Saving Knowledge


I have often used the example of riding a bicycle as an image of knowing God. There’s no difficulty learning how to ride if you don’t mind falling off for a while. But no matter how many years you have ridden, you cannot describe for someone else how you know what you know. But you know it. I also suspect that if you thought too much about riding a bicycle while you were riding it, you could mess up and wreck.

This, for me, is an example of knowing while not knowing. It’s very common. This form of knowledge is sometimes called “kinesthetic memory.” You know something, but not through discursive reasoning or self-conscious experience. I believe that the knowledge of God, our communion with Him, belongs to something similar. The Fathers describe the knowledge of God as “noetic” knowledge – something that works through the nous, rather than through discursive reasoning or the other experiences that make up our conscious psychology. If you ask, “What is the nous?” The fathers would say, “It’s that faculty by which you know God.”

But first, it is worth noting what it is not. The nous is not discursive reasoning. No amount of thinking will ever yield knowledge of God. That is a straightforward conclusion of the claim that the knowledge of God is “noetic.” Second, the knowledge of God is not a psychological experience, per se. I have stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon and felt that terrible vertigo in the bottom of my feet, and the overwhelming sense of its vast and dangerous depth. The knowledge of God is not like that, though it can indeed carry an element of overwhelming otherness. It is not the weepy excitement often associated with forms of ecstatic worship (Pentecostalism). I’ve been there. Done that. It’s not the same thing at all. It is not a “feeling,” nor even an intuition.

Fr. Thomas Hopko famously said, “You cannot know God – but you have to know Him to know that.” He clearly knew what he was talking about.

Knowledge As Communion

The Scriptures speak of knowledge as communion, a true participation in that which is known. The Scriptures are also familiar with discursive reasoning, the sort of factual knowledge that is quite common. St. Paul occasionally uses an intensified word for knowledge, epignosis.” Simple gnosis (the straightforward word for knowledge) would have been sufficient, but he instead employs this intensification. The knowledge that comes through communion is not a fact to be considered, rather, it is a knowledge that in the very act of knowing becomes part of you. The knower and the known share some manner of common existence.

To use again the example of riding a bicycle, we cannot describe the knowledge that we have, because the knowledge itself is not something in addition to us. We ourselves become the knowledge of riding. We become riders in that act of knowing, and no one can know unless they themselves become a rider.

The healing that is inherent in Christian salvation is not just found in what (Who) is known, but in the manner of knowing as well. The abstraction that we call “thinking,” etc., in the contemporary world is a diminishment of what it means to be human. We have learned to focus on a very narrow stream of information, and, in turn, have come to be possessed by the information on which we focus.

Communion is not a refined art to be mastered. It is always present and a factor in everything in our lives, though our culture largely ignores it. To use a sadly common example, anyone who has experienced exposure to pornography must admit that the images do not disappear when the computer is turned off. Studies have shown that such exposure (particularly among the young) makes profound changes in awareness itself. It becomes part of us. This reality is anticipated by St. Paul:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two shall become one flesh.” (1Co 6:15-16)

Knowledge is not entirely a choice, nor is seeing something to be turned off and on at will. Communion unites us to that which we see. It becomes part of us and we inescapably bear it within us. Sin is like a cosmic PTSD, an abiding and indwelling echo of that to which we have joined ourselves. St. Paul cries out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:24)

The Darkened Heart

St. Paul also uses the term “heart” in describing the state of the nous (something that remains common in the Fathers):

…having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; (Eph 4:18)


…because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Rom 1:21)

This “darkening” describes the effects of a communion with the dark things of the world. The passions (gluttony, lust, love of money, anger, dejection, despondency, vainglory, pride), and the distorted vision of creation that they produce, gain their power when we enter into communion with them. Our thoughts can never be “objective” in such a situation. Rather, we see the world through filters – those of various passions that have now become united to us.

The Path of Salvation

Within the writings of the Fathers, the life of salvation is described in three stages: purification, illumination and deification. These steps are not entirely sequential. Some measure of each of them is present in the whole of the Christian life (rightly lived). But their sequence abides: there is no deification without prior purification and illumination. Given the nature of our life in the world, it is almost always the case that purification forms the greater part of our struggle.

This process is referenced by St. Paul:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your nous, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Rom 12:2)

Note that St. Paul does not ground this renewal in some form of moral effort in which the will merely tries harder. The problem is within the nous, the heart. And it is that primary cognition of our human existence that must be transformed. It’s for this reason that I said earlier that the healing that is inherent in Christian salvation is not just found in what (Who) is known, but in the manner of knowing as well. It is the cleansing and renewing of the nous (heart) that is paramount in the life of salvation.

I will return to the image of learning to ride a bicycle. There is a two-fold element in that process, analogous to purification and illumination. Falling off and getting back on are the essential elements of purification. Fear and any number of passions could prevent this process from taking place. Falling off is not failure. Not getting back on would be failure. Our moral failures are almost beside the point. Repentance, the refusal to abandon the life of grace in Christ, is the one thing necessary. Illumination comes in time and with it comes a greater awareness and understanding of our failings.

It is vital that we make a beginning in this journey of inner renewal. We do not ignore what can be known through discursive reasoning, but we do not mistake it for saving knowledge. We recognize the reality of sentimentality in our lives but we do not raise it to the level of authentic spiritual experience. With prayer, repentance, and helpful guidance (there is no Christianity without some form of discipleship) we come to hear and know the Shepherd’s voice. We will fall down a lot. What matters is getting back up.


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.


51 responses to “Saving Knowledge”

  1. Gregory Manning Avatar
    Gregory Manning

    More pieces of the puzzle!! Many Years, Father.

  2. Helen Avatar

    Thank you Father! I have such joy in bike riding and so this analogy is wonderful.

    I’ve found that when you are scared on a bike, the mistake is to look down at the ground, to try gain control. You usually go where you’re looking.

  3. Nicholas Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Nicholas Stephen Griswold

    Thank you Father. I am involved currently in a discussion with someone who posted on FB an article discussing Anselm’s Ontological Argument (which I find flawed as a result of his assumptions. I currently trying to explain why knowledge about God is useless information and non transformative. As I struggle to make it clear why knowing God is so much more important, you answered my unspoken plea for help and produce this. I will share this with him to see if he can grasp what we are saying.

  4. Tikhon Avatar

    This is the first time I have gained any real sense of what the *nous* is. Everything else I’ve read has left me utterly confused. Thank you!

  5. Paula Pepe Avatar
    Paula Pepe

    Tikon, I second that! It was literally “all Greek” to me. Seems lots of us have that “knowing”, but didn’t know it defined as nous.
    Thank you Father Stephen for this article.
    Helen, your comment, “you usually go where you are looking”…is that not the truth!!
    Another thing you brought out that has been high on my list of questions is that we all need some form of discipleship. Now that would be nice, to say the least. But where??? Who??? What do you do when you live in a rural area and church is in the “big” city, an hour away. I’m having trouble seeing past these obstacles. Nevertheless, I’m hanging on to the “some form of”….

  6. Allen F Long Avatar
    Allen F Long

    As with others, Father Stephen, this is the first time I have an understanding of nous. The bike riding analogy is also very helpful.

    Thank you!

  7. Byron Avatar

    Of late, I’ve felt that a change is needed in my physical life and movements. I’m not certain how to make that change as I don’t know what it should look like. I only know that, in order to move spiritually, a physical change is necessary. Frankly, I am a little perplexed by this. How best, I wonder, to make a change given that I am not sure what form it should take? I appreciate any feedback….

  8. Kristin D Avatar
    Kristin D

    Paula, I am curious about ‘some form of discipleship’ as well. I am concerned that I will wind up simply believing what someone else says is true, or the best way to live, instead of hearing God.

    I’ve heard spiritual direction can be another person helping you see and hear God in your life. What I’ve been around most for a long time is mentoring, where others tell you how to think and how to live. Those are quite different.

    Father, where do you see discipleship? Or, what would you say it is?

    Thank you.

  9. city hermit Avatar

    Thank you so much dear father. may the Lord richly bless you! Indeed, ‘nous’ is a bewildering concept for most of us. A friend of mine recently sent me some homilies by a Greek priest, protopresbyter Konstantinos Strategopoulos, Attica, Greece, on the Tradition of the Holy Fathers, and specifically on Father John Romanidis’ theology on the mystery of “nous” and the three stages of purification, illumination and deification you outlined. I briefly quote:

    “The chief concern of the Orthodox Church is the healing of the human soul. The Church has always considered the soul as the part of the human being that needs healing because She has seen from Hebrew tradition, from Christ Himself, and from the Apostles that in the region of the physical heart there functions something that the Fathers called the nous. In other words, the Fathers took the traditional term nous, which means both intellect (dianoia) and speech or reason (logos), and gave it a different meaning. They used nous to refer to this noetic energy that functions in the heart of every spiritually healthy person.”


    “So from this perspective, noetic activity is an activity essential to the soul. It functions in the brain as the reason; it simultaneously functions in the heart as the nous. In other words, the same organ, the nous, prays ceaselessly in the heart and simultaneously thinks about mathematical problems, for example, or anything else in the brain.”

    For more, go to

  10. city hermit Avatar

    This too might be of help:

    Therapeutic Treatment of the Human Nous(*)
    (The Human Nous – Its anatomy, Nosology and Therapeutic Treatment)
    English Transcript of the speech

  11. Paula Pepe Avatar
    Paula Pepe

    To keep it simple, you may ask yourself what activity do you enjoy that involves body movement…simple, as a quiet walk, yard work, starting or finishing a project…any thing that is satisfying to you. Back when I was in therapy, one of the first things the psychologist told me was to get out and do something physical. He suggested starting with a 10 minute walk. That, my friend, was good advice for me. So I hope that helps, Byron.

  12. Michelle Avatar

    Falling off and getting back on a bike eventually leads to improvements, and ultimately apt ability. I’m aware I may die tomorrow, possibly in a terrible car accident or house fire. If that should happen I will be nowhere near able to aptly ride the “bike” of communion with God. What practical advice can you give me, so that I may recall it if I should unfortunately and unexpectedly end up on my death bed tomorrow?

  13. Justin Avatar

    I once heard an Orthodox priest tell of observing Chaplain training involving members of several religions – the question was posed to all as to what each respective religion advised an adherent to do in the event they discovered they were to die that day. The other leaders all gave their advice, but the Orthodox Priest remained silent. Finally he was directly asked, and gave an answer along the following lines: “An Orthodox Christian’s entire life is constant readiness and expectation of death. There is nothing ‘different’ or ‘special’ that Orthodox Christians do.”

  14. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Look at Fr. Hopko’s 55 maxims.

  15. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    City hermit,
    I must confess that I’m not a fan of Romanides and his current disciples. There’s good stuff there, but it becomes too formulaic and reductionist for my taste. In some cases, it becomes so formulaic that it becomes its own “system.” It is also, at times, rather novel.

  16. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Make a good confession and a good communion. Forgive everyone of everything. Pray and ask God to grant you the “beginning” of repentance. He’s good and loves us. Don’t neglect to send for a priest!

  17. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Not everyone at all has a good spiritual director conveniently available. Read the Scriptures, read healthy books, and try as much as possible to walk down the middle of the spiritual path (avoiding extremes). Something that I do is to “submit” my reading to someone, as in taking it very seriously and making a truly good study. I quote the Elder Sophrony and Fr. Zacharias a lot because I have made their work something of a “master work.”

    But, as I noted to Byron earlier, if you don’t have such a person, pay close attention to Fr. Hopko’s 55 maxims (very available out there). They represent the Royal Path.

  18. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    One thing that I have been learning in recent times is very simple. So simple that it seems strange that I haven’t employed it more often.

    If I need an answer to a question or I need a spiritual director, I ask God. The second step is learning to trust Him even when it doesn’t appear that an answer will be or could be forthcoming.

    This was particularly true in my quest for a spiritual director. One thing I have realized is that God can make use of anyone He wishes in order to help me grow spiritually.

    Now, of course, this doesn’t mean that I am going to make myself obedient to a heretic. But it may involve accepting the direction of someone who is genuinely trying to serve God but has some notable problems, limitations or flaws. I must remember that God is not stopped by these things.

    My spiritual director may say a number of things that I don’t find particularly helpful or perhaps things that I am already aware of. That’s OK. If I can develop the humility to listen anyway, there may be a message hidden there for me. Sometimes just a word or a phrase may make a huge difference to me, even if unknown to the one who leads me.

    Sometimes I have had questions and I did not think I would encounter anyone who could answer them. And then I turned a couple of pages in the book I was reading and it was answered.

    I am reminded how St. Paisios of Mt. Athos took an abandoned 12 year old boy and made him his elder! And he obeyed him. I’m not suggesting that we follow suit but learn from what he did.

    If we focus on the basics of what we need to learn (repentance, humility, obedience, etc.), God will help us find ways to learn them, including people to help us learn them. If we don’t know what we need to learn, God will find ways to show us – if we ask Him with sincerity of heart.

  19. Kristin D Avatar
    Kristin D

    Father Stephen and Mary, I am greatly encouraged by your responses. I recently left the church we attended a feel a bit adrift. This ‘alone time’ has made me realize I’ve been listening to people, not God; looking for advice on how to live rightly without embracing the One for Whom I live. Hence my concern.

    I am encouraged by the reminder to ask God to direct me, to read the Scriptures, to listen to just a couple folks who are faithful to basic Christianity. This all seems so apparent yet elusive at the same time.

    Thank you!

  20. city hermit Avatar

    Dearest Father, thank you for your feedback. What you wrote about Romanides is very interesting, because he is citing the Church Fathers throughout, but I know nothing really 🙂
    Dear @Kristin, @Paula, @Mary, I have always felt that a spiritual father is something deeper than just offering opinions, facts, ‘guidance’. It felt like a Mystery, a Sacrament of its own, whereby God through your spiritual father is healing, transforming, restoring, moulding you into the unique person Christ made you to be. Look at this by Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh about the Mystery of the Burning Bush:

  21. Victoria Avatar

    Mary Benton

    I have had a consistent and similar experience with books and questions.

    Sometimes I find myself simply and absolutely compelled to buy and read a certain book and what do you know. There has been a passage in the book that not only alluded to my question but answered it – and quite specifically.

    (And sometimes a question has been answered in a blog post 🤗).

    It a graciousness of God. If a question is worth an answer He will provide it – in His time. It been a blessing and a major encouragement to me. Though it has happened often – I am always surprised when it does again.

  22. Kristin D Avatar
    Kristin D

    Thank you, city hermit. The linked article is quite helpful!

    I had never heard of Fr Hopko before and will print out his maxims-I’ve been toying with finding this sort of list for a few days.

    This morning in my scheduled prayer reading I read Ps. 143:8-Cause me to hear thy loving kindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk for I lift up my soul unto thee.

    I add this because it speaks directly to our conversation yesterday about spiritual direction. God has woven together my thoughts, this blog and comments, and my reading in such a way as to deeply encourage me and show me something of Himself, of how He does indeed work all things together!

    I love this blog community. You are all so kind.

    Praise be to God!

  23. John Avatar


    I’m not sure I’ve read something so important of late. And accessible. In a discussion with a new ager friend I was at a loss to truly describe why we must pray. This is the answer. It is in the communion that my nous is offered oxygen and an invitation to health. Communion. Your words here help me remember what I am doing on this planet, in this body, at this desk. Whew… it really isn’t so hard to understand in the end. God is good. We are weak. Let us move toward the strength, sit near the power, lean against the Big Trunk of Truth. It is so beautiful this blog… this Truth. Thank you priest!

  24. Helen Avatar

    Kristin D,

    Thank you for the psalm – what a blessing. I wrote it where I can see it every day.

    Yes, what a blessing this blog and community is.

  25. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Citing the Fathers is common. But it’s how the Fathers are used, as in, which citations. What is not cited, etc. Romanides is interesting, but is generally considered problematic in places by most Orthodox scholars. It’s never as simple as we think.

  26. Agata Avatar

    Kristin D,

    Since you mentioned that you did not know Fr. Tom Hopko before, and also that you have left the church you attended recently, I would like to share with you this series of Fr. Tom’s lectures.

    It’s one of his later ones, and one of my favorite of all times (even thought Fr. Tom’s treasury of recordings is so vast [check Ancient Faith Radio], it will take you a lifetime to listen to everything!). It is in this lecture, I think, where he says that “Church is about God”…. This was his main message towards the end of his life, and one that we should really hear, for our own salvation’s sake….

  27. Paula Pepe Avatar
    Paula Pepe

    City Hermit,
    Thank you for the links to the articles.
    I like reading Met. Bloom. He says a lot of spot on things about our spiritual journey.
    Pardon my pessimism though, but I’d have a better chance of winning the lottery than finding a spiritual father like the one he described.
    I need help….that’s all I know. A spiritual father, or whatever you want to call it, seems ideal. But as the song says, you can’t always get what you want…but if you try sometimes, you get what you need…! Heh.

  28. city hermit Avatar

    Paula Pepe, God knows all these and he knows the depths of your heart and He will provide what you need. When I first converted to Christ, my ‘new’ Orthodox Christian ‘family’ introduced me to my first spiritual father, a clairvoyant Elder. Unfortunately I did not realise then what a gift God had offered me and I found it very hard to obey to him, so many years were wasted. When his health deteriorated and he became a hermit, and getting in touch with him became increasingly difficult, then I realised what a treasure I had ‘lost’! My spiritual father and I had to pray for more than 10 years to find another spiritual father. Not just a priest to hear my Confession, but a true spiritual father. These were very difficult years. But, after 10+ years, when I had nearly given up all hope that I would ever find one, then the merciful Lord provided one again. Wait patiently, seek and pray, dear Paula. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” The Lord is merciful. He will provide.

  29. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    I think it is a great gift to have a true spiritual father.

    I may be wrong but to seek a spiritual father can easily be a distraction, or worse

    I have personally seen people who thought they had one be twisted up with all sorts of nonsense.

    Especially here in the New World they are few and far between.

    When new to the Church I went to my priest, a good and faithful man and asked him about developing that relationship. He flat out told me he was not qualified.

    So, we have developed an intimate, trusting relationship over the years. I reveal much of myself and my struggles and my sins. He councils and offers the sacrament of confession. He treats me with great care and respect.

    I listen, mostly I try to follow.

    Looking for a spiritual father in a way that either diminishes or denigrates one’s life in the parish community is a mistake IMO.

    Like I said, my opinion may be an artifact of my own rebellious, contrary nature but I am not going to waste any energy on finding a spiritual father. I would rather have a good and close male friend with whom I can share my life– the good, the bad and the ugly.

    If I offer it all up to God in thanksgiving in humility while learning to have a merciful heart, even that is a lot.

    Or so it seems to me.

  30. Paula Pepe Avatar
    Paula Pepe

    City Hermit and Michael,
    Thank you. Your words are kind and helpful and really gives me a picture of how this plays out in real life. I read over and over how very important it is to have a spiritual father. When I asked some folks at church they say our spiritual father is the parish priest. I say to myself…it can’t be! How can he possibly be a spiritual father to all these people?! I guess that’s what happens when there are only two Orthodox churches in the whole southern part of the state (that’s a large area).
    Yeah, so I will pray and trust God, and stop this dire search…and just hope, and build a relationship with my priest. Michael, you hit a chord with the words rebellious and contrary….boy, I get that. Have a great problem with trust. (ugh, what a mess!)

  31. Byron Avatar

    When new to the Church I went to my priest, a good and faithful man and asked him about developing that relationship. He flat out told me he was not qualified.

    Perhaps the most striking thing that drew me into Orthodoxy is the humility of our priest. When I first saw him bow to the parish before serving the Eucharist and ask forgiveness, I was literally shocked.

    At the end of my latest confession, he said “forgive me” very quietly when all was done. I had a very difficult time verbalizing my sins and needs and he perhaps felt that his words may not have been very helpful. I do not know how to qualify a “spiritual father” but I am forever thankful to God for a wonderful priest to guide and help me (us) on my (our parish) journey.

  32. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Most parish priests that I know are very good men. They are not all theologians, or even gifted with great insight. But they really are priests! And this is something people fail to understand. A priest is anointed by God to make prayers on our behalf. They themselves are a sacrament, a bearer of the Kingdom and a means for encountering God. Many that I know are quite humble, and are deeply aware of their own failings and weakness – and for this, they are better priests.

    We falsely think that we will gain the Kingdom through our strengths, and that a spiritual guide would point us towards our “best selves,” etc. But we actually only gain the Kingdom through our weakness. A good priest is someone who can help us bear our own weakness, and who will support us with kindness.

    Interestingly, we often hold back in the presence of someone who strikes us as great, or wonderful, etc. It’s simply too intimidating. Fr. Leo Aldea, the Romanian monk who is founding the monastery in the Hebrides, Scotland, said that his spiritual father (who is merely a parish priest in Romania) tells him, “When you come to confession, tell me something that you think will make me think less of you.” It’s an exercise in “bearing a little shame.” I recommend Fr. Seraphim’s podcast on confession:

    It’s not so much the wisdom of a priest that we need. It’s our own willingness to humble ourselves before God. Humility “draws down grace.”

    Frankly a priest can do ever so much mischief by trying to “direct” or “fix” people. I find that as the years go by, I have less and less to say to anyone in confession other than “God give you grace.”

  33. Paula Pepe Avatar
    Paula Pepe

    Thank you. I will certainly watch the podcast.
    I guess I had in my mind that a spiritual father is one thing and a priest another. I wasn’t getting how this all worked out.
    You mentioned being intimidated. I am already intimidated just by the fact that he is a priest. Only once after my first visit to church I went to see him…at times I felt he was looking right through me. It’s hard to explain. I just finished reading a book you had recommended in the past called “Letting go of Shame”. How to humble myself before God and bear this shame, with my priest there, just the thought of it brings fear. It’s like opening that closet door that was locked for a very long time. Yet if the way to the Kingdom is through our weakness, then I need to move forward, trembling, and trusting. And willing.
    I’m in the catechumen class now, so it’ll be a while before my first confession. But I do want to go and talk with him again.
    And again, I thank you.

  34. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Your thoughts about confession, etc., are very normal. They point to a healthy heart (no matter what you may think). Shame makes us feel “naked” and vulnerable. Confession wonderfully clothes us and protects us. God give you grace!

  35. Agata Avatar

    Dear Father Stephen,

    Thank you for posting Fr. Seraphim’s podcast on Confession (which I have listened to just now).

    Could I please ask you to expand a little on the advice he gives?

    Especially that final third point of “making oneself a fool”? Is it showing oneself as a “fool” to the confessor? Or to others? I don’t feel like his example of early Saints disregarding the fast in front of others was a very helpful example. Is there a different one you can offer? It was a very interesting podcast, but I am afraid I did not understand it as well as I need to…

  36. Paula Pepe Avatar
    Paula Pepe

    Father, these words bring much hope and are much appreciated. Now I am just beginning to understand the depth of the words of St. Paul “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” From the first time I read that I always wondered.
    Many thanks!

  37. Carol Avatar

    Agata – that was an excellent talk by Fr. Tom Hopko. Thank you for sharing it.

  38. Agata Avatar

    Yes Carol,
    I just listened to the whole lecture again myself too. It’s incredible, how C.S. Lewis (and the other Jewish author) predicted what we are seeing today, how post-modernity accomplished what prison camps could not.
    For me, one of the more shocking statements of Fr. Tom was how the image of a fallen male became the role model of success for everybody, including women…. And the list of pee pees is eye opening….

    But I particularly like (at the very end of the last installment) how Fr. Tom tells us “what to do?” (shto delat?). Just as Elder Sophrony said, as long as we keep the Liturgy until the Lord comes again, we keep the true Faith and we have hope….

  39. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    I have a question: how are shame and fear interrelated?

  40. Alan Avatar


    Thank you very much for your comments from 11/29 @ 7:29. They were most helpful to me. I’ve long wondered about this issue of having a SF, and is that person the parish priest, or is he not the parish priest. I’ve heard conflicting advice on this, thus my confusion. Your comments were most helpful and make sense to me. Given that Father Stephen didn’t disagree with what you said, I’m taking your comments to the bank!

  41. Sophia Avatar

    Bless you and thank you, Father.

  42. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Alan, anything helpful in what I say is God’s work.

  43. city hermit Avatar

    Dearest Father, Your blessing! I have been thinking about your comments on “Saving Knowledge” and spiritual fathers, Elders etc. quite a lot these days, and I want to thank you for your valuable feedback. Oh dear! This is a very active community and I have been trying so hard to follow closely everybody’s comments on this and your next blog post on “The Material God”. So many precious insights! I feel truly blessed for discovering all of you. And of course you are so right in urging caution. I did graduate studies at the States and worked at your universities in the past, but surely I know very little of what it means to be an Orthodox in your country. Yes, such concepts make better sense in a Greek or Russian environment. Now that I have moved to the UK and I am trying to get the “feel” of my new adopted country, I discover that being orthodox at the UK is in many respects very different from being Orthodox at the US. Probably it has a lot to do with their Orthodox Celtic roots. There is so much to learn. Again, a big thank you to you and to all this family.

  44. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    City hermit,
    I love coming to the UK. When I do, I always try to spend time with Archm. Zacharias at the Monastery in Essex. I hold him to be a true and great elder and would indeed envy anyone who saw him regularly. I think things in the US are very different indeed.

  45. city hermit Avatar

    Ah yes, the Monastery of Essex and Archimandrite Zacharias! Such a blessing to this country! Dearest Father, when you plan to come to the UK again, please let us know ahead (if I am not asking too much). I would so love to get your blessing.

  46. Kristin D Avatar
    Kristin D

    Agate, Thank you for posting the Abolition of Man lecture by Father Hopko. I love Lewis’s book, having read it 3 times now, making it easier to follow Fr Hopko’s commentary on it.

    At the end of the lecture he begins to criticize what he sees as a misuse of the Bible, using it as a focal point for the debate between old and young earth, and then goes on to say sola scriptura comes from medievals talking to muslims. I had not heard this last bit before.

    I just left a church based on the reformed tradition and sola scriptura is held very highly. Over the last year I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with it…I think they mean God only speaks to us through scripture, but I think scripture itself says differently.

    Anyone have any helpful thoughts about these things?

    Thank you!

  47. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    You might find this article of mine to be of interest:

  48. Kristin D Avatar
    Kristin D

    Fr Stephen-

    Thank you for the link! I read the article and am making my way through the comments.

    Honestly I don’t know what to do with all this. I only know that over the last year I began to feel that the Bible is being held in such high regard as to be idolatrous; that the goal of ‘correct’ theology has trumped the command to love, which renders the theology fundamentally flawed and incorrect.

    I am trying to figure these things out. This blog is reminding me that God knows all, He is ever near, and I needn’t fear where He guides me. It can be scary nonetheless…

    Gratefully, Kristin

  49. Agata Avatar


    You are in my prayers.

    I had a blessing to receive Fr. Tom’s counsel at the most difficult time of my life. I think Fr. Tom would tell you (as he told me) that you need to pray from your heart and most sincerely for the Lord to guide you… And if you don’t end up in the Orthodox Church, just keep praying… you will eventually 🙂

    Love is growing cold in this world, but Christ still comes to us in every Liturgy… All we need to do is to show up to meet Him…

  50. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Kristen, a crucial attitude to have when approaching matters of the faith: fearlessness.

    Have a daring trust in God whom you seek.

  51. Kristin D Avatar
    Kristin D

    Agate and Michael, thank you. Isn’t it true we are strong in our weakness, not because of anything special about ourselves, but because of Christ and who He is? So I needn’t fear. He is the Good Shepherd who leads His sheep gently.

    Blessings on you today!

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