Apologetic Blogging – The Wave of the Future

APOLOGETICS115

The Orthodox Church suffers from an abysmal lack of cogent apologetic material. Interestingly, thanks to blogging, I believe this will change soon. Someone like you or me will get so tired of not having the kind of printed material we need, that we’ll just make it ourselves, and in the day of print-on-demand publishers (see here for examples of my own books, published at Lulu.com), well – it won’t be long.

In the meantime, we stand at a wonderful threshold. Blogging makes it possible for us to address apologetic points one at a time, and at any pace, or any depth, we wish to.

Let me give you a simple example, one that I’m sure you have used yourself from time to time. Continue reading Apologetic Blogging – The Wave of the Future

Heaven & Hell in the Afterlife Acc. To The Bible

By Peter Chopelas

ALJ115I (Fr. John) came across this excellent article recently, and used it to craft an important sermon on heaven and hell in the afterlife according to the Scriptures and the teaching of the Orthodox Church, and found it to be an excellent and thorough resource for this important homiletic topic. Since then, I’ve come to discover just how quickly this essay has spread throughout the English speaking Orthodox world.

An early draft of this article was edited by Archpriest Thomas Hopko, retired dean of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (OCA), and this final copy has the approval of His Grace Lazar Puhalo (OCA), noted theologian, retired archbishop of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and abbot of New Ostrog Monastery near Vancouver, British Columbia.

John Kalomiros wrote: “I read the article by P. Chopelas carefully. I believe that it is correct. It certainly contributes to a meaningful idea of God and to a correct understanding of the nature of Heaven and Hell. … the general concept that heaven and hell only represent how a man’s soul responds in the presence of the light of God is sound and patristic. Certainly the problem of how Christians receive the teaching of the Church on Heaven and Hell is not only a linguistic problem arising from false translations, but it is also a conceptual and cultural problem.”

Fr. James Bernstein of St. Paul’s Antiochian Orthodox Church, Briar, WA, wrote: “I thought that the material that you wrote on Heaven and Hell was very good. I especially appreciated the detailed word analysis that I intend to include in my catechetical presentation of the subject. I present a full session on Heaven and Hell in my catechism series which is now up to about 27 sessions!”

Pani Frederica Matthewes-Green, author, lecturer, and wife of an Antiochian Orthodox priest, said: “…thanks for all your hard work on this. It is extremely helpful… God bless you…” and, “I think the concept is fascinating and have begun incorporating this information into my speeches.”

 

The idea that God is an angry figure who sends those He condemns to a place called Hell, where they spend eternity in torment separated from His presence, is missing from the Bible and unknown in the early church. While Heaven and Hell are decidedly real, they are experiential conditions rather than physical places, and both exist in the presence of God. In fact, nothing exists outside the presence of God. Continue reading Heaven & Hell in the Afterlife Acc. To The Bible

The Troublesome Nature of Apologetics: Part 2

A continuation of last week’s Pastoral Pondering on Apologetics,  for Sunday, June 21 2009.

I have suggested that the discipline of apologetics, the reasoned defense of the Christian faith, is sometimes troublesome to the pursuit of theology. It seems to me that the history of soteriology, the theology of salvation, manifests a singular case in point.

When it starts from apologetics, soteriology is somewhat compelled to commence outside itself, to begin with the state of not-being-saved. Apologetics obliges soteriology to inquire, “From what are we saved?” The answer, of course, is “sin.” Continue reading The Troublesome Nature of Apologetics: Part 2

The Troublesome Nature of Apologetics: Part 1

apologetics

One of Father Pat’s Recent Pastoral Ponderings, this one for June 14, 2009: All Saints Sunday deals with Orthodox Christian apologetics.

An important part of the proclamation of the Christian faith to the world is, of course, a proper defense of that faith. We are not surprised, therefore, that this defensive ministry, called “apologetics,” is very much in evidence in our records of the apostolic preaching to those outside the faith. The Apostle Paul, for instance, wrote of his

“defense [apologia] and confirmation of the Gospel” (Philippians 1:7).

Paul illustrated such a defense when given opportunity to address a Jewish mob gathered near the temple. He began by declaring,

“Brethren and fathers, hear my defense [apologia] before you now” (Acts 22:1; cf. 25:16),

and then he went on to argue for the truth of the Gospel.

This ministry of defending the faith to outsiders was not limited to the Apostles, however. Saint Peter gave a general exhortation on this subject:

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense [apologia] to everyone who asks you a reason [logos] for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15)

The discipline of apologetics allows considerable flexibility and even room for innovation, because its effective use is necessarily determined, in some measure, by the presuppositions of those to whom it is addressed.  Indeed, the process can hardly begin unless the apologist shares at least some of those presuppositions.

The latter may be of various kinds:

The Christian arguing with the Jew, for instance, shares a massive theological presupposition: the canonical authority of the Hebrew Bible. Thus, the Apostles, when they argued in the synagogue, invariably commenced with the Old Testament. We find the identical pattern in Justin Martyr’s Dialogue With Trypho the Jew.

When arguing with pagans, on the other hand, Christian apologists often begin with a shared philosophical perspective. The earliest example of this approach may be St. Paul’s speech to the philosophers on Mars’ Hill in Acts 17. Again, Justin Martyr, who began the First Apology by recounting his youthful studies in philosophy, borrowed extensively from Stoicism in the course of his defense of the faith. He was addressing his work, after all, to the Antonine emperors, one of whom, he knew—Marcus Aurelius—was a Stoic.

In addition to theological and philosophical presuppositions, zealous apologetics does not hesitate to examine literature and other cultural expressions to find some common ground on which to engage unbelievers. Tertullian, for instance, when he mentioned the bravery, sobriety, and self-control encouraged by the Christian faith, knew very well that these virtues were central to Rome’s ascetical tradition and military culture. Clement and Origen, arguing for the Gospel in Alexandria, strove to express it in terms the local Neo-Platonists might find attractive. Augustine, in undertaking that vast historical apologia known as The City of God, demonstrated to contemporary pagans his ability to cite—and, more important, to appreciate—his Vergil and Varro with the best of them.

I speak of the necessary function of apologetics, however, as the preamble to a word of caution. Although it is an essential component of the Church’s kerygmatic mission, apologetics is sometimes troublesome—or worse—to theology. Indeed, as I reflect on the matter, I am not sure I can name a single heresy in Christian history that did not have some apologetic concern near its root.

Apologetics is burdened with a very difficult task: To discover theological, philosophical, literary, and cultural windows through which to cast the light of the Gospel into the darkened minds of unbelievers. And yet the apologist is not entirely free to choose the size, shape, and position of those windows.  Those choices are necessarily limited by the sympathies of those to whom the Gospel is preached. That is to say, the pagan largely governs the very terms of the discourse, and he is free, at any time, to close down the conversation.

Hence, it may happen that the Gospel, when it is defended to the pagan inquirer, is intellectually compressed to fit a mere slit of a window, or its constitutive outline is adjusted to accommodate an incompatible cultural shape.

Without the guidance of sound dogmatics, the incautious apologist may be unaware that he is crafting a heresy.

Click here to read The Troublesome Nature of Apologetics: Part 2

Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon is the pastor of All Saints Church in Chicago, IL.

 

The Troublesome Nature of Apologetics