called LGBTQ movement have successfully challenged traditional Christian understandings of marriage and family in nearly every forum of American public life, including school curricula, the media, and the courts. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Supreme Court recognition of gay marriage.
At times, Orthodox responses have been knee-jerk in their opposition to same-sex marriage and the LGBTQ agenda. But a blunt rejection is woefully inadequate. A rebuke is no reply. If Christians have any hope of defending the sacred institution of marriage then they need to articulate the reasons that the Christian theological vision requires marriage to constitute a union of man and woman. Perhaps one of the most profound, yet often unrecognized, explanations for this lies in Christian teaching of the Trinity itself. Continue Reading...
Bradley Nassif wrote a recent post for Public Orthodoxy that named gay marriage as one of the most pressing issues the church must deal with today. If we are to retain our younger members in particular, he said, then we must “articulate the reasons that the Christian theological vision requires marriage to constitute a union of man and woman.” Nassif is right about the urgency but wrong about the argument. If Orthodoxy is to survive the next generations, then it must articulate a Christian theological vision of marriage. Period. No matter where that vision takes us.
If it sounds as if I am leaving the door open for the church to bless same-sex unions, I am. If it sounds like I am advocating for it, I am not. My point is that, in my experience, people (especially younger people) are rarely persuaded when the questions one asks are pre-loaded with the answers one wants. Continue Reading...
One of the Orthodox Church's greatest strengths is the pastoral care used to nurture the faithful. The authority to offer spiritual care is vested in the bishop and extended to the local community through the parish priest; the spiritual father of a particular flock. Through the sacrament of Holy Confession, pastoral counseling, and living among his people, the local parish priest nurtures the flock entrusted to his care by his bishop.
The philosophical idea that grounds pastoral care are the principles of Oikonomia and Akriveia.
Based on these principles, it is the spiritual father’s pastoral responsibility to apply the canons, disciplines, and liturgical life of the Church for the spiritual good of his flock. The spiritual father may feel that, after speaking with an individual who is seeking guidance, that Akriveia, such as a period of time for repentance and abstaining from Holy Communion, is the proper "medicine" to help the person in need of spiritual care. At other moments, and possibly for the exact same issue, the spiritual father may choose Oikonomia, such as the encouraging of fasting and the frequent receiving of Holy Communion as the best "medicine.” (more…)
This is not an essay 1) advocating sex work or 2) denying the need for repentance. This is an essay asking us to reconsider how we treat sex workers.
If there is one thing that even the most theologically illiterate can accurately remember about the life of Christ, it is that he hung around with a questionable crowd: tax collectors, zealots (the ideological equivalent of fundamentalist terrorists in 1st-century Palestine), prostitutes. This was no small thing for a pious Jewish man in 1st-century Palestine. Pious Jewish men did not spend any social time with sinners. It was among the first things that roused the Pharisees suspicions: “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them that “it is not the healthy who need a physician.” God does not come to the holy when they are ready, as most supposed in the ancient world. He comes to those who need Him wherever they are, in whatever state. It was a radical, revolutionary idea then and it still is now. (more…)