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:: Friday, August 29, 2003 ::

Futbol, Skydiving, PoMo church: Another Round of Interviews

Questions for John:

1) In a previous interview you mention the beautiful sport of futbol. How long have you played? What positions?
2) About half way down on your blog is a picture of an amazing icon corner. Yours? If so, tell us about it.
3) Many Orthodox (myself included) believe that without a vibrant monastic presence on American soil, the Church will find it difficult to produce saints in this culture. You just took a trip to St. Anthony's. What are your views of monasticism here in America?
4) What one book do you wish your non-Orthodox family would read?
5) What has been the most difficult aspect of married life? Most joyful?

Questions for Dan:

1) You and Phil write one of the more popular Australian "emerging church" blogs. What initially drew you to blogging and how do you see it influencing and interacting with the postmodern (post-Protestant) church phenomenon?
2) How did you and Phil become friends?
3) What is life like in Australia? How different is it from American life?
4) I have written in the past about how the emerging church movement is tending toward a more communal, experiential, contemplative, and holistic Christianity. I see this as a way in which many who have been raised in "western" Christian churches can get a glimpse of what Eastern Orthodox Christianity has to offer. What are your thoughts on this?
5) Taking a cue from Huw, Is there any question you wished I had asked? Or any nightmare question you're glad I didn't ask?

Questions for Chris & MHG:

Ok. Time for a less-serious interview for once. Chris and "Mr. Hibbity Gibbity" asked for some time in the hot seat. Strap yourselves in:

1) We all want to know this: What is up with the "Mr. Hibbity Gibbity" name tag? Where does it come from? Are you really just Chris in disguise?
2) Have either of you gone skydiving? If not, what are you waiting for?
3) What is your most embarrassing moment? (Bwahaha!)
4) What do you *really* think of Katie?
5) If you could go back in time and live for a year (with, of course, no serious ruptures in the space-time continuum) what time and place would you go?

Update: Chris is a little miffed that, up until now, I haven't had him blogrolled.... Oops. My bad. All has been made well! (His answers are already up).

:: Karl :: 9:19:00 AM [Link] ::
:: Thursday, August 28, 2003 ::
A Note for My Wife

Happy Birthday, sweetheart. I love you!

:: Karl :: 8:47:00 AM [Link] ::
Mystery Man

Someone named John asked for an interview and I am happy to give it. However, you forgot to leave an email address or website link so I have no idea which John you are!

:: Karl :: 8:45:00 AM [Link] ::
:: Tuesday, August 26, 2003 ::
Random Tuesday Musings

I have been in a strange mood this week. Bear with me. I have been unable to craft anything of any theological depth the past few days so this is what I have to offer at the moment. So, for once, I give you a true musing!

* Jeopardy contestants would do a heck of a lot better if they were just a tab bit biblically literate. Goodness sakes. It's just flat out embarrassing. That's all I have to say about that.

* Take a peek at the front page of John's blog. Doesn't the photo of his Eminence Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh (of blessed memory) bear a striking resemblance to actor Christopher Guest (particularly the character of the count in "The Princess Bride")?

* The commenting feature is going through a rough patch the last 24-36 hours. Work, I�m sure, is being done at a feverish pace to restore this all-important feature to the blog. In the meantime feel free to email me comments. Or just think them quietly to yourself if that makes you feel better. [Update: As of 10pm PST, I think I got them working again]

* U2 is the greatest rock band of the last 35 years. Period. I think one could even make a powerful argument they are the best musical group of the modern era. Well, I don't think one could--I KNOW one could.

* Clif mentions his utter disdain of analytical philosophy �Could one take a more interesting topic (free will, agency and the self) and make it anymore boring?� Oh, I don't think so. Would you like to join the �True scholars loathe modern American positivism and despise post-structuralism� club?

* Readers who are also bloggers: does this amuse you as much as it did me? (Props to Ian).

* I'm working on a few serious pieces but I don't know if they will be worth posting. We'll see. As you were....

:: Karl :: 8:50:00 PM [Link] ::
Who are the Elves?

Over the weekend, my wife was speaking with a priest of the Romanian Episcopate within the OCA. Of the Romanian people he said, "They are the Hobbits of Eastern Europe. They have never invaded another people's land, they prefer hearth and home, and while initially cautious with strangers they soon offer them the warmest hospitality."

:: Karl :: 9:41:00 AM [Link] ::
:: Monday, August 25, 2003 ::
Interview Questions for The Bishop�s Tower

1) When did you first get interested in chess? What is your ranking? What defensive strategy do you prefer?
2) What was your favorite subject in school? Least?
3) What has been the most difficult part of being an Orthodox Christian for you?
4) What is it like being a part of the St. Athanasius Blog Roll?
5) Other than Pascha, is there a feast day that is particularly close to your heart?

:: Karl :: 8:40:00 PM [Link] ::
:: Saturday, August 23, 2003 ::
Interview Questions for Erica

1) You are leaving for college soon. Do you still plan on being a math major? Tell us a little bit about your school and what made you decide to go there.
2) You once wrote, �I really think that if I ever understand this massive idea called Church, it will be through any interactions I have with monastics.� Can you elaborate on this intuition?
3) How did you come to choose the trombone as your �musical instrument of choice�?
4) You�ve mentioned starting another website. Have you done this? Do you plan to continue blogging while in school?
5) Keeping in mind Luke 24:13-35, what are your thoughts on the following statement (from Matthew Gallatin�s �Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells)?: �For a Protestant, spiritual experience is a result of spiritual understanding. Conversely, for an Orthodox Christian, spiritual understanding is a result of spiritual experience.�

:: Karl :: 9:46:00 AM [Link] ::
:: Friday, August 22, 2003 ::
The Nature of Reality

Christine recently wrote an interesting post in which she states (among other things) that "Protestants tend to emphasize words, and Catholics tend to emphasize actions."

This got me thinking about a brief sketch about the nature of reality between Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Protestantism that someone on the Evangelical-Orthodox Discussion Group posted a few months ago:

In some RC thought, reality is intellectual.

*God as Intellect is emphasized.
*Faith is intellectual assent to propositions.
*The question is, "Who are You?"
*The goal is primarily (not exclusively) to KNOW God.
*Heaven is the beatific vision.

In Protestant thought, generally speaking, reality is volitional.

*God�s will is emphasized, what He says and what He does.
*Faith is trust and loyalty.
*The question is, "What do You want?"
*The most important thing is to OBEY God and thus be in harmony with His will.
*Heaven is where God�s will is perfectly fulfilled and every knee shall bow.

In Orthodox thought, reality is ontological, is being.

*God's Being is emphasized.
*Faith is an identity; it is the answer to the question, �Who am I?� Whatever I truly believe changes who I am.
*The question is: "How can Your Being and mine be joined?"
*The goal is to BE like God.
*Heaven is union with God, shared being.

I have a few problems with this trichotomy. One is that it is too brief. Secondly, it doesn't allow for the actual complexity of each paradigm. Third, one could make a convincing argument that it doesn't really address the main differences between the three ecclesiastical bodies. However, if taken generally, I think it offers an interesting way of looking at where we are coming from on certain issues-- particularly soteriological ones.

:: Karl :: 10:45:00 AM [Link] ::
:: Thursday, August 21, 2003 ::
More Interviews!

Christine's Five:

1) Like me, you have a deep passion for ecumenical dialogue. How has blogging enabled you to enter more deeply into these discussions? What have you learned about the nature of the debate from blogging?
2) What specific field of law are you currently working in?
3) What faith tradition were you a part of before you became Roman Catholic? What pushed you toward Catholicism?
4) Who is your favorite philosopher?
5) What is the most profound thing you�ve discovered about life this past year?

S.F. Danckaert's Five:

1) How was your time at the monastery?
2) What do you consider is the most pressing issue facing the Orthodox Church in this country?
3) What was your first encounter with Orthodoxy?
4) What is your favorite piece of music?
5) What is your opinion of �Great Books� colleges (such as St. John�s)?

:: Karl :: 6:31:00 PM [Link] ::
Questions for Bloggers

Jakob's Five:

1) Where in Denmark do you live? What is life like there?
2) You've been a regular contributor to the C.S. Lewis Summer Book Club. Which one of the three "Space Trilogy" books has been your favorite? Why?
3) As an inquirer into Orthodoxy, what has been the biggest struggle so far? What aspect of the Church intrigues you the most?
4) Do you enjoy your job?
5) Have you ever spend time at a monastery? If so, what were your impressions? If not, would you like visit one in the future?

Mark's Five:

1) You have written some short fiction in the past. Do you have other stories in the works?
2) What made you want to start a blog? What keeps you motivated to blog?
3) How did you come to settle in Oklahoma?
4) What do you like best about being a high-school math teacher? Would you want to teach at another grade level? Why or why not?
5) You had several very influential people of faith in your life growing up. Tell us a little bit about how they helped guide you to the Roman Catholic Church.

Robert's Five:

1) How has becoming Orthodox changed your experience of working at a small Protestant college?
2) In the last 6 months, has there been any particular book that has resonated with you? If so, in what way?
3) What is your favorite hobby?
4) St. Robert is a rather obscure saint. What was it about his life that made you want him to be your patron?
5) What was your major in college? If you could go back, is there another field of study you would be interested in pursuing?

:: Karl :: 10:43:00 AM [Link] ::
:: Wednesday, August 20, 2003 ::
The Interview

As a former journalist I am tipping my hat to Tripp. He has come up with a very insightful set of interview questions for a few of us bloggers. You are all invited to participate. (See directions at the end of the post)

Here are my brief but hopefully illuminating answers to the quesions he asked of me:

1. You mention that on your road to Orthodoxy you spent a little time exploring Zen. What was that like for you?

Looking back, I think my interest and exploration of Buddhist spirituality was simply an attempt to incorporate elements such as silence, meditation, more intense prayer, and asceticism into the Christian life I had known in Protestantism. At one point I would have almost echoed the famous line from Chesterton's "Orthodoxy" when he mocks the modern fascination with Zen: "Buddhism and Christianity are a lot alike--especially Buddhism."

However, while I enthusiastically extolled the virtues of the Buddhist philosophy, I never really bought into the theological foundations of it and in fact very much continued to believe in the basics of the Christian story. I was simply desperate for a more holistic Christian lifestyle. Buddhism offered a bridge to what would eventually lead to a discovery of the the Desert Fathers and the Philokalia.

These, in part, led me to Eastern Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy, in a typically paradoxical way, was very similar and very different than both Protestantism and Buddhism...

2. What is it that you do for a living? How is your faith worked into that?

I work as a media accounting manager for a direct response television advertising agency.

While not fitting very comfortably into C.S. Lewis' "noble professions list" I am still fortunate in having a very flexible schedule and a quiet work environment. Throughout the day I am able to pray the Jesus Prayer at my desk and have many opportunities to be patient with the foibles of my co-workers. Needless to say, even these things are a struggle!

3. What Orthodox congregation do you attend? Are you happy with it?

Funny you should ask. Over the last year we have been splitting the majority of our time between two parishes: St. Nicholas (OCA) and St. John the Baptist (GOC) while also going to Annunciation (OCA) for Vespers and to visit other friends.

Coincidently we have just decided this week to make St. John's our permanent home parish. However, we plan to continue visiting St. Nicholas and Annunciation for mid-week Vespers on a regular basis. We are very blessed here in Portland because the pan-Orthodox community is quite vibrant and interconnected.

4. You have mentioned several times your fondness and curiosity about lay community. Where does that come from? Have you had experiences of community that have led you to this point?

This interest is in many ways almost totally due to a) Orthodoxy and b) my reading of a variety of monastic literature over the years. Since becoming married, it has become very clear to me that living an authentic Christian lifestyle is extremely difficult in contemporary America with our culture's fanatical insistence on Individualism. We desperately need an "arena" (to borrow a phrase from St. Ignatius Brianchaninov) within which we can better live out our calling as Christians in community since we are "members one of another."

The monastic vision and experience of being "in the world but not of it" has a lot to teach *all* of us and also greatly pushed me toward the idea of more intentional communal living. They are our best example of how to most radically live out the Gospel. My interest in intentional community also comes from realizing, within the framework of parish life, that there has to be a middle ground between total monastic seclusion on one hand, and radical individualistic living on the other. Much more could be said....

5. Tell us about your kids.

No children yet. Unless you count me since I can be quite childish at times! Lord willing and "in the fullness of time", we will remedy this situation! We can then invite our friends over for a rousing game of "hold and pass the baby."

Official Rules

1. If you want to participate, leave a comment below saying "interview me."
2. I will respond by asking you five questions - each person's will be different.
3. You will update your journal/blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions
6. I will answer reasonable follow up questions if you leave a comment.

:: Karl :: 9:16:00 AM [Link] ::
:: Monday, August 18, 2003 ::
Epiphanies on the Way to Work: An Old Enemy Returns

As I drove in to work this morning an idea struck me for a short story that was so vivid and so stunning, it almost made me want to pull off the side of the road to write down the details.

On the surface this may not seem very notable to my readers. For me, however, this was a major sign that an old enemy has truly resurfaced and a battle for the soul has been reignited with new fervor.

Let me explain:
These little epiphanies used to be a regular occurrence during my college days when I was struggling with a lot of spiritual issues and finding relief in crafting poetry and minimilastic short fiction. For a time, I felt truly inspired and ideas came like water down a waterfall.

I wrote a wide variety of fiction and some philosophical essays (even getting some things published). In many ways, writing was a spiritual tool that helped to open my heart to the Orthodox vision of the world that I was to soon discover.

Then, for reasons I have yet to completely figure out, the creative tap suddenly dried up. For several months I couldn't get a word out on paper that was worth the ink. The drought continued and over the ensuing months I slowly put the notebook and pens away.....

A suspicion slowly grew that I had finally, with God's grace and the spiritual life the Orthodox Church provides, begun to win the war against depression that had slowly crippled my life. But as the tide began to change for the better, the disappearance of my creative inspirations was one of the prices I had to pay.

Over the last couple of months I have wondered if the enemy I once thought vanquished has returned. It wouldn't surprise me, because I have always known he never really died. He just retreated into the shadows, waiting to strike again at a more opportune time. In fact, the signs have been there for the past year or so.

My desire to begin a more regular habit of writing (which turned into this blog 10 months ago) was probably a signal that the enemy had returned. I have discovered that my desire and inspiration to write coincides and in fact is interconnected with my battle against depression.

While the "noon day demon" always haunts me, I can take courage in the fact that I have the tools to fight back, if I want to: confession, prayer, fasting, and the sacramental life of the Church. I also have the witness, teachings, and prayers of the Church Fathers and Mothers who throughout the centuries have shown us how to win the war against depression and cure the soul.

As always, I ask your prayers. This week will be especially difficult for a variety of reasons.

:: Karl :: 10:50:00 AM [Link] ::
:: Thursday, August 14, 2003 ::
A Candidate for G.K. Chesterton�s �Maniac of the Year� Award

Aaron is asking for comments and possible rebuttals to this complicated (as opposed to complex) defense of Iconoclasm.

James is also crafting a rebuttal and is asking for a little pan-Orthodox involvement.

Since some of my comments were not well received the last time I tried to offer a direct rebuttal of a Protestant essay, I will refrain from offering any systematic counter-points this time around. Others will fill in the gaps much better than I anyway.

After quickly reading the essay in question, and wondering how someone so obviously intelligent could write something so stunningly incoherent, I found the recent comments made by Touchstone editor S.M. Hutchins that much more profound.

Concerning a particularly hostile �letter to the editor,� Hutchinson muses, �I have noticed this morbid tendency in a number of very gifted people. One of the signs of superior intelligence is the ability to discern connections. But if this aptitude is not ruled by a strong respect for the necessity of credible evidence and a well-developed sense of proportion, logical associations quickly become regarded as existential--the smoke of speculation materializes into a genie of imagined �fact� that soon has the summoner firmly in its grip. This is particularly true, the associations becoming putatively "obvious," when good evidence is almost entirely lacking, for then one may construct whatever "history" one wishes, however bizarre or improbable in reality, "between the dots."

This reminded me of how G.K. Chesterton once noted the problem with the insane isn�t that they lack the ability to think logically�the problem is they *only* think logically. Likewise, the problem with the author�s Iconoclasm and particularly the way in which he defends it, is that it is (like all heresies) just plain boring! It lacks the grandeur, the mystery, the holism of the Orthodox vision.

If one is going to attempt a defense of an ancient heresy, the least one could do for the reader is dress it up a bit, try a new angle, use your imagination, quote different texts than the ones we�ve already explained �..something�. anything to make it worth reading!

Update: The blog by Hutchinson is now off the main page of Mere Comments for reasons I can't determine. Perhaps I hallucinated the whole post!

:: Karl :: 11:27:00 PM [Link] ::
:: Wednesday, August 13, 2003 ::
Debates on Homosexuality and Truth: Part II of an Email Discussion

[Continued from Part I]

She wrote back the next day: "I confess to having faith in the what the Bible teaches, as a Christian."

Yes, but those Christians who would disagree with your take on homosexuality... will say the EXACT same thing! They will claim that they have faith in "what the Bible teaches" and feel like their belief is "Bible-based." Whole books have been written in an attempt to show how the Bible not only allows homosexuality, but in fact "embraces" it!

Doesn't that seem odd?

How can the Holy Spirit be leading sincere Christians to totally contradictory conclusions if they are honestly seeking Him and reading the same Bible? The question, (and it has applications well beyond the question of homosexuality) is this:

How can we *know* who has the correct interpretation?

She answered, "God is big enough and loving enough and omnipotent enough to have provided Christians with a book to guide and give truth."

True. But (and this may help answer the question about interpretation) this book comes from a foundation, a community, it was created by something else even more profound that God has provided and protected. As St. Paul wrote, "the pillar and bulwark of truth" is not the Bible, but the Church! (1 Tim 3:15)

She wrote back, "The church, even back then, was guided by scripture writings."

Well, they were guided by the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures being an important part-- but not the foundation of this guiding or Truth itself.

"And I hopefully prayerfully seek a pastor and fellowship that is teaching the Word correctly. Ha, I won't get caught up into relativism though! I'm going with it. As Truth."

But this goes right back to the question I was asking: By what criteria do you know if a fellowship is, as you said, "teaching the Word correctly" in regards to homosexuality or on any Christian teaching? Correctly according to whom?

Wouldn't the pro-gay Episcopalian say they are doing the same thing, seeking a fellowship that is teaching the Word correctly?

[End discussion]

The dialogue going on at one of Tripp's posts also illustrates the same foundational problem many Christians face when attempting to determine competing truth claims. It always comes down to *authority*.

Update: Clif has written a great 5 point analysis of the modern hermeneutical problem. He says, "Proponents of new interpretations which contradict the received interpretation of the Church have only their own authority to offer. They must critique the Church, the Scriptures and the Tradition to offer their new interpretation and to provide themselves the authority to do so."

"But that authority falls prey to the same criticisms with which they critique the Tradition. Is the Church prey to sin and not to be believed? So are they. Is the Scripture full of historical limitations and prejudices? So are they. Is the Tradition full of assertion of self over Other? So are they. For every criticism they offer they, too, fall under it. If they take down [the Church's] authority, they have none to offer themselves."

:: Karl :: 11:15:00 AM [Link] ::
:: Tuesday, August 12, 2003 ::
Debates on Homosexuality and Church Politics: Part I of an Email Discussion

The issue of homosexuality has become a very popular topic of discussion around the Christian blogosphere with the recent election of Episcopalian bishop Robinson.

The ramifications and broken relationships will be felt for years to come, and not just in the local vestry meetings of your local Anglican parish.

Just recently, at a large Protestant church in the Portland area, a sermon was preached on the sinfulness of the homosexual lifestyle. By the dozens, people got up and left the building as the preacher was talking. The church is now in turmoil, building toward what might be a total schism at worst or simply ruffled feathers and ill will at best.

A friend of mine who attends this church asked me how the Orthodox view the Episcopal church, homosexuality and other related issues. The following are snippets from our conversation:

[Begin quoted discussion in progress]

Me: "....In regards to your church's reaction....I hope it doesn't turn out to be a big deal either. But it is funny how these things can snowball...

Just to reiterate, the Orthodox Church is VERY firm in it's teaching that to live an unrepentant, active homosexual lifestyle is SINFUL. Period! I hope that much is clear! I'm on your side on this one!

However, to struggle with those temptation, to war against the passions, to purify our intentions and desires by the ascetic life: these things are in fact what make a Christian.

In modern culture we seem to have only two responses: either it is all ok, or you can't struggle at all and call yourself a Christian. I would dare to say that neither is acceptable.

So, when we say "that person is gay" from the Orthodox POV, it makes a big difference whether you mean

a) that person has homosexual desires/thoughts....and isn't trying to live according to the Church's teachings, isn't going to confession, isn't praying daily to have the strength to purify their thoughts and in fact is justifying their way of life, their passions and is defining who they are by their sexuality instead deriving it from Christ, as my friend Clif shows is the natural result of a flawed anthropology.


b) that person has homosexual desires/thoughts....and is living a chaste life, is following the ascetical life of the Church, is in constant prayer and confession over their sexual sins, etc.... like my friend Huw has written about so eloquently in the past.

"[It is] great that [your friend is] living a chaste life. And also that confession is going on, but is that a confession to turn away? Is it repentance? That's the point here. I would gladly think it is and that one day he will no longer struggle with even the temptation of homosexuality."

Well, as the saints say, "temptation lasts until our last breath." The struggle against sin does not stop this side of the eschaton.

For some people, the cross of disordered sexual passions will be something they struggle with for a lifetime. For others, God may grant a quicker victory....
Confession of sins *is* repentance. Or, better to say it is a major and inseparable component of the repentant lifestyle that we live in the Church.

[End quoted discussion]

The conversation continued and took a very familiar, but interesting turn at the end.....
Part II coming soon.

:: Karl :: 2:29:00 PM [Link] ::
:: Monday, August 11, 2003 ::
Another New Orthodox Blogger

James points out another interesting Orthodox blog entitled Confessio. In his first post the author describes himself as having once been "denominationally promiscuous." This looks like a promising and edifying read!

:: Karl :: 9:24:00 AM [Link] ::
:: Saturday, August 09, 2003 ::
Asking Questions and Listening to Answers

We are back from the beach, sunburned but refreshed!...Well, I'm sunburned. The Italian blood in my wife keeps the color in her skin a nice tan. I come in only three shades of color: white, pink, and red.

On the trip home, the wife was reading Frederica Mathewes-Green book, "At the Corner of East and Now" and sharing passages that particularly struck her. I had forgotten this one:

"Truth is indeed One, and all sincere spiritual paths are questing toward that one truth, and all grasp some aspects of the light. Our culture is inclined to extend this insight to a fallacious conclusion: that where religions agree with us, with our current ideas, is truth, and where they disagree is the process of pursuing this notion we fail to get at the heart of what committed spiritual faith is like: it is committed to something specific...."

"There is currently popular reluctance to forming any particular ideas about spiritual reality: the journey is deemed more important than the destination. Yet the journey must be going somewhere, it must be aiming to arrive sometime, or it's mere idle wandering. If we prefer uncertainty to conclusions, our questing is insincere."

Before I became Orthodox I had a bumper sticker on my beat-up '77 Honda which read, "Not all who wander are lost."

During my post-Protestant, Buddhist days I found this thought comforting. I had rejected the faith of my upbringing but had yet to find sometime whole enough to replace it. I felt like a wanderer, but not like my secular friends. I was, at least in my opinion, still pursuing the spiritual life and for that I was better than them. I was wandering, yes, but I was far from lost. ...

Or so I thought. When I found Orthodoxy something hit me. I realized that previously my vision of what being a "spiritual person" should be and how I should get there was based almost totally on my own ideas and desires. I was living an "individualized" life, rather than a "personal" one. I was not only making up the questions, but filling in the answers all by myself.

Erica recently discovered the same tendency in herself. After having a deep discussion with a priest she wrote, "I fancied myself as one who is seeking truth through religion; I was told (in a slightly loving way) that I was actually not seeking truth, but only seeking questions (and often with that, contention). Fr David saw that I was not serious about finding a religion, but merely searching for one, disrespecting each one I found with my faux piety. He told me to stop asking questions and to listen to the answers."

How often it *was* that I wanted to ask questions and not listen to the answers that are always found in the Church! How often it *is* now that I like to answer the questions myself, with my own woefully inadequate knowledge and sin-filled heart!

Erica was told what we all fear, but also know in our hearts to be true when the priest "said that I was afraid of finding the truth, of getting answers to my questions, because if I found the answers, and the truth, then I would have to devote my whole life to it."

Listening and then living out those time-tested answers that are found in the Church is a life-long journey. One I realized then and continue to realize now, I have not even really begun, but want to with all my heart.

:: Karl :: 3:50:00 PM [Link] ::
:: Thursday, August 07, 2003 ::
Coastal Vacation

The wife and I will soon be on our way to the Oregon coast for a short vacation. It will be the first multi-day vacation I have ever taken!

I will be without a computer (gasp!) and will be spending my time walking on the beach, reading, sitting in the sauna, and generally trying to relax.

I meant to post something yesterday on the Feast of the Transfiguration, but I've been too busy with work and other things. Lord willing, I will be back and posting next week.

:: Karl :: 9:44:00 AM [Link] ::
Fr. Herman of Alaska: Proof that Sainthood is Possible, Even in America

His feast day isn't until Saturday, but I thought I'd post a few words from this great luminary in anticipation:

"The empty years of these desires separate us from our heavenly homeland, and our Love for these desires and our habits clothe us, as it were, in an odious dress; it is called by the Apostle 'the external (earthy) man.' (I Cor. 15:47). We who are wanderers in the journey of this life call to God for aid. We must divest ourselves of this repulsiveness, and put on new desires, and a new love for the coming age. Thus, through this we will know either an attraction or a repulsion for the heavenly homeland. It is possible to do this quickly, but we must follow the example of the sick, who wishing for desired health, do not stop searching for means of curing themselves."

Reading a short biography of his life is always edifying.

:: Karl :: 9:28:00 AM [Link] ::
:: Tuesday, August 05, 2003 ::
Lord or Lunatic?

As I was reading the Oregonian this past Sunday, I stumbled across this essay in the Opinion section. Here is a snippit:

"Now, you don't need to believe any of this. You're free to conclude it's all total rubbish. But it's impossible to maintain Jesus is just "Mr. Nice Guy" and one of history's great moral teachers. "The Domesticated Jesus" doesn't hold up logically. He's either lord or lunatic. He can't be both."

I met the author, David Reinhard, in the late 1990's at a C.S. Lewis conference and got a chance to chat with him during a break between seminars. At the time I was a journalist writing for a bi-weekly and it was nice to pick the brain of a well-known journalist who was also a Christian.

When I read this new piece it didn't surprise me that Mr. Reinhard would quote extensively from C.S. Lewis. What continues to surprise me is how a blatantly pro-Christian editorial can still make it to the front page of the op-ed in a liberal, urban newspaper.

One of the issues Mr. Reinhard and I discussed was the need for less "Christian journalists" and more journalists who are Christian. A subtle, but important, distinction.

What is sad is as a society we are becoming more accustomed to the rules and norms of, as Richard John Neuhaus calls it, the "naked public square." A philosophical, intellectual defense of Christian truth is not allowed in public debate, at least in the media. Even though I was a journalist in a small town whose communal life revolved around a Christian university, I was not allowed to write pieces that dwelled on overly "Christian" themes.

I'm glad to see Mr. Reinhard is able to slip a few gems past the copy editor!

:: Karl :: 10:02:00 AM [Link] ::
:: Monday, August 04, 2003 ::
The Unofficial List of Orthodox Bloggers

Crimthann of North Door has complied a semi-definitive list of Orthodox bloggers and livejournalers, including those who only post sporadically. You might want to check it out if you do not have some of them already blogrolled, linked as favorites, or simply feel that your blog is naked without a few more links!

If there are any Orthodox lurkers considering a venture into the blogosphere please consider sending some of us an introductory email so we can more quickly find you and add you to our lists!

Perhaps we should petition blogs4god for our own cache, similar to the Catholic St. Blogs? Thoughts?

:: Karl :: 12:28:00 PM [Link] ::
The Story of Our Lives: Part II

The irony is that in the Orthodox Church one will find a plethora of unique people with equally diverse personality types, most of whom have different stories of how they came to Orthodoxy. I have never met a less homogenous communion than a pan-Orthodox Christian community. Many of us have seen the humorous statement: "I don't belong to an organized religion--I'm Eastern Orthodox."

In simplistic terms, one could note that Catholicism tends toward overemphasizing the collective aspect of being the Church; Protestants go the other extreme by way of radical individualism. Orthodox maintains the paradoxical relationship of freedom, structure, and *perichoresis* between the human person and God in the life of the Church, which is to say the life of the Holy Spirit.

We understand our own stories by meditating on who God is and how we reveals Himself to us. In "The Orthodox Church", Bishop Ware notes that "just as each man is made according to the image of the Trinitarian God, so the Church as a whole is an icon of God the Trinity, reproducing on earth the mystery of unity in diversity."

"In the Trinity the three are one God, yet each is fully personal; in the Church a multitude of human persons are united in one, yet each preserves his personal diversity unimpaired. The mutual indwelling of the persons of the Trinity is paralleled by the coinherence of the members of the Church. In the Church there is no conflict between freedom and authority; in the Church there is unity, but no totalitarianism."

Alan Jacobs, Wheaton professor and author of the other illuminating essay in First Things, "What Narrative Theology Forgot", sums up our personal and communal vocation nicely when he says, "

"So the remedy to the problem of presumptuous and otherwise deficient testimony is not to stop bearing personal witness, but rather to refine and develop our understanding of what such witness should be. And here is where the Church's great communal story offers its aid: for it is the responsibility of the 'many members of the one body' who collectively celebrate and enact that story, to guide each individual member into paths, into life genres, that harmonize with the great melody of God's redeeming work in His creation."

:: Karl :: 8:40:00 AM [Link] ::
:: Friday, August 01, 2003 ::
The Story of Our Lives: Part I

I promise to move on to other issues later next week, but I was so impressed with the recent articles in the Aug/Sept 2003 issue of First Things, I felt compelled to make a few more observations about the personal vs. individual issue brought up a reader this past week. This first quote is from Gilbert Meilaender's essay "Why Remember?"

"Exaggerating our own authorship ignores important characteristics of the story of a life. It ignores, for example, the fact that the first years of our life become part of our own memory largely through the shared memories of others. It ignores the fact that one's life exists not only in the privacy of one's own memory but also in the stories other tell about us. Perhaps, therefore, a certain modesty is in order when we think of constructing the story of our life."

This reminded me of the profound communion that exists between us and the saints. During the Liturgy, the priest turns and chants "Remembering all the saints, again and again, in peace let us pray to the Lord." This is part of the communal amnesis, allowing us to enter into the collective memory of the family of God.

Because this memory comes through the uniting love of God in the Eucharist it is another example of how we have a personal relationship with the family of God and not an individual one. As Abba Isaias of Scetis, in his "Ascetical Discourses" reminds us, "The Lives of the Saints are holy testimonies of the miraculous power of our Lord Jesus Christ." The saints show us, by their example and continued intercessions, what the story of our lives should look like.

Meilaender goes one to make another good point:

"The triviality, even fatuousness, of many current ways of talking about "our stories" has led many thoughtful Christians to abandon the traditions of personal narrative or testimony as tokens of misbegotten "individualism." But such an abandonment is unfortunate. What we need is better and more responsible and more coherent personal stories, not the complete subsumption of all personal narrative into group narrative."

This is a nice additive to what I wrote before. While I did not make this clear, there is no doubt that much of what may appear to be rampant "individualism" is in fact, a desperate attempt to re-establish communal bonds, via the language of "individual testimony" or "spiritual journies."

In my emphasis on "personal/communal" I may have left the impression that somehow the story of our life is overshadowed and perhaps even obliterated by the communal experience of the Church. Nothing could be further from the truth.

More on why this isn't true as well as a nice concluding quote from Mr. Jacob's essay forthcoming in Part II.

:: Karl :: 10:44:00 AM [Link] ::

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