DEATH AND LIFE by Silouan Green

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Silouan Green

The consequences of death and destruction have become old friends. Friends I meet daily in my work helping law enforcement, veterans, communities, and trauma victims understand how to overcome the horrors that life can bring to bear upon us. Last week was a normal one, heartbreaking. Here are just some of the experiences explored in my talks and workshops during that time:

  • A young veteran who described the horror of grabbing at his burning leg after being hit by a rocket, and then pulling away his hand to see it dripping with melted fat and flesh.
  • A rookie police officer of only a couple of weeks who rolled up on a scene to find a dead 6-year old, whom he had to carry in his arms to the wailing screams of the young child’s family.
  • A woman who was violently and repeatedly raped as a child by family members, and now had dedicated her life to helping others like her, yet was still wrestling with her own demons.
  • A former Marine who shared the toll of war on the company he served with in Iraq: 11 suicides and counting.
  • A young woman who was going through a divorce and facing life alone in a city without family.
  • And during all of this, I was preparing for a weekend with families who had lost loved ones serving in the Armed Forces. 

Just a normal week.

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REFORMATION 500: AN ORTHODOX REFLECTION by Giacomo Sanfilippo

This is the second article in our Reformation 500 Series.

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Saint Constantine Equal-to-the-Apostles and the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council with the Nicaean Creed

I can claim no more than the generalist knowledge of any reasonably educated Westerner of my generation concerning the Protestant Reformation and the situation of the Roman Catholic Church at the end of the Middle Ages that some say made it inevitable.

Much less can I claim to speak for the Orthodox Church. I offer the personal reflections of one Orthodox Christian.

Yet I hope that my readers will discern some measure of authenticity in my thoughts; that the main outlines of my presentation, if perhaps not every detail, will bear the ring of truth for my Orthodox brothers and sisters; that they will recognize herein, for the most part, the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Faith that we Orthodox hold in common, “traditioned” (παραδοθείσῃ, traditae in the Vulgate) once for all to the saints; and finally, that the truth that I attempt to speak will be heard by those outside of the Orthodox Church as spoken in love. Many of my Protestant and Catholic readers are known to me personally. You enrich my life in ways immeasurable with your presence, your friendship, your deep love for Christ and His Gospel, your patience with my often inelegant and bumbling efforts to articulate this Faith of which I am unworthy to call myself an heir.

The fundamental question, it seems to me, is one of ecclesiology. Our theological understanding of the Church as Church will condition in large part how we view the Reformation. Here we should note that the Reformation eventually introduced categories into Christian discourses about the nature of the Church herself that exist nowhere in the New Testament, and nowhere in 1500 years of the Church’s self-understanding: “denominations,” “confessions,” the “branch theory” of “Christianity.” Read More


REFORMATION 500 SERIES: A CALL FOR ARTICLES

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Orthodoxy in Dialogue has launched the Reformation 500 Series, for which a separate category has been created on the Archives by Author page before the alphabetized list of authors.

We invite Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox clergy, bishops, theology students, and theology professors to write a 1000-word reflection on Reformation 500, whether you take a more positive or less positive position. We ask only that you avoid a polemical, confrontational, or triumphalistic tone in your writing. Read More


REFORMATION 500: WHAT IS THERE TO CELEBRATE? A ROMAN CATHOLIC PERSPECTIVE by Julien Hammond

This article represents the first in our proposed Reformation 500 Series, in which Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox writers are invited to reflect on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses and the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

Luther-nailing-theses-560x538I credit the Orthodox theologian, Father John H. Erickson, for teaching me that ecclesial anniversaries are tricky occasions to prepare. As he noted at the June 1997 Orientale Lumen Conference between Catholics and Orthodox:

What some of those touched by such events remember with joy, others remember with a sense of anguish and pain. Specific incidents which some may have completely forgotten, others take as the key for interpreting the entire occasion.

I think this probably describes pretty much the different ways that Catholics and Lutherans might view the Reformation 500 anniversary.

For many Lutherans, the anniversary may be an occasion for much pride and joy: a touchstone moment to celebrate all that Martin Luther stood for and all that has been accomplished in his name and in the name of Lutheranism over the centuries, and to dream of what may still be possible in the Lutheran Church today. Read More


ERASING SERGEI by Giacomo Sanfilippo

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Sergei Semionovich Troitsky

This is not an essay about sexuality, but about biography and history, and honouring the actual lived experience and wishes of those who have departed this life before us.

On May 2 Public Orthodoxy published my “Conjugal Friendship,” which summarizes and comments upon Father Pavel Florensky’s 1914 “Friendship” and its inspiration, his earlier relationship with the deceased Sergei Troitsky. The explosive reactions that ensued compelled me to write a sequel, “Conjugal Friendship: An Appeal for a Conversation.” This appeared on July 5 on the University of Toronto Press Journals Blog.

None of the respondents who took me to task for my interpretation of “Friendship” produced a single sentence from Florensky’s text to show me where I had gone wrong. They appeared to base their arguments on no more than pious conjecture.

No one who excoriated my portrayal of Florensky’s relationship with Troitsky took into account my dependence on Avril Pyman’s 2010 biography, Pavel Florensky: A Quiet Genius, or her reliance on the letters and diaries of the principal actors in the story.   Read More


EXCERPTS FROM “TWO WORLDS,” “FRIENDSHIP,” AND “JEALOUSY” by Pavel Florensky

The unnamed dedicatee and addressee of Father Pavel Florensky’s 1914 The Pillar and Ground of the Truth was his fellow seminarian, roommate, and intended life-companion (спутник жизни, “husband”), the deceased Sergei Troitsky.

Florensky was obliged to delete “Friendship” from his master’s thesis at the Moscow Theological Academy because his academic supervisor deemed it to be too controversial to pass the examining board. His contemporaries understood that this was no theology of friendship in any conventional sense of the word.

When he reinstated the chapter for publication he was a married man, an ordained priest, and the father of his first child, still grieving the loss of his greatest love. He did not replace “Friendship” with a theology of marriage.

Two Worlds — Два Міра

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Pavel Florensky and Sergei Troitsky (Age 24 and 25 respectively)

My meek, my radiant friend!

Our vaulted room greeted me with coldness, sadness, and loneliness when I opened its door for the first time after my trip.

But, alas, I entered it alone, without you.

But you are not with me, and the whole world seems deserted. I am alone, absolutely alone in the whole world. Read More


THEOSIS, SINO-CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY AND THE SECOND CHINESE ENLIGHTENMENT: HEAVEN AND HUMANITY IN UNITY reviewed by Michael Reardon

Although Alexander Chow’s book is four years old, we are pleased to publish this review to bring his work on theosis to the attention of as widespread an Orthodox theological and scholarly audience as possible. This serves as a prelude to Michael Reardon’s own upcoming article on Orthodoxy in Dialogue, “The Orthodox Invasion: Theosis as the Telos of Protestant Soteriology.” 

Theosis, Sino-Christian Theology and the Second Chinese Enlightenment: Heaven and Humanity in Unity
Alexander Chow
New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2013

chow (2)Alexander Chow’s Theosis, Sino-Christian Theology and the Second Chinese Enlightenment is an innovative and compelling attempt at utilizing an Eastern Orthodox framework to construct a contextual Chinese Christian theology. Largely successful in his endeavor, Chow’s much-needed inquiry into the potential for a Sino-Christian theosis-centered theology has him playing the role of Pandora opening a box with which Sino-Christian scholars will be forced to engage in the coming years. 

His project is comprised of three sections. In the first section (introduction and chapter 1), he details the two “Enlightenments” through which China has passed: the first at the turn of the 20th century, and the second in the 1980s. This latter Enlightenment provides the historical context for his constructive endeavor (pp. 21-40).

Chow also introduces the theological typology that will be employed in his study. He eschews two common representations of Sino-theology—fundamentalist/modernist and Confucian Activist/Daoist Pietistic dichotomies—in favor of the trichotomistic typology promulgated by Justo Gonzales (pp. 3-10). “Type A” theologies are defined as “law-based” theologies, which are generally counter-cultural or transformative in nature and have negative anthropologies (p. 9). “Type B” theologies prioritize the synthesis of philosophy with religion (i.e., philosophy as the “handmaiden of theology”), are favorable toward cultural assimilation, and possess positive anthropologies (p. 10). “Type C” theologies are concerned with history as unfolding God’s purpose, favor cultural engagement, and have mixed anthropologies (p. 10). Of these three, Chow posits that Type C theologies are both the most ideal in creating a contextual Chinese theology and the theological typology of Orthodox thought.  Read More