April 19, 2014

Gnostics, Then and Now

The current issue of Christian History & Biography magazine takes a look at Gnosticism, or what editors rightly label, "The Hunger for Secret Knowledge." The issue features an article by Fr. John Behr, dean and professor of patristics at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, which describes how the "Great Church" in the apostolic age was able to discern the truth about the Christian faith despite the best efforts of the Gnostics. Fr. John writes: This [true] faith, according to Irenaeus, is found in the Scriptures and summarized in the Rule of Faith. The proof that this is the true faith is that the "Great Church" could point to a visible succession of teachers, presbyters, and bishops who taught the same things throughout the world: This is the teaching common to all the apostles and the churches founded by them. The leaders of many of these churches had been taught by the apostles themselves, or disciples of the apostles, and they "neither taught nor knew of anything … [Read more...]

Met. Kallistos Ware in Detroit

More than 500 people gathered at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in suburban Detroit last week to hear Metropolitan Kallistos Ware deliver a talk on "The Future of Orthodoxy in the United States." Metropolitan Ware's visit was sponsored by St. Andrew House -- Center for Orthodox Studies, also in Detroit. The author of The Orthodox Church and The Orthodox Way told the assembly that "we must say the catholicity and universality of the church are more valuable, more fundamental than our national, ethnic, and cultural identity." And, His Eminence added, "if the basis of the Church's existence is life in the eucharist, it means that the church is organized on a territorial, and not on an ethnic principle." Ancient Faith Radio recorded the event. It was sponsored and hosted by St. Andrew House, A Pan Orthodox institution dedicated to Orthodox unity. Listen to Metropolitan Kallistos (Timothy) Ware's address: Listen to the Question and Answer session: … [Read more...]

Congratulations, We Are Healthier Than Ever!

I live in Amsterdam. For the geographically challenged -- or for those who have spent too much time in an American high school -- Amsterdam is in Holland. Holland is also called The Netherlands. This literally means "Low Lands", which is why in French it is called the Pays Bays. Low is the word to keep in mind when thinking of this land. There is a free market on sex. Drugs, some soft, and some bordering on hard (i.e., certain mushrooms) are tolerated, de facto legal really. Salaries are stifled (i.e., kept low) by an paternalistic tax regime. And the general culture here is currently competing with American popular culture to see which can slouch further and faster towards Gomorrah (in Robert Bork's coinage). Morality may be a least common denominator approach, live and let die may be the M.O. in all but aid for Africa, and the streets may look like a cross between Istanbul and Bunyan's 'Vanity Fair.' But one thing is for certain, we are sure that we are healthier than … [Read more...]

Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: Liberal Christianity will not survive for a long time

Address at the opening session of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, Geneva, 13 February 2008. Source: Europaica I would like to draw your attention to the danger of liberal Christianity. The liberalization of moral standards, initiated by some Protestant and Anglican communities several decades ago and developing with ever-increasing speed, has now brought us to a situation where we can no longer preach one and the same code of moral conduct. We can no longer speak about Christian morality, because moral standards promoted by 'traditional' and 'liberal' Christians are markedly different, and the abyss between these two wings of contemporary Christianity is rapidly growing. We are being told by some allegedly Christian leaders, who still bear the titles of Reverends and Most Reverends, that marriage between a woman and a man is no longer the only option for creating a Christian family, that there are other patterns, and that the church must be 'inclusive' … [Read more...]

‘A Patriarch in Dire Straits’

At the Acton Institute, where I labor as communications director, I published a commentary pegged to Patriarch Bartholomew's forthcoming book, "Encountering the Mystery." The commentary was also picked up by the Assyrian News Agency. Read the full commentary here. In 1971, the Turkish government shut down Halki, the partriarchal seminary on Heybeliada Island in the Sea of Marmara. And it has progressively confiscated Orthodox Church properties, including the expropriation of the Bûyûkada Orphanage for Boys on the Prince's Islands (and properties belonging to an Armenian Orthodox hospital foundation). These expropriations happen as religious minorities report problems associated with opening, maintaining, and operating houses of worship. Many services are held in secret. Indeed, Turkey is a place where proselytizing for Christian and even Muslim minority sects can still get a person hauled into court on charges of "publicly insulting Turkishness." This law has also been used … [Read more...]

Conflicted Hearts: Social Justice and Orthodoxy

Conflicted Hearts: Orthodox Christians and Social Justice in an Age of Globalization, my article on economics and social justice, has been posted on the AGAIN Magazine Web site. Read the full article here. Just as there is no real understanding of many bioethical issues without a general grasp of underlying medical technology, there is no real understanding of “social justice” without an understanding of basic economic principles. These principles explain how Orthodox Christians work, earn, invest, and give to philanthropic causes in a market-oriented economy. Economic questions are at the root of many of the problems that on their face seem to be more about something else—poverty, immigration, the environment, technology, politics, humanitarian assistance. In the environmental area, for example, the current debate on global warming is just as much focused on how to finance the means of slowing the rising temperatures of the earth as it is on root causes. And the question always … [Read more...]

Amazing Grace — Nana Mouskouri

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, Was blind, but now I see. T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear. And Grace, my fears relieved. How precious did that Grace appear The hour I first believed. Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come; 'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home. The Lord has promised good to me. His word my hope secures. He will my shield and portion be, As long as life endures. Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, And mortal life shall cease, I shall possess within the veil, A life of joy and peace. When we've been here ten thousand years Bright shining as the sun. We've no less days to sing God's praise Than when we've first begun. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, Was blind, but now I see. John Newton (1725-1807) … [Read more...]

Day on Mt. Athos

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An Orthodox Balm for Europe

Dr. Nicolai Petro, professor of politics at the University of Rhode Island, speaks on the growth of Orthodoxy in Eastern Europe after the fall of Communism and what that growth could mean for the political and cultural future of Europe. Also, Rod Dreher, a columnist with the Dallas Morning News, discusses religion and politics in America. … [Read more...]

Care to comment?

The American Orthodox Institute Observer is an online forum for thoughtful, civil and lively discussion of the Orthodox Christian moral tradition. All reader comments on the blog are moderated. The Observer’s editors reserve the right to delete comments that are judged to be in poor taste, off topic, or launched as a personal attack. The site is devoted to Orthodox Christianity and for that reason the blog will not be a place for debating the merits of other faith traditions with their followers. A good guideline for those writing comments is to ask, “Would I say it just this way if I had an opportunity to say it in person?” We do not allow anonymous comments. If you care to post a comment, please register your real name and a valid email address. (Sign in below the post.) The editors may be reached directly through the contact form on AOI’s Web site. Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:8). … [Read more...]