Posted by: Joel | April 3, 2012

Postmodern logic

“Postmodernism says, ‘I am not God; therefore there is no God.’ This would not help you get a good grade in Logic 101.” -Merold Westphal

Posted by: Joel | March 13, 2012


“The deepest foundation of the hope and joy which characterize Orthodoxy and which penetrate all its worship is the Resurrection. Easter, the center of Orthodox worship, is an explosion of joy, the same joy which the disciples felt when they saw the risen Savior. It is the explosion of cosmic joy at the triumph of life, after the overwhelming sorrow over death – death which even the Lord of life had to suffer when he became man. … All things are now filled with the certainty of life, whereas before all had been moving steadily towards death. Orthodoxy emphasizes with special insistence the faith of Christianity in the triumph of life.” 
+ Fr. Dumitru Staniloae, from Orthodoxy, Life in the Resurrection

The mystery of God’s essence and energies is a distinction within the theology of Holy Orthodoxy that allows us to speak both of how we know God while He remains unknowable (for He is truly God). We do not know Him as an object, ever, for this is of no benefit or significance. We know God by participation. The mystery as defined in Orthodoxy is that God in His essence and in His energies is one. To know Him in His energies is to know Him truly. But He remains unknowable in His essence. It’s a bit like the distinction between immanence and transcendence. To know God in His essence, as Orthodoxy understands the term, would be to actually participate in the essence of God, which would be to become God fully as God alone is God, and this is not possible. The distinction with the energies allows us to speak of true participation.

These sorts of terms are part of the “grammar of theology,” or the “regula fidei.” Such terms do not seek to define (even as the terms “Hypostasis” and “ousia” do not define). They set the guides and parameter for speech and thought so that we may engage and speak of these things in a correct manner. The heart of the essence/energies distinction is to establish that we truly know God (for His energies and essence are one) while God still remains God alone (in His essence). It is not something to be understood so much as a language to be used.

The RC contention that we behold God’s essence in the Beatific Vision does not protect the distinction sufficiently (from the perspective of the Orthodox). Oddly, Orthodoxy holds the possibility of true knowledge of God in this life (through participation in the Divine Energies) in a manner that, as far as I understand, is not embraced in RC theology.

Posted by: Joel | January 31, 2012


As someone who is close to becoming a catechumen in the Orthodox Catholic Church, I found this description of the search for the Church of Christ quite provocative:
“looking for the Bride of Christ, when all the Protestant denominations seemed […] like jealous harem girls fighting for the Master’s attention.”

Posted by: Joel | December 17, 2011

“The Gospel ca…

“The Gospel came to the Greeks and the Greeks turned it into a philosophy. The Gospel came to the Romans and the Romans turned it into a system. The Gospel came to the Europeans and the Europeans turned it into a culture. The Gospel came to America and the Americans turned it into a business.”

Posted by: Joel | November 4, 2011

Love & Labor [sic]

This is a post on another blog, which I ripped instead of linked because I want it to still exist if Dr. Kirk stops blogging. The post link is here.

The first house that Laura and I bought needed a lot of cosmetic love.

The first day we owned it I pulled out the avocado green dishwasher with a couple buddies. And, yes, the old shut-offs were leaky so water was soon cascading into the basement. Within a couple of months, though, we had laid the kitchen tile, painted the cabinets, replaced the counter tops, changed the sink fixture, moved in the new appliances–and voila! The kitchen was beautiful (and all decked out to the Night Kitchen theme).

With saws and nails and hammers in hand, we loved on the dining room by tacking up wainscoting and chair rail, painting with a silver linen look, and changing out the light fixture.

Image: dan /

I love that first house, not because it was an awesome house, but because we poured our labor into it.

Last weekend, I finally made good on a vision for planting some flowery vines and other things in front of our house here in San Francisco. It wasn’t much, but it makes a huge difference in how I see the house. And I’m proud of the my house here for perhaps the first time. I love the way those changes enhance the way it looks.

It wasn’t love that made me labor, it was labor that made me love.

John Locke proposed that mixing your labor with the soil was how property rights developed. I don’t know about his theories of government or his history, but I know the feeling he’s talking about. When you mix your labor with something, you feel like it’s yours.

The same goes for our relationships.

Once upon a time, the main pre-marriage counseling that my circle was into was a set of bootlegged Tim Keller sermons. He was talking at one point about how we treat children differently from our spouses: “By the time that child is 18 years old, even if he has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, you love him. Why? Because you’ve spent the past 18 years pouring yourself into him.” Conversely, in marriage, we hope to find our fulfillment by having our own needs met by the other rather than discovering love in pouring our life into our spouse.

And there’s the trick. Too often in our relationships we look for someone, or something in the case of organizations, that are worth loving, and then envision ourselves laboring there–at least for as long as the initial infatuation lasts.

But perhaps that is only a quick fix. Perhaps real love doesn’t work that way. Perhaps real love, be it of an individual or a community, is not about responding to love with labor, but cultivating love through our labors. Perhaps the dynamic that more truly satisfies, the place where more profound love, develops, is not in the discovery of the lovely, but in the cultivation of love through our giving ourselves to our beloved.

Can we ever love a church if we ask it to meet our needs? Or will we only love it if we give ourselves to it? Can we ever love a city if we only use its resources to meet our expectations? Or will we only love if we pour out our lives in making it better?

Mix a little labor. See what happens.

Posted by: Joel | June 30, 2011

Recommended Reading

For anybody interested in world events, the human condition, the nature and workings of evil, etc, I would wholeheartedly (and with a heavy heart) recommend Shake Hands with the Devil by Romeo Dallaire. It is a roughly 500 page read on the UN Commander’s experience of the genocide in Rwanda, focussing on the role that the UN played (or “didn’t play” or “could have played”) in attempting to prevent the genocide.

Gird up your loins…

A friend is writing a paper on Women’s Ordination and I found an article by this Eastern Orthodox Theologian. Interesting perspective on the whole issue. It may be a question that only ‘Western Christianity’ (as in: Roman Catholic and Protestant) is asking, but it is by no means isolated in the ‘West’ geographically.

…to me the debate on women’s ordination seems to be provincial, deeply marked and even determined by Western self-centeredness and self-sufficiency, by a naive, almost childish conviction that every “trend” in Western culture justifies a radical rethinking of the entire Christian Tradition. How many such “trends” we have witnessed during the last decades of our troubled century! How many corresponding “theologies”! The difference this time however is that one deals in this particular debate not with a passing intellectual and academic “fad”—like the “death of God,” “secular city,” “celebration of life,” etc.-which, after it has produced a couple of ephemeral best-sellers simply disappears, but with the threat of an irreversible and irreparable act which, if it becomes reality, will produce a new, and this time I am convinced final, division among Christians, will signify, at least for the Orthodox, the end of all dialogues….
It is well known that the advocates of women’s ordination explain the scriptural and the traditional exclusion of women from the ministry by cultural “conditioning.” If Christ did not include women into the twelve, if the Church for centuries did not include them into its priesthood, it is because of the “culture” which would have made it impossible and unthinkable then. It is not my purpose to discuss here the theological and exegetical implications of this view as well as its purely historical basis which, incidentally, oeems to me extremely weak and shaky. What is truly amazing is that, while absolutely convinced that they understand past “cultures,” the advocates of women’s ordination seem to be so totally unaware of their own cultural “conditioning,” of their own surrender to “culture.”
How else can one explain their readiness to accept what may prove to be a passing phenomenon, and what at any rate is a phenomenon barely at its beginning (not to speak of the women’s liberation movement which at present is nothing but search and experimentation), as a sufficient justification for a radical change in the very structure of the Church? How else, furthermore, are we to explain that this movement is accepted on its own terms, i.e., within the perspective of “rights,” “justice,” “equality,” etc., all categories whose ability adequately to express Christian faith and to be applied as such within the Church is, to say the least, questionable?

Found on pp. 240-41 here.

Posted by: Joel | February 8, 2010

I’m listening


Posted by: Joel | October 16, 2009

Developing a “Rule of Life”

I am in the process of writing a ‘rule of life’ for myself. At this point in my life (and maybe always) I need some structures/rituals that draw me to my knees before God and provide a context for me to seek his face. I trust that these will help me to place my sails in the gust of the Spirit’s wind, so to speak.

Here is Jonathan Edwards’ rule of life. And here is another guy’s rule.

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