Orthodoxy in the Postmodern World


It is a very different landscape we inhabit than our parents or grandparents. I am probably closer to my parents, generationally, than I am to my children. Though we share some songs of rock’n’roll, most of their music is lost on me. It’s not as foreign to me as mine was to my parents, but foreign enough. I find myself saying things that sound like my dad talking (it’s scary).

Our religious landscape has changed as well. I posted an article over the weekend in which I made some comments on pagans. Of course, they’re out there and they offered comments. Not unkind, but corrective. I’ve not left the comments on the blog, by choice, it’s not a conversation I choose to have – or at least not here. And I have to make choices about here because that’s my job (here).

But I will say to all of my pagan readers out there – if I offended you unfairly, I am sorry (I don’t know if pagans practice forgiveness). But everyone is due serious conversation and not something else.

As an Orthodox Christian I am in a time of preparation, looking forward to the celebration of Christ’s birth. For us it’s a time of moderate fasting (all celebrations are prepared for in that manner). But like Great Lent, it should be a time for forgiving your enemies (and your friends), not a time for giving offense.

My pagan ancestors inhabited the British Isles (none seem to have come from elsewhere). They embraced the Christian faith in what would have been an Orthodox form (there was no other form in those years 400-600 a.d.). They doubtless were later Roman Catholics when that became the Island’s Creed. Those who made it to America got here as dissident Baptists, Free Churchers of one sort or another. According to one account there were over 50 of them that became ordained ministers in the years 1730-1917 (when that count was made).

So that gives me a context that I will not deny. We’ve come full circle. Back to an Orthodoxy (now with Russian, Greek and Arab flavors, that might have been lacking in early Britain).

But the search, daily, is the same, to be at one with the True and Living God. I seek to bear no ill will to any (and fail). But I won’t quit seeking while I have breath.

May God give us a good Nativity celebration this year, by renewing our faith in His love and our surrender to His grace.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.





9 responses to “Orthodoxy in the Postmodern World”

  1. fatherstephen Avatar

    The Picture. That’s me in the dark (no comment). I’m leading the Paschal Procession earlier this year at St. Anne. That light, candles in darkness, are not unlike the star of Bethlehem. They lead us to a place where the Christ who is may redeem us.

  2. eirsinitiate Avatar

    If you don’t want comments from Pagans, maybe you shouldn’t write about them.

  3. matthew the Curmudgeon Avatar
    matthew the Curmudgeon

    Father Bless-
    Upon seeing the titile of this post I thought it was going to be about something else.

    I really don’t see that Orthodox, Traditional Roman Catholics or Traditional Anglicans(Episcopalians in here in post-modern USA) really comprehend that we are not just in a post-modern era but a post-Christian or Judaeo-Christian era. We are fast descending into a post-civilzation era of barbaric proportions(IMNSHO).
    The churches don’t seem to grasp that we may see a new
    ‘dark ages’ in our lifetime. Those who come out of eastern Europe
    recognize all the signs but who is going to listen? All continues as it was. What about restoring full catechesis programs complete with expelling the catechumens before the creed? What about restoring full
    authentic baptism in living water by trine immersion of all infants AND adult converts?(the RC’s are doing it more and more) No more ‘economia’ nonsense!
    I don’t know how long any of us will last without authentic commitment and witness. I don’t believe we can handle persecution(or as crazy Jack said ‘you(we) can’t handle the truth!)

  4. fatherstephen Avatar

    Matthew – you seem to have taken to the title Curmudgeon very well. Things are tough. But I am at work doing mission and continue, like many others to see results. Real results of converted lives and things changing. I am not a pollyanna who is not aware of cultural around or changes that are happening. But the ebb and flow of culture is a large thing, far more a matter of grace. The drive to fix cultures is much like the drive to fix churches, i.e. a protestant concern.

    Remember God, go to Church, say your prayers. Do these things with all your heart. In times of persecution its still the best activity to engage in. I have no confidence that tweaking liturgical practices such as the catechumenate will better prepare the Church for persecution. Pray more worry less.

    And a short not to ersiniate. Apparently pagans aren’t into forgiveness. Posted a note, said I was sorry. Let it go.

  5. Steve Hayes Avatar

    An Anglican acquaintance once commented that the trouble with the Orthodox was that they never experienced the Enlightenment.

    I’m not so sure about that. Peter the Great tried to impose it, and the bolsheviks sought to complete the project, but the Orthodox experience of the Enlightenment was different from that of the West. And so was its experience of those other pillars of modernity, the Renaissance and the Reformation.

    Because of this different experience and history, Orthodoxy may well be better-equipped to face the postmodern world than some Western varieties of Christianity.

  6. Jack Avatar

    The post on paganism was correct and needed to be said. Neo-pagans need to wrestle with the question of whether this particular door has been definitively closed or not. Paganism is no less a product of a living tradition than Christianity. Tradition IS knowledge and knowledge IS tradition. It would seem that the pagan tradition is one that our forebears failed to pass on. It died out. It’s resurrection is not impossible. Emperor Julian tried and failed. The Galilean won. The anger that you feel towards Christianity is mistaken. Perhaps you were given a distorted picture. Look again. Check out Orthodoxy.

  7. Fatherstephen Avatar

    I do not know much of modern Paganism, and modern Paganism knows very little of ancient Paganism because very little actual information remains. Much that is called Pagan has more modern beginnings, but offers interesting critiques of the modern world.

    Orthodox Christianity, to a certain extent, remains one of the few things of the ancient world to survive into the modern and thus shares certain insights (including a reverence for the created order and the like). Our largest differences will always remain about Christ and the character of the forces at work in the world.

  8. bastrix Avatar

    Father Stephen,

    I am a romanian orthodox priest and I have a blog with this subject on bastrix.wordpress.com, with front page: Theology for today. My blog is in romanian language but is like our hart and mind. I have advertising your bloge in my blog and I happy for your presence.

    Father Dorin thank you Father Stephen and say welcome in my hart.
    19 December 2006.

  9. Roland Avatar

    The comments on the original paganism thread are now closed, so I’ll post these interesting bits about the date of Christmas here. In a sidebar to an article about Christmas trees in Swiss classrooms, it says December 25 “was first identified as the date of Jesus’ birth by Sextus Julius Africanus in 221.” That would make it about half a century before the emperor Aurelian established the official cult of Sol Invictus in 274. According to Wikipedia, the earliest extant reference to December 25 in connection with the birthday of the Unconquered Sun was recorded in 354.

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