Barbarians Among Us?

Fr. Gregory Jensen

Fr. Gregory Jensen

The Rejection of Tradition

On a post on my blog Koinoia (“An Editorial: Orthodoxy & the Public Square“), I wrote that whether or not I like Frank Schaeffer’s politics or his moral theology, or whether or not his support of abortion and gay rights are compatible with the tradition of the Church, the reality is that he is well within the mainstream of current Orthodox opinion in America. According to the PEW survey, the majority of Orthodox laity agree that abortion and gay marriage should be legal.  It may surprise you, then, that the problem isn’t Schaeffer – it’s us; specifically, it’s the clergy.  For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, we clergy are not effectively communicating the moral tradition of the Church to the laity.  Or, if we are, the laity aren’t listening –- which would imply that the clergy are willing to tolerate the laity ignoring the Gospel.

We see the same prevalence of pro-choice, pro-gay marriage positions among Orthodox politicians.  This kind of a consistent pattern of belief does not just happen.  As in the Catholic Church, we see in the Orthodox Church evidence of a significant pastoral failing.  This appears to be more than just a widespread lack of sound moral education for the faithful.  It appears to be an embrace of, or at least resignation to, the influence of secularism in our parishes. 

This is a very serious problem.  This isn’t a debate about the practices of potentially faithful followers – as can be the case when addressing, say, Old Calendar or New Calendar, or the issue of women wearing headscarves, or whether priests should have beards and wear cassocks, or whether we have pews or not, or whether to use an organ to lead the choir.  This goes much deeper – to the heart of Christian discipleship.  It seems that we have simply lost sight of the beauty and power of Christian virtue; perhaps worse, it seems that we have given over leadership to moral barbarians.

I know that sounds like a harsh judgment, but what else can one call it?  A barbarian isn’t a bad person. A barbarian isn’t likely to love his wife and children any less than you or I.  He isn’t necessarily an atheist or polytheist.  In fact, many barbarians believed –- and believe — in Christ, though for the same reason that they believed in the old gods: to secure power for their people.

John Courtney Murray writes in his introduction to The Civilization of the Pluralist Society that “the barbarian need not appear in bearskins with a club in hand,”  Instead he:

…may wear a Brooks Brothers suit and carry a ball-point pen with which to write his advertising copy. In fact, even beneath the academic gown there may lurk a child of the wilderness, untutored in the high tradition of civility, who goes busily and happily about his work, a domesticated and law-abiding man, engaged in the construction of a philosophy to put an end to all philosophy, and thus put an end to the possibility of a vital consensus and to civility itself.

In Murray’s view, the perennial “work of the barbarian” is “to undermine rational standards of judgment, to corrupt the inherited intuitive wisdom by which the people have always lived.”  He does this not “by spreading new beliefs” but,

…by creating a climate of doubt and bewilderment in which clarity about the larger aims of life is dimmed and the self-confidence of the people is destroyed, so that finally what you have is the impotent nihilism of the “generation of the third eye,” now presently appearing on our university campuses. (One is, I take it, on the brink of impotence and nihilism when one begins to be aware of one’s own awareness of what one is doing, saying, thinking. This is the paralysis of all serious thought; it is likewise the destruction of all the spontaneities of love.)

In the modern world, then, “the barbarian is the man who makes open and explicit rejection of the traditional role of reason and logic in human affairs. He is the man who reduces all spiritual and moral questions to the test of practical results or to an analysis of language or to decision in terms of individual subjective feeling.”  By this criteria, it seems that we live in an increasingly barbarian world – even in our own parishes.

Faith & Reason or Force & Fear?

Though tempting, we should not dismiss his argument as extreme.  Nor should we give in to the understandable desire to apply it to others but not ourselves.  In both cases to do so is to flee in the face of “Christian theological intuition” as well as “all of historical experience” both of which remind us that. both personally and socially, we live “life always more or less close to the brink of barbarism.”  The prospect of collapse into barbarism reflects the fragility of our world in both its physical and cultural dimensions.  At the same time he is clear that threat we face today arises from more than the usual challenges to our health and well-being posed by “physical illness” or “the disorganizations of mental imbalance.”  No, the real threat comes from “the decadence of moral corruption and the political chaos of formlessness or the moral chaos of tyranny.”However harsh this diagnosis might seem, I think that Murray is correct.  

In a civilized society Murray says, we “live together according to reason, embodied in law and custom, and incorporated in a web of institutions that sufficiently reveal rational influences, even though they are not, and cannot be, wholly rational.”  In a barbarous society, on the other hand, reason is no longer given its rightful place in human life and instead we “are huddled together under the rule of force and fear.”

Once force and fear come to dominate, as they do in the barbarous society, power becomes the key value.  Now, it is certainly true that civilized societies are also concerned with power—with acquiring it, exercising it and even extending it.  The difference is that for the barbarian, even the “Christian” barbarian, power is always an end in itself.
Murray’s observation from almost 50 years ago is as true today as it was then.  Looking around he saw the emergence of an increasingly barbarous society in which,

…economic interests assume the primacy over higher values; when material standards of mass and quantity crush out the values of quality and excellence; when technology assumes an autonomous existence and embarks on a course of unlimited self-exploitation without purposeful guidance from the higher disciplines of politics and morals (one thinks of Cape Canaveral); when the state reaches the paradoxical point of being everywhere intrusive and also impotent, possessed of immense power and powerless to achieve rational ends; when the ways of men come under the sway of the instinctual, the impulsive, the compulsive. When things like this happen, barbarism is abroad, whatever the surface impressions of urbanity. Men have ceased to live together according to reasonable laws.

You might well be asking at this point, what does any of this have to do with the life of the American Orthodox Church?
I would suggest that in American culture we are facing trends that will ultimately lead to a barbarious society.  This is not happening because this is a “Western Christian” society but because it is increasingly neither Western nor Christian.  However unintentionally, many Orthodox Christian have allied themselves with our society’s willful rejection of its own Western Christian foundations.  If we are not careful, we may find ourselves repeating the mistakes of “the eighteenth-century philosopher, who neither anticipated nor desired the brutalities of the Revolution with its Committee on the Public Safety” but who Murray argues, “prepared the ways for the Revolution by creating a vacuum which he was not able to fill.”

Painful though it is to acknowledge, many American Orthodox Christians find ourselves in the same position as traditional and observant Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jews or other religious believers.  We are being attacked not only from the outside but we are increasingly being undermined from within.  Part of this occurs as a result of our own efforts to “kick down the barricades.”  It may be that this is done in the name of our specific concerns as Orthodox Christians, but it effectively serves the agenda of a pervasive and destructive barbarism that is beyond our ability to control or direct.  In the end, I fear that we will find that our anti-Western Christian rhetoric is simply self-defeating.

Bad Money Drives Out Good

An Orthodox polemics that would dismiss Western Christianity as rotten to its core does nothing to advance the cause of the Orthodox Church.  In fact – and I think the empirical evidence bears this out – rejecting the foundations of Western Christian culture and trying instead to create a Church that is thus divorced from the surrounding culture has undermined our ability to fulfill the mission of the Church.  To understand why this is NOT in the Church’s best interest, let me borrow an idea from economics: Gresham’s law

Named after the English financier during the Tudor dynasty Sir Thomas Gresham (1519 – 1579), Greshem’s law says that “Bad money drives out good.”  In the Church, the “bad money” is our indifference, if not outright hostility, to Western Christian culture.  The “good money” is not simply Western culture, but also the tradition of the Orthodox Church. 

Having rejected a variety of Western insights that were immensely important in the development of western society – such as the partnership of faith and reason, natural law, and the objective and universal character of Christian morality (to name only three insights that Schaeffer dismissively touches on in his essay), we have — however inadvertently — allied the Church with the cultural forces of barbarism.

Our alliance with barbarism has happened because we have rejected the Christian roots of Western culture in a misguided effort to (1) keep the Church “Greek” (or “Russian,” or “Arab,” or “Serbian”) or (2) to distinguish “True Orthodoxy” from “false Catholicism” or (3) because, like Frank Schaeffer, we are simply cultural-despisers who have found that the Orthodox tradition is a convenient cudgel with which to continue waging our political or cultural battles.  Whatever the reason, this amounts to a refusal to engage in any meaningful way with the cultural marketplace of ideas.  As a result, it leaves the public square utterly naked — even as we moan and complain about it privately.  Worse, it makes us the tools by which Nietzsche could proclaim that God was a non-factor (“dead”) in modern life.  It puts us in a position where we not only fail America –- to be salt and light for our neighbor and our country — but also Christ and ourselves.

We should instead look at Western Christianity, and especially Roman Catholicism, as an ally.  Yes, there are important differences that separate us and these differences should not be minimized. But neither should they be so emphasized that we find it impossible to work with others with whom we share a deep, common concern.  Pastorally, this means that the challenge for the Orthodox Church is to become American among Americans, and –- in our own particular way — Western among Western Christians.  This need not come at the expense of the faith — anymore than it did for the Fathers of the Church.  It does however mean that we must do here and now as we have done at other times and other places.
Like the Fathers, we must discern and nurture what is best in Western culture.  Our failure to do this, and more importantly, our apparent unwillingness to do this, has not resulted in a stronger Church here in America but rather one that looks increasingly like an Eastern-rite Mainline Protestant denomination.

The use of the vernacular –- a gift that the West has borrowed from the East –- must mean more than serving Liturgy in the spoken language of the marketplace.  It also means learning to faithfully express the meaning of the Gospel in the cultural life of our country.  While not without risk, it will – when done successfully (and we have Christ’s promise that we will be successful) – not only grow the Church, but transform the culture.

The spiritual genius of the Orthodox Church has always been the ability of the Church to take on and transform the dominate culture.  This means that just as Jesus was the authentic Jew among Jews, the Church has been – in turn – authentically Greek among the Greeks, and authentically Russian among the Russians, so too we must be authentically American among the Americans.  While have rarely done this perfectly, we have largely done this without sacrificing the Gospel or the communion of the various local or ethnic churches. 

Is there any reason, other than sloth or despair, why we think we cannot do this in America as well?

Rev. Gregory Jensen is psychologist of religion and a priest of the Diocese of Chicago and the Midwest (Orthodox Church in America). He blogs at Koinonia.

The Byzantine Liturgy as Missionary

Fr. George Morelli

This article is based on the President’s Message column featured in the Society of St. John Chrysostom- Western Region (SSJC-WR) Newsletter: The Light of the East, Spring, 2010.

fr-george-morelli

Fr. George Morelli

One of the major developments in the modern age is the marginalization and indifference toward Christianity in society.  (Jacobse, 2010; Morelli, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010). The disunion among Christian communities has not been a beneficent witness to the unity prayed for by Christ Himself “that they may be one” (Jn 17:11). Secular and politically correct values have shaped doctrinal and moral teaching and practice among some groups calling themselves Christian: abortion, euthanasia, female ordination, same sex marriage, are but a few examples that are obvious departures from the teaching of Christ. Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyevi, Chairman of the Department of External Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow, has suggested an alliance between Catholics and Orthodox be advanced because these apostolic churches have held fast to the essentials of Christ’s teachings. This suggestion certainly conforms to the goals of the Society of St. John Chrysostom which has as one of its goals: to make known the history, worship, spirituality, discipline and theology of Eastern Christendom.ii

It should be noted that the Byzantine Liturgy is an outstanding missionary out-reach to fulfill Christ’s command to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations. . . .” (Mt 28: 19) and stands as a witness to the fullness of the truth of Christ’s teaching. The Liturgy could stand as a model for the suggested Catholic-Orthodox alliance. Archbishop Hilarion points out that the Byzantine Liturgy contains “psalms, litanies, hymns, prayers and the celebrating priest’s invocations follow one another in a continuous stream. The entire service is conducted as if in one breath, in one rhythm, like an ever unfolding mystery in which nothing distracts one from prayer. Byzantine liturgical texts [are] filled with profound theological and mystical content….” The Liturgy has doctrinal authority: “as solemn entries and exits, prostrations and censing, are not intended to distract the faithful from prayer but, on the contrary, to put them in a prayerful disposition and draw them into the theourgia in which, according to the teaching of the Fathers, not only the Church on earth, but also the heavenly Church, including the angels and the saints, participates.” iii

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Educating Narcissus

Orthodox Schools Association

By: Bryan Smith

Several poets of antiquity tell a charming but frightening tale about a young man who saw his own reflection in a pool and became so infatuated that he vowed never to marry. He even ignored the lovely nymph, Echo, who had followed him to that place, leaving her to wander off alone until she at last pined away to nothing but a faint, whispering voice. The young man’s name was Narcissus, and he has become the image of the excess of self-love. When we say that a person is narcissistic, or that we live in an age of narcissism, we are alluding to the self-absorbed young man who sat, day after day, staring at his own reflected features while ignoring the rest of the world around him.

Listen to Kevin Allen interview Bryan Smith on the Illumined Heart radio program hosted by Ancient Faith Radio.

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The story is, of course, a parable of one of the many pitfalls to which humans are susceptible—self-absorption. Though the danger is present to people of all age groups, it is no accident that the Narcissus of fable was a youth. One of the most basic sensibilities a young person forms is that of either looking outside himself for answers or remaining cloistered in the cell of his own psyche; of judging himself and the world around him by something “outside”, or of judging all things according to his own opinions, moods, and natural inclinations. This latter condition is one that, in its full flower, acknowledges no objective truth and can even come to question the validity of perception itself.

As Orthodox Christian teachers we must remember the warnings of St. John Chrysostom who began his lessons on the education of children with stern admonitions against this self-absorbed condition. Anticipating the question as to why such a young man would grow up to follow only the precepts of his appetites, St. John asked, “Did you not marvel at him? Did you not sing his praise? Did you not lead him on to his present state by applause and flattery?”

Unfortunately, we now have behind us several decades of professionally sanctioned educational practices which, in their methods as well as in their results, could be called an education to narcissism. Child-centered learning, whole-language practice, and multiple-intelligence theory have taught countless children that nothing matters which has its origin outside the self.

Though perhaps not overtly, the lesson has, nevertheless, been taught. It has been taught in stream-of-consciousness “journaling” where external forms such as spelling and grammar are of no consequence; it has been taught in anti-knowledge schools where memorization is belittled as “rote learning” and administrators declare openly their inability to predict what children will need to know in the future. It has been taught by teachers telling students there are no right answers, and by the cheap teen novels once hidden from the instructor but now assigned as classroom reading because she believes the young people can “relate” to them better. It has been taught in social studies where students learn nothing of the sacrifices of heroic men and women of the past, but everything of their own personal entitlements. In these and so many other ways, our current “progressive” schools encourage children to gaze no farther than their own adolescent images.

There are many problems with this approach. Most practically, it simply fails as a means of education—a fact by now so well documented that only those with careers rooted in the old theories still echo their empty tenets. Moreover, this approach to education assumes a Romantic optimism about human nature that is unjustified by practical experience, denies the fallen nature, and robs young people of the noblest ideas and examples of human kind while forcing them to wallow in the low, the base, and the mediocre. Furthermore, the progressive approach squanders the best opportunity—that of the early school years—to instill a body of objective factual content that can become a network of epiphanies in later years, and to inculcate habits of diligence in the attention to minute details that must always accompany successes that are not accidental. The most dangerous effect of all, however, may be that this progressive approach to education gives children the idea that the universe orbits around the parochial world of themselves and their peers—that the world will forever reconfigure itself around their desires, moods, and natural inclinations.

Many Christian schools, we must admit, are not guiltless of this pedagogical folly. Caricature Bible stories and cartoon illustrations promote a thought-world for children that is not merely immature but shallow and silly. Teen-conducted youth chapels tell young people that the world of adults is not for them and that their own inclinations to sentimentality and sensuality can be deflected into worship by merely deifying the direct object in a song lyric. Unable to encourage young people to “lay aside childish things” and “grow to full stature” in Christ, many youth pastors (find that in the Bible) create the pitiful spectacle of an older guy strumming a guitar, knitting his brow, and warbling ambiguous praises to stimulate teenagers who could not worship in the absence of electricity. The theology teacher who uses a “Skater’s Bible” has simply lost his way. So it is that many Christian schools fail most egregiously in the process of conversion—of turning children away from themselves. If teachers in Christian schools wish to encourage their students to be “like Christ” let them do so, and let the first lesson be that we know nothing of Christ as an adolescent. What would Jesus do? He would apparently be obedient to his parents as he grew in wisdom and stature—quietly, off-stage, and unknown.

The education offered by Orthodox Christian schools has as one of its intentions to lure Narcissus away from his pool. Our focus on the history of Christian Civilization is an attempt to ground young people outside themselves in a legacy of ideas, actions, and aesthetics that span continents and millennia. We want them to see society as comprising the dead, the living, and those yet unborn. Our studies of great historical personalities are intended to impress upon the students how greatly their own lives and options have been shaped by the prudent foresight of another generation. Even in our study of other cultures we are not so impressed with the insular cults of folk-ways as we are with the common nature all humans share—a nature which universally acknowledges one natural law and so points to the existence of a standard higher than the assumptions of any one self-approving group.

The literary, philosophical, and theological works of the Western canon also act as windows to a wider world, showing young people an incredible spectrum of options for thought and action, while also providing the benefit of an opportunity to reflect at a safe distance on the consequences of many of those actions. Also, as Lewis said, we read “old books” to discover that we are not alone; and it is an indisputable benefit for any student to read in the lines of an old Greek poet the very agonies that torment his young American soul.

Our focus on languages, and especially the highly inflected classical languages, works along with mathematical studies to offset the infection of subjectivity and narcissism. Apart from the practical benefits of improving facility in language, logic, and problem solving, both of these disciplines take the emphasis in education away from the self by demonstrating to students that natural canons exist which are absolute, unchanging, subject to no private interpretation, and belonging to a world not of their own making.

Finally, and most profoundly, our Orthodox Christian identity works to pull students out of themselves by the insistence that God is transcendent, that certain crucial truths and doctrinal definitions rely neither on personal discovery nor on individual inclinations, that it is we who must conform, who must sacrifice the self, and who must declare with the Forerunner: “I must decrease, that He may increase.”

Our nation is rife with schools that would let Narcissus languish by the pool while the teachers ask little more of him than a description of his feelings. We must ask more. We must ask, first of all, that he come away from the pool—that he lift his eyes to better images, and that he open his heart to eternal truths and the tongues of angels.

Byron Smith is a founding member of the Orthodox School Association.

Who We Are: Responding to the PAOI Study “The Orthodox Church Today”

Fr. Gregory Jensen

Fr. Gregory Jensen

By: Fr. Gregory Jenson

In his 2008 study, “The Orthodox Church Today: A National Study of Parishioners and the Realities of Orthodox Parish Life in the USA,” Alexei D. Krindatch makes a fascinating, if potentially disturbing, observation. The research, sponsored by the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute (PAOI), surveyed almost “one thousand respondents from 103 Orthodox parishes situated in various parts of the country,” (p. 5) and argues that while the Church in America has been able to maintain a dogmatic unity, or agreement about the “big questions” of the faith (p. 3). This dogmatic unity, however, has not protected us from the “increasing fragmentation” of the “American Orthodox community.” As he describes the situation (and this certainly matches my own pastoral experience), there is a “growing conservative-liberal gap” in the Church that arises as “Orthodox teachings and established traditions are personally and communally interpreted.” These “local interpretations” are important because they “shape the social and religious behavior of American Orthodox Christians clergy and laity and the culture of American Orthodox congregations” (p. 4).

What follows is offer a brief overview of “The Orthodox Church Today.” This will include a discussion of the methodological limits of the study itself and what these limits mean for how we use the study. After this I will look at the Krindatch’s framework for understanding what he calls the increased fragmentation of the American Orthodox Church. Whether psychological or spiritual, pathology is a parasite, it feeds off of that which is healthy. As I will argue, concealed within the fragmentation we see is the call for the Church in America to more systematically, dare I say intentionally, take up the work of spiritual formation for both the laity and the clergy.

The Limits of the Study – or – Is This Really the Orthodox Church Today?

Unlike other earlier and more generally studies of religious life in America (for example, the Pew Religious Landscape Survey), “The Orthodox Church Today,” looks specifically at American Orthodox Christianity. Together with his earlier studies of the American expression of Orthodox Christianity, Krindatch’s work gives us an empirically sound snapshot of the Church in America. As with all social scientific research, “the Orthodox Church Today” is only one part of the larger work of understanding and guiding the American Orthodox Church. It is neither the first word nor the last word about the Church. Rather, it is an instrument for focusing an ongoing conversation. We’ve all had the experience of entering into the middle of a conversation and know it can be frustrating it can be. This need not be a problem however, if we remember that there is more happening than what we see at the moment. It is only when we assume that we know everything that there is to know that conflict ensues.

So what is Krindatch’s study about?

“The Orthodox Church Today” seeks to address “three general questions” about the American Orthodox Church:

  • Who are the members of the two largest American Orthodox Churches (denominations)?
  • What do the church members think about the everyday patterns of life in their local parishes (congregations)?
  • What are their general religious attitudes and approaches to the “big” Church related issues such as future of Orthodox Christianity in America, the role of laity in the Church, ordination of women, relation to the outside non-Orthodox community, etc? (Krindatch, p.2)

It is relative “to these broad questions, [that] special attention has been paid to the differences among various generations of American Orthodox faithful, between the “cradle” Orthodox and “convert[s]” to Orthodoxy, and between those who identified their theological stance and general approach to the Church life as either “liberal, moderate, traditional, or conservative.” (p. 2)

Building on his earlier study, “Evolving Visions of the Orthodox Priesthood in America” (Krindatch, 2006), these three broader questions are posed in order to begin to answer two, more narrowly defined, questions that the study’s author (rightly I think) describes as “crucial for the Church’s future” here in America:

  • To what extent do the social and religious attitudes of American Orthodox laity reflect those of their clergy?
  • What does it take to be a “good Orthodox parish priest” at the beginning of the third millennium from the perspective of the ordinary “people in the pews?” (p. 3). Stated another way: Do the clergy and laity have a shared vision of the Church, her pastoral situation, and her future in 21st century pluralistic America?

While these are important matters to be sure, the study does not seek to answer them through a global survey of all Orthodox Christians in America. Nor is the study presented as an examination of the whole American Orthodox Church. The study’s aims are more modest: “The Orthodox Church Today” is the “first nationally representative and comparative [emphasis in original] study of the laity—non-ordained ordinary church members—in the two largest American Orthodox jurisdictions (denominations): the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA) and the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).”

The question we might ask is: Why is the studied limited to these two jurisdictions? The author answers that, “the GOA and OCA account for more than half of all American Orthodox Christians and parishes” in America. For this reason, “the outcomes of the ‘Orthodox Church Today’ study reflect the ‘profile’ of the American Orthodox community at large.” (p. 2)

This is probably the least problematic assumption in the study. While accurate numbers are—as Krindatch’s earlier studies have demonstrated—somewhat difficult to come by, it seems likely that the OCA and GOA together comprise more than half of Orthodox Christian faithful in America and account for better than half of all the parishes.

More problematic is the assertion that the GOA/OCA accurately reflects “the American Orthodox community at large.” While I don’t dispute this, it seems that this is more of an intuition on Krindatch’s part (albeit, an empirically informed intuition) than an empirically validated fact. Until we have a more accurate statistical picture of the other jurisdictions in the US, it will be difficult to determine how closely the GOA and OCA mirror the more general pattern of Orthodox Christianity in America.

Additionally, I think we need to be careful of how we use the GOA/OCA as a template to understand the other Orthodox jurisdictions. We run the risk of confirmation bias, that is, of focusing on features of, say, the Serbian and Antiochian experiences in this country that merely ratify the patterns laid down in the GOA and OCA. For example, while both the Greek and Serbian communities are generally seen as communities within which ethnic identity (e.g., culture, language, history, etc.) play a more prominent role in the life of the parish, we ought not to assume that an individual’s experience is the same in both communities. Nor should we conclude that ethnicity serves the same function in, say, a Greek parish as it does in a Serbian parish. Likewise, while both the OCA and Antiochian Archdiocese are seen as more open to new Orthodox Christians, it is not clear that the experiences of converts is the same across both jurisdictions.

Truthfully, these are relatively minor cautions that tangentially touch the integrity of the study. Greater caution should be exercised is in our understanding–and application–of Krindatch’s study itself. The survey does not offer a snapshot of the rank and file Orthodox Christian laity. Rather, because participants in Krindatch’s study were not randomly selected but where chosen by their parish priests for the study, it examines a much narrower segment of the laity.

“The Orthodox Church Today” is actually a survey of those members of the laity identified by the priest as active participants in the life of the parish. For example 90% of the participants attend services at least once a week; 27% attend service several times a week (p. 7). Only 26% of Orthodox Christians as a whole however, attend services at least once a week (U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, 2008). Further, while 55% of those surveyed were “not in a leadership position currently,” 45% currently serve on parish councils, teach Sunday school, or sing in the choir. Some are currently serving in multiple volunteer ministries (p. 8). In other words, a significant number of the participants are formally or informally in leadership positions in their parishes and are significantly more invested in the liturgical life of the Church then the average Orthodox Christian.

Kindritch is clear about the sampling: “The survey tells us [about] who are the active and regularly involved members in the GOA and OCA parishes.” It is certainly reasonable that, “in each participating parish, the survey participants were chosen by the parish clergy who, in turn, were given instructions on the selection of respondents.” This has a methodological advantage: “The chances are great[er] that most of our respondents were persons participating in church life regularly and actively, thus, being more likely available to the clergy [and so] to complete the questionnaires” (p., 7). Thus, while this selection criterion is certainly legitimate, we need to be careful that we do not base our view of the laity as a whole on the study group. I am concerned that those who make use of his findings have a clear understanding that the study was intentionally limited to lay participants selected by the clergy.

Why does this matter? Because the survey reflects not so much the view of the broader laity, but of a select laity who have meet the unstated standards of their parish priest for inclusion in the research.

Digging a little deeper, the study’s findings suggest a correlation between active participation in the life of the parish and a close relationship with the priest on the one hand, and a generally positive view of the parish on the other. For example, 59% of the laity surveyed said their parish will grow in the next 5 years (p. 20). Likewise, when asked to identify the three most important aspects of the parish (p. 22), 91% indicated that they valued participation in the Eucharist; 51% saw “spiritual guidance/care by the priest” as important; 33% identified preaching (sermons/homilies) as a priority.

But all is not necessarily well with this group. As we read in press release, “Not all Orthodox are equally “Orthodox.” While 90% of those surveyed “cannot imagine being anything but Orthodox” it is not clear what, if anything, the phrase means for our lay leaders since the majority responded that “regular Church attendance, obeying the priest and observing Great Lent” are not essential to be a “good Orthodox Christian.” The reality is that the respondents have a skewed view of the Orthodox faith.

Put another way, the lay people who highly value for themselves an active role in the life of the Church—for example, regular, weekly attendance at Liturgy, serving in volunteer lay ministries, obedience (within limits) to the priest as leader of the parish community and spiritual father—do not see these characteristics as normative for other Orthodox Christians. As I will argue below, the most active and committed Orthodox Christians have privatized the Christian life. In so doing, they accept an understanding of the Christian life that is devoid of substantive content.

If the Christian life does not consist in a life of worship and service, then what else is it except an expression of personal sentiment? Even, more worrisome is their desire for uniformity in the parish. Quoting from the summary offered in the press release:

More than two-thirds of the respondents say that they wanted to belong to parishes that “require uniformity of belief and practice and where people hold the same views.” In other words, American Orthodox Christians have varying (“liberal-moderate,” “traditional,” “conservative”) personal approaches to Church life, but they prefer homogeneous “like-minded” parishes. Only one in four respondents favor “big-tent parishes that tolerate diversity of beliefs and practices, where people hold different views and openly discuss their disagreements.”

Uniformity in the Church is a tricky thing. It can (and often does) reflect an appreciative obedience to the tradition of the Church. But it can also (even at the same time) reflect an attempt to dominate others. Is domination happening here? In large part I don’t think so. But domination is a possibility that must be considered if only to guard against it. There are two reasons for my assertion:

First, the study is not a study of the rank and file of the laity. For practical reasons the researcher chose to focus his attention on a small subgroup composed of the most active members of the laity. For this reason, I think the study is more accurately characterized as an examination of the views and practices of approved laity. Whether the findings can be generalized to the laity as a whole is open to question.

Second, if the survey represents the views and practices of a subgroup and not “rank and file” American Orthodox Christians, then how well does it reflect the views of active laypeople who either dissent from the views of their priest or don’t meet his expectations? Obviously there is no way to answer this question within the confines of the study. Moreover, as recent events in the Church have demonstrated, “active” and “dissenting” are not necessarily mutually exclusive categories.

It appears (at least within the context of the study) that the laity who have a trusting personal relationship with their parish priest are optimistic about the current state and future of the Church. Are these views more generally applicable to the broader parish? The study can’t say.

Are there active lay people from whom we didn’t hear? For example, what about the views of active lay members who are at odds with their parish priest? And what about the lay people who center their spiritual lives in places beside the local parish but, say, a monastic community? Where do they fit in to the life of the Church? I don’t know. Thus, I wonder whether those surveyed by Krindatch reflect the views of the majority of the Orthodox lay faithful.

Fragmentation of the Church

A central concern of “The Orthodox Church Today” is what Krindatch and others describe as the increasingly fragmented character of American Orthodox Christianity. These divisions seem less pronounced than what we see in Catholicism or mainline Protestantism, but nevertheless exist as most parish priests attest. Further, our differences are often drawn so narrowly that they can be as embittering as those we see among Western Christians. Debates about the use of the Old Calendar versus the New Calendar, the place of monasticism in the life of the Church, and the myriad polemics pertaining to the Church’s participation in the ecumenical movement are just three examples that come to mind.

While both non-Orthodox and Orthodox Christians see the Church “as essentially [theologically] homogeneous,” this unity is expressed only “in terms of orthodoxy as a doctrine” or on the level of what Krindatch calls “macro-theology.” When our interest is in theology–-that is, historical, patristic, biblical, and liturgical” theology–and seeks to answer the “big questions” of faith,” there is a high degree uniformity among Orthodox Christians. This dogmatic unity that is typically stressed in our catechetical and apologetic literature. Yet, formal agreement on creedal matters is not the whole story for Orthodoxy in America. The unity of “big question” theology exists side by side with what Krindatch calls the diversity and disagreements in “micro-theology,” or the individual’s “self-definition as being theologically either ‘conservative,’ or ‘traditional,’ or ‘moderate’ or ‘liberal’”(p. 161).

Borrowing from Antony Vrame’s (2008) work, Krindatch makes use of a four-fold typology to “at least partially” help his readers understand the different micro-theologies we encounter in the typical Orthodox parish. Key to the different categories is “the willingness of Orthodox individuals and communities to accept changes and to adapt to life in a culturally and religiously pluralistic society” (p. 4; those familiar with the distinctions within contemporary Judaism, will notice a parallel with Vrame’s distinctions). The four micro-theologies are (p. 4):

  1. Conservative (Fundamentalist) Orthopraxy. It rejects changes and emphasizes the exactness of once and forever developed practices in spite of changing local contexts. It also separates itself deliberately from the mainstream American culture.
  2. Traditional Orthopraxy. It strives to observe Orthodox tradition and cherishes church heritage immensely, but accepts evolutionary changes, permitting praxis to evolve slowly over time.
  3. Moderate (Reform) Orthopraxy. It supports intentional changes and is willing to “fit in” and be “accepted” by the wider American society and by mainstream American religious life.
  4. Liberal (Reconstructionist) Orthopraxy. It seeks to introduce “innovative” practices, to generally “rethink” orthopraxy, and to develop a new expression for America.

These distinctions certainly reflect my own pastoral experience both in the GOA and the OCA. They are seen among both “cradle” and “convert” Orthodox Christians. My informal conversations with other Orthodox clergy and laity lead me to conclude that the vast majority of clergy and lay leaders would agree. And again, even if the differences in micro-theologies are not as wide as those we see in Western Christian communities, I think Krindatch is correct in concluding that they point to a “significant diversity” in how the faithful approach the tradition of the Church (p. 3).

The existence of diverse micro-theologies can be risky, but not necessarily bad. I disagree with Aristotle Papanikolau’s assertion that “the inability to adapt to American cultural pluralism has led to an increasing fragmentation of the American Orthodox community” (p. 179). Yes, within the Church we see “diverse interpretations and appropriations of the tradition that lead to diverse theologies that span the spectrum of the extremes of the so-called ‘Culture Wars’” (quoted in Krindatch, p. 179). But one could also argue that the diversity of personal and parochial adaptations of the tradition are part of the normal process of experimentation that the Church must undertake in order to fulfill her evangelistic calling in America. Much like the role of the States in the American system of governance, the parishes are “laboratories” – though not of democracy but of pastoral care.

There are two ways in which this otherwise healthy process can be inadvertently truncated. The first is to misunderstand what this process of adaption means to those who are in the midst of it. The second is for Orthodox Christians to refuse to engage American culture. Let’s look at the second consideration first.

The Janus Face of Sectarianism and Secularism

In Roman mythology, the god Janus guarded the doorways of homes and buildings. As the god of entrances and exits, he was depicted with two faces turned in opposite directions. The two minority forms of orthopraxy that Krindatch identifies, Conservative or “fundamentalist orthopraxy,” and Liberal or “reconstructionist orthopraxy” at first seem diametrically opposed to each other. They are, but in only the manner of Janus.

While both forms look in opposite directions, they are similar in that they counsel the Church to avoid engagement with American culture. The fundamentalist undertakes sectarian withdrawal. We can call them the sectarian wing. Reconstructionists embrace culture but at the expense of the Church’s tradition. We can call them the secularist wing. Sectarian (in Krindatch’s typology “Conservative”) Orthodox Christians turn inward; secularist Orthodox Christians turn outward. What is missing in both is a balanced response to the demands that arise naturally–and providentially–from the convergence of Holy Tradition and American culture. Albeit for different reasons, both approaches frame the encounter between the Church and culture not in terms of reconciliation and redemption, but of power and dominance. Thus, both embrace the notion that the Church is, and must be, absent from the larger culture.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus helps us understand the necessity of intentional cultural engagement that “The Orthodox Church Today” identifies as the majority position within the Orthodox Church. In the December 2008 article, “The ‘American’ Religion,” Neuhaus writes,

Christians who, knowingly or unknowingly, embrace the model of “Christ without culture”—meaning Christianity indifferent to culture—are captive to the culture as defined by those who control its commanding heights. They are not only captive to it but are complicit in it. Their entrepreneurial success in building religious empires by exploiting the niche markets of the Christian subculture leaves the commanding heights untouched, unchallenged, unengaged.

Neuhaus’ critique is not limited to conservative Evangelical Christians. It also expresses how most Orthodox Christians in America understand the Church’s relationship to the larger culture. Whether “cradle” or “convert,” whether one is on the cultural left or the right, there are a surprisingly large number of Orthodox Christians who are content to live in an Orthodox ghetto—at least on Sunday morning.

Even for Orthodox Christians who reject the option of an ethnic enclave or a crude imitation of monastic life, I suspect that what is “cultural” is seen as that which “typically cater[s] to the Christian market” – much like their Evangelical neighbors. The fact that a local Protestant congregation expresses their cultural captivity with such things as praise music and “witness wear,” and that the Orthodox express it with ethnic food festivals, or by making sure we keep the parish for “our” people, or by dressing in the latest 19th Orthodox Christian peasant chic makes little difference. In many cases the Orthodox parish is content “with being a subculture.”

This is a dangerous identity to assume Neuhaus writes:

Christianity that is indifferent to its cultural context is captive to its cultural context. Indeed, it reinforces the cultural definitions to which it is captive. Nowhere is this so evident as in the ready Christian acceptance of the cultural dogma that religion is essentially a private matter of spiritual experience, that religion is a matter of consumption rather than obligation. Against that assumption, we must insist that Christian faith is intensely personal but never private. The Christian gospel is an emphatically public proposal about the nature of the world and our place in it. It is a public way of life obliged to the truth.

Like our brothers and sisters in western Christian traditions, Orthodox Christians “have uncritically accepted the dichotomy between public and private, between fact and value, between knowledge and meaning.” We imagine that we are preserving the cultural riches of Hellenism or the spiritual riches of monastic life, when in fact we betray our vocation by forming our lives around the “dichotomies [that] are deeply entrenched in American religion and culture” and accept “what is often described, and frequently decried, as American individualism.”

When we embrace the sectarian or secularist approach, we withdraw from the work of cultural engagement and surrender Orthodox Christianity to American culture. This failure is compounded when we fail to confront those who lead from the extremes and accept their leadership out of a misguided sense of loyalty. The locus of cultural engagement begins with the challenge to those outside and inside the Church who insist that faith remains solely a private affair. As Neuhaus argues, the debilitating sin of the American approach to religion is the privatization of religious belief. For Orthodox Christians, the notion that “my religion, [is] certified and secured by the fact that it is mine” is heresy pure and simple. It rejects Christ and the Gospel.

Bringing our Orthodox faith into the public square through debates, philanthropy, evangelical outreach and so forth happens when we shed the notion that our faith is private, a mere preference. This doesn’t mean that people will agree with us, or even (as Krindatch shows) that we will always agree with each other. Far from it.

We may not find agreement but we will find this: the more we bring our faith into the public square, the more we will be challenged to repent of our egoism. This can lead to a purification of faith and Church. The purification will necessarily compel the jettisoning of triumphalism, sectarianism, secularism, and other erroneous notions that keep the Gospel of Christ under the bushel. This challenge is the only way to fulfill the evangelical commission and strengthen the faithful and thereby strengthen the Church.

And this brings us to central pastoral challenge of Orthodox fragmentation.

The Objective and Subjective Dimensions of Faith

While sectarianism and secularism represent a danger to the spiritual heath of the Church, there is a greater danger implicit in Orthodox fragmentation. To help us understand it, let me offer a key distinction in Thomistic anthropology that proved helpful in my pastoral ministry: the objective and subjective dimensions of faith.

Faith in an objective sense is what we believe as Orthodox Christians or, if you prefer, the content of the Church’s faith. The objective dimension of faith is the fides quae creditur–the “faith which” is believed. Pastorally, “faith” in the objective sense is distinguished from faith as a personal act. Faith as a personal act has a subjective dimension and is the fides qua creditur (the “faith by which” we believe). The Catholic theologian Fr Aidan Nicholas writes that “If the fides quae is objective faith, then the fides qua is the subjective faith, not in the sense of partial, individual opinions about faith, but the faith that pertains to me as an acting subject in my own right” (“The Shape of Catholic Theology,” emphasis in the original). This Thomistic vocabulary is absent from the text of “The Orthodox Church Today,” but the substance of this distinction is central to the study’s understanding of one of the major questions facing the Church: “the issue of the ‘conservative-liberal’ divides in Church life” (Krindatch, p. 3).

Though not unrelated to faith in its objective dimension (fides quae), the four fold typology of orthopraxis is in fact an expression of the subjective dimension of faith (fides qua). If we lose sight of this distinction, we risk not only misinterpreting Krindatch’s work, we also risk drawing misleading conclusions about the pastoral life of the Church. Even though the typologies might be right or wrong relative to the tradition of the Church, they nevertheless reflect how people understand themselves and the local and national Church in the American cultural context.

For many Orthodox Christians and parishes, criticizing or rejecting their typology is tantamount to nullifying their identity Orthodox Christians. Further, this is not simply a problem for those on the extremes—the conservative or liberal Orthodox Christian or parish—but it is also to those in the middle categories, the Orthodox Christians who understand themselves as traditional or moderate.

The four-fold typology explains some of the pastoral challenges facing the Church at the beginning of the 21st century. Moreover, while I do not want to minimize the importance of what the study reveals, I also believe we need to critically examine our assumptions about the nature of tradition, in particular the relationship between the person and tradition that has guided us so far.

Claiming Our Baptism: Lay Spiritual Formation

Central to “The Orthodox Church Today” is the contention that there is an increasing fragmentation in the Church. I certainly don’t deny this. But is this the only way to interpret the data?

As the study points out, the increasing fragmentation on the micro-theological level has resulted in the emergence of parish communities that are disconnected from each other. If we are not careful, parishes will come to reflect in an exclusive way the personalities and interest of the priest and a relatively small group of lay leaders. We risk dogmatizing legitimate differences and even eccentricities.

However, fragmentation may also be the byproduct of necessary and healthy experimentation. Experimentation is a word generally not associated with the Orthodox Church, yet a certain amount of experimentation is unavoidable nonetheless. The truth is that the Orthodox Church contains within herself a rich pluriformity of spiritual, liturgical and pastoral practices. Holy Tradition is not static but dynamic and each new cultural or pastoral situation presents the Church with new challenges and opportunities to enter more deeply into the Mystery of Grace.

The potential growth and development that the American context offers the Church is just that: potential. There is no guarantee that the Church in America will successfully navigate the pastoral challenges we face. Yet, while we affirm that a certain degree of experimentation is necessary and even inevitable, we acknowledge that the taxonomy outlined in “The Orthodox Church Today” reflects unhealthy forms of pluralism and pragmatism that dominate American cultural discourse. Thus, the “micro-theology” of an individual believer or parish is often simply a form of emotivism. Micro-theologies do not necessarily have theological content and may simply be expressions of approval or disapproval of what people perceive to be normative Orthodox practice relative to American culture. We need to remember too that much in American culture is highly fluid and often lacks substantive content.

Thus, looking at not only at this study but also studies both by Krindatch and others, it appears to me that the central pastoral challenge facing the American Orthodox Church is not educational. Yes, of course we need a systematic, Christ-centered, catechesis for the laity and for continuing education for the clergy. But theological information and pastoral technique without sound human and Christian spiritual formation is, to borrow from the fathers, a work of demons.

What we need instead is a systematic approach to lay spiritual formation. Neglect this, and all other efforts will remain anemic and subject to failure. Yes, that’s a strong statement, but the truth is that every survey of American Orthodox Christians shows that a plurality, and even a majority, of our faithful (including clergy) are not forming their lives according to the tradition of the Church.

What passes today for spiritual formation is deficient. A bit of Church history, a little instruction on setting up an icon corner, the rules for fasting or keeping a daily rule of prayer, are simply not sufficient for the Christian life. Given the challenges facing the Church, the paucity of our teaching is sentimentality and best and merely managed decline at worst. As other Christian and non-Christian communities are also discovering, the blessings of liberty are for the Orthodox Church a severe mercy. God, in His great love for us and for the whole human family, has established His Church in a religious and cultural environment marked by intense religious and cultural competition. While we live and move and have our being in Christ, we are called to minister in a religious and philosophical free market.

For example, relative to the overall number of Orthodox Christians in America, our parishes are mostly empty on Sunday morning. The vast majority of us do not see attendance at Liturgy as more valuable then whatever else we might do Sunday morning. But this isn’t all. The need for sound spiritual formation is also reflected in the large numbers of Orthodox Christians (both cradle and covert), who simply drift away from the Church. Over 50% of converts leave. While people may have a reason to join, they have fewer reasons to stay. Moreover, if we cannot give adult converts a reason to stay, why are we surprised that those baptized as infants leave?

It is not sufficient to say that those who leave simply did not have a life grounded in concrete communion with Jesus Christ that was informed by the Tradition of the Church. Indeed, one way to understand the fragmentation in the Church (as Kindritch reveals) is that they are the consequences of neglecting sound Christian formation.

For most Orthodox Christians, spiritual formation is a new idea. Given the conservatism most of us share, if a new idea isn’t a bad idea, then at least it’s an idea we hold with suspicion and often we lay it aside. But Christian formation has had great effects in Catholic, and to a lesser degree Protestant, seminary education and pastoral care.

In my own pastoral work, I borrow from the work of the Catholic priest and clinical psychologist Adrian van Kaam to show people that the tradition of the Church has two foundational goals for their spiritual lives:

  1. The Church’s tradition guides me in the process of self-discovery and growth in self-knowledge. To overly simplify the matter, the tradition does not so much helps me know facts about myself but to rather helps me give the right weight and place to those facts in my daily life.
  2. The tradition can guide me in the process of self-expression. That is to say, I have a vocation and that vocation is inscribed in my heart by the same Holy Spirit that has guided the Church from the beginning. The Holy Spirit’s presence in the Holy Tradition helps me live out my vocation in the concrete circumstances of my daily life.

When I teach these two goals well and with consistency, people respond with a marked increase in their commitment to Christ and the Church. Fail to do this and people drift away. All the data I’ve seen points to the same thing: a failure in the spiritual formation of the faithful. In its place we offer mere morality (which can’t reveal more than general truths about humanity; it lacks the power to release self-knowledge), lessons about monasticism (which for many supplants the ascetical discipline appropriate for non-monastics), some history (which lacks concrete specificity to the present), sometimes some cultural training, and not much more.

Guided and guarded by the Church’s dogmatic and moral teaching, and nurtured by a life of prayer and asceticism (especially fasting and care for the poor), we become ever more sensitive to what is Good, True, Beautiful and Just. We see these first in the Scriptures and the lives of the Saints, especially as they are communicated to us in the Church’s liturgical life. And then, building on this foundation, we become ever more aware of the presence of the Good, the True, the Beautiful and the Just in ourselves and in the world of persons, events, and things that constitute our everyday life.

This discovery that these elements are not abstract notions but embodied realities is only the start of the journey. As I come to recognize the Good, the force of that recognition confronts me with the presence of wickedness, falsehood, ugliness and injustice first in my own heart and then in the world around me. As I remind my students, I do not learn from my mistakes. I learn what is true and only in the light of Truth do I come to see I am mistaken. The journey to Christ is the journey into a deep humanity as well.

Our problem is that we have rarified Holy Tradition. We have made it an object, a standard to be imitated rather than something that can be experienced within, something that transforms our thinking and ways of acting. To borrow from Vladimir Lossky, we have lost sight of Holy Tradition as the Presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church as it leads and guides the faithful throughout history.

We can call it, like St. Paul does, “living in the Spirit.” It is the Spirit that gave the Apostles their word, and inspired others to write them down. It is the spirit that breathes through our worship like the wind at Pentecost, and counsels the secret places of the heart. It is the Spirit that sustains the Saints and gives courage to the martyrs. It is Spirit that taught Christians in ages past how to live as Christians in cultures with dangers like our own.

This ways and the workings of the Spirit are congruent with the knowledge preserved in Holy Tradition. But if Holy Tradition is not internalized, if it remains an object of veneration only with no human penetration into its mysteries, it becomes on more source of division in the human heart and family.

And the Tradition can only be known by first believing and living the Gospel. If, as His Beatitude Metropolitan JONAH said recently, 60% of the Orthodox faithful are pro-choice, we have failed. Our failure is not absolute, but looking at the statistical portrait of the laity in “The Orthodox Church,” we must agree with His Beatitude’s assessment of a widespread catechetical and spiritual failure.

The question facing us is: Will we rise to the challenge?

Rev. Gregory Jensen is psychologist of religion and a priest of the Diocese of Chicago and the Midwest (Orthodox Church in America). He blogs at Koinonia.

Manhattan Declaration and Signers

 

For more information see www.ManhattanDeclaration.org.

Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience

Drafted on October 20, 2009

Released on November 20, 2009

Preamble

Christians are heirs of a 2,000-year tradition of proclaiming God's word, seeking justice in our societies, resisting tyranny, and reaching out with compassion to the poor, oppressed and suffering. 

While fully acknowledging the imperfections and shortcomings of Christian institutions and communities in all ages, we claim the heritage of those Christians who defended innocent life by rescuing discarded babies from trash heaps in Roman cities and publicly denouncing the Empire's sanctioning of infanticide.  We remember with reverence those believers who sacrificed their lives by remaining in Roman cities to tend the sick and dying during the plagues, and who died bravely in the coliseums rather than deny their Lord.

After the barbarian tribes overran Europe, Christian monasteries preserved not only the Bible but also the literature and art of Western culture.  It was Christians who combated the evil of slavery: Papal edicts in the 16th and 17th centuries decried the practice of slavery and first excommunicated anyone involved in the slave trade; evangelical Christians in England, led by John Wesley and William Wilberforce, put an end to the slave trade in that country.  Christians under Wilberforce's leadership also formed hundreds of societies for helping the poor, the imprisoned, and child laborers chained to machines.

In Europe, Christians challenged the divine claims of kings and successfully fought to establish the rule of law and balance of governmental powers, which made modern democracy possible.  And in America, Christian women stood at the vanguard of the suffrage movement.  The great civil rights crusades of the 1950s and 60s were led by Christians claiming the Scriptures and asserting the glory of the image of God in every human being regardless of race, religion, age or class.

This same devotion to human dignity has led Christians in the last decade to work to end the dehumanizing scourge of human trafficking and sexual slavery, bring compassionate care to AIDS sufferers in Africa, and assist in a myriad of other human rights causes – from providing clean water in developing nations to providing homes for tens of thousands of children orphaned by war, disease and gender discrimination.

Like those who have gone before us in the faith, Christians today are called to proclaim the Gospel of costly grace, to protect the intrinsic dignity of the human person and to stand for the common good.  In being true to its own calling, the call to discipleship, the church through service to others can make a profound contribution to the public good.  

Declaration

We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians, have gathered, beginning in New York on September 28, 2009, to make the following declaration, which we sign as individuals, not on behalf of our organizations, but speaking to and from our communities.   We act together in obedience to the one true God, the triune God of holiness and love, who has laid total claim on our lives and by that claim calls us with believers in all ages and all nations to seek and defend the good of all who bear his image.  We set forth this declaration in light of the truth that is grounded in Holy Scripture, in natural human reason (which is itself, in our view, the gift of a beneficent God), and in the very nature of the human person.  We call upon all people of goodwill, believers and non-believers alike, to consider carefully and reflect critically on the issues we here address as we, with St. Paul, commend this appeal to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

While the whole scope of Christian moral concern, including a special concern for the poor and vulnerable, claims our attention, we are especially troubled that in our nation today the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions. 

Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense.  In this declaration we affirm: 1) the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned in the very image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life; 2) marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society and; 3) religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image.

We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right – and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation - to speak and act in defense of these truths.  We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.  It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season.   May God help us not to fail in that duty.

Life

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:10 

Although public sentiment has moved in a pro-life direction, we note with sadness that pro-abortion ideology prevails today in our government.  The present administration is led and staffed by those who want to make abortions legal at any stage of fetal development, and who want to provide abortions at taxpayer expense.  Majorities in both houses of Congress hold pro-abortion views.  The Supreme Court, whose infamous 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade stripped the unborn of legal protection, continues to treat elective abortion as a fundamental constitutional right, though it has upheld as constitutionally permissible some limited restrictions on abortion.  The President says that he wants to reduce the "need" for abortion – a commendable goal.  But he has also pledged to make abortion more easily and widely available by eliminating laws prohibiting government funding, requiring waiting periods for women seeking abortions, and parental notification for abortions performed on minors.  The elimination of these important and effective pro-life laws cannot reasonably be expected to do other than significantly increase the number of elective abortions by which the lives of countless children are snuffed out prior to birth.  Our commitment to the sanctity of life is not a matter of partisan loyalty, for we recognize that in the thirty-six years since Roe v. Wade, elected officials and appointees of both major political parties have been complicit in giving legal sanction to what Pope John Paul II described as "the culture of death."  We call on all officials in our country, elected and appointed, to protect and serve every member of our society, including the most marginalized, voiceless, and vulnerable among us.

A culture of death inevitably cheapens life in all its stages and conditions by promoting the belief that lives that are imperfect, immature or inconvenient are discardable.  As predicted by many prescient persons, the cheapening of life that began with abortion has now metastasized.  For example, human embryo-destructive research and its public funding are promoted in the name of science and in the cause of developing treatments and cures for diseases and injuries.  The President and many in Congress favor the expansion of embryo-research to include the taxpayer funding of so-called "therapeutic cloning."  This would result in the industrial mass production of human embryos to be killed for the purpose of producing genetically customized stem cell lines and tissues.  At the other end of life, an increasingly powerful movement to promote assisted suicide and "voluntary" euthanasia threatens the lives of vulnerable elderly and disabled persons.  Eugenic notions such as the doctrine of lebensunwertes Leben ("life unworthy of life") were first advanced in the 1920s by intellectuals in the elite salons of America and Europe.  Long buried in ignominy after the horrors of the mid-20th century, they have returned from the grave.  The only difference is that now the doctrines of the eugenicists are dressed up in the language of "liberty," "autonomy," and "choice."

We will be united and untiring in our efforts to roll back the license to kill that began with the abandonment of the unborn to abortion.  We will work, as we have always worked, to bring assistance, comfort, and care to pregnant women in need and to those who have been victimized by abortion, even as we stand resolutely against the corrupt and degrading notion that it can somehow be in the best interests of women to submit to the deliberate killing of their unborn children.  Our message is, and ever shall be, that the just, humane, and truly Christian answer to problem pregnancies is for all of us to love and care for mother and child alike.

A truly prophetic Christian witness will insistently call on those who have been entrusted with temporal power to fulfill the first responsibility of government: to protect the weak and vulnerable against violent attack, and to do so with no favoritism, partiality, or discrimination.  The Bible enjoins us to defend those who cannot defend themselves, to speak for those who cannot themselves speak.  And so we defend and speak for the unborn, the disabled, and the dependent.  What the Bible and the light of reason make clear, we must make clear.  We must be willing to defend, even at risk and cost to ourselves and our institutions, the lives of our brothers and sisters at every stage of development and in every condition.

Our concern is not confined to our own nation.  Around the globe, we are witnessing cases of genocide and "ethnic cleansing," the failure to assist those who are suffering as innocent victims of war, the neglect and abuse of children, the exploitation of vulnerable laborers, the sexual trafficking of girls and young women, the abandonment of the aged, racial oppression and discrimination, the persecution of believers of all faiths, and the failure to take steps necessary to halt the spread of preventable diseases like AIDS.  We see these travesties as flowing from the same loss of the sense of the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life that drives the abortion industry and the movements for assisted suicide, euthanasia, and human cloning for biomedical research.  And so ours is, as it must be, a truly consistent ethic of love and life for all humans in all circumstances.

Marriage

The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man."  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:23-24 


This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.  However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Ephesians 5:32-33 

In Scripture, the creation of man and woman, and their one-flesh union as husband and wife, is the crowning achievement of God’s creation.  In the transmission of life and the nurturing of children, men and women joined as spouses are given the great honor of being partners with God Himself.   Marriage then, is the first institution of human society – indeed it is the institution on which all other human institutions have their foundation.  In the Christian tradition we refer to marriage as "holy matrimony" to signal the fact that it is an institution ordained by God, and blessed by Christ in his participation at a wedding in Cana of Galilee.  In the Bible, God Himself blesses and holds marriage in the highest esteem.

Vast human experience confirms that marriage is the original and most important institution for sustaining the health, education, and welfare of all persons in a society.  Where marriage is honored, and where there is a flourishing marriage culture, everyone benefits – the spouses themselves, their children, the communities and societies in which they live.  Where the marriage culture begins to erode, social pathologies of every sort quickly manifest themselves.  Unfortunately, we have witnessed over the course of the past several decades a serious erosion of the marriage culture in our own country.   Perhaps the most telling – and alarming – indicator is the out-of-wedlock birth rate.  Less than fifty years ago, it was under 5 percent.  Today it is over 40 percent.  Our society – and particularly its poorest and most vulnerable sectors, where the out-of-wedlock birth rate is much higher even than the national average – is paying a huge price in delinquency, drug abuse, crime, incarceration, hopelessness, and despair.  Other indicators are widespread non-marital sexual cohabitation and a devastatingly high rate of divorce.

We confess with sadness that Christians and our institutions have too often scandalously failed to uphold the institution of marriage and to model for the world the true meaning of marriage.  Insofar as we have too easily embraced the culture of divorce and remained silent about social practices that undermine the dignity of marriage we repent, and call upon all Christians to do the same.

To strengthen families, we must stop glamorizing promiscuity and infidelity and restore among our people a sense of the profound beauty, mystery, and holiness of faithful marital love.  We must reform ill-advised policies that contribute to the weakening of the institution of marriage, including the discredited idea of unilateral divorce.  We must work in the legal, cultural, and religious domains to instill in young people a sound understanding of what marriage is, what it requires, and why it is worth the commitment and sacrifices that faithful spouses make.

The impulse to redefine marriage in order to recognize same-sex and multiple partner relationships is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture.  It reflects a loss of understanding of the meaning of marriage as embodied in our civil and religious law and in the philosophical tradition that contributed to shaping the law.  Yet it is critical that the impulse be resisted, for yielding to it would mean abandoning the possibility of restoring a sound understanding of marriage and, with it, the hope of rebuilding a healthy marriage culture.  It would lock into place the false and destructive belief that marriage is all about romance and other adult satisfactions, and not, in any intrinsic way, about procreation and the unique character and value of acts and relationships whose meaning is shaped by their aptness for the generation, promotion and protection of life.  In spousal communion and the rearing of children (who, as gifts of God, are the fruit of their parents’ marital love), we discover the profound reasons for and benefits of the marriage covenant.

We acknowledge that there are those who are disposed towards homosexual and polyamorous conduct and relationships, just as there are those who are disposed towards other forms of immoral conduct.  We have compassion for those so disposed; we respect them as human beings possessing profound, inherent, and equal dignity; and we pay tribute to the men and women who strive, often with little assistance, to resist the temptation to yield to desires that they, no less than we, regard as wayward.  We stand with them, even when they falter.  We, no less than they, are sinners who have fallen short of God's intention for our lives.  We, no less than they, are in constant need of God’s patience, love and forgiveness.  We call on the entire Christian community to resist sexual immorality, and at the same time refrain from disdainful condemnation of those who yield to it.  Our rejection of sin, though resolute, must never become the rejection of sinners.  For every sinner, regardless of the sin, is loved by God, who seeks not our destruction but rather the conversion of our hearts.  Jesus calls all who wander from the path of virtue to "a more excellent way."  As his disciples we will reach out in love to assist all who hear the call and wish to answer it.

We further acknowledge that there are sincere people who disagree with us, and with the teaching of the Bible and Christian tradition, on questions of sexual morality and the nature of marriage.  Some who enter into same-sex and polyamorous relationships no doubt regard their unions as truly marital.  They fail to understand, however, that marriage is made possible by the sexual complementarity of man and woman, and that the comprehensive, multi-level sharing of life that marriage is includes bodily unity of the sort that unites husband and wife biologically as a reproductive unit.  This is because the body is no mere extrinsic instrument of the human person, but truly part of the personal reality of the human being.  Human beings are not merely centers of consciousness or emotion, or minds, or spirits, inhabiting non-personal bodies.  The human person is a dynamic unity of body, mind, and spirit.  Marriage is what one man and one woman establish when, forsaking all others and pledging lifelong commitment, they found a sharing of life at every level of being – the biological, the emotional, the dispositional, the rational, the spiritual – on a commitment that is sealed, completed and actualized by loving sexual intercourse in which the spouses become one flesh, not in some merely metaphorical sense, but by fulfilling together the behavioral conditions of procreation.  That is why in the Christian tradition, and historically in Western law, consummated marriages are not dissoluble or annullable on the ground of infertility, even though the nature of the marital relationship is shaped and structured by its intrinsic orientation to the great good of procreation.

We understand that many of our fellow citizens, including some Christians, believe that the historic definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is a denial of equality or civil rights.  They wonder what to say in reply to the argument that asserts that no harm would be done to them or to anyone if the law of the community were to confer upon two men or two women who are living together in a sexual partnership the status of being "married."  It would not, after all, affect their own marriages, would it?  On inspection, however, the argument that laws governing one kind of marriage will not affect another cannot stand.  Were it to prove anything, it would prove far too much: the assumption that the legal status of one set of marriage relationships affects no other would not only argue for same sex partnerships; it could be asserted with equal validity for polyamorous partnerships, polygamous households, even adult brothers, sisters, or brothers and sisters living in incestuous relationships.  Should these, as a matter of equality or civil rights, be recognized as lawful marriages, and would they have no effects on other relationships?  No.  The truth is that marriage is not something abstract or neutral that the law may legitimately define and re-define to please those who are powerful and influential.

No one has a civil right to have a non-marital relationship treated as a marriage.  Marriage is an objective reality – a covenantal union of husband and wife – that it is the duty of the law to recognize and support for the sake of justice and the common good.  If it fails to do so, genuine social harms follow.  First, the religious liberty of those for whom this is a matter of conscience is jeopardized.  Second, the rights of parents are abused as family life and sex education programs in schools are used to teach children that an enlightened understanding recognizes as "marriages" sexual partnerships that many parents believe are intrinsically non-marital and immoral.  Third, the common good of civil society is damaged when the law itself, in its critical pedagogical function, becomes a tool for eroding a sound understanding of marriage on which the flourishing of the marriage culture in any society vitally depends.  Sadly, we are today far from having a thriving marriage culture.  But if we are to begin the critically important process of reforming our laws and mores to rebuild such a culture, the last thing we can afford to do is to re-define marriage in such a way as to embody in our laws a false proclamation about what marriage is.

And so it is out of love (not "animus") and prudent concern for the common good (not "prejudice"), that we pledge to labor ceaselessly to preserve the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman and to rebuild the marriage culture.  How could we, as Christians, do otherwise?  The Bible teaches us that marriage is a central part of God's creation covenant.  Indeed, the union of husband and wife mirrors the bond between Christ and his church.  And so just as Christ was willing, out of love, to give Himself up for the church in a complete sacrifice, we are willing, lovingly, to make whatever sacrifices are required of us for the sake of the inestimable treasure that is marriage.

Religious Liberty

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. Isaiah 61:1 

Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.
Matthew 22:21

The struggle for religious liberty across the centuries has been long and arduous, but it is not a novel idea or recent development.  The nature of religious liberty is grounded in the character of God Himself, the God who is most fully known in the life and work of Jesus Christ.  Determined to follow Jesus faithfully in life and death, the early Christians appealed to the manner in which the Incarnation had taken place: "Did God send Christ, as some suppose, as a tyrant brandishing fear and terror?  Not so, but in gentleness and meekness…, for compulsion is no attribute of God" (Epistle to Diognetus 7.3-4).  Thus the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the example of Christ Himself and in the very dignity of the human person created in the image of God – a dignity, as our founders proclaimed, inherent in every human, and knowable by all in the exercise of right reason. 

Christians confess that God alone is Lord of the conscience.  Immunity from religious coercion is the cornerstone of an unconstrained conscience.  No one should be compelled to embrace any religion against his will, nor should persons of faith be forbidden to worship God according to the dictates of conscience or to express freely and publicly their deeply held religious convictions.  What is true for individuals applies to religious communities as well.

It is ironic that those who today assert a right to kill the unborn, aged and disabled and also a right to engage in immoral sexual practices, and even a right to have relationships integrated around these practices be recognized and blessed by law – such persons claiming these "rights" are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.

We see this, for example, in the effort to weaken or eliminate conscience clauses, and therefore to compel pro-life institutions (including religiously affiliated hospitals and clinics), and pro-life physicians, surgeons, nurses, and other health care professionals, to refer for abortions and, in certain cases, even to perform or participate in abortions.  We see it in the use of anti-discrimination statutes to force religious institutions, businesses, and service providers of various sorts to comply with activities they judge to be deeply immoral or go out of business.  After the judicial imposition of "same-sex marriage" in Massachusetts, for example, Catholic Charities chose with great reluctance to end its century-long work of helping to place orphaned children in good homes rather than comply with a legal mandate that it place children in same-sex households in violation of Catholic moral teaching.  In New Jersey, after the establishment of a quasi-marital "civil unions" scheme, a Methodist institution was stripped of its tax exempt status when it declined, as a matter of religious conscience, to permit a facility it owned and operated to be used for ceremonies blessing homosexual unions.  In Canada and some European nations, Christian clergy have been prosecuted for preaching Biblical norms against the practice of homosexuality.  New hate-crime laws in America raise the specter of the same practice here.

In recent decades a growing body of case law has paralleled the decline in respect for religious values in the media, the academy and political leadership, resulting in restrictions on the free exercise of religion.  We view this as an ominous development, not only because of its threat to the individual liberty guaranteed to every person, regardless of his or her faith, but because the trend also threatens the common welfare and the culture of freedom on which our system of republican government is founded.  Restrictions on the freedom of conscience or the ability to hire people of one's own faith or conscientious moral convictions for religious institutions, for example, undermines the viability of the intermediate structures of society, the essential buffer against the overweening authority of the state, resulting in the soft despotism Tocqueville so prophetically warned of.1  Disintegration of civil society is a prelude to tyranny.

As Christians, we take seriously the Biblical admonition to respect and obey those in authority.  We believe in law and in the rule of law.  We recognize the duty to comply with laws whether we happen to like them or not, unless the laws are gravely unjust or require those subject to them to do something unjust or otherwise immoral.  The biblical purpose of law is to preserve order and serve justice and the common good; yet laws that are unjust – and especially laws that purport to compel citizens to do what is unjust – undermine the common good, rather than serve it.

Going back to the earliest days of the church, Christians have refused to compromise their proclamation of the gospel.  In Acts 4, Peter and John were ordered to stop preaching.  Their answer was, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."  Through the centuries, Christianity has taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required.  There is no more eloquent defense of the rights and duties of religious conscience than the one offered by Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail.  Writing from an explicitly Christian perspective, and citing Christian writers such as Augustine and Aquinas, King taught that just laws elevate and ennoble human beings because they are rooted in the moral law whose ultimate source is God Himself.  Unjust laws degrade human beings.  Inasmuch as they can claim no authority beyond sheer human will, they lack any power to bind in conscience.  King's willingness to go to jail, rather than comply with legal injustice, was exemplary and inspiring.  

Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family.  We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar's.  But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God's.

1Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America


Drafting Committee

  • Robert George         
    Professor, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University
  • Timothy George 
    Professor, Beeson Divinity School, Samford ?University
  • Chuck Colson 
    Founder, The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview (Lansdowne, Va.)

 

Signers (as of November 19, 2009)

  1. Dr. Daniel Akin
    President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Wake Forest, N.C.)
  2. Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola
    Primate, Anglican Church of Nigeria (Abika, Nigeria)
  3. Randy Alcorn
    Founder and Director, Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM) (Sandy, Ore.)
  4. Rt. Rev. David Anderson
    President and CEO, American Anglican Council (Atlanta)
  5. Leith Anderson
    President of National Association of Evangelicals (Washington, D.C.)
  6. Charlotte K. Ardizzone
    TV Show Host and Speaker, INSP Television (Charlotte, N.C.)
  7. Kay Arthur
    CEO and Co-founder, Precept Ministries International (Chattanooga, Tenn.)
  8. Dr. Mark L. Bailey
    President, Dallas Theological Seminary (Dallas)
  9. Most Rev. Craig W. Bates
    Archbishop, International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church (Malverne, N.Y.)
  10. Gary Bauer
    President, American Values; Chairman, Campaign for Working Families
  11. His Grace, The Right Reverend Bishop Basil Essey
    The Right Reverend Bishop of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America (Wichita, Kan.)
  12. Joel Belz
    Founder, World Magazine (Asheville, N.C.)
  13. Rev. Michael L. Beresford
    Managing Director of Church Relations, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (Charlotte, N.C.)
  14. Ken Boa
    President, Reflections Ministries (Atlanta)
  15. Joseph Bottum
    Editor of First Things (New York)
  16. Pastor Randy & Sarah Brannon
    Senior Pastor, Grace Community Church (Madera, Calif.)
  17. Steve Brown
    National Radio Broadcaster, Key Life (Maitland, Fla.)
  18. Dr. Robert C. Cannada, Jr.
    Chancellor and CEO, Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando, Fla.)
  19. Galen Carey
    Director of Government Affairs, National Association of Evangelicals (Washington, D.C.)
  20. Dr. Bryan Chapell
    President, Covenant Theological Seminary (St. Louis)
  21. Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver
  22. Timothy Clinton
    President, American Association of Christian Counselors (Forest, Va.)
  23. Chuck Colson
    Founder, The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview (Lansdowne, Va.)
  24. Most Rev. Salvatore Joseph Cordileone
    Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland, Calif.
  25. Dr. Gary Culpepper
    Associate Professor, Providence College (Providence, R.I.)
  26. Jim Daly
    President and CEO, Focus on the Family (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
  27. Marjorie Dannenfelser
    President, Susan B. Anthony List (Arlington, Va.)
  28. Rev. Daniel Delgado
    Board of Directors, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Pastor, Third Day Missions Church (Staten Island, N.Y.)
  29. Patrick J. Deneen
    Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis Associate Professor and Director, The Tocqueville Forum on the Roots of American Democracy, Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.)
  30. Dr. James Dobson
    Founder, Focus on the Family (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
  31. Dr. David Dockery
    President, Union University (Jackson, Tenn.)
  32. Most Rev. Timothy Dolan
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of New York, N.Y.
  33. Dr. William Donohue
    President, Catholic League (New York)
  34. Dr. James T. Draper, Jr.
    President Emeritus, LifeWay (Nashville, Tenn.)
  35. Dinesh D'Souza
    Writer and Speaker (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.)
  36. Most Rev. Robert Wm. Duncan
    Archbishop and Primate, Anglican Church in North America (Ambridge, Pa. )
  37. Dr. Michael Easley
    President Emeritus, Moody Bible Institute (Chicago)
  38. Dr. William Edgar
    Professor, Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia)
  39. Brett Elder
    Executive Director, Stewardship Council (Grand Rapids, Mich.
  40. Rev. Joel Elowsky
    Drew University (Madison, N.J.)
  41. Stuart Epperson
    Co-Founder and Chariman of the Board, Salem Communications Corporation (Camarillo, Calif.)
  42. Rev. Jonathan Falwell
    Senior Pastor, Thomas Road Baptist Church (Lynchburg, Va.)
  43. William J. Federer
    President, Amerisearch, Inc. (St. Louis)
  44. Fr. Joseph D. Fessio
    Founder and Editor, Ignatius Press (Ft. Collins, Colo.)
  45. Carmen Fowler
    President and Executive Editor, Presbyterian Lay Committee (Lenoir, N.C.)
  46. Maggie Gallagher
    President, National Organization for Marriage (Manassas, Va.)
  47. Dr. Jim Garlow
    Senior Pastor, Skyline Church (La Mesa, Calif.)
  48. Steven Garofalo
    Senior Consultant, Search and Assessment Services (Charlotte, N.C.)
  49. Dr. Robert P. George
    McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University (Princeton, N.J.)
  50. Dr. Timothy George
    Dean and Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School at Samford University (Birmingham, Ala.)
  51. Thomas Gilson
    Director of Strategic Processes, Campus Crusade for Christ International (Norfolk, Va.)
  52. Dr. Jack Graham
    Pastor, Prestonwood Baptist Church (Plano, Texas)
  53. Dr. Wayne Grudem
    Research Professor of Theological and Biblical Studies, Phoenix Seminary (Phoenix)
  54. Dr. Cornell "Corkie" Haan
    National Facilitator of Spiritual Unity, The Mission America Coalition (Palm Desert, Calif.)
  55. Fr. Chad Hatfield
    Chancellor, CEO and Archpriest, St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary (Yonkers, N.Y.)
  56. Dr. Dennis Hollinger
    President and Professor of Christian Ethics, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (South Hamilton, Mass.)
  57. Dr. Jeanette Hsieh
    Executive Vice President and Provost, Trinity International University (Deerfield, Ill.)
  58. Dr. John A. Huffman, Jr.
    Senior Pastor, St. Andrews Presbyterian Church (Newport Beach, Calif.); Chairman of the Board, Christianity Today International (Carol Stream, Ill.)
  59. Rev. Ken Hutcherson
    Pastor, Antioch Bible Church (Kirkland, Wash.)
  60. Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr.
    Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church (Beltsville, Md.)
  61. Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse
    President, American Orthodox Institute; Editor, OrthodoxyToday.org (Naples, Fla.)
  62. Jerry Jenkins
    Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Moody Bible Institute (Black Forest, Colo.)
  63. Camille Kampouris
    Editorial Board, Kairos Journal
  64. Emmanuel A. Kampouris
    Publisher, Kairos Journal
  65. Rev. Tim Keller
    Senior Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church (New York)
  66. Dr. Peter Kreeft
    Professor of Philosophy, Boston College (Mass.) and at the Kings College (N.Y.)
  67. Most Rev. Joseph E. Kurtz
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky.
  68. Jim Kushiner
    Editor, Touchstone (Chicago)
  69. Dr. Richard Land
    President, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC (Washington, D.C.)
  70. Jim Law
    Senior Associate Pastor, First Baptist Church (Woodstock, Ga.)
  71. Dr. Matthew Levering
    Associate Professor of Theology, Ave Maria University (Naples, Fla.)
  72. Dr. Peter Lillback
    President, The Providence Forum (West Conshohocken, Pa.)
  73. Dr. Duane Litfin
    President, Wheaton College (Wheaton, Ill.)
  74. Rev. Herb Lusk
    Pastor, Greater Exodus Baptist Church (Philadelphia)
  75. His Eminence Adam Cardinal Maida
    Archbishop Emeritus, Roman Catholic Diocese of Detroit
  76. Most Rev. Richard J. Malone
    Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine
  77. Rev. Francis Martin
    Professor of Sacred Scripture, Sacred Heart Major Seminary (Detroit)
  78. Dr. Joseph Mattera
    Bishop and Senior Pastor, Resurrection Church (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  79. Phil Maxwell
    Pastor, Gateway Church (Bridgewater, N.J.)
  80. Josh McDowell
    Founder, Josh McDowell Ministries (Plano, Texas)
  81. Alex McFarland
    President, Southern Evangelical Seminary (Charlotte, N.C.)
  82. Most Rev. George Dallas McKinney
    Bishop, Founder and Pastor, St. Stephen's Church of God in Christ  (San Diego)
  83. Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns
    Missionary Bishop, Convocation of Anglicans of North America (Herndon, Va.)
  84. Dr. C. Ben Mitchell
    Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy, Union University (Jackson, Tenn.)
  85. Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
    President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, Ky.)
  86. Dr. Russell D. Moore
    Senior Vice President for Academic Administration and Dean of the School of Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, Ky.)
  87. Most Rev. John J. Myers
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, N.J.
  88. Most Rev. Joseph F. Naumann
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Kansas City, Kan.
  89. David Neff
    Editor-in-Chief, Christianity Today (Carol Stream, Ill.)
  90. Tom Nelson
    Senior Pastor, Christ Community Evangelical Free Church (Leawood, Kan.)
  91. Niel Nielson
    President, Covenant College (Lookout Mt., Ga.)
  92. Most Rev. John Nienstedt
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
  93. Dr. Tom Oden
    Theologian, United Methodist Minister; Professor, Drew University (Madison, N.J.)
  94. Marvin Olasky
    Editor-in-Chief, World Magazine;  Provost, The Kings College (New York)
  95. Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted
    Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix
  96. Rev. William Owens
    Chairman, Coalition of African-American Pastors (Memphis, Tenn.)
  97. Dr. J.I. Packer
    Board of Governors' Professor of Theology, Regent College (Canada)
  98. Metr. Jonah Paffhausen
    Primate, Orthodox Church in America (Syosset, N.Y.)
  99. Tony Perkins
    President, Family Research Council (Washington, D.C.)
  100. Eric M. Pillmore
    CEO, Pillmore Consulting LLC (Doylestown, Pa.)
  101. Dr. Everett Piper
    President, Oklahoma Wesleyan University (Bartlesville, Okla.)
  102. Todd Pitner
    President, Rev Increase
  103. Dr. Cornelius Plantinga
    President, Calvin Theological Seminary (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
  104. Dr. David Platt
    Pastor, Church at Brook Hills (Birmingham, Ala.)
  105. Rev. Jim Pocock
    Pastor, Trinitarian Congregational Church (Wayland, Mass.)
  106. Fred Potter
    Executive Director and CEO, Christian Legal Society (Springfield, Va.)
  107. Dennis Rainey
    President, CEO, and Co-Founder, FamilyLife (Little Rock, Ark.)
  108. Fr. Patrick Reardon
    Pastor, All Saints' Antiochian Orthodox Church (Chicago)
  109. Bob Reccord
    Founder, Total Life Impact, Inc. (Suwanee, Ga.)
  110. His Eminence Justin Cardinal Rigali
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia
  111. Frank Schubert
    President, Schubert Flint Public Affairs (Sacramento, Calif.)
  112. David Schuringa
    President, Crossroads Bible Institute (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
  113. Tricia Scribner
    Author (Harrisburg, N.C.)
  114. Dr. Dave Seaford
    Senior Pastor, Community Fellowship Church (Matthews, N.C.)
  115. Alan Sears
    President, CEO, and General Counsel, Alliance Defense Fund (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
  116. Randy Setzer
    Senior Pastor, Macedonia Baptist Church (Lincolnton, N.C.)
  117. Most Rev. Michael J. Sheridan
    Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs, Colo.
  118. Dr. Ron Sider
    Director, Evangelicals for Social Action (Wynnewood, Pa.)
  119. Fr. Robert Sirico
    Founder, Acton Institute (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
  120. Dr. Robert Sloan
    President, Houston Baptist University (Houston)
  121. Charles Stetson
    Chairman of the Board, Bible Literacy Project (New York)
  122. Dr. David Stevens
    CEO, Christian Medical and Dental Association (Bristol, Tenn.)
  123. John Stonestreet
    Executive Director, Summit Ministries (Manitou Springs, Colo.)
  124. Dr. Joseph Stowell
    President, Cornerstone University (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
  125. Dr. Sarah Sumner
    Professor of Theology and Ministry, Azusa Pacific University (Azusa, Calif.)
  126. Dr. Glenn Sunshine
    Chairman of the History Department, Central Connecticut State University (New Britain, Conn.)
  127. Joni Eareckson Tada
    Founder and CEO, Joni and Friends International Disability Center (Agoura Hills, Calif.)
  128. Luiz Tellez
    President, The Witherspoon Institute (Princeton, N.J.)
  129. Dr. Timothy C. Tennent
    President, Asbury Theological Seminary (Wilmore, Ky.)
  130. Michael Timmis
    Chairman, Prison Fellowship and Prison Fellowship International (Naples, Fla.)
  131. Mark Tooley
    President, Institute for Religion and Democracy (Washington, D.C.)
  132. H. James Towey
    President, St. Vincent College (Latrobe, Pa.)
  133. Juan Valdes
    Middle and High School Chaplain, Florida Christian School (Miami, Fla.)
  134. Todd Wagner
    Pastor, WaterMark Community Church (Dallas)
  135. Dr. Graham Walker
    President, Patrick Henry College (Purcellville, Va.)
  136. Fr. Alexander F. C. Webster, Ph.D.
    Archpriest, Orthodox Church in America; Professorial Lecturer, The George Washington University (Ashburn, Va.)
  137. George Weigel
    Distinguished Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center (Washington, D.C.)
  138. David Welch
    Houston Area Pastor Council Executive Director, US Pastors Council (Houston)
  139. Dr. James Emery White
    Founding and Senior Pastor,  Mecklenburg Community Church (Charlotte, N.C.)
  140. Dr. Hayes Wicker
    Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church (Naples, Fla.)
  141. Mark Williamson
    Founder and President, Foundation Restoration Ministries/Federal Intercessors (Katy, Texas)
  142. Parker T. Williamson
    Editor Emeritus and Senior Correspondent, Presbyterian Lay Committee
  143. Dr. Craig Williford
    President, Trinity International University (Deerfield, Ill.)
  144. Dr. John Woodbridge
    Research Professor of Church History and the History of Christian Thought, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, Ill.)
  145. Don M. Woodside
    Performance Matters Associates (Matthews, N.C.)
  146. Dr. Frank Wright
    President, National Religious Broadcasters (Manassas, Va.)
  147. Most Rev. Donald W. Wuerl
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.
  148. Paul Young
    COO and Executive Vice President, Christian Research Institute (Charlotte, N.C.)
  149. Dr. Michael Youssef
    President, Leading the Way (Atlanta)
  150. Ravi Zacharias
    Founder and Chairman of the Board, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (Norcross, Ga.)
  151. Most Rev. David A. Zubik
    Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh
  152. James R. Thobaben, Ph.D., M.P.H.
    Professor, Bioethics and Social Ethics, Asbury Theological Seminary (Wilmore, Ky.)

Nationalism in Greek Orthodoxy

By: Sir Steven Runciman

Excerpts from “The Great Church in Captivity: A Study of the Patriarchate of Constantinople from the Eve of the Turkish Conquest to the Greek War of Independence.”

Sir Steven Runciman

Sir Steven Runciman

In the East money making has never, as it was in the feudally minded West, been considered to be incompatible with aristocracy. A moneyed nobility began to emerge among the Greeks, closely knit by common aim and interests and by intermarriage, but open to newcomers. These rich families were ambitious. Authority among the Greeks was in the hands of the Patriarch. It therefore became their object to control the Patriarchate. Calling themselves “Archontes” of the Greek nation, they built their houses in the Phanar quarter of Constantinople, to be close to the Patriarchal buildings. They obtained for their sons positions in the Patriarchal court; and one by one the high offices of the Great Church passed into lay hands. Their members did not enter the Church itself. That was considered to be beneath their dignity. The bishops and the Patriarch himself continued to be drawn mainly from bright boys of humbler classes who had risen through intelligence and merit. But by the end of the seventeenth century the Phanariot families, as they were usually called, dominated the central organization of the Church…. But the Patriarchate could not do without them; for they were in a position both to pay its debt and to intrigue in its favor at the Sublime Porte (pgs. 361-362).

It was good for the Church to have to meet an intellectual challenge; but the challenge was too abrupt. The strength of the Byzantine Church had been the presence of a highly educated laity that was deeply interested in religion. Now the laity began to despise the traditions of the Church; and the traditional elements in the Church began to mistrust and dislike modern education, retreating to defend themselves into a thickening obscurantism. The cleavage between the intellectuals and the traditionalists, which had begun when Neo-Aristotelianism was introduced into the curriculum of the Patriarchal Academy, grew wider. Under Phanariot influence many of the higher ecclesiastics followed the modernist trend. In the old days Orthodoxy had preferred to concentrate on eternal things and modestly to refuse to clothe the faith in trappings of modish philosophy. The Phanariots in their desire to impress the West had no use for such old-fashioned notions. Instead, seeing the high prestige of ancient Greek learning, they wished to show that they were, by culture as well as by blood, the heirs of ancient Greece. Their sons, lively laymen educated in the new style, were now filling the administrative posts at the Patriarchal court. As a result the Patriarchate began to lose touch with the great body of the faithful, to whom faith meant more than philosophy and the Christian saints more than the sophist of pagan times.

Above all, the Phanariots needed the support of the Church in the pursuits of the ultimate political aim. It was no mean aim. The Megali Idea, the Great Idea of the Greeks, can be traced back to the days before the Turkish conquest…With the spread of the Renaissance a respect for the old Greek civilization had become general. It was natural that the Greeks, in the midst of their political disasters, should wish to benefit from it. They might be slaves now to the Turks, but they were of the great race that had civilized Europe. It must be their destiny to rise again. The Phanariots tried to combine the nationalistic forces of Hellenism in a passionate if illogical alliance with the ecumenical traditions of Byzantium and the Orthodox Church. They worked for a restored Byzantium, a New Rome that should be Greek, a new center of Greek civilization that should embrace the Orthodox world. The spirit behind the Great Idea was a mixture of neo-Byzantinism and an acute sense of race. But with the trend of the modern world the nationalism began to dominate the ecumenicity. George Scholarius Gennadius had perhaps unconsciously, foreseen the danger when he answered a question about his nationality by saying that he would not call himself a Hellene though he was a Hellene by race, not a Byzantine though he had been born at Byzantium, but, rather, a Christian, that is, an Orthodox. For, if the Orthodox Church was to retain its spiritual force, it must remain ecumenical. It must not become a purely Greek Church.

The price paid by the Church for its subjection to the Phanariot benefactors was heavy. First, it meant that the Church was run more and more in the interests of the Greek people and not of Orthodoxy as a whole. The arrangement made between the Conquering Sultan and the Patriarch Gennadius had put all the Orthodox Church within the Ottoman Empire under the authority of the Patriarchate, which was inevitably controlled by Greeks (pgs. 377-379).

If any Orthodox Palestinian wished for advancement he had to learn Greek and entirely identify himself with Greek interests; and the Patriarch (of Jerusalem) himself spent much of his time at Constantinople or in the Principalities. The Greeks were not prepared to let this luscious plum fall into other hands. Yet it is doubtful whether in the long run the Greek nationalism that was being increasingly infused into the whole Orthodox organization was beneficial to Orthodoxy. It was not in the old Byzantine tradition. Though within the Empire itself a knowledge of Greek was necessary for any official position, there had been no distinction of race; and the Byzantines had encouraged vernacular liturgies and had been cautious in trying to impose a Greek hierarchy upon other peoples. But the Great Idea encouraged the Greeks to think of themselves as a Chosen People; and chosen peoples are seldom popular, nor do they fit well into Christian life.

This attempt to turn the Orthodox Church into an exclusively Greek Church was one of the outcomes of Phanariot policy. It lead also to a decline in spiritual values, by stressing Greek culture as against Orthodox traditions and seeking to turn the Church into a vehicle of nationalist feeling, genuine and democratic up to a point, but little concerned with the spiritual life. At the same time it place the Patriarchate on the horns of a moral dilemma. It involved the Church in politics, and subversive politics. Was it not the duty of the Church to render unto Caesar the things which were Caesar’s? Could a Patriarch justifiably jettison the agreement reached between the Sultan and his great predecessor Gennaidus? Could he abjure the oath that he had sworn to the Sultan when his election was confirmed? On a more practical level, had he the right to indulge in plots which if they failed would undoubtedly subject his flock to ghastly reprisals? The more thoughtful hierarchs could not lightly support revolutionary nationalism. Yet if they failed to join in the movement from a sense of honor or from prudence or from spiritually minded detachment, they would be branded as traitors to Hellenism. The Church would lose its hold over the livelier and more progressive elements of his congregation. The rebirth of Greece was to involve a gallows erected at the gate of the Patriarchate and a Patriarch’s corpse swinging thereon (pgs. 382-384).

The Task of Orthodox Theology in America

By: Fr. Alexander Schmemann

Paper read at the first Conference of Orthodox Theologians in America, Sept. 26-27, 1966.

Fr. Alexander Schmemann

Fr. Alexander Schmemann

I.

What do we mean when we speak of the Orthodox theological task in America today? It is proper to begin with this question because the title of my paper may seem to suggest a theological orientation of which Orthodoxy is suspicious, but which seems to predominate in the West today. It is the reduction of theology to a given "situation" or "age," a stress on "relevance" understood almost exclusively as a dependence of theology, its task, method and language on the "modern man" and his specifically modern "needs." From the beginning, therefore, we must emphasize that Orthodoxy rejects such a reduction of theology, whose first and eternal tasks is to search for Truth, not for relevance, for words "adequate to God" (theoprepeis logoi), not to man. Theology is truly relevant because it is truly Christian when it remains a scandal for the Jews, foolishness for the Greeks and is at odds with this world and its passing "cultures" and "modernities." This does not mean, however, that theology operates in a cultural vacuum. For it is one thing to depend on the world and quite another to be related to it. If the first attitude, the acceptance of the world as the only criterion of theology, is to be rejected, the second (which, in the last analysis, is but the basic Christian concern for the world and its salvation), is the very raison d’etre of theology. In this sense, all genuine theology has always been pastoral, missionary and prophetic, and whenever it lost these dimensions, it became a mere intellectual game justly ignored by the "real" Church. The task of theology at any given moment is necessarily determined by the needs of the Church, and the first task of the theologian is always to discern and to accept these needs, to become aware of what the Chuch expects from him.

As a small group of Orthodox theologians living and working in the West, far from the ancient and "organically" Orthodox worlds and cultures, we are justified therefore in asking this preliminary question: what are the needs of the Church to which we must respond and around which we are to organize and plan our theological work? How are we to obey here, in America, the eternal demands, pastoral, missionary and prophetic, of Orthodox theology? This paper is a brief attempt to inaugurate a common search for a common answer.

II.

Everyone will probably agree that our theological task is determined primarily by the fact that, as theologians, we work within and for an Orthodox community which, for the first time in the long history of our Church, has to live in a non-Orthodox world, Western in its religious traditions, secularistic in its culture, and pluralistic in its "world view." As I tried to show elsewhere,1 this for Orthodoxy is an unprecedented situation, and it challenges the whole Church and consequently us, her theologians, with a set of problems unknown to the Orthodox communities of the "old world."

First of all, this new situation substantially affects the pastoral responsibilities of theology. I venture to affirm that for several centuries theology was not needed as vitally and on virtually every level of the Church’s life as it is today in America. The reason for this is simple. In Greece or Russia, or any other Orthodox country, culture itself, i.e. the complex of values, norms and ideas by which man evaluates his life, was related in some deep sense to the Orthodox faith, was in continuation with the Church’s "world view." One can and must criticize the obvious shortcomings and sins of those Orthodox "worlds," but one cannot deny that, in spite of many betrayals, they remained for a long time organically shaped by Orthodoxy. But this is not so in America. Here the rupture between the Orthodox world view and the secularistic culture is so radical that the former finds virtually no "point of application," and the language by which it is transmitted, that of the Liturgy, spirituality and ethics, remains "alien," even if it is English. As the integration of the formerly "immigrant" community into American culture and into the "American way of life" progresses, there develops a truly schizophrenic situation in which deep attachment to Orthodox symbols and "externals" (e.g., worship, music, architecture) easily coexists with an almost totally secularistic philosophy of life. Needless to say, such a situation cannot last long, and a mere faithfulness to Orthodox externals will not save Orthodoxy from being dissolved sooner or later into that peculiar blend of secularism and vague religiosity which seems to emerge as a new pattern of American religion. To those who have ears to hear and eyes to see, it is already abundantly clear that in America one cannot be Orthodox by "osmosis." A spiritually alien culture makes Orthodoxy here a challenge, and the faith, if it is to be true to itself, must be consciously accepted, clearly understood in its implications for life, and constantly defended against the pressures of secularism. It is here, therefore, that theology is called to recover the pastoral dimension, to supply, or rather to be, that understanding, that essential link between the Tradition of the Church and the real life, to assure the acceptance of the faith by the faithful.

It would be a mistake to think, however, that what is meant here is a kind of theological "digest" for quick consumption by the laity, a mere descent of theology to a "popular level." It is exactly the opposite that I have in mind; the uplifting of the whole life of the Church into theological consciousness, a vital relation to theological reflection of every aspect and every level of the Church’s life. But to achieve this, we must give some thought to that which, at least in my opinion, constitutes the basic defect of our theology: its almost total divorce from the real life of the Church and from her practical needs. By his very upbringing and training, the theologian is used to looking at everything "practical" as virtually opposed to theology and its lofty pursuits, and this attitude has been adopted for so many centuries that it is almost taken for granted. Since the breakdown of the patristic age, our theology (and not without Western influence) has become exclusively "academic" — "scholastic" in the literal sense of the word. It is confined to a narrow circle of professional intellectuals, writing and working, in fact, for each other (who else reads theology, or, even if he wished to, is capable of reading its highly professional and esoteric language?) and, as time goes by, more and more anxious to satisfy and please their peers in other academic disciplines, rather than the less and less theologically-minded Church. They are reconciled to the supreme indifference of the Church at large to their work because, in their unshakable self-righteousness, they put the blame on the anti-intellectualism of the clergy and laity. What they do not seem to realize, however, is that this "anti-intellectualism" is in a way a direct result of their own exclusive "intellectualism," of their quasi-manichean contempt for the "practical" needs of the Church, for their reduction of theology to a harmless intellectual game of "interesting points of view" and scientifically impeccable footnotes. And the sad irony of the situation is that, ignored by the Church, they are not truly accepted by the so-called "intellectual community" either, for which, in spite of all their efforts ad captatiam benevolentiae, they remain non-objective and non-scientific "mystics." And as long as such is the state and the inner orientation of our theology, the hope that it will fulfill its pastoral function and respond to the crying needs of our situation is, of course, vain.

But it is at this point, maybe, that we can turn our eyes to those whom we always claim to be our examples and teachers, the Holy Fathers of the Church, and look a little deeper into their understanding of theological task. Most certainly they were not less intellectual. And yet, there is one decisive difference between them and the modern theological scholars. To all of them that which we call "practical" and virtually exclude from our academic concerns meant nothing else but the unique and indeed very practical concern of Christianity: the eternal salvation of man. Words and ideas were for them directly related not simply to Truth and Error, but to the Truth that saves and to the error that brings with it death and damnation. And it is their constant, truly "existential" preoccupation with, and their total commitment to, salvation of real, concrete men that makes every line they wrote so ultimately serious and their theology so vital and so precisely pastoral. Intellectual as it is, their theology is always addressed not to "intellectuals," but to the whole Church, in the firm belief that everyone in the Church has received the Spirit of Truth and was made a "theologian" — i.e., a man concerned with God. And the lasting truth of their theology is that in it ideas are always referred to the "practical" needs of the Church, revealed in their soteriological significance, whereas the most "practical" aspects of the Church are rooted in their ultimate theological implications.

For us in America to recover the pastoral dimension of theology means then not a change of level ("write on a more popular level"), but, above everything else, a change in the inner orientation of the theological mind, of the basic theological concern itself. First of all, we must aim our theological effort at the real Church and at real man in the Church. We must literally care about the situation of that man and not only about his becoming "more educated" and "proud of Orthodoxy." For as long as we ourselves are not convinced that many ideas and philosophies by which he lives today lead him to spiritual death, and that the knowledge of Truth is to save him and not merely to adorn our Church with a respectable intellectual elite, we certainly will not find the words which can reach him. As luxury and status symbol theology is not needed in a religion which challenges man with the choice between life and death, salvation and damnation.

This means also that the "pastoral" revitalization of theology must begin with a deep evaluation and critique of the culture in which the Orthodox man is immersed today and which indeed makes Christianity irrelevant. It is not accidental, of course, that patristic theology is rooted in a healthy apologetical purpose, in the defense of the faith against its external and internal enemies. As for us, we fight with great wit the battles the Fathers have already won, but politely smile at the truly demonic implications of some of the modern philosophies and theories. We are unaware of the obvious fact that under the influences of these philosophies even some of the basic Christian terms are used in a meaning almost opposite to the ones they had in the past. Salvation means self-fulfillment, faith — security, sin — a personal problem of adjustment, etc. Our culture, which has been recently described as a "triumph of therapeutics," has deeply changed the quest of even a religious man, which makes it almost impossible for him to hear and to understand the true teaching of the Church. And finally we do not seem to notice that this metamorphosis of religion takes place not in some mythical Western man, but in our own parishes, in the preaching of our priests. We must begin, therefore, with what patristic theology performed in its own time: an exorcism of culture, a liberating reconstruction of the words, concepts and symbols, of the theological language itself. And we must do it in order not to make our theology more "acceptable" to the modern man and his culture, but, on the contrary, to make him again aware of the ultimately serious, truly soteriological nature and demands of his faith.

Only theology can accomplish all this, and that is why it is so badly needed today. But it will succeed only when it becomes again pastoral, i.e. identified with the Church and her life, attentive to the real needs of the man, when, putting aside the academic "straining at a gnat" which has never prevented anyone from "swallowing a camel," it accepts, in humility and with courage, its proper function in the Church.

III.

I defined the second task of our theology as missionary. To keep with the spirit of the time, I should have probably called it "ecumenical." But the word ecumenical has of late become so general and so ambiguous that it itself needs to be investigated and redefined. I prefer the slightly outmoded term "missionary" for several reasons. It indicates that Orthodox theology has a mission in the West. It has always been the consensus of Orthodox theologians that their participation in the Ecumenical Movement has as its goal to bring an Orthodox witness to the non-Orthodox, and there is no reason to deny that this implies the idea of conversion to Orthodoxy. I know very well that in current ecumenical thinking the term "conversion" has a bad reputation. But the Orthodox would simply betray both their Orthodoxy and the Ecumenical Movement if now, under the impact of a superficial ecumenical euphoria, they concealed the fact that in their approach conversion is one of the basic components of genuine ecumenical perspective. More than ever, and precisely for deep ecumenical reasons, we must uphold our conviction that only a deep and genuinely Christian idea of conversion, i.e. of a decisive crisis, choice, and commitment to Truth, can give meaning and ultimate seriousness to all "dialogues," "rapprochements," and "convergences." That this term and the reality behind it are regarded today by many as "un-ecumenical" reveals, in fact, an alarming trend; a shift of the ecumenical movement from its original goal — to organic unity in Christ, to a different one — the smooth functioning of pluralistic society; excellent and useful as it may be, this second goal has very little to do with the fundamental Christian values of unity, faith, and truth. Our "mission" then remains the same: to make Orthodoxy known, understood, and, with God’s help, accepted in the West. This mission stems naturally and, so to speak, inescapably from our truly awesome claim that we are Orthodox and that ours is the true Church. This claim is incompatible with any provincialism of thought and vision, ethnic self-consciousness, and self-centeredness.

For several decades the "ecumenical mission" has been, in fact, a monopoly of a small group of theologians, and it remained virtually unknown to and ignored by the Orthodox Church at large. I think that the time has come to put an end to this rather abnormal situation which, in addition to many other dangers, simply misleads the non-Orthodox by giving them the impression of an "ecumenical" Orthodoxy that does not exist in reality. A missionary orientation must be added to the whole theological structure of the Church and become an organic part of our theological "curriculum." This brings me to the second meaning of the term missionary, to the "modality" of our approach to the West.

"Mission" has always meant, at least in the Christian connotations of that term, not only the effort to convert someone to true faith, but also the spiritual disposition of the missionary: his active charity and his self-giving to the "object" of his missionary task. From St. Paul to Bishop Nicholas of Japan there has been no mission without self-identification of the missionary with those to whom God has sent him, without a sacrifice of his personal attachments and his natural values. Mutatis mutandis the same must be said, it seems to me, about the Orthodox mission in the West, and more particularly, about the mission of Orthodox theology. This mission is impossible without some degree of love for the West and for the many authentically Christian values of its culture. Yet, we very often confuse the Universal Truth of the Church with a naive "superiority complex," with arrogance and self-righteousness, with a childish certitude that everyone ought to share our own enthusiasm about the "splendors of Byzantium," our "ancient and colorful rites," and the forms of our Church architecture. It is sad and shocking to hear the West globally condemned and to see a condescending attitude towards the "poor Westerners" on the part of young people who, more often than not, have not read Shakespeare and Cervantes, have never heard about St. Francis of Assisi or listened to Bach. It is sad to realize that there is no greater obstacle to the understanding and acceptance of Orthodoxy than the provincialism, the human pride and the self-righteousness of the Orthodox themselves, their almost complete lack of humility and self-criticism. Yet, Truth always makes humble, and pride in all its forms and expressions is always alien to Truth and is always a sin. It is obviously inconceivable to say that we are "proud of Christ," but we constantly preach and teach "pride of Orthodoxy." It is time to understand that if the Orthodox mission is to progress, we must not only transcend and overcome this spirit of self-righteousness, but we must, without denying any genuine value of our Eastern cultural and spiritual heritage, open ourselves towards Western culture and make our own whatever in it "is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious" (Philip. 4:8).

The missionary task of Orthodox theology must be thus guided by two equally important and interdependent imperatives: the emphasis on Truth as the only genuine ground of all "ecumenical" concern and a real openness to the Western Christian values. At a time when a serious temptation appears to sacrifice Truth for a very sophisticated, very qualified and, because of this, only more dangerous relativism, to replace the search for unity with a search for a religious "peaceful coexistence," when the very possibility of error and heresy is virtually ruled out by a pseudo-ecumenical doctrine of "convergence," the Orthodox theologian must stand, alone if necessary, in defense of the very concept of Truth, without which Christianity, for all its "relevance," denies in fact its own absolute claim. To do this, however, he must himself be open and obedient to all Truth, wherever he finds it.

IV.

The third task of Orthodox theology in America must be defined as prophetic, even if the word sounds presumptuous. The prophets were sent to the people of God not only to announce future events, but also to remind the people of their true mission and to denounce their betrayals of Divine Will. And if, with the coming of Christ, "the fulfillment of all law and the prophets," their first function has become obsolete, the second remains as needed as ever. And properly understood, theology must always share in this prophetic function. For the eternal task of theology is to refer the life of the Church to the absolute Truth of the Church’s own tradition, to keep alive and operative a criterion by which the Church judges herself. Immersed in human history, the Church is always full of temptations and sins and, what is even more serious, of compromises and accommodations to the spirit of "this world." The temptation is always to prefer peace to Truth, efficiency to rectitude, human success to the Will of God. And since, in the Orthodox Church, there exists no visible center of infallible authority, like the Papacy, since her ultimate criterion and recourse is always the Truth abiding in her, it certainly belongs to those whose specific ministry is the study and the search of that Truth to make it known and manifest in all its purity and clarity. There is no arrogance, no pride in that claim. The theologian has no rights, no power to govern and to administer that which belongs exclusively to the hierarchy. But it is his sacred duty to supply the hierarchy and, indeed, the whole Church with the pure teaching of the Church and to stand by that truth even when it is not considered "opportune." It must be admitted that much too often our official "academic" theology has failed to accept this "obedience" and preferred quiet complacency. It has thus become accomplice to many deviations and distortions from which the whole Orthodox Church suffers today. But again, it was not so with the Fathers. Almost to the one, they suffered from the various "power structures" of their days for their refusal to opt for the compromise or to accept silent obedience to evil. And the fact is that ultimately the Chuiich followed them and not those who, then as today, have a thousand excellent reasons for avoiding the "abstract principles" and preferring the "demands of reality."

Today this prophetic function of theology is needed again more than ever. For, whether we want it or not, the entire Orthodox Church is going through a deep crisis. Its causes are many. On the one hand, the world which for centuries framed and shaped her historical existence is crumbling and has all but vanished. The ancient and traditional centers of authority are threatened in their very existence and most of them deprived of even elementary freedom of action. An overwhelming majority of Orthodox people live under the pressures and persecution of openly and militantly atheistic regimes, in situations where mere survival and not progress is the only preoccupation. A minority living surrounded by an alien sea seems to have become the rule rather than the exception for Orthodoxy almost everywhere. Everywhere, and not only in the West, it is challenged by a secularistic, technological, and spiritually antagonistic culture which virtually swallows its younger generations. On the other hand, a large Orthodox diaspora has appeared, putting an end to the multi-secular isolation of Orthodoxy in the East, challenging Orthodoxy with problems of ecclesiastical organization and spiritual "adjustments" unprecedented in the whole history of the Church. Only the blind would deny the existence of the crisis, yet not too many seem to realize its depth and scope, least of all (let us face it) the bishops who continue in their routine work as "if nothing happened." At no time in the past has there existed such an abyss between the hierarchy and the "real" Church, never before has the power-structure so little corresponded to the crying spiritual needs of the faithful. And here the American Orthodox "microcosm" seems an excellent example. How long are we to live in a multiplicity of jurisdictions either quarreling with each other or simply ignoring each other? How long shall we leave unnoticed the quick decay in liturgy, spirituality, and monasticism — the traditional sources of Orthodox piety and continuity? How long, in short, shall we accept and respectfully endorse as normal and almost traditional a situation which, if we are honest, must be described as a scandal and a tragedy?

In spite of what too many Orthodox people think today, this is the hour of theology. Only a deep, fearless, and constructive evaluation of this situation in the light of the genuine Tradition of the Church, only a creative return to the very springs of our dogma, canons and worship, only a total commitment to the Truth of the Church can help us overcome the crisis and transform it into a revival of Orthodoxy. I know that this task is difficult and that a long tradition has taught theologians to avoid hot issues and not to "get involved." I know also that a certain traditionalism which has nothing to do with Tradition has made self-criticism and spiritual freedom a crime against the Church in the eyes of many. I know that too many "power-structures" have a vested interest in not allowing any question, any search, any encounter with Truth. The forces of inertia, pseudo-conservatism, and plain cynicism are formidable. But the same was true of the time of St. Athanasius the Great, St. John Chrysostom and St. Maximus the Confessor. As for the issues we face today, they are not lesser than those they had to deal with. And it depends on us to choose between the pleasant prestige attached to mere academic scholarship and the responses to the Will of God.

1Cf. my articles on "The Problems of Orthodoxy in America" in St. Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly: "The Canonical Problem," vol. 8, 2, 1964, pp. 67-85; "The Liturgical Problem," vol. 8, 4, 1964, pp. 164-185; and "The Spiritual Problem," vol. 9, 4, 1965, pp. 171, 193.

St Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, 1966, Vol. 10, No. 4, pp. 180-188.

Civilization Without Religion?

By: Russell Kirk

A masterful essay on the dependence of civilization on religion.

Russell Kirk - American Philosopher

Russell Kirk - American Philosopher

Sobering voices tell us nowadays that the civilization in which we participate is not long for this world. Many countries have fallen under the domination of squalid oligarchs; other lands are reduced to anarchy. "Cultural revolution," rejecting our patrimony of learning and manners, has done nearly as much mischief in the West as in the East, if less violently. Religious belief is attenuated at best, for many or else converted, after being secularized, into an instrument for social transformation. Books give way to television and videos; universities, intellectually democratized, are sunk to the condition of centers for job certification. An increasing proportion of the population, in America especially, is dehumanized by addiction to narcotics and insane sexuality.

These afflictions are only some of the symptoms of social and personal disintegration. One has but to look at our half-ruined American cities, with their ghastly rates of murder and rape, to perceive that we moderns lack the moral imagination and the right reason required to maintain tolerable community. Writers in learned quarterlies or in daily syndicated columns use the terms "post-Christian era" or "post-modern epoch" to imply that we are breaking altogether with our cultural past, and are entering upon some new age of a bewildering character.

Some people, the militant secular humanists in particular, seem pleased by this prospect; but yesteryear’s meliorism is greatly weakened in most quarters. Even Marxist ideologues virtually have ceased to predict the approach of a Golden Age. To most observers, T. S. Eliot among them, it has seemed far more probable that we are stumbling into a new Dark Age, inhumane, merciless, a totalist political domination in which the life of spirit and the inquiring intellect will be denounced, harassed, and propagandized against: Orwell’s Nineteen Eight-Four, rather than Huxley’s Brave New World of cloying sensuality. Or perhaps Tolkien’s blasted and servile land of Mordor may serve as symbol of the human condition in the twenty-first century (which, however, may not be called the twenty-first century, the tag Anno Domini having been abolished as joined to one of the superstitions of the childhood of the race).

At the End of an Era

Some years ago I was sitting in the parlor of an ancient house in the close of York Minster. My host, Basil Smith, the Minster’s Treasurer then, a man of learning and of faith, said to me that we linger at the end of an era; soon the culture we have known will be swept into the dustbin of history. About us, as we talked in that medieval mansion, loomed Canon Smith’s tall bookcases lined with handsome volumes; his doxological clock chimed the half-hour musically; flames flared up in his fireplace. Was all this setting of culture, and much more besides, to vanish away as if the Evil Spirit had condemned it? Basil Smith is buried now, and so is much of the society he ornamented and tried to redeem. At the time I thought him too gloomy; but already a great deal that he foresaw has come to pass.

The final paragraph of Malcolm Muggeridge’s essay ‘The Great Liberal Death Wish" must suffice, the limits of my time with you considered, as a summing-up of the human predicament at the end of the twentieth century.

"As the astronauts soar into the vast eternities of space," Muggeridge writes, "on earth the garbage piles higher, as the groves of academe extend their domain, their alumni’s arms reach lower, as the phallic cult spreads, so does impotence. In great wealth, great poverty; in health, sickness, in numbers, deception. Gorging, left hungry; sedated, left restless; telling all, hiding all; in flesh united, forever separate. So we press on through the valley of abundance that leads to the wasteland of satiety, passing through the gardens of fantasy; seeking happiness ever more ardently, and finding despair ever more surely."

Just so. Such recent American ethical writers as Stanley Hauwerwas and Alasdair MacIntyre concur in Muggeridge’s verdict on the society of our time, concluding that nothing can be done, except for a remnant to gather in little "communities of character" while society slides toward its ruin. Over the past half-century, many other voices of reflective men and women have been heard to the same effect. Yet let us explore the question of whether a reinvigoration of our culture is conceivable.

Surprise Turning Points

Is the course of nations inevitable? Is there some fixed destiny for great states? In 1796, a dread year for Britain, old Edmund Burke declared that we cannot foresee the future; often the historical determinists are undone by the coming of events that nobody has predicted. At the very moment when some states "seemed plunged in unfathomable abysses of disgrace and disaster ‘ Burke wrote in his First Letter on a Regicide Peace, "they have suddenly emerged. They have begun a new course, and opened a new reckoning; and even in the depths of their calamity, and on the very ruins of their country, have laid the foundations of a towering and durable greatness. All this has happened without any apparent previous change in the general circumstances which had brought on their distress. The death of a man at a critical juncture, his disgust, his retreat, his disgrace, have brought innumerable calamities on a whole nation. A common soldier, a child, a girl at the door of an inn, have changed the face of fortune, and almost of Nature."

The "common soldier" to whom Burke refers is Arnold of Winkelreid, who flung himself upon the Austrian spears to save his country; the child is the young Hannibal, told by his father to wage ruthless war upon Rome; the girl at the door of an inn is Joan of Arc. We do not know why such abrupt reversals or advances occur, Burke remarks; perhaps they are indeed the work of Providence.

"Nothing is, but thinking makes it so," the old adage runs. If most folk come to believe that our culture must collapse-why, then collapse it will. Yet Burke, after all, was right in that dreadful year of 1796. For despite the overwhelming power of the French revolutionary movement in that year, in the long run Britain defeated her adversaries, and after the year 1812 Britain emerged from her years of adversity to the height of her power. Is it conceivable that American civilization, and in general what we call "Western Civilization," may recover from the Time of Troubles that commenced in 1914 (so Arnold Toynbee instructs us) and in the twenty-first century enter upon an Augustan age of peace and restored order?

To understand these words "civilization" and "culture," the best book to read is T. S. Eliot’s slim volume Notes Towards the Definition of Culture, published forty-four years ago.

Once upon a time I commended that book to President Nixon, in a private discussion of modern disorders, as the one book which he ought to read for guidance in his high office. Man is the only creature possessing culture, as distinguished from instinct; and if culture is effaced, so is the distinction between man and the brutes that perish. "Art is man’s nature," in Edmund Burke’s phrase; and if the human arts, or culture, cease to be, then human nature ceases to be.

From what source did humankind’s many cultures arise? Why, from cults. A cult is a joining together for worship-that is, the attempt of people to commune with a transcendent power. It is from association in the cult, the body of worshippers, that human community grows. This basic truth has been expounded in recent decades by such eminent historians as Christopher Dawson, Eric Voegelin, and Arnold Toynbee.

Once people are joined in a-cult, cooperation in many other things becomes possible. Common defense, irrigation, systematic agriculture, architecture, the visual arts, music, the more intricate crafts, economlc production and distribution, courts and government-all these aspects of a culture arise gradually from the cult, the religious de.

Out of little knots of worshippers, in Egypt, the Fertile Crescent, India, or China, there grew up simple cultures; for those joined by religion can dwell together and work together in relative peace. Presently such simple cultures may develop into intricate cultures, and those intricate cultures into great civilizations. American civilization of our era is rooted, strange though the fact may seem to us, in tiny knots of worshippers in Palestine, Greece, and Italy, thousands of years ago. The enormous material achievements of our civilization have resulted, if remotely, from the spiritual insights of prophets and seers.

But suppose that the cult withers, with the elapse of centuries. What then of the culture that is rooted in the cult? What then of the civilization which is the culture’s grand manifestation? For an answer to such uneasy questions, we can turn to a twentieth century parable. Here I think of G. K Chesterton’s observation that all life being an allegory, we can understand it only in parable.

Parable of the Future

The author of my parable, however, is not Chesterton, but a quite different writer, the late Robert Graves, whom I once visited in Mallorca I have in mind Graves’s romance Seven Days in New Crete-published in America under the title Watch the North Wind Rise.

In that highly readable romance of a possible future, we are told that by the close of the "Late Christian epoch" the world will have fallen altogether, after a catastrophic war and devastation, under a collectivistic domination, a variant of Communism. Religion, the moral imagination, and nearly everything that makes life worth living have been virtually extirpated by ideology and nuclear war. k system of thought and government called Logicalism, "pantisocratic economics divorced from any religious or national theory," rules the world-for a brief time.

In Graves’s words:

Logicalism, hinged on international science, ushered in a gloomy and anti-poetic age. It lasted only a generation or two and ended with a grand defeatism, a sense of perfect futility, that slowly crept over the directors and managers of the regime. The common man had triumphed over his spiritual betters at last, but what was to follow? To what could he look forward with either hope or fear? By the abolition of sovereign states and the disarming of even the police forces, war had become impossible. No one who cherished any religious beliefs whatever, or was interested in sport, poetry, or the arts, was allowed to hold a position of public responsibility. "Ice-cold logic" was the most valued civic quality, and those who could not pretend to it were held of no account. Science continued laboriously to expand its over-large corpus of information, and the subjects of research grew more and more beautifully remote and abstract; yet the scientific obsession, so strong at the beginning of the third millennium A. D., was on the wane. Logicalist officials who were neither defeatist nor secretly religious and who kept their noses to the grindstone from a sense of duty, fell prey to colobromania, a mental disturbance….

Rates of abortion and infanticide, of suicide, and other indices of social boredom rise with terrifying speed under this Logicalist regime. Gangs of young people go about robbing, beating, and murdering, for the sake of excitement. It appears that the human race will become extinct if such tendencies continue; for men and women find life not worth living under such a domination. The deeper longings of humanity have been outraged, so that the soul and the state stagger on the verge of final darkness. But in this crisis an Israeli Sophocrat writes a book called A Critique of Utopias, in which he examines seventy Utopian writings, from Plato to Aldous Huxley. "We must retrace our steps," he concludes, "or perish." Only by the resurrection of religious faith, the Sophocrats discover, can mankind be kept from total destruction; and that religion, as Graves describes it in his romance, springs from the primitive soil of myth and symbol.

Graves really is writing about our own age, not of some remote future: of life in today’s United States and today’s Soviet Union. He is saying that culture arises from the cult; and that when belief in the cult has been wretchedly enfeebled, the culture will decay swiftly. The material order rests upon the spiritual order.

So it has come to pass, here in the closing years of the twentieth century. With the weakening of the moral order, "Things fall apart; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world … " The Hellenic and the Roman cultures went down to dusty death after this fashion. What may be done to achieve reinvigoration?

No Substitute

Some well-meaning folk talk of a "civil religion," a kind of cult of patriotism, founded upon a myth of national virtue and upon veneration of certain historic documents, together with a utilitarian morality. But such experiments of a secular character never have functioned satisfactorily; and it scarcely is necessary for me to point out the perils of such an artificial creed, bound up with nationalism: the example of the ideology of the National Socialist Party in Germany, half a century ago, may suffice. Worship of the state, or of the national commonwealth, is no healthy substitute for communion with transcendent love and wisdom.

Nor can attempts at persuading people that religion is "useful" meet with much genuine success. No man sincerely goes down on his knees to the divine because he has been told that such rituals lead to the beneficial consequences of tolerably honest behavior in commerce. People will conform their actions to the precepts of religion only when they earnestly believe the doctrines of that religion to be true.

Still less can it suffice to assert that the Bible is an infallible authority on everything, literally interpreted, in defiance of the natural sciences and of other learned disciplines; to claim to have received private revelations from Jehovah; or to embrace some self-proclaimed mystic from the gorgeous East, whose teachings are patently absurd.

In short, the culture can be renewed only if the cult is renewed; and faith in divine power cannot be summoned up merely when that is found expedient. Faith no longer works wonders among us: one has but to glance at the typical church built nowadays, ugly and shoddy, to discern how architecture no longer is nurtured by the religious imagination. It is so in nearly all d e works of twentieth century civilization: the modern mind has been secularized so thoroughly that "culture" is assumed by most people to have no connection with the love of God.

How are we to account for this widespread decay of the religious impulse? It appears that the principal cause of the loss of the idea of the holy is the attitude called "scientism"-that is, the popular notion that the revelations of natural science, over the past century and a half or two centuries, somehow have proved that men and women are naked apes merely, that the ends of existence are production and consumption merely; that happiness is the gratification of sensual impulses; and that concepts of the resurrection of the flesh and the life everlasting are mere exploded superstitions. Upon these scientistic assumptions, public schooling in America is founded nowadays, implicitly.

This view of the human condition has been called-by C S. Lewis, in particular-reductionism: it reduces human beings almost to mindlessness; it denies the existence of the soul. Reductionism has become almost an ideology. It is scientistic, but not scientific: for it is a far cry from the understanding of matter and energy that one finds in the addresses of Nobel prize winners in physics, say.

Popular notions of "what science says" are archaic :, reflecting the assertions of the scientists of the middle of the nineteenth century; such views are a world away from the writings of Stanley Jaki, the cosmologist and historian of science, who was awarded the Templeton Prize for progress in religion last year.

As Arthur Koestler remarks in his little book The Roots of Coincidence, yesterday’s scientific doctrines of materialism and mechanism ought to be buried now with a requiem of electronic music. Once more, in biology as in physics, the scientific disciplines enter upon the realm of mystery.

Yet the great public always suffers from the affliction called cultural lag. If most people continue to fancy that scientific theory of a century ago is the verdict of serious scientists today, will not the religious understanding of life continue to wither, and civilization continue to crumble?

Hard Truth

Perhaps; but the future, I venture to remind you, is unknowable. Conceivably we may be given a Sign. Yet such an event being in I he hand of God, if it is to occur at all, meanwhile some reflective people declare that our culture must be reanimated, by a great effort of will.

More than forty years ago, that remarkable historian Christopher Dawson, in his book Religion and Culture, expressed this hard truth strongly. "The events of the last few years," Dawson wrote, "portend either the end of human history or a turning point in it. They have warned us in letters of fire that our civilization has been tried in the balance and found wanting-that there is an absolute limit to the progress than can be achieved by the perfectionment of scientific techniques detached from spiritual aims and moral values…. The recovery of moral control and the return to spiritual order have become the indispensable conditions of human survival. But they can be achieved only by a profound change in the spirit of modern civilization. This does not mean a new religion or a new culture but a movement of spiritual reintegration which would restore that vital relation between religion and culture which has existed at every age and on every level of human development."

Amen to that. The alternative to such a successful endeavor, a conservative endeavor, to reinvigorate our culture would be a series of catastrophic events, the sort predicted by Pitirim Sorokin and other sociologists, which eventually might efface our present sensate culture and bring about a new ideational culture, the character of which we cannot even imagine. Such an ideational culture doubtless would have its religion: but it might be the worship of what has been called the Savage God.

Such ruin has occurred repeatedly in history. When the classical religion ceased to move hearts and minds, two millennia ago, thus the Graeco Roman civilization went down to Avernus. As my little daughter Cecilia put it unprompted, some years ago looking at a picture book of Roman history, "And then, at the end of a long summer’s day, there came Death, Mud, Crud."

Great civilizations have ended in slime. Outside the ancient city of York, where York Minster stands upon the site of the Roman praetorium, there lies a racecourse known as the Knavesmire. Here in medieval time were buried the knaves-the felons and paupers. When, a few years ago, the racecourse was being enlarged, the diggers came upon a Roman graveyard beneath, or in part abutting upon, the medieval burial ground. This appeared to have been a cemetery of the poor of Romano-British times. Few valuable artifacts were uncovered, but the bones were of interest. Many of the people there interred, in the closing years of Roman power in Britain, had been severely deformed, apparently suffering from rickets and other afflictions-deformed spines and limbs and skulls. Presumably they had suffered lifelong, and died, from extreme malnutrition. At the end, decadence comes down to that, for nearly everybody.

It was at York that the dying Septimius Severus, after his last campaign (against the Scots), was asked by his brutal sons, Geta and Caracalla, "Father, when you are gone, how shall we govern the empire?" The hard old emperor had his laconic reply ready: "Pay the soldiers. The rest do not matter." There would come a time when the soldiers could not be paid, and then civilization would fall to pieces. The last Roman army in Italy-it is said to have been composed entirely of cavalry- fought in league with the barbarian general Odoacer against Theodoric, King of the Ostrogoths, in the year 491; on Odoacer’s defeat, the Roman soldiers drifted home, nevermore to take arms: the end of an old song Only the earlier stages of social decadence-seem liberating to some people; the last act, as Cecilia Kirk perceived, consists of Death, Mud, Crud.

In short, it appears to me that our culture labors in an advanced state of decadence; that what many people mistake for the triumph of our civilization actually consists of powers that are disintegrating our culture; that the vaunted "democratic freedom" of liberal society in reality is servitude to appetites and illusions which attack religious belief; which destroy community through excessive centralization and urbanization; which efface life-giving tradition and custom.

History has many cunning passages, contrieved corridors
And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,
Guides us by vanities.

So Gerontion instructs us, in T. S. Eliot’s famous grim poem. By those and some succeeding lines, Eliot means that human experience lived without the Logos, the Word; lived merely by the asserted knowledge of empirical science-why, history in that sense is a treacherous gypsy witch. Civilizations that reject or abandon the religious imagination must end, as did Gerontion, in fractured atoms.

Restoring Religious Insights

In conclusion, it is my argument that the elaborate civilization we have known stands in peril; that it may expire of lethargy, or be destroyed by violence, or perish, from a combination of both evils. We who think that life remains worth living ought to address ourselves to means by which a restoration of our culture may be achieved. A prime necessity for us is to restore an apprehension of religious insights in our clumsy apparatus of public instruction, which -bullied by militant secular humanists and presumptuous federal courts-has been left with only ruinous answers to the ultimate questions.

What ails modern civilization? Fundamentally, our society’s affliction is the decay of religious belief If a culture is to survive and flourish, it must not be severed from the religious vision out of which it arose. The high necessity of reflective men and women, then, is to labor for the restoration of religious teachings as a credible body of doctrine.

"Redeem the time; redeem the dream," T. S. Eliot wrote. It remains possible, given right reason and moral imagination, to confront boldly the age’s disorders. The restoration of true learning, humane and scientific; the reform of many public policies; the renewal of our awareness of a transcendent order, and of the presence of an Other, the brightening of the comers where we find ourselves such approaches are open to those among the rising generation who look for a purpose in life. It is just conceivable that we may be given a Sign before the end of the twentieth century; yet Sign or no Sign, Remnant must strive against the follies of the time.

Lecture Number Four Hundred and Four, July 24th, 1992

Two "Nos" and One "Yes"

By: Fr. Thomas Hopko

V. Rev. Thomas Hopko

V. Rev. Thomas Hopko

Fr. Alexander Schmemann on secularism and religion.

Delivered at the Divine Liturgy, December 16, 1983.

Father Alexander taught us that every time we "gather as the Church" there is a unique word of God that we have to hear. It is the task of every one of us to hear the unique word, which is spoken just for that occasion. At every celebration of the Eucharist, every liturgy, the Lord speaks to us with a word that is just for that time, for that day, for that occasion. It is the task of the Church to discover that word, and it is the task of the preacher to give it human words, to discover what God is saying to us at this time, in this place, when we are all gathered "in one place."

To discover that word for today is very easy. Any one of us in the Church could preach today. Any one of us in the Church could say what it is that God wants us to hear at this moment. Of course each one of us hears it differently, each one of us hears it in a unique and personal way, but every one of us hears the same thing.

God in Christ the Word, through His Spirit, through the person of Fr Alexander – in his life and in his death – has taught us, first of all, that this world is created by God and that it is good. How beautiful is this world! How glorious it is! It is the epiphany and the sacrament of God Himself. It radiates divine beauty. It radiates with the uncreated Light of the Godhead. It shines with the presence and the power of God Almighty Himself. Those who have eyes can see it; those who have ears can hear it singing, and we know that all is filled with the goodness, the power, the presence of God.

Fr Alexander also taught us – by his life and by his death – that this world is fallen. Evil is real. There is wickedness. There is the Devil. In fact, this year at the orientation for the new students, Father spoke about this. Father always came to speak at orientation and this year too he came. Of course he was very weak, but he came and said to the new students: "I came over to tell you just one important thing. You will learn many things here about God, and the Seminary, and life and prayer . . . But I came over tonight to tell you just one very important thing." And he said to the students:

"Remember always that the Devil exists." The Devil exists to destroy what God in Christ has given, and the Devil will use every trick to divide, to conquer, to separate, to produce that "unholy trinity" of pride, fear, envy, with competition and enslavement; and the "ego" will always be ready to cooperate with the evil "Voice" that speaks. The world is fallen, and it is fallen because we all, like Adam our father, have refused to lift up our heart and to give thanks to the Lord.

Fr Alexander also taught us – by his life and by his death – that this world is redeemed, that this world is saved, that God has sent His Only-Begotten Son to give Himself for the life of the world, for the life not only of every human soul of which the whole world is not worthy, but for the life of all things: the whole creation, the plants, the animals, his beloved hippopotamus! All that God has made will be saved, resurrected, restored, renewed in Christ Who has risen from the dead, for death itself, in that restoration, becomes the instrument of victory. How many times he said, " . . . through the Cross – and only through the Cross – has joy come into the world." The world is good, the world is fallen, and the world is redeemed.

One day in August 1968 – 15 years ago, when Father was still healthy, it was a beautiful sunny day like today – we were sitting and talking in Labelle, in Canada which he loved so much, where he spent the summers. And of course we were talking about the Church, theology, and so on. He said to me: "When I die, you can write my in memoriam in one brief paragraph." He said, "You just have to say that my whole worldview, my whole life, could be summed up in one little sentence: two ‘nos,’ one ‘yes,’ and eschatology – two ‘nos,’ one ‘yes,’ and the Kingdom to come."

The first "no" was to what Father called secularism – any kind of explanation of this world as having its meaning in itself. He loved to quote the French poet, Julien Green, who said, "all is elsewhere." All is elsewhere, and this world has its meaning from "elsewhere." And any attempt to dare to explain this world except as from God must be rejected. The world has no meaning in itself. None at all.

The second "no" – in a very peculiar use of the term, of course, which confuses some people – is when Father said, "We must also say ‘no’ to religion." Christ did not bring religion; Christ brought the Kingdom of God. Christianity is not a religion to help secular man to cope with his "problems." Man does not have problems, he has sins. This world does not need "therapy"; it can’t be "helped." It has to die to rise again. There is one sentence in For the Life of the World where Father says that this, as a matter of fact, is the heart of the matter.

. . . It is here that we reach the heart of the matter. For Christianity help is not the criterion. Truth is the criterion. The purpose of Christianity is not to help people by reconciling them with death, but to reveal the Truth about life and death in order that people may be saved by this Truth. Salvation, however, is not only not identical with help, but is, in fact, opposed to it. Christianity quarrels with religion and secularism not because they offer ‘insufficient help,’ but precisely because they ‘suffice,’ because they ‘satisfy’ the needs of men. If the purpose of Christianity were to take away from man the fear of death, to reconcile him with death, there would be no need for Christianity, for other religions have done this, indeed, better than Christianity.

"No" – "no" to secularism. "No" to religion in that sense.

But what is the one "yes"? Everyone in this Church knows what the one "yes" is. "Yes" to the fact that in the Church the fallen world which is redeemed in Christ and is going to come at the end as the Kingdom of God – eschatology – is here and now with us. "Yes" to what Father would call the "sacramental vision" – that the good world which is fallen has been redeemed and glorified, and whenever people gather and lift up their hearts and give thanks to the Lord, they experience this, and they know the Truth, and that Truth makes them free. "Yes" to the Church – the Church which, in Father’s own words, is:

. . . the entrance into the risen life of Christ; it (the Church) is communion in life eternal, ‘joy and peace in the Holy Spirit.’ And it is the expectation of the ‘day without evening’ of the Kingdom . . . the fulfillment of all things and all life in Christ.

And it is here that Father spoke about death, indeed, his very own death.

In Him (Christ) death itself has become an act of life, for He (Christ) has filled it with Himself, with His love and His light. In Him (as the apostle Paul has written) all things are yours; whether . . . the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s’ (1 Cor. 3:21-23). And if I make this new life mine, mine this hunger and thirst for the Kingdom, mine this expectation of Christ, mine the certitude that Christ is Life, then my very death will be an act of communion with Life. For neither life nor death can separate us from the love of Christ. I do not know when and how the fulfillment will come. I do not know when all things will be consummated in Christ. I know nothing about the ‘whens’ and ‘hows.’ But I know that in Christ this great Passage, the Pascha of the world has begun, that the light of the ‘world to come’ comes to us in the joy and peace of the Holy Spirit, for Christ is risen and Life reigns.

"Finally," he said, "finally, I know that it is this faith and this certitude that fill with a joyful meaning the words of St Paul, which we read each time we celebrate the passage, the pascha of a brother, his falling asleep in Christ:

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:16-17).

If Father has sinned against any one of us we should forgive him. We should ask him to forgive us our sins. And, in faithful and loving devotion to what he has shown us – in his life and in his death – brothers and sisters, let us love one another, let us lift up our hearts, let us give thanks to the Lord. Amen!

St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 1, 1984, pp. 45-48

Orthodox Leadership in a Brave New World

By: Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse

Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse

Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse

Almost thirty years ago Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn delivered an address at Harvard University that still ranks as one of the most trenchant and inspired critiques of Western culture ever given. Although some of the political references are dated, two observations remain as true today as when they were first spoken. The first is that the philosophical materialism that shaped communism and led to the Gulags now operates in the Western world. The second is that mankind stands at an anthropological threshold.

What is philosophical materialism? To use Solzhenitsyn’s definition, it is the belief that man has no touchstone other than himself:

To such consciousness, man is the touchstone in judging and evaluating everything on earth . . . we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility.

Philosophical materialism has concrete cultural ramifications. To social utopians, it means that persons have no enduring value—so society can be forcibly arranged around notions of the common good. To hedonists, it means that the body is primarily a pleasure machine. To nihilists, it means that because the death of the body is also the end of existence, we should exalt death and violence.

These themes shaped much of the course of the last century. Solzhenitsyn had firsthand experience of Marxist social utopianism, but he was not the first to sound the alarm. Almost a century earlier, Dostoevsky heard the rumblings that would make Russia susceptible to communist tyranny and warned, “Without God, everything is permitted.”

Prophets of the West

The Democratic West had its own literary prophets, who, while not steeped in Christianity as deeply as Solzhenitsyn or Dostoevsky, nevertheless understood the Christian moral tradition and thus were able to discern the cultural trends that Solzhenitsyn would express so clearly at Harvard years later.

One such visionary was George Orwell, who foresaw the tyranny of the social utopianism that follows when traditional notions of truth and virtue are supplanted, and confronted it in 1984. Another was Aldous Huxley, who, in his classic Brave New World, focused more on the elevation of pleasure and the senseless preoccupation with stimulation that would afflict culture once moral norms shifted. Neil Postman, in his brilliant Amusing Ourselves to Death, pointed out the differences between the two authors:

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.

As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

As trenchant as Orwell’s and Huxley’s prophecies were, however, Solzhenitsyn’s emerges as more compelling because of his explicit religious appeal. In locating the cultural calamities in the loss of an awareness of God, he shows the stance Christians—particularly those who understand that current cultural conflicts require more than a political solution—should take today.

The Anthropological Threshold

Mankind, said Solzhenitsyn (and here he means Christendom—the culture that drew from the well of Judeo-Christian morality), stands on an anthropological threshold as significant as the shift from the medieval to the modern period:

If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge, we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.

“Anthropology” comes from the Greek word anthropos, which means “man.” In theological terms, anthropology means what we understand the human person to be. It encompasses who he is, what he was created for, how he should comport himself—all the constituents of man’s existence that raise him above the animal, that define his purpose, that make meaning out of his relationships.

Consider Solzhenitsyn’s exhortation in the questions facing us today, especially the looming issues concerning the advancements in medical technology. We have unlocked some secrets about human life that were unthinkable just a generation or two ago. Who would have thought we could map the human genome or grow organs from a single cell, as it appears may soon be the case? Who foresaw such advancements as locating and even correcting fetal abnormalities? Who guessed that we could extend life expectancy by decades in some cases?

These advancements are front and center for several reasons. First, they require us to answer foundational questions about the nature and value of the human person. These questions have not been answered, at least in terms that have achieved any kind of cultural consensus. Secondly, how they are answered will drive research and development in the future. Frankly, how we decide these questions will determine what kind of society we bequeath to our children and grandchildren.

These advancements are fraught with ethical difficulty. Is it wrong to test for Down’s Syndrome in an unborn child? Is it wrong to extract stem cells from embryos? How far do our obligations to keep people alive really go? These types of questions are highly contentious, as any student of the culture knows. One thing we know for certain is that as our knowledge increases, the ethical questions concerning the nature and value of human life will become more numerous and complex—and the contention is likely to increase.

The contention has been largely defined in political terms. Every reader is familiar with the hot-button conflicts—teen sexuality, homosexual marriage, abortion, the Terri Schiavo dilemma—that have been fought in the public arena. The political arena will always remain a venue for moral conflicts, but we sell ourselves short if we conclude that the political dimension is the arena where these questions will find their final resolution.

For Solzhenitsyn, spiritual development and self-awareness work hand-in-hand—clearly a Christian value self-evident to any Orthodox Christian. But he also warns that because Western culture has been sidetracked into a philosophical materialism that has dimmed man’s spiritual awareness, its future is threatened. The only way out of the present morass is spiritual renewal.

Solzhenitsyn experienced the ravages of the spiritual darkening firsthand, particularly during his eight years in a Soviet prison. There he received the fundamental insight that would propel his groundbreaking work: "The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between political parties—but right through every human heart."

The timing of his Harvard speech couldn’t have been better. His words fell on the ears of a nation that was already experiencing the wrenching dislocations of a cataclysmic shift in moral values and social order—from the sexual revolution to riots in its cities—in ways unprecedented in its history. At the same time, the wondrous—and fearful—unlocking of the deep mysteries of human nature was moving into full swing. America had entered a culture war.

The Anthropological Dimension of the Culture War

The culture war is fundamentally a conflict about anthropology—how we value the human being, how we ought to define him, the purpose for his existence, what social arrangements society deems suitable for men and women, and so forth. And politics emerged as the prominent battlefield for the conflict.

Complex conflicts tend to drift toward simplification, and the culture war was no exception. Cultural liberalism and cultural conservatism roughly followed political lines: Democrats were liberal and Republicans were conservative. It wasn’t a perfect fit, but even a big suit on a small man still covers his body.

No one has really been comfortable with the arrangement, except perhaps the activists. Adding to the discomfort is our characteristically American way of adjudicating moral conflict. American culture has no institution of moral judgment. We have no national Church, no council of legislative elders, and no final court of arbitration that can definitively resolve the perplexing moral questions that face us. As a result, the debates and political maneuverings that follow are often raucous and chaotic affairs.

There is wisdom in this system of apparent chaos, however. The Founding Fathers, in refusing to establish a central authority of moral judgment, ensured that these questions must be addressed by the culture itself, thereby affirming the precept, politics follows culture, in ways that inhibit any imposition of a final adjudication from the state.

This precept is also drawn from the Christian tradition. It is grounded in the notion that the power of the state draws not only from the consent of the people, but from a people grounded in the Christian moral tradition. Solzhenitsyn, again stressing the anthropological dimension, himself acknowledged this point in the Harvard address:

Yet in the early democracies, as in the American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted on the ground that man is God’s creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility.

The model built by the Founding Fathers is not a perfect formula, but it does resist the tyranny that Solzhenitsyn experienced in Soviet Russia. One way is by providing a fluidity through which reform movements can arise. Take Democrats for Life, for example. Five short years ago an internal challenge to the hard-line pro-abortion position held by Democratic Party leadership was virtually unthinkable. But there it is.

Politics will always play a role in the great moral debates. It’s the American way. In taking questions to the culture, then, we need to look past (but not overlook) the political factors and define more clearly the anthropological dimension of the debate. It’s a complex topic, so let’s restrict our discussion to one important theme: the use and misuse of the Christian moral vocabulary.

Moral Deconstruction

Moral deconstruction can be defined as the systematic takedown and restructuring of the moral assumptions that used to guide our decisions, especially those that touched on the foundational constituents defining our self-understanding and value. These would include decisions about life, death, sexuality, purpose, meaning, sacrifice, and more.

Coming back to our literary prophets, we can see that cultural deconstruction was what they feared. Orwell warned against the imposition of tyranny, Huxley against a mechanization of the body, and Solzhenitsyn against a moral redefinition of man through which his God-given direction towards freedom (ultimately found in Christ) would be obscured.

Ideas have consequences. How we think determines how we act. This describes not only the individual but also the society he inhabits. A society cannot continue to function without shared notions of right and wrong—a dynamic we call the moral consensus. These ideas and values function as universals, as ways that a society organizes itself.

Further, these ideas depend on language, because it’s through language that the ideas are passed from one generation to the next. They shape a story, a cultural narrative, which references ideas and actions to a larger body of meaning. Solzhenitsyn, in arguing that the moral touchstone has shifted from God to man in Western culture, thereby implies the narrative has shifted as well. Solzhenitsyn says as much by writing the Gulag series, which attempted (successfully as it turns out) to destroy the Marxist cultural narrative by telling the truth about it, employing the values and ideas of the traditional narrative Marxist ideas sought to supplant.

In terms of how these concepts enter the culture, however, Orwell is probably the clearest. In Politics and the English Language, Orwell warned of how the meanings of words are subverted to stand for ideas and concepts that are not true to their meaning. The promises of the socialist utopia sweeping Europe (and the American intelligentsia) at the time were Orwell’s target, but the dynamic remains true today.

In all corners of the culture, words drawn from the moral tradition are employed to justify actions and behaviors that the tradition otherwise discourages and often prohibits. We saw it in the great debates about abortion and euthanasia in the last few decades. The conflict was not only about competing moral values, but also about the language by which those values were communicated. Words like freedom, choice, human value, and others whose meanings were relatively clear when the cultural consensus was shaped by traditional Christian morality now served a different function as that consensus shattered.

This co-opting of the Christian moral lexicon is one reason for the deep moral confusion in the culture. It creates a kind of moral schizophrenia in which people are unsure if right and wrong even exist. Repeat certain words over and over again, and people will tend to believe them. If these words have moral power, which is to say if they derive their authority from the moral tradition, people will tend to believe their new applications are the tradition.

That’s what Huxley warned against. If man is a biological machine, and if that machine responds to pleasure, why not frame the pleasure-inducing activity in the terminology of a private good? Orwell warned of the same corruption. If man is machine, why not frame the attempts at social reorganization in terms of the common good? All it takes is wrestling common terms from their traditional moral contexts and employing them in ones that justify the dehumanization as progress. Good becomes evil, and evil becomes good. Society has reconstructed itself in a new moral order.

What makes Solzhenitsyn’s exhortation so compelling (and ultimately more valuable) is his conviction that the crisis is fundamentally one of anthropology. As such, it might also be one of historical inevitability. Perhaps our progress has forced this dilemma upon us, just as the Nestorian controversy forced the elucidation of the two natures of Christ, and the Arian controversy the elucidation of Christ’s divinity. The question we as a society need to answer is: What is Man?

The Re-Christianization of Culture

As awe-inspiring as our technological advancements are, and despite the promise they hold for the alleviation of human suffering, the application of new technologies towards the betterment of the human condition in terms traditionally understood is not assured. The moral crisis facing American culture, particularly the deconstruction of cultural forms that managed to safeguard the common and private good (and sometimes correct its failures), can easily subvert the knowledge into something grotesque and ugly while claiming to serve the good.

Solzhenitsyn warned as much when he said the crisis can only be resolved if man reawakens to the spiritual dimension of his existence: “This ascension will be similar to climbing onto the next anthropologic stage. No one on earth has any other way left but—upward.”

If Orthodox Christians should understand anything, it is this: Salvation is a concrete, existential encounter with the living God. Moreover, this Lord gives gifts, including wisdom, knowledge, insight, and courage—all the elements needed to confront the maelstrom of confusion in which our culture finds itself, and all meant to be applied in the work of daily life, whether as mother, researcher, mechanic, priest—whatever our vocation may be.

Salvation is not understanding the correct theological concepts; it is not nostalgia for civilizations past; it is not formal membership in a long-standing parish; it is not social activism; it is not morally appropriate behavior; it is not mastery of the moral vocabulary. Further, it is not enough to recall the certainty of the past. Nostalgic impulses, as comforting as they may be (including the Orthodox variants, such as the longings for Hellenistic Greece or Holy Russia), simply won’t meet the challenge.

Orthodox leadership today requires moral clarity and courage. When Solzhenitsyn delivered his address three decades ago, he spoke not as a philosopher, but as a voice crying in the wilderness. He cried out against the dehumanization of men he experienced in the East and saw advancing in the West. Only people with moral clarity and courage could successfully challenge it, he exhorted. What the world needs is not more philosophers, but moralists.

The exhortation drew from a supreme confidence in the power of truth. Solzhenitsyn believed that truth is self-verifying. When the truth is spoken, its veracity is self-evident to the hearer. This is a profoundly Christian notion rooted in the teaching of the apostle Paul: When the Gospel is preached, Christ (who is Truth) is revealed.

Any Orthodox response to the cultural challenge must first presume a recovery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The wisdom of the Fathers, the artistry of the poets, the healings of the miracle workers, the courage of the martyrs, the knowledge of the scholars, the patience of the teachers, the foresight of the bishops, the faithfulness of the priests—all the elements that shaped and forged the moral tradition that founded Western civilization and must renew it today—start with the recovery of the Gospel. As Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Rev. Johannes L. Jacobse is the president of the American Orthodox Institute.

This article originally appeared in AGAIN Vol. 29 No. 3, Fall 2007. Visit AGAIN online at Conciliar Press.

Read Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard Address.

Read Orwell’s Politics and the English Language.