Fascination with wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Wisdom of Solomon 4:12

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Final Orthamerica Blog Post

Orthamerica has been a blog where I have had the opportunity to chronicle my own conversion of mind and heart from Anglicanism to Orthodoxy since 2010.  It served as platform that enabled me to contrast some of the basic differences in ways of thought and practices between the two faiths.  My growth in the Orthodox way is still only in its infant stages; nevertheless, the transition is complete.  As a Result, I will no longer be adding posts to this blog. For those who have read the blog, I hope it has been of some help or at least edification.  

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Orthodoxy and the Bible

The Bible is much more than a single book; it is a sacred library containing a collection of books divided into two main parts. The first part of this library is the Old Testament, written to by Israel to Israel in order to prepare them for the coming of God into the world as a man (Christ). Its content deals with the fragmented condition of humanity due to Adam’s freewill choice to live separate from God who is their source of life, and humanity’s journey back to union with God by way of a new Adam.

The Old Testament has various major themes:
1.     Adam and his exile from paradise (as experienced in vespers),
2.     Preparation for a new Adam who will bring humanity back from exile to paradise (as experienced in matins).
3.     Events that are examples of the future life of humanity in paradise (Moses ascent up the holy mountain[1]).
The second part of this library is the New Testament, written by the Church to the Church in order to reveal that God has come into the world as a man in Christ, and has saved the world. As such, the Bible is primarily a guide for those in the Church to enter into Christ’s salvation.

The New Testament has various major themes:
1.     God the Word comes into exiled humanity by assuming flesh- the new Adam (incarnation).
2.     God the Word destroys sin and death – The new Adam recapitulates all things (crucifixion, resurrection and ascension).
3.     God the Word brings humanity back into paradise the faithful – the new Adam is the Savior King (life in the Church).
4.     God the Spirit provides his own energies to help bring about the recovery of humanity (by illuminating, purifying, and deifying to Christ-likeness).

The whole bible contains pieces that comprise a mosaic of the God man, Jesus Christ, who creates, preserves, and restores all things to Himself. The Bible is the written Word of God made up of human words inspired (lit. exhaled) by God Himself, and is without error or contradiction regarding the relationship between God and creation. One of the Bible’s authors, the apostle Paul, tells us that the Bible is the genuine Word of God for those who he calls “the people (man) of God”. Jesus Christ abides in His Church by the Holy Spirit and opens human minds to understand the Bible (Jn 14.26, 16:13). The same apostle Paul contends that when the bible is read by those outside the One Church, a “veil” hides its true meaning from them “because only through Christ is it taken away” (2 Cor 3:14). 

[1] St. Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Moses

Saturday, July 26, 2014

How To Have A Fruitful Inter Religious Dialogue

Every religion makes truth claims. Proving or at least defending these truth claims is required if the religion is to be taken seriously. One cannot normally use the scientific method for proving or defending religious truth claims, because the claims extend beyond the reach of the material science’s inquiry. Nevertheless, these areas that lie beyond the scope of the empirical sciences are not beyond exploration. One can study the historical, moral, philosophical, therapeutic, and social aspects of any religion to compare and contrast against the religion’s claims.

We can inquire into the formation of the religion.
  • We can investigate the major events that created the religion.
  • We can inquire into the morality of its formation.
  • We can inquire to see if there was deceit, bloodshed, in its formation, and if so whose deceit and blood was shed?
  • We can trace the religion’s track record regarding life, and goodness?
We can inquire into the theological claims of the religion, and check them with real history to see the consequences of their outworking.

We can inquire into the lives of the saints of a particular faith. 

Does the religion really produce holy persons and if who, and how?

Are there sects, and if so, how many, how did they come into being, and how do they vary in their beliefs and practices?

These topics are much more appropriate and productive when we dialogue about any particular religion.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Interpreting Scripture like the Apostles

No matter how differently modern interpreters assess the subject matter of the Bible, or its religious significance, there exists a united front among them. [To the modern interpreter] the Bible is important in light of its capacity to refer to some “x”, i.e. what really happened, or certain timeless truths. To our surprise, these views about the Bible’s meaning were not held by premodern readers.

Premodern readers assumed that events depicted in the Bible actually occurred as described, but surprisingly little of their interpretation depended on this assumption. They simply did not ask: “What is the event or truth to which the Bible refers?” For them, the text was woven into the fabric of truth by virtue of being scripture.

As Irenaeus affirmed, “the scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His spirit.” For Irenaeus and for the patristic tradition in general, the Bible was not a perfect historical record. Scripture was, for them, the orienting, luminous center of a highly varied and complex reality, shaped by divine providence. It was true not by virtue of successfully or accurately representing any one event or part of this divinely ordained reality. Rather, the truth rested in the scripture’s power to illuminate and disclose the order and pattern of all things.

The fathers differ from modern readers, not in any particular assumption about a verse or episode, or in any specific method, but in their overall assumptions. Modern readers assume that the Bible means by accurately referring to an “x”, whether event, mode of consciousness, or theological truth. For the fathers, the Bible is the array of words, sentences, laws, images, episodes, and narratives that does not acquire meaning because of its connection to an “x”; it confers meaning because it is divine revelation. Scripture is ordained by God to edify, and that power of edification is intrinsic to scripture.

The image of direction illuminates the difference we discovered in the fathers. Ancient readers of scripture moved within, across, and through the text, exploring its orienting, unifying potency.  Modern readers of scripture move in the reverse direction, adopting techniques that lead out of what seems a confusing, inaccurate, and contradictory text and into a realm of history or theological ideas. [The fathers] did not ask, “What gives meaning to the story of Moses’ ascent of Mount Sinai?” They assumed the authority of the dual accounts in Exodus and Deuteronomy, and they sought to order their interpretations accordingly. Instead of looking behind the text to the events, they looked into the text for clues and solutions. The precritical presumption that the meaning of scripture is in the words and not behind them explains why modern readers find patristic exegesis so unfathomable.

Extracts from
John J O’Keefe and R R Reno

Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005