The Prophet Elijah and Discerning God

Some of these thoughts I had posted about five years ago, and as they touch our commemoration of Elias (Elijah) the Prophet, I thought I would repost them tonight as we begin his feast. This is also timely in light of my last post on discerning Balrogs. (I had actually thought about titling the post “Discerning Balrogs” but then someone might have wondered “what type of discretion do Balrogs exercise?” So I went with “Discovering Balrogs.”) Discernment is one of the most difficult things in the Christian life, and I think we often make it much harder than it needs to be, for we go about trying to find God not in the mundane, but in the spectacular. I think this afflicts much of modern, enthusiastic evangelicalism, and to a large extent progressive Protestantism, which has sold the gospel for immanentizing the eschaton. Continue reading

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Discovering Balrogs

When the Fellowship of the ring stood before the tomb of Balin, Gimli overcome with grief at the death of his kin, the first cousin of his father, Gloin, Frodo thought back to Balin’s visit to the shire, which was the last scene in Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Balin had been a good friend to Bilbo, one of his chief advocates among the dwarves. Balin with other dwarves had attempted to take back Moria, and had succeeded, but their occupation lasted only five years, and seemed to have been tenuous at best. Balin is slain while gazing at the Mirrormere, a small lake just outside Moria’s east gate. All of this we learn from a book the company found at Balin’s tomb where the dwarves of Moria met their end. The last lines of the book, as Gandalf read them would be echoed by the company of the ring’s own experience: “We cannot get out. They are coming.” Continue reading

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“Verweile doch, du bist so schön!”*

This past weekend found me in Ligonier, PA for the second annual Ancient Faith Writers and Podcasters Conference (AFCon), along with about 75 other writers and content producers. I had only a dim and foggy notion of what to expect, some vague idea of what might be transpiring — lectures, meals, conversation – for I really knew no one there except for Fr. Andrew Damick, who rode out with me (and who’s now been my priest for almost six years; two people there are Facebook friends whom I had yet to meet.) Also, the whole forum could be thought of as “new media”: bloggers, ebook writers, web content providers, podcasters. Sure, I’ve been to lots of conferences, and have made lots of contacts and gotten lots of publishing opportunities out of them, but this was a different animal entirely. At past conferences, almost all academic, I’ve heard some great papers and lots of worthless ones as well, and truthfully, I thought this might be the same. I was (the mercenary side of me) looking for people to aid me in a venture for the Center for Orthodox Thought and Culture, namely The Basilian Journal. In fact, I did find this, and so AFCon stood akin to other conferences I had attended as regards networking. But it differed markedly from all of them as well. Continue reading

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Reading the Tradition with Morgoth

“He had gone often alone into the void places seeking the Imperishable Flame; for desire grew hot within him to bring into Being things of his own, and it seemed to him that Ilúvatar took no thought for the Void, and he was impatient of its emptiness. Yet he found not the Fire, for it is with Ilúvatar. But being alone he had begun to conceive thoughts of his own unlike those of his brethren (Tolkien, Ainulindale, 16).” Continue reading

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The Faustian denouement of liberal learning

100_0205Since college I have loved books. In the decades since my first time in a theological bookstore as an undergraduate freshman I have bought, obtained, and procured thousands of volumes, many new, by most used. My library at the moment is over 6,000 volumes, and I know I’ve traded, sold, or given away hundreds, and probably thousands of books. Some I saw as of little use for my endeavors, items that had a short interest or proved of little value, and some I saw as things to sell in order to obtain other books. As I began moving away from studying Puritanism I saw no need to hold on to a great many volumes, e.g., the 18th-century Reformed divine John Gill’s The Cause of God and Truth. Granted, it is probably the most explicit effort of a Protestant scholastic to defend the doctrines of Dordt (the five canons of theology, what is generally referred to as TULIP) as all being not only consonant with Patristic thought, but indeed the very substance of what the Fathers taught and believed. Continue reading

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Mundane Christianity; or, Old Blogs Never Die . . . They Just Get Resurrected at Pascha

So after much neglect these past twelve months, I’ve decided to get back to the blog. I am certainly open to anyone offering suggestions on what they’d like me to address, but to start I’ll just give you what’s been happening with me, and what has pulled me away. First, the Center for Orthodox Thought and Culture has consumed a good bit of my time, and will continue to do so. I hope it is the thing I am remembered for once I hang my officiusm up, or fall over dead, but I don’t see the former happening for at least twenty years, the other is in God’s hands. There’s much to discuss there, and in particular the launch of our journal, The Basilian, for which we are now accepting submissions (so please contact me if you have something you’d like to see considered on any aspect of Orthodox Thought and Culture). Continue reading

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Christ, the Cosmos, and Icons

adam_reation_iconic1My M.A. adviser, Pr. Aristeides Papadakis, is a Byzantinist of the fist order. He published two books, both still available via St. Vladimir’s Seminary press, along with a number of articles. He lived in Georgetown, and thus could walk to Dumbarton Oaks where he went most days to read and research. After he published his Byzantium and the Rise of the Papacy, and then shepherded it through its subsequent French edition, he took up the great topic of Byzantine Monasticism, but set it aside, after some years’ work, for another project, pressed on him by others. I saw him last Fall, the guest of John Neumann University and Fr. John Perich for an exhibition, and he was the evening’s speaker, giving a lecture on the Schism. As always, he was masterful. Continue reading

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