The Heart is Everything

As a conversational note… there is no “rational” form of conversation between believer and non-believer (or for that matter between believer and believer).  The word “rational” alone does not sufficiently describe nor set proper parameters for conversations. “Rational” is a very broad term. I would recommend the American philosopher, Alastair MacIntyre (Whose Justice, Which Rationality?) for those who still hold the mistaken opinion that rationality has any universality in its meaning.

The arguments are interminable and without resolution – for all of the assumptions flow from different places.

As an Orthodox Christian, I would say (in Orthodox terms), that the heart is everything (“heart” as understood in a traditional Orthodox manner). For “out of the abundance of the heart does a man speak.” Thus, what someone offers in their arguments (regardless of rationality), is evidence of the state of their heart and nothing more. And the state of the heart is everything.

The Elder Paisios says that even the “sight of a fox” can be an occasion for conversion. Thus with patience we speak to a non-believer, to the heterodox believer, and even to other Orthodox believers, knowing that the heart is the object of our conversation and not the red herrings presented by various so-called rationalities, be they unbelieving, heterodox, or Orthodox. The heart is everything.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.





48 responses to “The Heart is Everything”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Fabio Leite, Ζωντανό Ιστολόγιο. Ζωντανό Ιστολόγιο said: The Heart is Everything: As a conversational note… there is no “rational” form of conversation between believ… […]

  2. Abob Avatar

    Dear Fr Stephen,
    I love your blog, and read it regularly, but I am also a student of philosophy and felt compelled to comment on this post. I think you do a disservice to the unique way that God has created us as rational creatures. Rationality is a complex thing and it’s definitely true that what people will think is rational will depend on various background presuppositions, and where there heart is, but that doesn’t mean reason and arguments are not important. “All truth is God’s truth,” as they say, and as creatures created in God’s image, we have ways of discovering that truth, one of which is through rational reflection. Background assumptions can be called into question, and often are. I would agree that the sight of a fox could be an occasion for conversion, but so can a rational discussion of the evidence for God’s existence, or the case for Jesus’ historical resurrection. What worries me is that the case you make can too easily be taken as a case for Christians to think that knowledge and rationality are unimportant or even bad. I have had so many discussions with heterodox believers who will not listen because they say all I am giving them is arguments and philosophy, which are dangerous. And they can be. But we can also love God with our minds in many ways. The early church fathers were not afraid of philosophy and rational argumentation, as is obvious for anyone who has tried to get their heads around their writings about the trinity and the nature of Jesus.

    Sorry for the long post – I think the main thrust of your post is right, but it seems to me to be too one-sided, and the last thing we need, in this country especially, are more anti-intellectual Christians.

    Yours, In Christ, Abob

  3. Joel Grigsby Avatar
    Joel Grigsby

    Father, bless.

    What is the name and where is the church pictured in the blog? It’s beautiful

  4. Julie Avatar

    This one small post is a much needed corrective for the way I do my mentoring work with college students. Though I appreciate the concern of Abob I have seen more “success” when I try harder to listen with discernment to what is not being said and respond to that from my heart than when I am engaged in full on rational argument.

    Thank you, Father.

  5. An Anxious Anglican Avatar
    An Anxious Anglican

    Thank you (once again), Father. I have been reading Fr. Meletios Weber and Scott Cairns recently, and was wondering if when you say “heart,” you are referring to what others call “nous”?

  6. yannis Avatar

    As Bodhidharma said “there is nothing to be found other than your own mind”.

    Rationality and its pretenses to “objectivity” and hence to “truth” is aspiring to become the new Holy Inquisition in the reigning western world, the very standard by which reality is perceived.

    This approach crucially forgets (or conveniently ignores), as your post wonderfully says, who it is that perceives and hence sets the standard with all its necessary assumptions.

    Opinions and arguments cannot substitute for perception and mentality, nor concepts and intellectual constructs for being and reality; thinking of being is not being itself.

    This is, in my opinion, one of the truths that can open the door towards true faith in God; faith free of the caricaturing shakles of morality and the painful doubts of logic.

    It also can make eleos and apatheia easier to reach as it crushes the righteoussness that springs out of cultural and societal filters through which we are invited to “judge” others, because it exposes those filters for what they are ie relativistic concepts and not absolute truths.

    Perhaps the best, for me, of all your posts F. Stephen.

    Best Regards


  7. TheraP Avatar

    God knows the way into each heart. And when people speak, from heart to heart, or listen from heart to heart, then, I think, God is at work. An open heart, a compassionate heart, a humble heart, even a broken heart – can be a doorway.

    I myself doubt that rationality does the trick. Though it may play a role of course. If rationality worked, it would work for therapy. And instead of people even coming for therapy, they could phone me, I’d give them a few pointers – and they’d be cured! Even for therapy, where God plays a role, whether my patient realizes that or not (I deliberately have icons in my office), an open heart is necessary for change to occur.

    So I am in complete agreement that the state of the heart is everything. I know Father Stephen was referring to spiritual development in particular, but I’m underscoring that this occurs even in what may appear to be only a secular context: It is everything!

    Again, if I have misstated anything or not used the proper theological terminology, I delight in being set straight.

  8. Sean Avatar


    Notice the phrase: ‘ “heart” as understood in a traditional Orthodox manner’. I am not the one to explain this adequately but the term “heart” is not understood in Orthodoxy as sentiment or emotion. It is used, on the contrary to denote “the whole and the true self” of a man or woman, intellect, emotion, sentiment, conscience, intuition and spirit. Thus, I think, Father Stephen is trying to point out that since the matter of faith is so much more than a simple matter of rational thought (and hence a matter of the mind purely), at least for a believer, there can be no “rational” discussion about it because that discussion will evolve on different levels, at least from the part of the believer (ie the believer will add to it all those parts which do not belong to the intellect purely but adhere to other aspects of oneself – of one’s heart – since faith is something that affects the whole man and not just his mind).

  9. Abob Avatar


    Thanks for the attempt at clarification. I’m aware of the Orthodox use of heart, and it seems to me a biblical usage. And I agree that conversion involves the whole man – but that includes intellect! Again, my worry was not with saying the heart is the most important, but saying (or coming dangerously close to saying) that ‘rationality’ is completely relativistic and useless. That just does not seem true to me, and saying so seems to me dangerous. When early opponents to the doctrine of the trinity said that it involves a contradiction because nothing can be three and one at the same time, the Fathers did not just say: “so what! forget your rationality! contradictions can be true!” No, they said “You can never understand the trinity fully because it is mysterious – nevertheless it does not involve a contradiction because we are not saying it is three and one in the same way – there is threeness with regard to persons but oneness with regard to essence.” That’s philosophy! That’s rational argument! There’s no doubt that the Enlightenment placed too great an emphasis on what man can know with the use of his intellect alone, but equally dangerous is the opposite error. God gave us intellects to learn the truth about many things, and we glorify him by using it properly and carefully.

  10. fatherstephen Avatar

    Generally, the terms are interchangeable. I prefer the term heart.

  11. MichaelPatrick Avatar

    In church we sometimes pray, calling ourselves “rational sheep.”

    I don’t know all these anthropological distinctions, but I know that I am sick when my heart is not illumined, but rather is flooded with passions and thoughts that have no place there. Only by God’s grace have I any hope of mental and spiritual health. That is to say, when my heart –rarely– radiates God’s love His grace puts my rational faculty, emotions, passions, and so on, all in order. Without this are all tyrants that have their way with me and leave me in pieces and desolate places. A temple without God living there is a home for idols, and the place He wants to dwell, I believe, is the heart.

    When God dwells in a person his thoughts may be rational and even good. Without Him rationality may remain for awhile, but at best it may be clever but vacant as the temple itself.

  12. George Patsourakos Avatar

    When we speak from the heart, we really mean what we say. Also, we do not say something because it is what someone would like to hear.

  13. Barbara Avatar


    Thank you for expressing the idea of the heart without God so vividly!

  14. Abob Avatar

    God is love, and God is truth.

    All men love, though all love imperfectly. None can approach perfect love without approaching the Father, and many a man has been brought to faith through seeking love.

    All men think, though all think imperfectly. None can approach perfect Truth without approaching the Son, and many a man has been brought to faith through seeking truth.

    Is there a place in contemporary Orthodoxy for a philosopher? (I ask earnestly, as a seeker).

  15. Wonders for Oyarsa Avatar

    I also would like to know the location of that beautiful church/monestery.

  16. Дејан Avatar


    Of course, of course! St. Nikolai Velimirovic (1880-1956) prepared his philosophy PhD in Oxford and defended it in Geneva (on Berkeley’s philosophy), he also had PhD from theology and all that until he was just 29 years old, when he entered monastic order. About eleven years later he wrote “Prayers by the Lake”, in which you can find deeper philosophy expressed in poetic language. If you haven’t read that book yet, I recommend it from the depths of my heart. It is a book for philosophers, poets and, indeed, for everybody else.

  17. Sean Avatar

    It only has place for sinners Abob.

  18. fatherstephen Avatar

    The photo is of the skete Church of St. Vladimir’s of Valaam Monastery – a recent construction. It is a marvelous looking structure. I should have placed a link for the photo
    It is from St. Catherine in Moscow’s photo archive. I did not put the link there because I got the photo from the Metropolitan’s own computer back in May when he returned from Russia. But I saw today on St. Catherine’s site that the photo is from their archive (and it is these that the Metropolitan returned home with). I would love to find a photo gallery of the interior of the Church sometime.

    The skete, newly constructed, also has a home for the Patriarch (for retreats, etc.) and also one for the President of Russia (Putin) who likes to visit there.

    The present head of the monastery, Bishop Pankratiy, has presided over marvelous restorations of the monastery as well as new construction. It will, I think, become one of the most remarkable periods in this ancient and holy monastery’s history.

  19. fatherstephen Avatar

    That’s how I got in. 🙂

  20. MichaelPatrick Avatar

    Abob, I don’t know about a place in Orthodoxy for philosophers or anything else for that matter, because the church may not have taken me in if they really knew me. I think they’ll open the door for anyone who turns to Christ, away from delusions, without hiding reservations.

    But when it comes to finding a place in Christ the matter is far more serious. Everything must be surrendered. If the giver of good gifts wants you to be a philosopher He may make you a useful one and better at it than you are now. The important thing to avoid delusion is to realize we can do nothing without Him and that all things are possible with Him. In His will alone lay all treasures. True faith is to trust Him with everything precious and endure to the end. You can’t come holding baggage. We come as naked as we were born and just as will die, holding onto nothing save Christ by God’s grace.

  21. Abob Avatar

    I suppose there is a place for me then.

    Дејан, thank you for the reference to St. Nikolai and his book – I had not come across him yet.


  22. Michael N Avatar
    Michael N

    I think the mind is a means, but not the ends, of being in communion with God. Only the heart can experience the ‘present moment’ not the mind; only the heart can experience ‘true prayer’ where the mind descends into the heart; and “the language of the heart is silence – not a bleak, empty silence, but a profound and meaningful silence that ceaselessly sings the glory of God.”

    I remember hearing or reading: “the heart knows what the mind cannot understand.” On my own journey to the Orthodox Church (converting from Lutheranism) I recall someone describing the orthodox “heart” on a book reading blog (The Cloud of Unknowing). The theology of how we are put together body and soul made the largest impact on my experience of faith.

    An excerpt from the book Bread & Water, Wine & Oil……..
    …”Western civilization is dominated by the human mind, and ‘knowing’ generally takes precedence over ‘being.’ In the East, by contrast, experience is valued over thought. Rather than the mind, it is the nous [heart] of man – described by St. Makarios as the ‘eye of the heart’ and identified by St. Diadochos as the ‘innermost aspect of the heart’ – that is considered the most important element by which a person communicates.

  23. fatherstephen Avatar

    I have enjoyed many passages in Fr. Meletios’ book (Bread & Water, Wine & Oil), but the passages on the heart (nous) in the opening chapters were probably my favorite. I was pleased to learn this week that Fr. Meletios will be leading the clergy retreat for my diocese this winter. A joy.

  24. Ryan Avatar

    The actual word is “nous”, for which “heart” is as good a one word translation as any. Not of course, the organ “kardia”. I’m no Greek scholar, but wikipedia actually has a good paragraph on the Eastern Orthodox usage of the philosophical term.

    hope it helps. Many blessings in your search for truth.

  25. katia Avatar

    St. Maximos the Confessor beautifully guides us on “the
    way of philosophy according to Christ”:

    Do not malign as base and wicked the one whom yesterday you praised and commended as good and virtuous,
    because your love has turned to hatred.
    Do not invoke your brother’s shortcoming to justify the
    evil hatred that has taken hold of you. Rather, even if you
    are held by resentment, persist in your praises, and then you
    will easily return to the same salutary love.
    Do not, because of your hidden resentment, adulterate
    your usual praise of your brother in your conversations with
    the other brethren, surreptitiously intermingling your words
    with [references to his] shortcomings and condemnation.
    Instead, make use of unmixed praise and genuinely pray for
    him, as if you were praying for yourself, and thus you will
    quickly be delivered from this destructive hatred.
    If your brother is again tempted by the Enemy and
    persists in speaking ill of you, do not depart from your state
    of love, but repulse the demon that is troubling your mind.
    And this will occur if you speak benevolently when you are
    disparaged and show goodness and kindness when you are
    plotted against.
    This is the way of Christian philosophy, and one who
    does not follow it will not dwell together with Christ.

  26. yannis Avatar

    Heh – Katia that’s precisely why a “troll” would find fertile ground to bait and confront in a blog such as this; he’d know that people would feel obliged to treat him with “kindness” essentially letting him carry on.

    I personally dont think that kindness equates to nicety, as nicety may be breeding insincerity, and somehow i am sure that the Fathers would have a lot to say about that. So we may be reading Saint Maximos a little differently.



  27. fatherstephen Avatar

    The conversation on the “heart” is about a well-known, even well-defined, understanding of the inner life of human beings – according to Orthodox understanding. It is difficult in experience to properly enter the heart – though many things “proceed” from the heart. I would suggest something like the wikipedia article cited on the heart or the essay by Dr. Moran that was cited. “Heart,” in Orthodox usage, does carry a great deal of weight, and can indeed be used in a variety of ways. This is not necessarily because the speaker is not meaning anything.

    David and others, I have deleted the last series of comments as I posted this note. I do not want the comments to become bogged down in distraction.

    David, Orthodoxy has a very long history and tradition (of its words and language as well as other things). Some of the words, such as “heart,” are deeply part of that tradition. The conversations on the blog often use some of that language and to follow the conversation will require learning some of that vocabulary (hence an occasional dip into wikipedia or the like). Be patient with words (and people) and some things will become clearer.

    The blog has about 2000-3000 views a day from a wide variety of readers. The comments are useful for getting clarification or amplifying something. I generally hold disagreements to a minimum (I don’t find them useful).

    Eastern Orthodox Christianity is a way of life and a settled tradition. What changes in it are the people who live it – not its way of life. Thus terms used and discussions about them are to acquire a better understanding and insight into that way of life. In that sense, we do not define terms in our discussions, so much as seek to understand the definition they already have within the tradition.

    Orthodoxy differs from most forms of Christianity (and pretty well all its modern forms) in that it actually lives and understands according to a tradition. It is certainly a different way of pursuing understanding and coming to know something. I would suspect that this is part of the “different take” that your Christian friend referenced in his recommendation of this blog.

    Protestantism (in its various forms) is, to a large extent, a 500 year-old argument. There is a give and take, a frequent shifting of ground, the redefining of terms. Thus it is ever-changing (semper reformanda as the Reform tradition says). This is quite foreign to Orthodoxy. And it also makes our discussions different. To a certain degree, it doesn’t matter what I may think. It is the lived Tradition that is the object of my/our interest rather than my take on anything. In that sense we are all dialoging with the Tradition – and it is my role to simply moderate that dialog.

    That may explain some things that you bump into here – and perhaps serve as a reminder to myself and others what we’re doing.

    Thank all of you for your patience with me.

  28. yannis Avatar

    David Ellis wrote:
    “It would be rather dull if we just stuck to talking with people who basically agree with us.”

    Excuse me but this is entirely what you, personally, are finding (or not finding) rather dull. Your opinions aren’t necessarily others’ – they certainly are not mine, and so keep them for your self and dont phrase them as if they had the validity of universal laws.

    The songs you are singing are rather standard atheist/non-believer repertoir too – there’s isn’t anything that you say that hasn’t been already said before, so this isn’t very exciting either i’m afraid.

    The problem is not your beliefs that stirr controversy as you would like to think, but your ultra defensive via attacking attitude, that comes accross as lacking respect to the people who read the comments section.

    You don’t find your the repetitiveness of your posts dull here, but i do. Others may also. What you personally think of the repetitive nature of your posts does not alter other’s perceptions, neither does it exempt you from being polite and respectful until F. Stephen asks you to leave.

    You think too much of your self, it seems to me.

  29. katia Avatar

    Hi Yannis i posted it with abob in mind

  30. yannis Avatar

    Oh! right sorry then.

    F. Stephen please feel free to delete my previous post if you like. I hadn’t read your last one before started writing it.



  31. Дејан Avatar


    After I wrote my last comment, I went outside home to buy something, and now when I am back home, I see it is deleted. I did not see the comments after.

    Now I am very worried why that happened, because English is not my mother tongue, and what if I said something that was interpreted as offending to anyone? Such things often happen on internet, and I would be very sad if I said something that is offending – I certainly did not have any intention.

    Father, please inform me if my comment was offending to anyone – if so brothers and sisters, please forgive me.

    My intention was to try to explain that animals do not have faculties that humans have, but also perhaps humans do not have faculties that saints developed. But I remember I used words “cats and dogs”, I meant animals, but such words can have another connotation of which I was not aware when I was writing them.

    I am very confused please help me understand what happened. And again I beg for forgiveness if anyone misunderstood me.

  32. fatherstephen Avatar

    Nothing to apologize for, my dear brother – there was no offense. The thread of the conversation was heading off in a direction that I wanted to bring back on track. The problem is that sometimes with deleting a comment (such as one prior to yours) is that it leaves later comments not making complete sense because part of the conversation is missing. So, in those cases, I remove most of the conversation. Perhaps I cut too wide in my surgery…

    Your comments are always very welcome.

    Please forgive me for any disturbance my editing may have caused. God keep us all.

  33. Damaris Avatar

    Dejan —

    I liked your post very much and found your explanation helpful. I won’t speak for Father Stephen, but I imagine your post was taken off because it was part of a longer thread that wasn’t, in its entirety. helpful for this blog. In fact, although I don’t often comment, I have been blessed by many of your gentle and insightful thoughts over the months. Thank you.

  34. Wonders for Oyarsa Avatar

    Father Stephen, I have an off-topic question for you. In the icon of the resurrection, Adam and Eve are being pulled out of their coffins, while the Old Testament saints look on. There are no NT saints, besides John who was also dead. I take this to mean that the scene depicts the descent to hades right before the resurrection? If that is the case, does Orthodoxy teach that the bodily resurrection has already taken place for OT saints? Or is what is being depicted not the bodily resurrection? It sure looks like a bodily resurrection.

  35. David Ellis Avatar
    David Ellis

    I generally hold disagreements to a minimum (I don’t find them useful).

    Fair enough. Your blog, your rules. But I enjoy free and vigorous debate and don’t participate on blogs where its discouraged so I’ll comment no further –something I’m sure at least some here, judging by certain comments, won’t mind in the least. 🙂

    And I don’t mean that as a criticism of your decisions regarding commenting. Different bloggers have different goals in mind for their blogs. And even though I likely won’t be commenting I’m sure I’ll come back again as a reader since I find philosophy of religion so fascinating and your posts interesting in their approach to some of the issues I’m studying.

  36. fatherstephen Avatar

    What is being depicted is the descent into Hades before Christ’s resurrection. But Orthodox liturgical texts speak of this in a timeless fashion. Thus, St. John Chrysostom says in his Paschal homily, “And not one dead is left in the tombs.” This “resurrection” represents the trampling down of death by death rather than the general bodily resurrection, of which there is no icon (to my knowledge). Indeed, I would use this icon for that event (because of its timeless character. The small article by Met. Hilarion Alfevev on Christ’s Descent into Hades might be a good read in this regard.

  37. Дејан Avatar

    Oh! Now I am feeling much better.

    I am reading this blog for a few years now, and it revealed to me so much beauty in Orthodoxy. But earlier this day something happened which I want to share with you. I was listening to St Nektarios’ hymn on your vodpod and I wanted to find serbian version of it, since I did not understand Russian words, and when I found video and when understood words, I felt something so profound, something I did not feel from my childhood years, and I was crying and crying.

    I want to thank David for his comments yesterday, because they somehow made me think over, and somehow prepared me for what happened today. I am offering to David my deepest gratitude, and to all others too.

    Now, I am so inspired to read more about Holy Theotokos in Orthodox tradition.

    This blog reveals so much beauty about Orthodoxy, perhaps because this blog is wonderful communion of kind and nice people and Orthodoxy is about true communion. This blog reveals so much workings of God’s grace.

    When I was small kid, we did not learn in school about religion, and I had no idea about theology, but I was always in awe when I entered into church, and saw the atmosphere there, the beauty of icons and the fragrance of tamian. I felt it is so holy, so different than my day to day experiences.

    Father, thank you for manifesting that unspeakable beauty in this material world through your blog.

  38. fatherstephen Avatar

    Glory to God! And thank you for such kind words. Glory to God that He gives us His grace!

  39. Marsha Avatar

    Anxous Anglican, I was so excited to see a mention of Scott Cairns. I have recently “discovered” him and am thoroughly enjoying the insight he brings to terms such as “nous”. Did you know that he now has a podcast on So far, only one episode.

  40. Дејан Avatar


    Thank you for your kind words. If I remember well, you are a teacher. I remember when I read wonderful book by A.S.Neill about Summerhill School, that he wrote how children suffered great many of different fears because of wrong interpretations of Christianity imposed on them by teachers or parents. I never learned about religion in school, so I felt sad that such things can happen.

    But, I am sure that your pupils are blessed with having you as a teacher as much as I was blessed with your comments over the years, and you have very blessed job. Glory to God!

  41. Karen Avatar

    Dear Father, bless! Dejan, you are indeed a joy to read. David, thank you for the challenges. They are helpful in their own way and while I don’t place the kind of stock in rational argument as an organizing philosophy that you do, that is not to say I believe it has no value or does not find its place in a limited way within matters of what the Orthodox deem “the heart.” I think it is good and needful to wrestle with and test our values and beliefs. We do not all judge according to identical values, and every single one of us is incomplete and impoverished without the others. Fr. Stephen is right to moderate the blog as he deems best, but I don’t regret your visit here, and I’m glad you still find value in reading. Perhaps developing a relationship with an Orthodox Christian or Priest in your vicinity will be a more productive outlet for flexing the intellectual muscle in the way you find beneficial.

  42. David Ellis Avatar
    David Ellis

    I want to thank David for his comments yesterday, because they somehow made me think over, and somehow prepared me for what happened today. I am offering to David my deepest gratitude, and to all others too.

    Дејан, I’m glad if my part in the discussion over the past couple of days has, in whatever way, been of benefit to you.

    I don’t debate religion or philosophy to change people’s minds (that would be futile–it hardly ever happens). But I find the exchange helps me to clarify my thinking and, occasionally, helps me see things in new ways—and its always my hope that such a dialogue, cantankerous as it can sometimes get, will help others to do the same. Even though they often have come to very different conclusions from those I’ve reached.

    And now I’ll go back to silently reading.

  43. Damaris Avatar


    I am working with several wonderful people to start an Orthodox school in a city where there is none. It’s a great thing for students to study in a school that glorifies God, but it’s also great for the teachers. I expect you had teachers who were frustrated by their inability to speak about God to you, but perhaps one of them prayed for his students and in doing so contributed to your faith today. We are all connected, and like you I find this blog and the people on it a blessing and encouragement.

    May God be with you.

  44. Barbara Avatar


    I am also an educator and have spent most of my career within Protestant Christian Education, both K-12 and post secondary. I am just completing some research that is about choices Christian teachers make to explicitly reveal (through words) their Christianity in a public setting. One of the things I have learned through this research, my journey into orthodoxy, and my own experiences as a teacher (even within a Christian setting) is that talking about God is dangerous. Dangerous to the faith, dangerous to the faith those who are doing the talking and dangerous to those who have the talking imposed on them. I believe that these dangers are present within Christian education as well. Sometimes our freedom to talk, makes us so certain that it is impossible for the words we speak to change us or to point to an ineffable reality beyond words. Sometimes it turns us into atheists because we come to believe that God relies on our words or that our words are real. We forget that the heart is central as Fr. Stephen reminds us. These may only be protestant downfalls, though, because words are so divorced from the sacraments and liturgy. I have often wondered how an Orthodox Christian school would be different from a Protestant Christian school and I’m sure that yours will be significantly different! May God bless all of you and your future students.

  45. Дејан Avatar


    It is not that my teachers were frustrated but simply at the times of socialism religion was not taught in schools. Thank God, they organized excursions to see monasteries in Serbia (as cultural heritage from the past I suppose) So, since I did not talk to any priest about religion, I had to discover things on my own. I remember I was reading Old Testament first, and I was wondering why there is nothing about Jesus, when I thought that the Bible is about Jesus. The book which made big impression on my heart is “Quo Vadis” by Henryk Sienkiewicz, who got Nobel Prize for literature for that novel in 1905. People often see that movie, and not read the book – but book is at least million times better. I consider it is a blessing that I read that novel first, before I read NT. It helped me so much.

    The project of founding Orthodox school sounds so exciting. May God bless you in your endeavours.


    Few years ago I used to read about objectivistic epistemology in order to figure out which system is better and why – communism or capitalism. And I liked it a lot, and I find in your way of thinking something similar, and I guess it reminded me of times when I read “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal”. Of course, I am sure you have read much more about different kinds of philosophy than I, and that perhaps there are other influences too. Now, objectivistic philosophers reject the ethical doctrine of altruism. And I feel that natural human disposition is to be altruist – now let us take objectivistic approach as a critical view of that natural disposition, as an antithesis. But altruism that Christianity offers is a synthesis, it transcends in my humble opinion the critique of objectivists, but their critique was useful to read in my case, to distinguish things. So let us all be patient with our search, because it can be a dialectical process.

    You said that you enjoy reading SF. As a kid I delighted so much in reading novel Contact by Carl Sagan. Again that book is much, much better than movie. It is true SF, not an epic fiction, because it is based on systems of physics equations. I have deep respect for people who do not believe in God, like Carl Sagan, but in their areas they reveal beauty of science, materialism, tolerance – I like Buddhist ethics: Compassion towards every living being.

    May we all find inspiration in whatever we do, to be better human beings tomorrow, than we were yesterday. Greatness is transitory thing, goodness has an inherent value.

  46. MichaelPatrick Avatar

    Barbara, your reflection on the danger of words was convicting and inspiring to me, also an ex-Protestant.

    Some years ago, motivated by parents who became visibly frustrated and angry in public places by young children ignoring them, my wife and I decided to ask our very young children to do what we wanted one time only, and then tell them. After that we would get up and lovingly assist them, when possible, to do what was asked. This usually meant embracing them gently from behind and helping them pickup toys at bedtime, physically putting on a coat, or even carrying them to the car if they refused to walk.

    They quickly learned that our words were not idle – that action followed asking and telling. When they saw us moving toward them they knew time was up, and to our delight they started preferring to do things on their own even though our physical coaxing was most often loving or playful. Eventually we rarely had to move because they knew we wouldn’t ask or tell twice. Interestingly, this also helped make us more circumspect about what we asked of them, if only because our own skin was in the game.

  47. David Ellis Avatar
    David Ellis

    Few years ago I used to read about objectivistic epistemology in order to figure out which system is better and why – communism or capitalism. And I liked it a lot, and I find in your way of thinking something similar, and I guess it reminded me of times when I read “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal”. Of course, I am sure you have read much more about different kinds of philosophy than I, and that perhaps there are other influences too.

    Just to be clear, Ayn Rand’s objectivism is not among the philosophies that influenced me. Her philosophy has a few features shared by mine (I’m probably best described as a humanist), especially in that both reject faith, feeling and mysticism as sources of knowledge about reality. In most other respects, though, her philosophy is extremely different from mine. Her anti-altruistic ethical system, in particular, I hold in utter contempt.

    You said that you enjoy reading SF. As a kid I delighted so much in reading novel Contact by Carl Sagan.

    A favorite of mine. I’ve read it many times.

    Again that book is much, much better than movie.

    No argument there.

    I have deep respect for people who do not believe in God, like Carl Sagan, but in their areas they reveal beauty of science, materialism, tolerance – I like Buddhist ethics: Compassion towards every living being.

    In my post-Christian, pre-humanist days I was strongly interested in Buddhism and still find much in it that’s attractive (something I can say about many religions—including Christianity). And I love Buddhist sculpture.

    May we all find inspiration in whatever we do, to be better human beings tomorrow, than we were yesterday. Greatness is transitory thing, goodness has an inherent value.

    Again, no argument there.

  48. Damaris Avatar

    Dejan — I love Quo Vadis. I’ve read it several times. The Screwtape Letters was the book that convinced me to become a Christian.

    Barbara — Your insights are interesting. Yes, I’ve also been disillusioned by both public and Christian education. I feel better about a combination of Orthodox worldview and classical methods and curriculum, with St. Basil the Great as an example. But it will only be as good as the people involved. As Father Stephen says, the heart is everything. Curriculum, uniform, and church sponsorship are secondary. God have mercy on us sinners and keep us from doing anything to harm His children. It’s a frightening responsibility, one that we can’t fulfill on our own by any means.

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