August 23, 2014

Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse: Constantine and the Great Transformation

Emperor Constantine (Byzantine mosaic ca. 1000 from the Hagia Sophia)

Acton Institute just published my review of Peter J. Leithart's Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom. It appears on their website and in the upcoming issue of Religion and Liberty. Source: Acton Institute | Rev. Johannes L. Jacobse Defending Constantine by Peter J. Leithart (IVP Academic, 2010) Reviewed by Johannes L. Jacobse The argument that the lifting of the persecutions of early Christians and the subsequent expansion of the Christian faith led to a “fall” of the Christian Church is more widespread than we may believe. Academics have defended it for years. Popular Christianity, especially conservative Protestantism, takes it as a truth second only to the Gospel. Towering over this argument is Constantine the Great. When Constantine faced the final battle that would determine if he became Rome’s new emperor, he saw a cross shining in the sky above the sun and heard the words, “By this sign conquer.” He took it to … [Read more...]

New and Controversial: “Homosexuality in the Orthodox Church” Just Published

homosexuality-book-cover-thumb

From the Press Release: 12/2/2011 Controversial Book ‘Homosexuality in the Orthodox Church’ Published; Editor Justin R. Cannon Says Constant Focus on ‘Sex’ and ‘Sin’ Misguided Newly-published book “Homosexuality in the Orthodox Church” offers a brief overview of the experience of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans Christians in the life of the Orthodox Church, including personal testimony and a Bible study. SAN FRANCISCO, CA, February 12, 2011 /24-7PressRelease/ — “Too often the discussion around homosexuality in the Church focuses on sin, when the real question before us should be: How can the Church faithfully minister to and love homosexual Orthodox Christians?” These words are found in the preface to the recently published book Homosexuality in the Orthodox Church (ISBN 978-1456416874), now available on Amazon.com. Editor Justin R. Cannon believes that most conversations about homosexuality are misguided … [Read more...]

Everything You Think You Know About the Dark Ages is Wrong

The Abacus and the Cross

By Nancy Marie Brown | Source: Religion Dispatches The Abacus and the Cross: The Story of the Pope Who Brought the Light of Science to the Dark Ages Nancy Marie Brown Basic Books (2010) What inspired you to write The Abacus and the Cross? I was introduced to The Scientist Pope through an act of grace. Writing my previous book, The Far Traveler, about an adventurous Viking woman, I found myself making an imaginary pilgrimage to Rome just after the year 1000. Wondering which pope (if any) Gudrid the Far-Traveler had met, I discovered Gerbert of Aurillac, Pope Sylvester II. I was astonished. Nothing in my many years of reading about the Middle Ages had led me to suspect that the pope in the year 1000 was the leading mathematician and astronomer of his day. Nor was his science just a sidelight. According to a chronicler who knew him, he rose from humble beginnings to the highest office in the Christian Church “on account of his scientific knowledge.” To my … [Read more...]

Two articles worth your time

From the most recent First Things (and, surprisingly, online too): Robert P. George, God and Gettysburg Matthew J. Millner, The Desert Fathers: Finding a Greek Orthodox monastery against a stark Arizona backdrop. Oops, not available online. Read it the next time you are at Borders or B&N. … [Read more...]

A Rather Less Than New Kind of Christianity

Here's my latest review for the Oooze. You can find this review and others here. The critiques I've read of Brian McLaren's new book A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith condemn it as heretical. Key to this judgment is that they all evaluate the book based on a canon of orthodoxy that I would characterizes as a loosely post-Reformation Protestant-Evangelical-Fundamentalist theological standard. The irony of these critiques is that it is just this standard of orthodoxy that McLaren is rejecting. Flipping it around, though he doesn't use the word, McLaren is calling his post-Reformation Protestant-Evangelical-Fundamentalist critics heretics and presenting himself (explicitly) as a new Martin Luther, a as man called by God to reform the Reformation and the daughters of that tradition. … [Read more...]

Orthodox Natural Law Theory

As some have argued here, the Church's witness requires her to clearly articulate her anthropological vision.  The challenges that face both the Church and the larger society flow from competing visions of what it means to be human. The articulation of an Orthodox understanding of the human person is central to our moral witness in the public square, to our evangelical witness in the human heart and (most importantly) the effective preaching of the Gospel from the pulpit.  If we cannot present a clear and compelling vision of human life, then on matters of personal and public morality, sexuality, politics and public policy, the Church cedes the public square and the human heart to increasingly pagan and disjointed culture. Though her immediate concern is  the environmental movement, Elizabeth Theokritoff's Living in God's Creation: Orthodox Perspectives on Ecology, offers us an Orthodox approach to natural law grounded in Scripture and the Church Fathers and embodied in Christian … [Read more...]

Father Arseny: Fact or Fiction?

Sweeter than Honey

Some of you may be aware that there is a discussion occurring asking whether Fr. Arseny actually existed as a real person or is he a literary creation. Dr. Peter Bouteneff in his podcast "Sweeter than Honey" examines this question in light of recent Soviet history, particularly how history was often erased in the Soviet period; personal testimonies of people still alive; the nature of literary narratives, and so forth. It's worth a listen. Listen here: … [Read more...]

Wesley J. Smith interviewed on National Review Online

Wesley J. Smith, noted author on human rights and occasional commentator on the AOI Blog was interviewed on National Review Online on his upcoming book, A Rat Is a Pig Is a Dog Is a Boy: The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement. Smith discusses the difference between animal rights and animal welfare, human exceptionalism, the ongoing devaluation of human life, and about his friendship with novelist Dean Koontz, who wrote the preface. My recommendation? Read the book. If you have read any of his other works, you will know that Wesley J. Smith will, in short order, bring you up to speed on the ideas streaming into the culture that devalue human life and threaten the bulwarks built throughout the centuries against human suffering, cruelty, brutality, and finally tyranny. Smith writes from a human rights perspective, drawing on the great tradition of the elevation of the human person -- sometimes hard fought and not without sacrifice -- that informed the moral imagination of … [Read more...]

Review: How the Byzantines Saved Europe

The Surprising Life of  Medieval Empire

The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies. Edited by Elizabeth Jeffreys, John Haldon, Robin Cormack. Oxford University Press (2008) Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire by Judith Herrin. Princeton University Press (2008) Ask the average college student to identify the 1,100 year old empire that was, at various points in its history, the political, commercial, artistic and ecclesiastical center of Europe and, indeed, was responsible for the very survival and flourishing of what we know today as Europe and you’re not likely to get the correct answer: Byzantium. The reasons for this are manifold but not least is that as Western Europe came into its own in the later Middle Ages and Renaissance, Byzantium gradually succumbed piecemeal to the constant conquering pressure of Ottomans and Arabs. When Constantinople finally fell in 1453 (two years after the birth of the Genoese Christopher Columbus), Europe, now cut off from many land routes to Asian trade, was already … [Read more...]

The Theological Roots of Nazism and Stalinism

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