Within the Pangs of a Dying World or, The Hope of Sabbath

DSC01993St. Augustine’s City of God stands as a centerpiece within the annals of Western Christianity. One can easily say that within City of God Christianity officially moved West and became a type of its own brand, away from the prolific East (I leave it up to the reader to decide whether that is a good or bad thing). What is often ignored in the many debates caused by Augustine’s is the backdrop to why he wrote the book. The Visigoths sacked Rome in 410 – a relatively tame sacking comparatively speaking – causing panic and uproar within the Roman Empire. It would be akin to a foreign army of untrained soldiers attacking New York City after defeating the US military to get there; the shock would be beyond belief. Augustine was writing to the suffering inflicted, but to promise them that though violence may reign now, peace holds eternity (hence his title, “City of God”).

As I type this, millions of people around the world are suffering. One of the greatest realities of suffering, and possibly its saddest, is that the majority of these people are children. An estimated 1-3 million children worldwide die from malnutrition and starvation every single year, and that number is actually down from just a few decades ago. Of course, much of the malnutrition and disease is a side effect of manmade wars. In Syria alone, millions of people are displaced, and this is not to mention the ongoings in Iraq. In this violent upheaval families are displaced, they mourn the loss of those closest to them, the most unfortunate being the lone survivors of a narrow escape, the ones who live with survivor’s guilt.

Of course, I speak of survivors as though one can survive violence; the thing about violence is that what it cannot extract from the body it will most certainly rob from the soul. We think of soldiers coming back from a war with a “thousand yard stare.” Even soldiers in the most justified of wars are still casualties of that war in a way, having seen things no one ought to see. We don’t even need to go to foreign lands to see the impact of violence and PTSD; occupying the headlines are tales of various NFL players abusing loved ones (and sometimes loved ones defending the abuse), of college campuses having to define rape – a violent act – because apparently somehow rape is ambiguous. That we even have to define that “no means no” (contra Rush Limbaugh) shows that we live in a violent culture, even if we have to hide our violence behind sexuality.

The Western world feels like something is underfoot, that we’re on the verge of collapse. It’s as though we’re simply awaiting the Visigoths to arrive and send our world into a tailspin, as the modern day barbarians of al-Qaeda and ISIL have already done in the Middle East. With the events in the Middle East quickly getting out of hand, Russia’s not-so-secret invasion of the Ukraine (as well as flying its bombers near Swedish and US airspace), the fact that South America has quietly become the most violent region in the world, sub-Saharan Africa on the brink of another genocide, and the seemingly weakening social structure of Europe, it is a wonder that more people have yet to embrace nihilism. Considering the status of the United States is only worse as its infrastructure is falling apart, its middle class might go extinct long before the polar bear, its police are becoming more and more violent against citizens (all while most citizens capitulate out of necessity), and “Land of the Free” is used more for irony than patriotic statements.  Continue reading


The Gospel of Jesus Christ vs the Gospel of Brian McLaren

Recently, I did a post covering the absurdity of labeling ideas “post” when the idea isn’t really “post” anything. Conveniently enough, today I came across a post by Brian McLaren talking about ‘postcolonial theology.’ True to form, just because he labels theology postcolonial doesn’t mean he’s moved past the colonial idea of conquering and subduing what is viewed as inferior or as a blockade to change, rather, he’s simply change the target of colonialism. Sadly, it’s still a racist theology, but the target of the racism has changed.

McLaren’s antipathy towards orthodox Christianity is summarized when he states,

By distinguishing some theology with a modifier – feminist, black, Latin American, eco-, post-colonial, or indigenous, we are playing into the idea that these theologies are special, different – boutique theologies if you will.

Meanwhile, unmodified theology – theology without adjectives – thus retains its privileged position as normative. Unmodified theology is accepted as Christian theology, or orthodox theology, or important, normal, basic, real, historic theology.

But what if we tried to subvert this deception? What if we started calling standard, unmodified theology chauvinist theology, or white theology, or consumerist or colonial or Greco-Roman theology?

The covert assumption behind the modifier post-colonial thus becomes overt, although it is generally more obliquely and politely stated than this:
Standard, normative, historic, so-called orthodox Christian theology has been a theology of empire, a theology of colonialism, a theology that powerful people used as a tool to achieve and defend land theft, exploitation, domination, superiority, and privilege.

If that doesn’t sound disturbing, I’m not writing well or you’re not reading well.

To any casual student of Church history, this is a highly faulty description of orthodox theology and simply shows the nefarious intentions of Brian McLaren and other emergents in subverting the true Gospel of Christ. Notice how Brian makes a blatantly racist statement; he shows he’s comfortable with black theology, latin theology, feminist theology, et al. But normal theology – the theology he thinks is bad – he labels as “white” theology. In other words, “white” is bad and if you’re white, you have a hell of a lot of conforming to do in order to please God, whereas non-whites are already there since whites have persecuted and colonized non-whites. Continue reading

We need an Athanasius; we need a William Wilberforce (Part I)

Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. – Matthew 22:37-38

I’m just getting into John Chrysostom’s Homilies On the Incomprehensible Nature of God (CUA Press). The homilies attempt to explain that we can know nothing of the nature of God, but we can still know God. St. John gave these as a response to the neo-Arians who said that we could know the nature of God.

In order to give some background information, the introduction explains the controversy of Arianism and what it brought about. He talks about how how the adoption of the Nicene Creed was a response to Arianism. Yet he points out:

“…Arianism did not die; in fact it grew for four decades and was still a disturbing factor at the end of the fourth century. Indeed, it might have been reestablished after Nicaea were it not for Athanasius of Alexandria.”

For those who do not know, Athanasius is often referred to as “Athaansius Contra Mundum” (Athanasius against the world). Athanasius was a deacon when he attended Nicaea, but in 326 (the year after Nicaea) when Alexander of Alexandria died, Athanasius took his place as Bishop of Alexandria. During Athanasius’ tenure as Bishop of Alexandria he was banished from the city no less than five times due to his refusal to back down on his beliefs concerning Christ.

Eusebius (not to be confused with the church historian Eusebius of Caesarea), the bishop of Nicomedia, was an open Arian and used his position of influence to have the government of Alexandria consistently harass Athanasius. Much to the chagrin of Eusebius, Athanasius willingly faced the persecution; after all, he was raised during the last great persecution of Christians under the Roman Empire (303-311) and watched many of his family friends and his mentors die in the persecution. What was banishment compared to what he had endured as a child?

Athanasius turned away the favor of man and a position of prominence in order to stand for the truth. As C.S. Lewis says of Athanasius in the introduction to “On the Incarnation” (St. Vladamir’s Press),

“He knew that the very existence of the Church was at stake; but he was utterly certain of the truth and he knew that it must in time prevail.”

Athanasius was faithful to the doctrines of Christianity and to Christ not out of some desire to be right or some attempt to win an argument or exert his power and control over people, but because he was dedicated to the Truth who is Christ. In being dedicated to the Truth, he desired that all men know the Truth as He revealed Himself. The Arians created a Jesus who was different from the Jesus of history and therefore Athanasius, in loving loyalty to Christ, stood his ground and suffered for his holy obstinance. Banishment back then was not a simple thing; being in Egypt, he was banished into the wilderness. He had to leave all that he knew five separate times and depart into the unknown (though the first two times he went to the Desert Father Antony, while the last three times he went to the disciples of Antony). Continue reading

Short Homilies – On Hope

Once in the Garden of Eden, at the beginning of our sorrows, the pre-incarnate Christ walked within the Garden looking for Man and Woman. He knew what had occurred. He knew His creation had rebelled. He knew the pain and suffering that was to come.

We can almost hear the pain as we read the most overlooked, but painful words within the entire Bible, “And the LORD God said unto them, ‘Where are you?’” God knew where they were, He knew where they were hiding; His question was a rhetorical one. Man answered and admitted to his rebellion and Woman confessed what she had done. The march toward Calvary had begun.

In a small insignificant town in the Roman province of Judea, the Christ child was born. God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, Son of God who was present at creation and the Fall, had come to fix what was broken.

We cannot begin to fathom what the world looked like through the eyes of Christ. For Him to walk in human flesh amongst His creation, to see the effects of sin on His world, what did the incarnate God feel? “Where are you” He must have uttered to creation as He walked to the various towns of Judea.

God asked Man and Woman where they were, but He did not wait on them to come find Him. He instead went into the world to find them – for this is the reason all of creation occurred, the reason He allowed sin, so that He might demonstrate His love for us in this; while we rebelled against Him, He died for us.

God incarnate, who cursed Man for his rebellion, who sought after Man in the Garden, hung upon a cross. The crafty serpent of old thought he had defeated God, but Christ arose, solidifying His solution. The serpent had bruised His heal, but He had crushed the head of the serpent. Continue reading

Short Homilies – On the Cross

There is one who can bring hope. There is only one hope in this world and that hope is found in the incarnate Jesus Christ, the love of God demonstrated, that God would come down in human flesh – the Father would offer up the Son – as a sacrifice. Christ died as a ransom for us, to ransom us from the deathly grip of the Devil. Christ was a substitute, to make up for the sins we have committed against the Father and for which we deserve death. Upon the cross, we find hope.

What is this hope? This hope is that our trespasses might be forgiven. That we can stand before a just and holy God and have Him embrace us rather than condemn us. Our hope is that one day the weary may collapse into the arms of Christ, as He says, “Worry not my child, you are home now.” This hope is that one day loved ones will never have to say goodbye, children will never go hungry, innocence shall cover us all, and the evils that break this world shall once and for all be smitten by a just and holy God. Upon the cross, we find hope.

Our hope is not limited to the eternal. We hope that God will bring about His kingdom to this earth. We hope that He will give us the strength to help those who suffer through this existence. We hope that He will display His glory in all that we see. We hope in the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ. Upon the cross, we find hope.

We look upon the cross and see the Trinity apart – Jesus Christ, Son of God, forsaken by the Father on our accord. For all eternity, these three have had a loving fellowship: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Yet the prophet Isaiah tells us that God loves us so much that it pleased Him to crush Christ for our iniquities. Is God sadistic? Or does He love us so much that He knew in Christ’s suffering and death that we could be reconciled to God, and in this He took pleasure? Upon the cross, we find hope.

This is hope; that God sacrificed His Son Jesus Christ – a willing sacrifice who was not offered against His will or the will of His Father, but instead as a part of God’s will – as a ransom and substitution for our sins, that we might be reconciled to God. Upon the cross, we find hope.

There is hope for the hopeless. There is rest for the weary. Upon the cross, the sex slave finds a Lover who refuses to use her, but instead dies for Her to show her that she is truly loved. Upon the cross, the wife finds a man who would never lay a hand upon her, but instead would offer up His life so that she might be reconciled to God and know that she will – one day – escape her plight. Upon the cross, we see the death of death, God triumphing over that old enemy so that the widows and widowers will one day be reunited with their loves. Upon the cross, we see God’s hatred for sin and His resolve to destroy it. Upon the cross, we find our salvation from this broken world. Upon the cross, we find the Mender of this broken world. Upon the cross, we find hope.

Reflections on the Trinity – On the Incarnation

You counted it nothing to abandon your place in Heaven, O Word, to take on our flesh, on our behalf, to rescue us from ourselves. How could we ever dream of such a God who would love us enough to die for us? But you did more; you lived as us so as to redeem us.

In the beginning you created us and we rebelled against you. As you walked in the garden shortly after our rebellion you asked where we were, but you knew. Nothing is hidden from you Lord. You knew what had occurred and what we had done, but in your question you shamed us. You made us contemplate on the sickness that we had just done.

You were not without love or compassion. Rather than eradicating us, you lovingly fashioned animal skins to cover our nudity. My Lord, you did this as a foreshadow of your own death on our behalf! Just as Adam and Eve had become ashamed of their nudity in the Garden and needed to be covered, so too did we become ashamed of our nudity before your Law. But just as you did with Adam and Eve, rather than letting us lay there in despair, you fashioned yourself as a skin to cover our iniquity so that we might not be ashamed. How can my sinful mind ever hope to understand your love, O Lord?

You came into the world as we do, only without human father. It was the blessed Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, who you chose as the worthy vessel to carry you. We ask that you send your Spirit to us to aid us in following her example, for at hearing that she was to be blessed with you in her womb she humbly and joyfully submitted. May we too react in the same way when invited to hold you within ourselves! It is in Mary that we find the eternal mystery of how the infinite was contained to her womb, but this foreshadowed the mystery of how your would Spirit would be contained within us. Continue reading