Dostoyevsky

“The more I love humanity in general the less I love man in particular. In my dreams, I often make plans for the service of humanity, and perhaps I might actually face crucifixion if it were suddenly necessary. Yet I am incapable of living in the same room with anyone for two days together. I know from experience. As soon as anyone is near me, his personality disturbs me and restricts my freedom. In twenty-four hours I begin to hate the best of men: one because he’s too long over his dinner, another because he has a cold and keeps on blowing his nose. I become hostile to people the moment they come close to me. But it has always happened that the more I hate men individually the more I love humanity.”

― Fyodor DostoyevskyThe Brothers Karamazov

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Baptismal Theology

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One of my first posts was to describe what I learned about baptism after beginning my Journey to Eastern Orthodoxy. I am now undergoing a study of Baptismal Theology as it relates to the non-Orthodox. The main points to examine will be as follows:

Grace-is there grace outside of the Orthodox Church

Sacraments–is there validity to non-Orthodox sacraments

Baptism–should converts from other Christian backgrounds be ‘re’baptized when being received into the Orthodox Church? If no, then what is the criterion for accepting another baptism? Is it belief in the Holy Trinity? Full immersion? The baptizing Church’s belief in the full humanity and divinity of Christ? What if those were in place, but the baptizing agent was a practicing homosexual, a woman, or a mason?

These are questions that have been oft debated for centuries, but with more commonality with the inclusion of the Orthodox in the World Council of Churches, and especially with the Orthodox being the minority in the United States. The Orthodox Churches here have been mostly ethnic Churches. But that is changing now.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback. I’ll be posting information and theological perspectives on the subject over the next few weeks.

Max Scheller, Ressentiment–Series on Love

Max Scheller

Ressentiment is a term that Nietzsche used to describe Christians. The term is synonomous with envy and resentment. Nietzsche characterizes the idea of Christian love as the most delicate flower of ressentiment. The Judeo Christian God is a God of revenge

Scheller argues that Nietshche is completely mistaken. Christian love is placed above the rational domain…blessed more than all reason. He explains that “…the Christian love (agape) transcends the natural sphere, defeating and superseding the psychological mechanism of the natural instincts such as hatred against one’s enemies, revenge, and desire for retaliation. It can place a man in a completely new state of life.” The expression of Christian love is a striving from ignorance toward knowledge. The beloved moves the lover.

Where Nietzsche sees the Christian as the weak suffering person who is jealous of those with wealth and station in life. They have therefore derived a religion with a God who will punish those wicked people and elevate the weak to a higher status in the life to come. Scheller argues that in fact the opposite is the case. Christianity is not about moving from a lower to a higher. He reverses the axiom. We Orthodox might refer to the term Kenosis, which is a self-emptying. In fact, Metropolitan Kallistos says, surely citing The Fathers, that there can be no theosis without kenosis. Scheller writes that the “nobler stoops to the vulgar, the healthy to the sick, the rich to the poor, the good to the common, the Messiah to the sinners and publicans.” Christians are not worried about losing something, he says. It is through this self-renunciation that the gains the highest good and becomes equal to God.

Incarnational teaching is that God descended to man, became a servant, and died the bad servant’s death on the cross. There is no place for hating one’s enemies, nor for revenge. The Christian God is a God who loves. Following are a few other points Scheller points out in his paper:

  • All are worthy of love: friends and enemies.
  • We don’t love for its achievements
  • Love grows in its actions
  • Egoism, concern for one’s own interests are a sign of a blocked and weakened life
  • Life can be sacrifieced for values higher than itself
  • Every living being has a natural sympathy for other living beings, which increases with proximity and similarity to himself

A teaching of Scheller’s where I found great value was in the process of Christian charity. Caritas is the Latin form of love that corresponds to agape. The widow who gave what little she had gave more in love, though less in quantity. Christ is not concerned with the utility of giving, but with the transcendent growth that the giver gains through the act of giving itself. Christ’s mission for us was not in a redistribution of wealth. Where one does see a sort of financial equality, communism if you will, is in free acts of love, such as in monastic communities. The teaching was not reactive or utilitarian. Jesus is concerned with the increase in spiritual value of the giver, not the increase in wealth of the poor. This self-renunciation allows a man to win himself.

Poverty is not better than wealth. Christianity is not concerned with “subaltern modern things” as socialism or altruism. “The important thing is not the amount of welfare, it is that there should be a maximum of love among men. The act of helping is the direct and adequate expression of love, not its meaning or purpose.”

Likewise, we should not love God because of his Heaven and earth–we should love Heaven and earth because they are God’s. God is the source of love, and His love is infinite. Genuine love transcends the natural sphere and is manifested most clearly when we love our enemy. God created the world as an expression of his love. We cannot love without turning away from ourselves. For example, the Christian must refuse to react to conduct that would lower him to the level of his enemy

 

Movie Recommendation-Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

Darwin

Expelled is a documentary about how the mainstream scientific community will only allow Darwinism to be taught at Universities when considering how the world came to exist as it does now. Any professor or intellectual who dares to even consider Intelligent Design in lectures, papers, or published research is isolated and ‘disciplined’. This documentary outlines how professors and researchers at the Smithsonian Institute were relieved of their posts for even mentioning the possibility of “ID” in their research. The fired researcher who examined ID at the Smithsonian was even told that he was guilty of “Intellectual Terrorism.”

I am no scientist, and I am not well versed in all of the research on both sides, but I do know that this has been an ongoing debate for centuries. Isn’t  science supposed to examine how the natural world operates? Shouldn’t scientists be willing to examines all possibilities of the issue at hand? In terms of how we came to exist, there are essentially two scientific possibilities: Some sort of random act of nature together with a consistent development of cells to their current state OR some Intelligent Hand that has a role in the design of the Universe. The modern establishment has disallowed one of these two options from even having a place at the research table.

Charles Darwin, their hero, never had a formal job outside of his home. A wealthy father bankrolled all of his research and efforts. This is no longer much of an option for the modern scientific community. A great deal of money is required to conduct research today. This money is being allocated almost exclusively for the research of Darwinism.

I commonly meet students at University who are convinced of the ‘fact’ of Darwinism. Ben Stein interviewed supporters on both sides of the argument in his film. Some of the scholars are not convinced of either theory, but want to be able to examine both possibilities within the scope of their research. They are not allowed.

Richard Dawkins, a devout atheist who is one of the most outspoken critics of ID and author of “The God Delusion,” was interviewed in this documentary. He admitted, along with many others on the program, that nobody really knows how everything got started. He also told Stein that he was open to the possibility that some more advanced life form, perhaps from another Galaxy, had a hand in the design of our current world. Apparently, he’s open to ID as long as the designer is not called God.

Stein interviewed another Darwinian professor and asked him how creation came to be. He said that ‘one popular theory’ is that cells developed on the backs of crystals and continued to mutate and develop to what we have today. So, magic crystals can be taught to our students, but those who consider ID are quacks?

One point that I found very interesting is that Darwin had no theory about how everything got started. His evolutionary theories begin after the first cell is already in existence. How cells came to be are not explained. Most of us would agree that species develop and change. However, there is no evidence to show how one species changes into a completely different species. Additionally, Darwin admits that he cannot define a species. The cell, as Darwin knew it in 1859, is not even remotely related to what we know a cell to be today. A featured scientist said that if a cell to Darwin was a mud puddle, a cell today is a Saturn V, or even a galaxy. Today’s cell is something Darwin could not have even imagined, he said. So, Darwin does not know what a species is or how species came to be, but titled his book, “The Origin of Species.”  And this is the only option allowed to be taught to our students?

There are far-reaching consequences to this theory.

Darwinism has been the greatest engine for atheism for the last 150 years and it is being actively taught to our children as a foregone conclusion–a fact. My 8-year old son  has already been indoctrinated.

There are also significant moral consequences. We are not saying that people who believe in an evolutionary process are evil people. However, the theory itself has been used for the basis of human eugenics, abortion, euthanasia, and extermination of human beings. Mein Kampf has Darwinian Theory jumping from the pages. Death chambers were set up in Germany where 70 persons were killed daily who were deemed handicapped in some way. Hitler felt they were genetically weakening the human race. He wanted to remove them from the gene pool in order to create his perfect race. He likely even thought he was doing good. Imagine that. There is no intrinsic value of life when you follow the natural conclusion and spiritual significance of this thought pattern.

Once man is reduced to a simple collection of cells with no metaphysical reality, one’s whole perspective on the value of life is altered. One can effectively argue that many of the changes in laws today stem from this mindset. All of the judges on our current Supreme Court were educated in two or three ‘elite’ universities that are stamping out Darwinists who are speaking in one collective, uniform voice. History last century is riddled with leaders who systematically tried to eradicate religion. The  scientists interviewed in the documentary admitted that this is their goal.

We must allow our voices to be heard just as strongly. We must take care with the education of our children. Life matters. 

 

 

Vladimir Solovyov, The Meaning of Love

Solovyov

1.

Higher forms of natural organisms distinguish themselves with self-consiousness and spontaneity. They strive to push the the bounds of the law of death, so must not man in the historical process completely abrogate this law?

If man only multiplies like other animals, will he not perish like them? But simple abstinence from sex will not deliver mankind from death: both virgins and eunuchs also die. To remain in sexual dividedness means to remain on the path to death. Only the human being in his entirety can be immortal. In what then does true union in the sexes consist, and how is it accomplished?

2.

There is no clearly articulated norm in sexual relations, so any enquiries are arbitrary. Sexual impulses which are comparatively rare are pronounced to be pathological deviations demanding treatment. This treatment often cures one disorder only to lead to another. Perversions of sexual feeling studied in medical books are serious for us, as being extreme development of the same tendency, which has made its way int o the everyday usage of our society and is reckoned permissible and normal. Various attractions of a man toward a woman, such as her hair, hands, or feet, are seem to be an appellation of fetishism in love. But these are only parts of the body and not the whole. And the body is not the whole person/being. But fetish worshipers are not considered to be insane by psychologists.

These people take a woman’s body for the satisfaction of an emotional need, and by so doing separate body from soul, buts be acknowledged abnormal in sexual relations, mental defectives, fetish-worshipers in love, or even worshipers of carrion.  But they are reckoned normal people, and through this living death almost the whole of mankind passes. There is no isolation of lower animal spheres in the human being from higher ones. How do we find a distinction between what is normal or abnormal in the domain of sex? These persons are spreading the terrible infection, which is a sufficiently common consequence of the natural satisfactions of natural needs.

3.

He does not condemn nature, but the so-called natural methods of satisfying sexual feeling. Man is a complex creature and what is natural for one of this constituent principles or elements may be contrary to nature for another. As an animal, it is perfectly natural to allow unlimited satisfaction to his sexual needs. But as a higher being, a moral being, he is ashamed of such behaviors.  Before, legal unions in the social-moral order do not deliver us from death, ought to be union in God, which leads to immortality. That which is wholly natural considers  the man in his entirety. In this way, we partake in the supreme divine principle, drawing a link between with the source and the world.  Reducing ourselves to animals is contrary to our own nature. This logic would also hold for simple moral-social civil unions, while neglecting proper spiritual principles. This neglect becomes ‘normal’, which is a prevalent perversion.

4.

Psychologists devote their attention to unusual variations of a general pervading perversion, but which sin and death are maintained and perpetuated. There are three bonds, or links between the sexes:

  1. The bond of animal existence
  2. The bond of earthly morality, subject to law
  3. The bond of spiritual life –union in God

It appears that most put the first what in reality should be the first, the animal physical bond. Many recognize it today as the basis of the whole business, while it should be the ‘final crown’. Others the foundation is reared the social and moral structure of a legitimate family union. Then the exceptional phenomenon, for an elect few a pure spiritual love, which which all genuine contents are ousted beforehand by other inferior ties without any real tasks or ends in life. Most intelligent people ‘do not believe in such love’, or take it for poetry.

Exclusively-spiritual love is as much an anomaly as exclusively-physical love. The absolute norm is the restoration of the integrity of the human being. We should not separate the spiritual from the sensuous. Genuine spiritual love is not a feeble imitation of death, but a triumph over death–a transfiguration of the mortal into the immortal, a taking of the temporal into the eternal. A false spirituality is a denial of the flesh, true spirituality is the regeneration of the flesh, the rescue of it, the resurrection of it from the dead.

5.

Man was created to be in the Divine image. We relate to the other sex as Christ relates to His Church. Christ is the absolute fulness of being to the pure potentiality of being. Christ relates to the Church as actual perfection to the potentiality of perfection being revealed in realized perfection. The relation of husband and wife is the relation between two differently functioning, but yet equally incomplete potentialities, which attain perfection only in the process of action upon one another. And and his email mutually complete each other, not only in the real, but also in the ideal sense.

Christ has power by nature, while we have power by grace and adoption. Authentic love is the process of the integration of man’s nature, or the restoration in him of the Divine image.

6.

Genuine love is about faith. This transcendent relation to the other, this mental transference of it into the sphere of the Divine, presupposes the same relation in oneself. I can only acknowledge the unconditional significance of a given person, or believe in him (without which true love is impossible), by affirming him in God, and therefore by belief in God Himself, and in myself, as possessing in God the centre and root of my own existence. The act of faith is prayer. The indissoluble union of oneself and another in this relation is the first step towards authentic union. It is a small step, but without it, nothing more advanced or greater is possible.

7.

Perfection is in God and for us still being realized. Our world is aspiring toward that ideal unity, both historic and cosmic. The object of true love is twofold:

  1. We love the ideal creature, the creature whom we ought to install in our ideal world.
  2. We love the natural human creature, the ‘personal material’ for the realization of the former, and who is idealized by means of it in the sense of its objective transformation or regeneration.

 

 

You know you’re Orthodox when you’ve been asked…

  

You know you’re an Orthodox Christian when you’ve been asked these questions many times:
1) Wait, are you Christian? / Do you believe in Jesus/Bible? 

…yes.
2) But you’re not Greek? 

As the Good Book says, “They were first called Christians in Antioch.” Soo in other words, no, you don’t have to be Greek to be Orthodox as evidenced by the majority of Russians who are Orthodox Christian, pretty much everyone in Eastern Europe, and the majority of Christians in the Middle East.
3) So are you like Catholics? 

Short answer? No. Long answer: There was a major split in the year 1054 due to the West adding the filioque phrase to the Creed and the pope claiming to be the head of the church and breaking off from the group of patriarchs from various cities who “shared power,” (and still do in the East) along with: many theological differences, and Orthodoxy is more mystical while Catholicism is more dogmatic. Lastly, there is no pressure or feeling of “guilt,” as seen in the Western denominations, despite the fact that we do have confessions. 
4) So why is your Easter different? 

We follow the “old calendar” while the West (Catholics and the subsequent splits from them, the Protestants/Lutherans, etc) follows the Gregorian calendar which was introduced by the Pope. This is why some places, namely Russia, celebrate Christmas in January, although most people celebrate in December. During Easter, or as we call it, Pascha, we all celebrate on the same day because it’s the most important Feast Day in the church.
5) So who was first? Bc I’ve never heard of your religion before! 

This is because Orthodoxy is mostly in the East, so many Westerners aren’t aware, hence being asked these questions on the regular. There was only one Church in the beginning, The Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church; (Catholic means world wide). After the split of 1054, denominations “renamed” themselves. Orthodoxy is so named because “ortho” means “right/correct” and “doxy” means “practice,” as we follow the original teachings. 
Now that those questions have been cleared up, 😉 I have to pray for all of my Brothers and Sisters in Christ in the Middle East who are slowly being eradicated in the land where we were first called Christians. It saddens me deeply to see our Governor, along with many others, implement a fear mongering order declaring that no refugees will be accepted. This is inhumane and morally reprehensible, for when the United States involves itself in the Middle East to the extent that it does, we have more of an obligation than most to let these people into our nation. Don’t misinterpret me, as no matter the religion, we were all made in the image and likeness of God, and all deserve ethical treatment. I am ashamed that we are letting fear take precedence over human rights. Whenever fear guides any policy, history tells us time and time again that it has never led to anything good.