October 24, 2014

Dylan Pahman – Orthodoxy and Natural Law: A Reappraisal

Dylan Pahman


Dylan Pahman

Source: Acton Blog | Dylan Pahman

At Ethika Politika today, I examine the recent critique by David Bentley Hart in the most recent issue of First Things of the use of natural law in public discourse in my article, “Natural Law, Public Policy, and the Uncanny Voice of Conscience.” Ultimately, I offer a measured critique—somewhat agreeing with, but mostly critical of Hart’s position—pointing out Hart’s oversight of the vital role of conscience in classic natural law theory.

What I find so bizarre, and have for some time now, is the relative ambivalence, at best, of many contemporary Orthodox writers when it comes to natural law. Hart, for example, hints that he might approve of natural law reasoning so long as all parties involved hold to a metaphysic that acknowledges “a harmony between cosmic and moral order, sustained by the divine goodness in which both participate.” However, even then he is not clear. Indeed, he begins his article by writing,

There is a long, rich, varied, and subtle tradition of natural law theory, almost none of which I find especially convincing, but most of which I acknowledge to be—according to the presuppositions of the intellectual world in which it was gestated—perfectly coherent. (emphasis mine)

Hart is not alone among Orthodox writers in this regard. With the notable exceptions of Stanley Harakas, Tristram Engelhardt, and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow (if there are others I apologize for my ignorance), contemporary Orthodox writers scarcely have employed natural law in their social ethics, if they even endorse it at all. Often it gets thrown under the bus in ill-advised false dichotomizing between all that is Eastern and therefore wonderful and all that is Western and therefore overly rationalistic.

The reason I find this all bizarre is that even looking only to the Greek fathers one can very easily find widespread endorsement of some form of natural law reasoning. The most prominent, perhaps, would be St. John Chrysostom, who I quote from his Homilies on the Statues 12.9 in my Ethika Politika piece. One can find him speaking of the law of nature in his Homilies on Romans quite extensively as well. Furthermore, St. John of Damascus writes that “evil is not any essence nor a property of essence, but an accident, that is, a voluntary deviation from what is natural into what is unnatural, which is sin” (An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 4.20). And a text attributed to St. Maximos the Confessor in the Philokalia states that the function “of the natural law is to grant equal rights to all men in accordance with natural justice” (Various Texts 2.41). I could, in fact, go on and on ad nausium, but I will stop at this point.

While it may be that there are important differences between a Thomist understanding of natural law and an Orthodox understanding of natural law, the historic difference is most assuredly not that Thomists accept it while the Orthodox do not. Furthermore, there often seems to be little care in differentiating between Enlightenment versions of the natural law, which may in fact be overly rationalistic, and other Western versions, such as the Thomist articulation, rooted in Christian convictions and augmented by faith.

All this, I suspect, has led to the relative cacophony among Orthodox writers with regards to social thought more generally. For example, without natural law, what basis do we have for the rule of law in political matters? Or, without natural law, what basis do we have for declaiming fraud, exploitation, and other forms of theft in economic matters? If, according to Hart, what the fathers assumed to be basic dictates of conscience actually require “an apocalyptic interruption” for anyone to grasp, public engagement in our pluralistic society without the natural law would, itself, be “a hopeless cause” … but perhaps that explains the current cacophony, at least in part.

Comments

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    cyntha curran says:

    Hart is not alone among Orthodox writers in this regard. With the notable exceptions of Stanley Harakas, Tristram Engelhardt, and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow (if there are others I apologize for my ignorance), contemporary Orthodox writers scarcely have employed natural law in their social ethics, if they even endorse it at all. Often it gets thrown under the bus in ill-advised false dichotomizing between all that is Eastern and therefore wonderful and all that is Western and therefore overly rationalistic This is because of developments from the late middle ages where Orthodox in both Byzantium and Moscow wanted to be more distinct from the west. In the much earlier period the late Roman Empire from 3rd to 7th century this was not true. The earlier period there was some differents in culture but even after the fall of the Western Roman Empire few in the east really thought the west was different. This is one reason why Justinian did the reconquest in the west since to him North Africa and Italy were Roman even if they were control by the Vandals or Ostergoths.

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      Dylan says:

      Again, thanks for sharing. It seems that many people today forget that Justinian was an Eastern Roman emperor and discount his entire code as a source of Orthodox thought on law.

      Incidentally, have you seen the book, Orthodox Readings of Aquinas by Marcus Plested? I’m reading it right now and it would appear that even the late middle ages were not as bad as things are today sometimes. Indeed, he argues quite well for the origins of scholasticism in the East, speaking of “Byzantine scholasticism.” I can concur, at least, with his reference to St. Cyril of Alexandria and especially the Fount of Knowledge by St. John of Damascus.

      Indeed, even in the early modern era, the catechism of Met. Peter Mogila of Kiev from the seventeenth century was accepted and used by all Orthodox patriarchates, despite following a supposedly Western, scholastic style and including a fairly Augustinian account of original sin. (Incidentally, that’s not my favorite part of St. Augustine, but it’s certainly not historically anathema in the East, even if not dogma like it is in the West.) The catechism of Met. St. Philaret of Moscow from the early nineteenth century follows the Western style as well.

      Despite how much I like them, I think a big part of the problem today is the legacy of the Slavophiles, who were overly polemical and nationalistic, though I’m sure the story is much more complex as most history tends to be.

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    cyntha curran says:

    The West had the Theosodisan Code and Germanic Laws and of course the English Common Law but in the late 1000’s I think around 1080 or so the Justinian Code came to Italy and then passed gradually to the rest of Western Europe. It was an Eastern Roman Justinian who preserved the Roman Law codes that passed Roman Law to the West. Eastern Orthodox always talk about the legal mind of the west but the east particulary in the early periiod had a lot of law codes as well.

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    cyntha curran says:

    Again, thanks for sharing. It seems that many people today forget that Justinian was an Eastern Roman emperor and discount his entire code as a source of Orthodox thought on law.

    Incidentally, have you seen the book, Orthodox Readings of Aquinas by Marcus Plested? I’m reading it right now and it would appear that even the late middle ages were not as bad as things are today sometimes. Indeed, he argues quite well for the origins of scholasticism in the East, speaking of “Byzantine scholasticism.” I can concur, at least, with his reference to St. Cyril of Alexandria and especially the Fount of Knowledge by St. John of Damascus
    Have not read the book it sounds interesting.

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    Christ's unprofitable servant, Seraphim says:

    It’s very refreshing to see some discussion on natural law philosophy as it applies to U.S. public policy here on the AOI. My hat is off to Dylan for writing these essays as well as to Fr. Hans for posting them.

    I couldn’t agree more with Dylan when he states that we American Orthodox are often remiss when it comes to understanding, acknowledging and articulating the fact that natural law philosophy is the basis for our political sovereignty and legal system. All of our foundational documents (i.e., Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights) unequivocally evoke natural law philosophy as their foundation as compared to the Gospel, etc.

    The fact that we American Orthodox so often forget this simple truth is evidenced by a long conversation between Fr. John Whiteford (ROCOR) and David J. Dunn, Ph.D. about the legality of same-sex marriage in the U.S., and a question, which I would submit is representative of this intellectual chasm, made by a priest identified as “Father John from Charleston, S.C.” (I believe it was actually Father John Parker of Holy Ascention Orthodox Chruch in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., a graduate of William and Mary College no less) that he asked via telephone on Kevin Allen’s live call-in radio show on AFR (the June 17, 2012 episode on Ancient Faith Today) asking that if we don’t use the Gospel as the basis of moral standards in society and we chose to legalize same-sex marriage then “…on what grounds do we oppose murder, rape, bank robbery and other things which we would call sins in the Church but are legislated as laws in the public sphere?” I was shocked by the question as well as the responses (especially Dr. Dunn’s) because the answer, of course, is natural law philosophy from which natural rights derive.

    While it is true that most of the founding fathers were Protestant Christian of one stripe or another (although some were deists, such as Thomas Jefferson & Benjamin Franklin) it does not, therefore, follow that the Gospel was the basis of their thinking. That would be revisionist history par excellence. Laws were never designed to make the citizenry moral, but rather to prohibit one individual from violating the rights of another individual.

    We would do well to recall that libertas not theosis is what our United States of America is founded upon. Live and let live. This, after all, exemplifies the humility that we see our Heavenly Father exercise when he allows us, the work of His hands, to wreak havoc on ourselves and upon each other of our own volition.

    May God bless America; He knows we need it now more than ever.

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    cyntha curran says:

    While it is true that most of the founding fathers were Protestant Christian of one stripe or another (although some were deists, such as Thomas Jefferson & Benjamin Franklin) it does not, therefore, follow that the Gospel was the basis of their thinking. That would be revisionist history par excellence. Laws were never designed to make the citizenry moral, but rather to prohibit one individual from violating the rights of another individual Well, the early founding fathers admire the Republic of Rome but they were influence by protestant morality even Jefferson e hanged homosexuals and just as hard on gays as Byzantine emperors could be I believe that emperor Leo had capitial punishment with men that had sex with boys. Not saying we should punishment the same as in the 9th century or the 18th century.

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      Christ's unprofitable servant, Seraphim says:

      I’ll acknowledge your point while pointing out that Jefferson also owned black slaves & didn’t believe that women could/should vote so I’m not sure how your comment negates the validity of my point that natural law philosophy not the Gospel was/is the foundation of the USA. Feel free to elaborate if compelled.

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    cyntha curran says:

    You have a Calvanist background before you converted to Orthodoxy. I noticed that Calivanist are familair with the Justinian Code in general not just canon laws and also the Eclogia.

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      Christ's unprofitable servant, Seraphim says:

      Calvinism!? : ) A bold assertion. No, my only & abiding interaction with Calvinism has been repulsion. I would also like to highlight the fact that you mentioned the Justinian Code, not me.

      It appears that something is getting lost here because it seems like we are talking past one another.

      What exactly is your point and/or your objection (if you do object) to my initial comment?

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Natural Law can be useful but it is a two edged sword as it can easily become a deist instrument that posits God “up there somewhere” and we human beings “down here” to take care of ourselves. Natural law removed from a living communion with God is just another instrument of tryanny and is seen as such by those who wish to give full reign to their passions.

    One can make law by obtaining inspiration from the living presence of the Holy Trinity revealed in His Church or make the Church an instrument of the law created by human beings. The dividing point is the blessed teachings of St. Gregory Palamas and the understanding that, because of the Incarnation, we created human beings are able to communion with the uncreated living God. We are able to partke of the divine life so that we can begin to fulfill our vocation to “Dress and keep the earth”.

    “Submit yourselves all ye nations for God is with us!” OR the subtly different “Submit yourselves all ye nations for we are with God” which results in a far different approach to the nature of man in community and our interrelationship with our creator. The first acknowledges, in humility, the activity and presence in and supremacy of the creator over the creation. The second makes man the ruler and arbitor of right and wrong; good and evil and changes the dominion which we are given from a God-ordering grace to the usurption of those who refused to give the fruits of the vineyard to the son of the owner, casting the son out of the vineyard and killing him (Mt 20:1-16)

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      Christ's unprofitable servant, Seraphim says:

      You state that “Natural Law can be useful but it is a two edged sword…”. As a fellow Orthodox Christian I basically agree with all the sentiments you expressed, but again, Orthodox theology/spirituality & natural law philosophy are two very different schools of thought. To be sure, they are not mutually exclusive, but neither are they entirely congruent. However, this is precisely my point – natural law philosophy & the resultant natural rights philosophy (i.e., the unalienable rights that all men are endowed with by their Creator including life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness) is the bedrock of our United States of America both as a culture as well as a politically sovereign federation of nation states, i.e., a constitutional republic. We American Orthodox Christians need to recognize that our own religious ethos doesn’t have much (if anything) to do with the rudimentary ethos of our founding fathers & the foundational documents that reflect those principles. We may wish that it were otherwise, but it is simply not the historical reality. Are we comfortable with this? Can we even acknowledge it? Do we need to be anachronistic?

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        Michael Bauman says:

        Seraphim,

        We may wish that it were otherwise, but it is simply not the historical reality. Are we comfortable with this? Can we even acknowledge it? Do we need to be anachronistic?

        The political/social ethos of the United States is a problem for the Church. We are raised to be rebels, to look at all institutional hierarchy as bad or at least quite strange. Obedience, humility? Really Bro? tends to be the attitude–both are looked upon as weaknesses.

        The cult of the individual which has evolved from the inalienable rights is in direct opposition to the ethos of personhood/community in submission to God’s love that is the Church.

        The Church is not anacronistic it is just different and we don’t fit well. That is one reason for the continued ethinic social club approach. That is the one reason that it will be quite difficult for the Orthodox Church to become grafted into the land here in this country and in the West in general. It is difficult to live apart, but Jesus told us that we were to be in the world, but not of it. The atomistic hedonism that rules our culture today cannot be embraced though. Unfortunately, natural law is not a strong enough critique. Ascetic endeavor in the Church is.

        As a friend of mind recently told me, she feels as if she is trying to meet the demands of two different worlds and they don’t mesh well.

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          Christ's unprofitable servant, Seraphim says:

          Michael,

          You state: “The political/social ethos of the United States is a problem for the Church.” Au contraire, my brother. If one is familiar with the Thomas Jefferson / Alexander Hamilton divide that emerged during George Washington’s presidency (and persists even to this day) then it is impossible to make this claim because Jefferson’s ideal of America is certainly compatible with Orthodox Christianity. Jeffersonian democracy is a humble, ascetic form of agrarian localism that arguably even has elements of incarnational theology that animate it; it is both personal & relational/communal. Hamiltonian democracy, on the other hand, is characterized by centralization, authoritarianism, dehumanizing industrialization, posh materialism, all of which are the precursors to a socialist mob of isolated individuals, which is the direction we’ve been heading for years. Strong elements of Hamiltonian democracy, in both the Democratic & Republican parties of late, have held sway for decades, but there are signs that Jeffersonian democracy is being rediscovered & revitalized. Hope springs eternal!

          You state: “The cult of the individual which has evolved from the inalienable rights is in direct opposition to the ethos of personhood/community in submission to God’s love that is the Church.” Again, I respectfully disagree. Thomas Jefferson was a fierce proponent of balancing the extent of one’s personal autonomy (i.e., individualism) with one’s ethical obligation to his concrete local community, state & country. He advocated for an uncomfortable & healthy tension between the individual and the community of which he was an organic part. Your objection to radical individualism is really only an issue of relevance in recent decades as we’ve deviated from our Constitutional fidelity to natural law philosopy. The fact that we no longer talk about natural rights but rather “human rights” is proof of this departure. Check out this great little article from last year’s Independency Day for a tight synopsis of how selfishness has triumphed in modern-day America: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/04/opinion/the-downside-of-liberty.html.

          You state: “We are raised to be rebels, to look at all institutional hierarchy as bad or at least quite strange. Obedience, humility? Really Bro? tends to be the attitude–both are looked upon as weaknesses.” Once again, I disagree. In our Declaration of Independence Jefferson clearly stated that we need government & must submit to it (implicit references to social contract philosophy) unless it becomes tyrannical in which case we are required to overthrow it. Prove this to yourself by googling the document – it is only a few pages long. Jefferson was not an anarchist; he believed in government – just small & local government with a small & limited federal government because he was convinced that when governments became too large they ended up serving themselves & dominating the people…in January when flying with my wife & 2 year old daughter the TSA agent looked us in the eyes & stated with genuine concern that it was “alarming” (she said it twice in a row for emphasis) that we had 4 small containers of Play-Doh in a clear Ziploc bag that was in our cary-on bag & then proceeded to throw the Play-Doh in the trash & do a full-body pat-down to my wife in full view of public…I had to walk away in order to remove myself from the temptation to assault a federal employee (yes, I’m a sinner)…I was appalled that this was happening in 21st century America.

          You state: “The Church is not anacronistic it is just different and we don’t fit well.” “That is the one reason that it will be quite difficult for the Orthodox Church to become grafted into the land here in this country and in the West in general.” Actually, I can’t think of a better land for us Orthodox Christians to be grafted into than the U.S.A. for all the reasons that I’ve mentioned above, provided we stand with Jefferson rather than Hamilton. In my opinion, and I believe that Dylan & Fr. Hans would wholeheartedly agree, dichotomizing between Eastern, which is assumed to be harmonious with Orthodoxy, and Western, which is assumed to be discordant with Orthodoxy, is a fatal error in thinking that may Orthodox suffer from. Everything outside of Orthodoxy is a mixed bag, and there is MUCH in Western thought that is valuable & compatible with Orthodoxy. As St. Basil said of non-Orthodox thought: “Just as bees can take nectar from flowers, unlike other animals which limit themselves to enjoying their scent and colour, so also from these writings… one can draw some benefit for the spirit. We must use these books, following in all things the example of bees. They do not visit every flower without distinction, nor seek to remove all the nectar from the flowers on which they alight, but only draw from them what they need to make honey, and leave the rest. And if we are wise, we will take from those writings what is appropriate for us, and conform to the truth, ignoring the rest.”

          You state: “Jesus told us that we were to be in the world, but not of it. The atomistic hedonism that rules our culture today cannot be embraced though.” Agreed. However, being “in” the world but not “of” it does not equate with disengaging from civic life. In fact, I could claim that being “in” the world means that we are obliged to find the common ground between Orthodoxy & American civic thought (political/economic/social) and then encourage movement in that direction. Isn’t this the approach that Orthodox missionaries like Sts. Cyril & Methodious, St. Stephen of Perm, St. Herman of Alaksa & others took when they encountered a new culture – embracing the good & rejecting the bad? Again, Jefferson opposed pretty much all of Hamilton’s policies precisely because he believed they undermined peoples’ connection to the earth, to their neighbors & to God. There is plenty of authentic American culture that can be legitimately embraced by Orthodox Christians; it has just been pushed to the periphery but is now gaining traction & moving slowly back to the center – we just need to look for it.

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            Seraphim,

            I have been posting on a parallel thread regarding just this issue: in the world but not of the world. It is unclear to me how you are defining “engaging in civic life,” as the express purpose of the Saints you identify was singular: to evangelize, to change, to persuade, to disrupt, to direct, to convince, to make the Truth so attractive and desirable & irresistible that there could simply be no other rational conclusion than, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn. 14:6) And quite obviously, different than my demonstrated and acknowledged faults & weakness, because of their relentless sanctity, piety, and trust that “I can do all this through him who gives me strength,” (Phil. 4:13) they converted nations. We have so thoroughly corrupted the word “confrontation” that both the internal & external gentleness, the inner peace of these “Equal-to-the-Apostles,” is unacknowledged, but it is fundamental to their personality, because what they thoroughly and completely convinced those they encountered was that “You will see greater things than this.” (Jn 1:50) Certainly embrace the good, reject the bad, but they brought a new order of being. Both Fr. Florovsky & Fr. Meyendorff note how “casually” the Orthodox viewed the Byzantine government: it was necessary for its purpose, Christians were obligated to obey the civil laws, but it never viewed the Empire as “consequential,” and in fact, forcefully rejected any attempt of even the “anointed of God” Emperor himself to intrude in matters of the Church.

            And so our dilemma: in the wold but not of the world. To this day it is a stance that is “culturally insensitive,” impolite, frankly offensive, and if you go full-tilt-boogey with the proprietor of this joint, soon-to-be illegal and driving us into the catacombs – but that’s only for those who can’t take the weather. God’s blessings on my dear friend, Brian Jackson, MD, who set me upon the brilliance of Japanese author Shusaku Endo, oddly a convert to Roman Catholicism, who has the rare ability to transport you into the mind, heart, and conscience of Portuguese missionary priests who ventured into a land so mutually ignorant & fearful of one another that only tragedy could result. Astonishing.

            The Fathers are unequivocal: “What has light to do with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14) While it is undoubtedly true that factors of the American ethos & culture can be “appealing” to Orthodox Christians, we exist as a minority among the heterodox. Rodney King, may he rest in peace, said, “Can’t we all just get along?” We sure can and we come bearing gifts. But we are honest that we “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness,” and at least as of last Sunday evening, we continue, unfailingly, to declare ANATHEMA, in no uncertain terms, to those who would reject “this Faith we hold.” How could I not love a country that affords me such a freedom – and literally protects my right to employ pretty much any tactic short of anarchy to defend my freedom – but it cannot and will not ever save me.

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            Michael Bauman says:

            Seraphim, Jeffersonian thought no longer animates the political economy of this land. It was jettisoned along with the necessity of living a virtuous life as a prerequisite for holding public office. The Constitution is not looked upon as the law of the land but more like the ‘priates code’ in the Priates of the Caribbean. Our politicians no longer seek to govern for the good of the people but simply to gain and exercise power using a “Bread and Circus” demogogary. Jefferson is much as Cicero was to Rome as the culture declined and rotted–a romanticised figure (secretly hated or thought of as a buffon). Jefferson’s yeoman farmer is not far removed from Rousseau’s nobel savage.

            Even during Jefferson’s time there was little effort to actually govern from the principals that he and other founders articulated. In office, both he and John Adams acted primarly out of pragmatic self-interest.

            I would also say that there was little in Jefferson’s thought concerning community and he definately rejected any thought of a divine/human inter-realtionship as the heart of that community. It does great violence to his thought to suppose that there is any possibility for that core truth so integral to the Church. Jefferson’s thought is far more compatible with the secular/humanist vision that it is with Holy Tradition.

            I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the United States, as it is today, has little fertile soil to hear and accept the revealed truth of the Church. The method of engagment that I see is prophetic rather than functional, i.e. as a voice crying in the wilderness.

            As a good friend of mine told me recently, “The Constantinian experiment (attempting to mold the state and the Church in some sort of synergistic whole) is dead.” The leaders of the state no longer care to follow any principal but power.

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              James Bradshaw says:

              Michael, the tone of your posts is generally despondent as it relates to our current culture. Can you point to any culture in history (even in America) where people lived up to the standards you seem to be expecting of the majority?

              Though many Americans can be crass, shallow and selfish at times, I’d still prefer it to life in our nation’s early formation when racism and slavery dominated, women had few rights and people seemed all too willing to shed blood to settle their differences.

              You really must not be so negative: they say it’s bad for your heart!

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              Christ's unprofitable servant, Seraphim says:

              Michael,

              As you most likely know, Jeffersonian democracy was in the center for some time after his presidency, and it sounds like we both agree that it has been marginalized for a good long while now. However, this does not mean it is dead. There are signs that it is beginning to be revived. Look at senator Rand Paul’s recent filibuster. Have you seen senator Ted Cruz questioning attorney general Eric Holder on the Constitutionality of Drone strike on US citizens when they don’t pose an imminent threat, or him questioning senator Dianne Feinstein on the Constitutionality of her proposed changes regarding the 2nd Amendment? Have you heard him talking at the recent CPAP: he’s quoting Jefferson that the Constitution serves a chains that bind the federal government from mischief, emphasizing the centrality of the Constitution in general & the need to keep states strong & the federal government small? He actually said we need the audit the Federal Reserve Banks. I’m not saying the answer it the Republican party, but America is a concept that has been, currently is & always will be in flux. Doesn’t this mean we need to do our part to bring the best American ideals to fruition in our local communities, our states as well as on the national level? Anything else is fatalism. Yes, it is hard, but that doesn’t mean we’re off the hook.

              We shouldn’t be surprised that Jefferson’s concept of the community didn’t include the divine/human inter-realtionship as the heart of that community…he wasn’t Orthodox so we really can’t expect that of him. Nevertheless, we can promote the rebirth of our actual communities & contribute that aspect ourselves as Orthodox Christians.

              Orthodoxy doesn’t offer systemic solutions. It offers personal therapy to make whole each person the benefits of which extend to the community and beyond. This is why all economic & political though must be personal & local. These concepts are becoming progressively more popular.

              Also, James is right. Defeatism is bad for your health. The field of psychoneuroimmuniology has good data to confirm this. Trust me, I’m a doctor ; )

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                Michael Bauman says:

                Seraphim:

                I work on giving glory to God for all things and my hope is eschatological/personal not existential/political. I find great joy when I hope in the Lord; I weep and wail for my country however, but we are reaping what we have sown.

                Constitutionally I have zero hope of anything good on the federal level: too corrupt; too power drunk; too many people who feel dependent; too many people encouraged to live without virtue.

                John Adams said that our form of government (abandoned by the time of the Civil War, IMO for a form of proto-fascism) is sutied only to a Christian people and wholly unsuitable for any other. The practice of virtue by the many is essential for its proper functioning. Ain’t happenin’ anywhere I see.

                It is way too easy to allow political hope and ideology to cloud our judgement. There is some modicum of hope on the local/state level with the 10th Amendment advocates (although they tend to be too libertarian for my taste overall).

                Prophecies abound concerning the drastic cooling of faith and the extent to which we harden our hearts so that even Jesus wondered if there would be any faith left when He returned and that the days would be shortened so that some might be saved.

                God tells us that all things work for good to those who love God and that we are to give Glory to Him for all things. I find that to be good for my health both physicial and spiritual.

                Remember also Psalm 146/147

                1Praise ye the LORD. Praise the LORD, O my soul.

                2While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.

                3Put not your trust in princes, nor in the sons of man, in whom there is no help.

                4His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

                5Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:

                6Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:

                7Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The LORD looseth the prisoners:

                8The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous:

                9The LORD preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.

                10The LORD shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the LORD.

                Contrary to the beliefs of many: The state is not our savior and Obama is not a prophet.

                James: Traditional racism and slavery have been ameliorated largely by Christian influence (although I’m sure you don’t agree). What passes for women’s rights is a total mess that has been quite destructive to men, women the family and the larger culture. The bigorty we have now is of a similar type as the older racism and slavery, however and places men, Christians and others of faith on the lowest rung. I suspect there are more women and children in sex slavery around the world that there were slaves in the past, not to mention the countries that still practice and promote the old style slavery (many of them Muslims enslaving Christians).

                In general the myth of progress is a fantasy. Without the transformation of the human heart it is icing only.

                Egalatarian nihilism rules the day.

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                Michael Bauman says:

                Seraphim: a further note

                “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118/119)

                I give thanks daily for the fact that I have a loving wife and a marriage blessed by God. She makes me laugh and soothes my soul and became a surrogate mother for my son.

                I give thanks daily for the Orthodox faith and for the parish community that I am unworthily part of and the founder of that faith, our Lord Jesus Christ.

                I give thanks daily for my bishop +Basil (Essey)

                I give thanks for the diligent and faithful clergy who serve my home parish (Frs Paul and Matthew; Fr. Dn David) a wonderful choir and a bevy of terrific chanters and faithful altar servers.

                I give thanks for the repose of the soul of my late wife because I know she is in “a place of Brightness, a place of verdure, a place of repose where all sickness, sorrow and sighing have fled away.”

                I give thanks for the wonderful son she bore who is a man of greater faith and virtue than I am (by the grace of God and the prayers of his mothers).

                I give thanks for the fact that I am employed.

                I give thanks (mostly) that I am allowed the stuggle of this life for my salvation

                I give thanks for all of my Orthodox brothers and sisters who bear my burdens and bring me before Christ in their prayers.

                I give thanks that there are still doctors who are knowledgeable and still give a damn about treating patients (your numbers will decrease signifcantly in the years to come)

                I give thanks for the beauty and abundance of the creation.

                On a completely irrelevant and totally mundane level: I give thanks for the enjoyment of the Wichita State Shockers basketball team getting to the elite 8 (and more?)–Go Shox!

                The list goes on, but I think you get the point. (How am I doing on the health scale BTW?)

                As to the politicians in Washington; the accumulated political apathy, ignorance and greed that have brought us the oligargic, neo-fascist state in which we now live: ANATHAMA. We have taken the vineyard we were given stewardship over, thrown out the son of the rightful owner and turned it into Animal Farm.

                But even that will work for our good if we love God, I just wonder how many lives are uneccesarily destroyed because of it.

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                  Christ's unprofitable servant, Seraphim says:

                  Michael,

                  Your litany of thanksgiving is well said on many levels!

                  I also love the passage of the Psalms that you highlighted above, which is in the 2nd antiphon of the Slavic liturgy. Years ago when I lived elsewhere & attended an OCA parish I used to look at the icons of Sts. Vladimir & Olga when that passage was sung & remind myself that politicians are not our saviors.

                  You’ll hear no objections from me when you say that the U.S. is a mess right now culturally, economically & politically. However, I’m more optimistic about our future, but maybe that’s because I’m young enough & naive enough to believe that we can right the ship. Although, I do believe it is going to get worse before it starts to get better b/c I live the nightmare of big federal government & big private insurance companies pushing family medicine closer to the brink of collapse every few months. As doctors & patients commiserate only Obama, Sebelius & big insurance executives are pleased…I’d like to believe that rebellion is waxing as a result.

                  Ever visit the Front Porch Republic? Great website!

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    cyntha curran says:

    Dylan who once was a Calvinists is familar with anicent and medieval law does. I notice when I acess information on the social issues that a Calivinsts used the Justinian Code and so forth. That not the same as supporting Calvinism.

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    cyntha curran says:

    Calvinism!? : ) A bold assertion. No, my only & abiding interaction with Calvinism has been repulsion. I would also like to highlight the fact that you mentioned the Justinian Code, not me.

    It appears that something is getting lost here because it seems like we are talking past one another.

    What exactly is your point and/or your objection (if you do object) to my initial comment?

    Reply Talking about Dylan not Seraphim here.

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