Death of Virtue or, Here Once Stood Virtuous Men and Women


IMG_0352There is no escaping the fact that we live in a society that is void of virtue. The title of this post is not meant to be read literally as virtue, being abstracted, cannot die. We do not live in the aftermath of virtue’s death, rather we fail to live because we ignore the life of virtue. For those wanting a more in depth understanding of virtue, you can see my thoughts on it here, here, and here. For an example of this, we can look to a young man in Calgary who stood up for a friend who was being bullied and even had a knife pulled on him. Rather than being celebrated by the school for an act of bravery, he was chastised (though not punished) for intervening. The school went so far as to say that it wasn’t necessarily a case of another kid being bullied, but rather was two students just fighting and one pulled out a knife.

Let us assume that one kid was not being bullied. Does that mean the young man should not have intervened? We are told that he put his safety in danger, but since when does doing the right thing come with a promissory of safety? Certainly in standing up for justice, or love of one’s neighbor, or courage one is likely to face danger to one’s safety. That is, after all, the entire point of virtue; this life isn’t about you, but is about the Good and the pursuit of the Good, meaning that sometimes you must take risks.

A fulfilled life is not the safe life, a fulfilled life is full of scrapes and bruises, it’s full of struggle and pain; it is what weak-willed adults called unstable and what playful children call adventure. We lack adventure in our world. We create the simulation of danger, a simulacrum of courage, we tell people to jump off bridges with a bungee cord attached, we encourage rides on amusement parks, we pump money into the artificial stimulation of adrenaline. We are rational animals and our body, being a beast, can be easily tricked. Provide enough simulation and the body will react and think it is in a dangerous situation when it really is not. After all, with the bungee cord, though there is some danger, it is controlled. The same stands true for rides on amusement parts or any other “adrenaline junkie” favorites.

Jumping from an airplane with safety equipment and a tested parachute with a low to no fail rate doesn’t require courage, at least not true courage. Jumping from an airplane with that same equipment and parachute into an occupied territory in an attempt to deliver liberty to a people, knowing that you may have to give your life to advance the cause of liberty, now that takes courage. True courage doesn’t exist unless there is a little bit of danger involved, unless there is a little risk of personal harm; after all, if harm (either physical or emotional) is not a risk in doing something then how does it take courage to do that something?

Thus, the boy in Calgary was courageous and rather than saying, “You could have gotten yourself hurt,” we should applaud him for acting as he did in lieu of the knowledge that he could have been harmed. The “it’s not my business” mentality and “I don’t want to suffer harm” is what has allowed perpetrators to continue to have victims. But not only did this boy show courage, he also showed love. He showed love not only to the potential victim, but also to the victimizer.  Continue reading

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On Lent and Pascha or, Lent As an Icon


IMG_0482The Western Church has already entered the Lenten season and the Eastern Church has just begun its journey, yet in many ways the congregants have been on a Lenten journey their entire lives. If we boil it down, Lent is an icon for our present life. Lent requires us to sacrifice certain aspects of our dietary preferences to instill a type of self-discipline. At the same time, Lent works to focus our attention on our sin and guilt before God, all in preparation for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection (Easter or Pascha).

The ancient Israelites held to a strict diet to reflect that God chose them. Contrary to popular belief, this diet doesn’t really have many health benefits (it does compared to modern dietary habits, but that’s mostly due to everything being real food as opposed to chemically enhanced and genetically modified food). The dietary restrictions existed as a type of self-discipline, as something small to be faithful in so that they could be faithful in bigger things. The Mosaic dietary law, or the pre-Christ fast, lasted up until Christ. One Christ fulfilled the Law there was no need for the dietary restrictions; Christ had come into our world and redeemed everything. We were set apart and chosen as God’s adopted children through the sign of the cross and by partaking in His blood and body. We could celebrate by eating all that God put before us.

Of course, if Christ ended the Hebraic fast then why do we continue with a Lenten fast? Because just like the Hebraic fast, the Lenten fast is not solely for self-discipline. Rather, both bring to mind the idea that while we are on this earth, we suffer. In other words, this present life is a type of Lent, one in which we must work to obtain self-discipline, but one that also begets suffering. Thought Christ is risen from the dead, we are not, at least not yet. We fast as a reminder that we are still enduring a Lent. That’s the beauty of Christianity, it is steeped in paradox; we ended the Hebraic fast because Christ came, we fast in self-discipline now because Christ is here, and we fast as a reminder of suffering because Christ will come.

In the course of life, we are birthed from two wombs. One womb is that of our mother. We grow in her and eventually come into this world. The second womb is the earth; we all die and eventually find our way back to the earth (whether through burial or the spreading of ashes). At the resurrection we escape the womb of this earth into the eternal life to come. Lent, therefore, serves as an icon for these wombs and preparation for them.

In the first womb, a fetus will kick his legs, move his arms, and even move his mouth. None of this is vastly beneficial within that womb. However, it prepares the fetus for birth, it prepares him for skills he will need once he is in this world. Within this world, as he grows, he learns certain ethical standards. Many of these standards help him to get along in this life, but others don’t bring vast benefits within this life. These commands, however, prepare him for the life to come. While he is in the womb of the present, he learns the self-discipline necessary that will benefit him in the life to come. Lent serves as an icon for this struggle in that it teaches us to obtain self-discipline by abstaining from certain foods; the foods aren’t evil, but the practice benefits us.

It is what comes after Lent, the celebration of Pascha, that also prepares us for the life to come. The feast that we engage in isn’t just for the now, isn’t just so we can enjoy meat and wine after not tasting it for a few weeks. It’s to prepare us for the ultimate feast, where we will no longer suffer under the Lenten season that is life, but instead shall bask in an eternal celebration of Pascha. Lent is an icon of our present life, while Pascha is an icon of the life to come.

In our current Lent, we are forced to abstain from life. We suffer from disease, deformities, and a whole host of ailments. Our sin forces us into this fast from true life. We war with each other and even against our own nature. We must take on a somber attitude in many places because of how fallen our world is.

We await the Paschal feast, the one that shall never end. We await the day when Lent is no longer necessary because we have been birthed into the new life. We await the day when the disabled must no longer partake in the fast of this life, the fast that prevents them from wholeness, but instead shall run to the eternal Paschal feast. We look forward to the time when the hungry will feast, the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the poor shall be rich, the oppressed shall be liberated, the fatherless shall have a family, the rejected shall find acceptance, and the sinner will be made a saint. Just as we look forward to the Pascha feast throughout our Lenten season, let us be reminded that though we are in the Lent of life, we should also look forward to the eternal Pascha that is to come.

Excellent observastion…


I’m currently reading The Foundations of Christian Bioethics by H. Tristram Engelhardt (Eastern Orthodox), and he made an observation about mainline denominations concerning their stances on bioethics. It links in to what I posted earlier. He points out:

“The mainline Protestant religions, along with many Roman Catholics, have drunk deeply of the passion of aggiornamento [nb – the act of bringing theology “up to the times”]. Rather than finding themselves at home in the emerging global liberal cosmopolitan culture as they expected, they are marked by a double alienation. On the one hand, they are estranged from the moral framework within which the authors of the New Testament and the Fathers of the Church lives and breathed. That world is for them too sexist and unconcerned with political liberation to be anything but deeply politically incorrect, if not profoundly embarrassing. Imagine a culture in which wives submit respectfully to their husbands and slaves recognize that the tyrant from which they should free themselves is first and foremost their own passions. On the other hand, when religions accommodate to the pretensions of the secular culture, they become irrelevant. They have nothing of their own to offer. The choice is an unappealing one: Christianity and its bioethics are either in their traditional form a secular scandal or in their secularly reformed versions largely beside the point. After all, if one wanted accounts of social justice, secular philosophy should do at least as well as, if not beter than, Christian moral theology…”

Applied Theology – The Incarnation


APPLIED THEOLOGY SERIES

Introduction | The Incarnation | The Image of God | The omniscience/omnipotence of God 

What is it?

One of the central aspects of Christian theology is the belief in the Incarnation – that Christ came down and became human, taking on a human nature, but keeping His divine nature. It is also generally accepted that the incarnation is a mystery, that is, there really is no comprehensive or even adequate understanding of how the incarnation works. The best work dealing with this subject is Athanasius’ On The Incarnation, but even this work only shows how the incarnation works logically – it doesn’t explain how it actually works.

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