Friday, February 19, 2010

Feeling Abandoned


Jesus’ apparent abandonment by God was essential to His learning of obedience. We find in Jesus’ death, just as in the testing Job and Joseph, that it is only when God apparently abandons us that He actually saves us. This abandonment made Job a pillar of courage, and made of Joseph a pillar of self-restraint. (The Philokalia, 2: 112, Maximos the Confessor, CA 650)


The contemporary western church has in too many instances reduced of the doctrine of “salvation” to the concept of going to heaven when we die. This is tragic indeed; in fact, it is much more Platonic than Christian. This Platonic thinking that has so deeply affected the west; that we have been taught to think that salvation has little to do with the present, & all to do with our eternal spiritual existence.

Maximos the Confessor tells us that salvation is what God accomplishes in us here and now, as well as, what He accomplish for us in for eternity. In Job’s case, what God did in the here and now was to make himself apparently absent from him, in order to produce a pillar of courage in Job. In Joseph’s case, what God did in the here and now was to make himself apparently absent from him so to produce a pillar of self-restraint in him. It is in the producing of the likeness of God that saved them from present evil and eternal death. The very transformation that is salvation, according to Maximos begins here and now.

Of course, this salvation cannot happen apart from faith in Christ, or apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in us. However, the point is that salvation according to the philokalia is much larger than in our way of thinking today. In the mind of the confessor, salvation begins by the learning of obedience.

There are also other benefits to this grander understanding of salvation. For example, since salvation works its way in us by obedience, we can then see why it is that life seems so painful to us in the here and now, in spite of our faith. It is for us, and for our salvation (that is our learning of obedience) that God sometimes stands quietly by us, giving the appearance of abandonment. If God seems absent, it may be that he is forming you into a pillar; it may be that he is saving you here and now.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Gospel, Live on the Cosmic Stage


The Nicene confession that all things were made through Christ teaches us that the cosmos are the stage upon which the Triune God enacts a great drama of communion by sharing the divine life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with persons who are not God.

At the heart of the divine act of creation is the divine desire to make room for created persons in the communion of the uncreated Persons of the Blessed Trinity through adoptive participation in Christ.

Through the eyes of divine faith, then, the likeness to divine nature that is enjoyed by spiritual creatures with intellect and will, turns out to be a likeness to the divine Trinity enjoyed by created persons, who, in grace, know the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as well as one another in them. (Nicene Christianity, J Augustine Di Noia, 2002)


Father Di Noia present us with three very basic foundations necessary for a proper Christian understanding of reality. The first principle is that the main goal of God the Trinity in the act of creation was to receive from that creation, an inter-relatedness to His creatures. In short, God wants to share himself with those whom He has created, and thus He has constructed all things to facilitate that end. This should help us conclude then that the whole cosmos exist with the stage for communion with God in mind.

The second principle shows us that the designed means of entry into this interrelationship for which the cosmos are designed is an adoption by one who is already in the Trinity, the Son, and our Lord Jesus Christ. The point being that while we all walk around on the stage we cal the cosmos, we never enter into the ongoing play as full participants until we become united to Christ by adoption. In other words, there are the stage hands and the actors.

The third and final principle is that the way to see that doorway that leads to adoption is using the eyes of faith. The eyes of faith are the opera glasses by which the play becomes visible. Without rightly adjusted glasses, the whole play will appear as a blur.

Thus, the stage where the play called “the inter-communion of the blessed Trinity” is occurring is the cosmos, the means by which mankind enters into participation in that play come to us by an adoption that we receive from Christ, and this reality only becomes visible through a new kind of understanding, which we know as the eyes of faith.

If the church’s gospel presentation always began this way, our reputation in the contemporary west might be completely different than it is today.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Are Most Christians Un- Christian?


Kinnaman, president of the Barna Institute, was inspired to write the book “Un-Christian” when Lyons, of the Fermi Project, commissioned him to do extensive research on what young Americans think about Christianity. Lyons had a gut-level sense that something was desperately wrong, and three years of research paints exactly that picture. Mosaics and Busters (the generations that include late teens to early 30-somethings) believe Christians are judgmental, antihomosexual, hypocritical, too political and sheltered. Rather than simply try to do a PR face-lift, Kinnaman looks at ways in which churches' activities actually may have been unchristian and encourages a return to a more biblical Christianity, a faith that not only focuses on holiness but also loves, accepts and works to understand the world around it. (From Publishers Weekly,

See the videos below for more.


One need not even read the book to have the claims posted by the reviewer jump out and assault our self-consciousness. The fact is that as each day goes by, we who profess Christ to be our Lord & our savior are increasingly marginalized & thrown into the pile of irrelevancy. The question that must be asked is “why”? The above statements, especially the videos drive home the message that we western Christians have done it to ourselves. When the majority of our population (80 % +) perceives us to be:

1. judgmental,

2. anti-homosexual,

3. hypocritical,

4. too political

5. & sheltered

We need to listen to them, as well as re-listen to ourselves. The danger we face for the moment may be contempt, but the danger that is to follow is total irrelevancy. Last week I had the privilege of listening to Mr Kinnaman deliver a lecture on this topic, & I must admit that it struck a deep chord within me, mostly because it exposed the consequences of the legal gospel embraced by the west since the schism. It seems that the younger generation of evangelicals is all too aware that something is wrong with western Christendom, & is trying to heal it by an Incarnational approach to Christian living; this is great. However, it will prove difficult to accomplish with the extreme level of sectarianism that exists in western Christendom. The fact is that what this new generation needs is a recovery of the true in Trinity and His love for mankind, as well as, a recovery of the incarnation and its implications for mankind. This will require the very body of theology understood & practiced by the undivided church, for that alone is Christianity in its fullness. Perhaps we have finally arrived at that time when Christendom can begin to be healed so that it may begin to heal the world around it. Kyrie eleison!