Theologoumena

Ongoing theological reflections and opinions. Hopefully they are somewhat informed and educated considerations, though of course they will be liable to criticism, hardly agreeable to all. Posts in this category tend to reflect my current theological research, or projects that I am exploring. They are often initial forays and reactions to something I have read, and may or may not result in any conclusive arguments. All opinions herein are subject to change without warning.

Is Jesus human, or male? Addressing Giertych, Part 1.

In the Incarnation, Christ’s humanity includes all that makes both men and women human. If we say that his full humanity leads to the ‘male character’ of any human role or relationship such as priesthood, then we are implying one of two things: either he is not fully human as he did not assume whatever it is that constitutes female humanity, or we declare that only maleness contains full humanity, and that females may not actually be fully human. The former denies the ecumenical formulation of Chalcedon, it constitutes heresy. Orthodox would never agree to such a thing. At least not intentionally.

On "This Year's Election": A response regarding Fr. Reardon

Fr. Patrick Reardon recently sent a pastoral letter on how to vote to members of his parish.  Since I am neither a member of his parish nor his diocese, I would normally ignore such things, except that this letter has been supported and forwarded to other Orthodox parishes.  As a result, a concerned friend on facebook asked me for a resources on other Orthodox viewpoints.  They then asked if I would allow them to share my response with others.  Here it is.  You may read Fr.

Orthodoxy, Social Ethics and Ethical Dialogue

I was not able to attend the recent OTSA meeting which revolved around Orthodoxy and Politics.  This is particularly unfortunate because despite the apparently theological bias of much of my work, I am deeply interested in social issues which, in the United States, are often inherently political.  Unfortunately, this inherent politicization is part of why I have not written more extensively about social ethics.

The Virtuous 'Straw-Man'

A kind person--a virtuous person. Between them, there is a big difference. A kind person is kind because he or she accepts people as they are, covers them with kindness. Kindness is beautiful, the most beautiful thing on this earth. Virtuous people are activists, obsessed with the desire to impose their principles and goodness and easily condemning, destroying, hating... in this world there is a lot of virtue, and so little kindness.

-- Fr. Alexander Schmemann

There are few aspects of Schmemann that I find more frustrating that his straw-man dismissals of theologies, theories, perspectives and opinions that he does not appear to make any attempts to understand. This may sound harsh, but this quote is the perfect epitome: not only does he fail to understand the breadth of virtue (as if kindness was not also a virtue), but he fails to acknowledge that Orthodox theologians consistently speak of theosis as the acquisition (or uncovering) of virtue.

Holding Salvation

For those unaware, a firestorm has been ignited over the decision of Bishop Matthias (OCA) of Chicago to no longer allow laity to hold the altar cloths at communion.  Apparently in his announcement of his decisions, he explicitly mentioned his discomfort that women had contact with sacred things.  While he denied this in a letter, it is women who bear the brunt of this decision, and who have no recourse (short of monasticism) to obtain the tonsure that might “rectify” their lay status.  Many reasons are floating around to explain away this unfortunate bind.  I will address some of them in future posts.

Today, I am addressing the reason that woke me up in the wee hours of the morning:  Female participation in liturgical service around the holy things is not necessary for their salvation.  Therefore, the women who dare to desire these ministries are being told to just let it go.

Gender, Ordination and Same-sex relationships: An unavoidable association?

Yes, the lines have been drawn, and not where I would have liked. We must engage in meaningful debates, and we must not duck the issues. But contrary to what Farley says, issues of sex and sexuality are theological issues and iconoclasm indeed rises again. We make idols of stereotypical images of gender and sex and hang them over the heads of real women and men. We are not destroying painted images, but women and men who are uniquely made in the image of God. By doing so, we fail to recognize the unique image of God within each and every man and woman, an image which cannot be reduced to gendered stereotypes of any kind.

If challenging gender-roles on behalf of women simultaneously causes us to consider the possibility that same-sex relationships are fruitful ground for the growth of the Spirit, the so be it. I would rather be on the side of encouraging faith, hope, love, compassion, kindness and self-control wherever it appears than associate myself with such a demeaning polemic.

Humility or Humiliation?

A question: how can this monastery [which excludes women from its premesis] be a source of liturgical worship…and yet, not be a whole church? By excluding a whole half of the faithful? Is this the vision of the church? I cannot imagine being satisfied with going to the door and being fed water. Why are we so happy to receive such crumbs?”

An answer: monastaries can post the following,

Our dear sister [brother] in Christ, we ask your forgiveness but we cannot invite you in to join us. We are learning to focus on God, and in our weakness, are too easily distracted from our task by your God-given image. We ask patience for our weakness, and humbly ask that you pray that we become able to enter into the joy of God’s reign with you at our sides.

Oh the 'evil West'

We Orthodox regularly mischaracterize ‘the West’ as a way of elevating a particularly Orthodox way of thinking about something. Our goal is not to understand ‘the West’ on its own terms, nor is it to learn (is this even possible) from its experience, but to elevate ourselves.  We do this by falsely characterizing and then denigrating the other.

The 'Saint's Test'

I recently heard of a new test, “the Saint’s Test.” It is a “test” in which one asks if the Saints would approve or disapprove of a particular action. The question reflects a deep-seated value for communal discernment within the context of a particular moral tradition. Saints are, among other things, exemplars of a faithful life, models of Christian love, and women and men who invite us into creative participation in god. Unfortunately, while it has a nice ring to claim that the Saints would approve of this and reject that, it is a rather disingenuous test. ‘Questioning the Saints’ implies that we are actually asking them the question, and that they are giving their reply. Yet too frequently, this is not what we are doing. Instead, we are calling on the Saints in order to add weight to our conclusion.
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