The End of Time Is Probably Not What You Think

I grew up near the end of the world. It was a generally accepted notion that we were living in the “end times,” meaning that Christ would soon return. We were taught that believers would be “raptured” out of the terrible things that would unfold and be with Christ in heaven. We were also taught that the end of the world would come about in a terrible world-wide conflagration. We hid under desks in our schoolrooms, practicing for a nuclear war (desks are known to protect you from hydrogen bombs). The end of the world was soon, and only a push of the button away.

In my teen years, there was a small publishing boom in evangelical circles as Hal Lindsey launched his Late, Great, Planet Earth , complete with maps of the troop movements for the Battle of Armegeddon. It seemed so real. An end-time cottage industry, particularly strong in America, continues to feed off such false interpretations of Scripture and, more seriously, a complete absence of true Christian eschatology. Virtually nothing in Christian theology is more essential than the End. But the End is not at all what modern popularists think or say.

In the Scriptures, time is not rightly seen as a linear reality. Modern popular Christianity essentially secularizes the world, positing a naturalist view of cause and effect and historical flow. The occasional disruptions that are matters of Divine intervention do not change the nature of this secularized view. In conversations with non-believers, such modern views of Scripture present no challenge or suggestion that the world is other than a modern person imagines, with the sole exception of a God who exists somewhere and has rules.

This naturalist/secularized view of time and creation has no place for sacraments. Actions such as Baptism and Eucharist are minimized and marginalized. A Baptism that does something, or a Eucharist in which bread and wine actually change, disturbs the fixed order of the secularized world. Sacraments become needless complications that make the evangelical project more difficult. It is far easier to say to converts, “We simply do this because Jesus told us to,” or “We only do this in order to remember Him,” than to suggest that an entire worldview is false. If the world is sacrament and symbol (in the strong sense), then the secular/naturalist view of things is profoundly wrong and the task of Christian evangelism includes the radical re-education of the world.

The place of the End in classical Christianity can only be understood from a fully sacramental viewpoint. The End is not a conclusion of the historical process, a product of things that have come before. It is not what history has been adding up to. As such, the “End” is not a description of a point in time. Its full revelation at some point is almost its least important aspect.

So. What is the End? In Christian terms, the End is Christ Himself. We can also say that the End is another word for the manifestation of the Kingdom of God. Christ Himself is described in the Revelation as the “Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.” This is an eternal description, not an appellation for certain points in time. Christ describes the End as “the Kingdom of God coming in power” (Mark 9:1). As Christ goes about His ministry, proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom, the End is present in His every word and action.

The clearest proclamation of this reality is recorded in Luke’s gospel:

So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Lk. 4:16-21)

The passage from Isaiah is a prophecy of a cosmic Jubilee Year, the coming of the Kingdom of God. In OT Law, after seven cycles of Sabbath Years, the fiftieth year comes as the crown. All debts are canceled, all land reverts to its original owner. It is a liberation that is a shadow of a greater liberation to come. It is that greater liberation, the actual coming of the Kingdom of God, that Christ references in His statement that “this Scripture is fulfilled.”

What we see in the course of Christ’s ministry is summed up in his message to John the Baptist:

Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

All that Christ does happens because He Himself is the content of the sacrament of the Kingdom. Wherever He goes, the End is fulfilled.

This is the very same reality that the Church proclaims in its sacramental and mystical life. The Divine Liturgy is not an act of remembrance, but the coming of the Kingdom of God into our midst. There we eat the true supper at the End of all things. (St. John Chrysostom’s liturgy actually refers to the Second Coming in the past tense!)

This is at the very heart and nature of the gospel. We do not proclaim something that will happen. We proclaim something that has happened and that is now among us. When the Church lives rightly, according to Christ’s commandments, it lives in the eschaton, the End of all things. It is in that light that we forgive our enemies, give to those who ask of us, and return good for evil done to us. We can do this because we have been Baptized into the End of all things. We are already dead, “and our life is hid with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:3)

The great and abiding temptation for Christianity is to temporize the gospel. When the world sinks into the mundane, the normal, and the ordinary, the gospel becomes a banality, a religious teaching that does little more than moralize or threaten. The wonder that is the Kingdom of God breaking forth in the midst of things is dismissed and exchanged for that which will be, sometime later in the chronos. The subtle message is, “Not now, not here.”

But the Kingdom of God is here and now. If we do not stand at the End of all things now, we never will. St. John the Baptist asked, “Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another.” Jesus says, “Tell John what you have seen and heard.”

There are three words worth noting regarding the End: parousia, epiphany, apocalypse. The first literally means “presence,” and is the word most commonly translated as “coming” when speaking of the Second Coming of Christ. It is a technical term in Roman usage, referring to the state visit of a dignitary, such as the Emperor. As such, it is fittingly translated as “advent,” or some such rendering. Epiphany (epiphaneia) is used to describe the manifestation or showing forth (2Thess. 2:8). Apokalypse (apokalypsis) refers to something being revealed that was otherwise hidden.

A theme, particularly carried in epiphany and apocalypse, is that what is being shown forth and revealed is already present. The Kingdom of God is among us as a mystery, but the mystery is “at work.” The mysteries of the Church (such as the sacraments) are manifestations – epiphanies and apocalypse – of the reality of the Kingdom. They are of a piece with the work of Christ Himself.

Just as the truth of creation is revealed in the work of Christ (disease and death are undone, wind and seas obey Him, etc.), so the fullness of that truth will be revealed in His Parousia. This includes the mystery of time itself. Time, like matter itself, is relative to the Kingdom of God. Its truth lies beneath it, hidden, waiting to be made manifest. As such, the Scripture speaks of the “fullness of time,” etc. In the Church’s liturgical life, time is often transformed through the revelation of its reality. Thus, the feast of Pascha is not a date on a linear calendar in which we remember something in the past. Rather, it is the event itself, made present within time. This time is now that time. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.

The contemporary ignorance of Christian theology has made the Christian life subject to the tyranny of secular life and time. The Kingdom of God is partitioned from the world of the “ordinary” and “normal,” and turned into just one more thing in the future that has to wait its turn. However, this is utterly false and a denial of the work of Christ. In Christ, the Kingdom of God has shattered both time and matter. The bondage and debt of the created order are being overturned. What is hidden is being revealed. That which will be is present even now. Blessed are all who have loved His appearing.

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.



Posted

in

, , , ,

by

Comments

203 responses to “The End of Time Is Probably Not What You Think”

  1. Nicholas Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Nicholas Stephen Griswold

    Amen, Amen, Amen

  2. Ron Dolynchuk Avatar
    Ron Dolynchuk

    Thank you.

  3. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    Wonderful words, Father! Many thanks!

  4. Nadine Avatar
    Nadine

    Profound teaching to begin the Dormition Fast. Glory to God!

  5. Dean Avatar
    Dean

    Thank you Fr. Stephen,
    Yes, the Weekly Reader and hiding under desks for atom bomb drills…and being scared stiff at church by the fiery retribution sermons, did not make for a very tranquil childhood!
    Fortunately, I stopped believing in the rapture in my early 20’s. I just did not see it in Scripture. And yes, the mysteries (sacraments) make Christ present in ways I never knew as an evangelical. “Blessed is the kingdom…” at the commencement of the liturgy ushers us into it, in an “already, not quite yet” sense. We are united now to Christ in baptism. We partake of the marriage supper of the Lamb now in the Eucharist. We are surrounded by the “great cloud of witnesses” now as the icons make present the saints in a real way. Because the Kingdom of God is also present within us, we are also able to enter into prayer of the heart, communing with Christ in the quiet of our souls. The Jesus prayer invites us to ceaseless prayer, of which St. Paul writes, making His presence real to us throughout the day. So, yes, thank you Fr. Stephen for this reminder of the riches of the Kingdom now available to us in Orthodoxy, not having to wait for an end in “chronos.” At my age the 2nd coming of Christ will no doubt be fairly soon, this time not living in the anxiety I had as a child. I pray daily for a Christian ending of my life, in peace, without pain or shame, at the “dread” archaic…”awe-inspiring”, 2nd coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

  6. Aidan Avatar
    Aidan

    Thank you Father. For the more dense of us, could you briefly expound on how this leads to an Orthodox understanding of the second coming that is distinct from the stream of popular christian thinking described above? I dimly comprehend the reality of the “mystery at work”, but are we to surmise that the second coming is also ultimately veiled for us as humans experiencing kronos? Forgive me if I failed to “catch your drift” 😉

  7. Aidan Avatar
    Aidan

    Thank you Father. For the more dense of us, could you briefly expound on how this leads to an Orthodox understanding of the second coming that is distinct from the stream of popular christian thinking described above? I dimly comprehend the reality of the “mystery at work”, but are we to surmise that the second coming is also ultimately veiled for us as humans who most frequently experience kronos while periodically encountering kairos? Forgive me if I failed to “catch your drift” 😉

  8. Christina Chase Avatar

    Father Stephen,
    This is wondrously profound, thank you for giving us much to reflect upon. I am hoping that you can expand on a particular phrase, or point me to another post in which it is discussed further: “The bondage and debt of the created order are being overturned.”
    Thank you!
    Pax Christi

  9. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Aidan,
    Popular Christian thought makes no particular distinction between the Kingdom of God and the present time, with the exception that the Kingdom is mightier and nicer. Some literalist accounts speak of a thousand year reign of Christ on the earth (Millennialism) which was opposed by a number of the Fathers, though admittedly not at all unknown in the early Church. The failure to recognize the distinction, however, particularly in a world dominated by a secularist (naturalist) account of reality, is a distortion of the Kingdom itself.

    The Second Coming represents the veil being removed – utterly. But, that being the case, what is veiled is also already present.

  10. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Christina, the article, Good News Your Debt Has Been Cancelled might be a useful read.

    When you think “debt,” think of everything that holds us in bondage and stands between us and God.

  11. Agata Avatar
    Agata

    Father,
    What a wonderful article! Thank you!
    I love so many parts of it.
    “The contemporary ignorance of Christian theology has made the Christian life subject to the tyranny of secular life and time. ”
    Your teaching has helped me so much to let go of things I thought I should care about (everybody else seemed to think we should care about), but, really, we don’t. Fr. Zacharias says the same thing by pointing out that we “should not be fascinated by the models and systems of this world”, “that life in God is incompatible with life in this world”…. I find all that very freeing.

    Thank you also for mentioning the seven cycles of Sabbath Year. I remembered from your past posts that this 50th year was special. I turned 50 this year and this 50th year feels special, a liberation (on many levels in my personal life) 🙂

    Could you please say when in the Liturgy St. John refers to Second Coming in past tense? I would like to pay more attention to it.

    Finally, I would like to share this sermon of Fr. Meletios, on the exactly this topic. It’s one of my favorite sermons of his.
    http://www.ancientfaith.com/specials/oca15aac/vespers_sermon

  12. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Agata,
    I occurs just after the words, “Take eat….drink this..” It goes: Priest:Do this in remembrance of Me! Remembering this saving commandment and all those things which have come to pass for us: the Cross, the Tomb, the Resurrection on the third day, the Ascension into heaven, the Sitting at the right hand, and the Second and glorious Coming. Your own, of Your own, we offer to You, on behalf of all and for all.

    I should add that some priests say this quietly so that you only hear the “Your own of your own” (“Thine own of Thine own…”)

  13. Kathryn Avatar
    Kathryn

    This post reminds me of a book I read in college awhile back called The Sacred and The Profane by Mircea Eliade. Have you read this book, Father?

  14. Agata Avatar
    Agata

    Thank you Father, now I remember and recognize it.
    I know I have heard some lectures where this was pointed out, the past tense of the Second Coming (maybe you mentioned it in the talks I heard).
    I also heard somewhere (probably Fr. Zacharias again) that the outer “conditions” of the Lord’s Second Coming were present during His Crucifixion, and only the Mother of God and St. John were strong enough and had Love enough to be present fully. May God grant us be ready and worthy of rightful participation.

  15. Jordan Avatar

    With respect, this explanation of the end times is tiring and depressing. It almost seems gnostic, with no mention of the Second Coming as having any kind of *material* reality. Everything is always “spiritualized” and invisible. It’s just odd to me that Orthodox emphasize the importance of matter and the material body so much yet when it comes to things like salvation, the kingdom of God, the Second Coming, etc. it’s always airy-fairy, handwavey, and spiritualized. Why can’t Orthodox theologians just say outright that Jesus will *physically* return to the earth? Why shy away from that? Will that *actually* happen or that as well merely a symbolic, spiritualized event? It’s like the Lord’s return is being downplayed here.

    Anyway just wanted to toss that out there. 🙂

  16. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Kathryn,
    I’ve not read that particular book, but I have read a number of others by Eliade.

  17. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Jordan,
    His appearing will indeed be “actual.” However, what you are suggesting seems to be exalting what moderns call “ordinary” and diminishing any deeper reality (“airy fairy,” etc.). One problem with “just saying” Jesus will return physically, is that people will think or assume that they know what that means, and will actually be wrong. For example, He “physically” returns on the Mount of Olives, but you live in Hoboken, NJ. So, do you watch tv or something and wait to get the news about the event? No. His coming is such that all will see Him. That is somehow different than what most assume “physically” to mean. In the resurrection, Christ has “physical” properties (touch me), but also things that are not physical – they don’t recognize Him necessarily, He appears behind locked doors, etc. So, it would seem that saying “physically” is simply inadequate.

    But, another reason not to say it in the way you suggest, is that some Protestants actually use such a term to create nonsense heresies. I’ve been told by some Calvinists that Christ is physically on the throne in heaven and cannot therefore be truly present in the Eucharist. Such complete nonsense.

    If Orthodox thought seems “airy fairy” (actually an insulting term), perhaps it’s because we’re trying to say something that you don’t understand. Why not ask probing questions in order to learn rather than suggest that we shy away from something or that we are gnostics.

    To say “merely a symbolic” by the way, is a gross misunderstanding of the patristic understanding of symbol. You also seem to contrast “spiritual” with “real”. It seems a bit confused theologically.

    In the Second Coming – I’m not sure “the earth” will even be an issue. The Scriptures make clear that creation itself will participate in the resurrection. What does that look like? Probably not like anything we think or imagine. Why pretend that we know what we don’t know and invent some Sunday School version that is a caricature of the Scriptures?

    Anyway, I tossed it back to you. 🙂

  18. Dean Avatar
    Dean

    Father Stephen,
    Since we are speaking of the 2nd coming of Christ, what does, “Behold, I come quickly,” mean? I remember a Bible professor saying it means not so in an actual meaning of a fast return, but that His in- breaking will be immediate when it does come. Also, could you set His return in the sense of the one storey universe? Thank you Father.

  19. Mark Pendleton Avatar
    Mark Pendleton

    In the classic film, Young Frankenstein, Marty Feldman as Igor has the wonderful sight gag in which, as he limps off, he says “Walk this way” to which Gene Wilder responds by attempting to imitate his limp.

    I was exploring the Internet looking for ancient language definitions of “righteousness” when I stumbled on a site dealing with ancient Hebrew words and the thought that was behind them. According to the author, the thought behind “righteousness” is that of walking a straight line (or path). Deviations from the line were met with gentle correction, re-instruction and a return to the path. Outright rebellion met with more severe correction, but the aim was still the same; keep on the path.

    It is, I think, too easy to focus on rules as though there is nothing more. The ancient (and modern) Pharisees typified following rules. By this standard, no one was more righteous. Somehow they had followed the rules and missed the path. At the Last Supper as Jesus was telling the disciples of His departure He told them that they knew the way to the place He was going. Thomas (I find great solace in Thomas) asked, “Lord we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” The incredible answer is, of course, “I am the way.”

    I’m reminded of the events of Narnia where the children are following Lucy, the youngest through a wilderness. She alone has had an encounter with Aslan. Her siblings, however aren’t convinced and try to rationalize her experience. In the end they begin grudgingly to follow her, but as they do, they too all begin to see him. And this, I guess is the point I was making and the connection I thought I saw. The way is the path and the line and doesn’t consist solely in precepts but is also and more fully a person Who is also the End.

  20. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Dean,
    It can be rendered “speedily,” in the sense your professor suggested. If we take it in a temporal sense, then it’s problematic some 2000 years down the road. One of the great problems of literalism is that it works so well until it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t, it really falls apart.

  21. Joan D Moulton Avatar
    Joan D Moulton

    I have 44 years of church attendance under my belt after our conversion to the Orthodox church in 1973. You have put in words what I know but cannot express. The kingdom of God IS at hand. This is His world and everything I am must confirm that. And thank you for clarifying “the second and glorious coming” at the anaphora. My understanding of remembering a future event is now much clearer.

  22. Nicholas Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Nicholas Stephen Griswold

    It might be helpful to note that time is a dimension of the physical universe and is variable based on speed. The faster one goes the slower time moves. God being transcendent is outside time and space and is unaffected by it. Consequently time only effects us when present in the physical world and understanding the spiritual world outside the universe is beyond me. Perhaps, just perhaps all things are already culminated in the Lord and we are just waiting to get there in our time affected world.

  23. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    So, how does one address the problem of complete misunderstanding of the modern world? To many it is so obviously the only way of looking at things. Especially with folks who have grown up in the Church.

    Seems as if many are innoculted to reality and prefer the fantasy. They seem to cover control even though they are choking on it.

  24. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    So, how does one address the problem of complete misunderstanding of the modern world? To many it is so obviously the only way of looking at things. Especially with folks who have grown up in the Church.

    This is very much an issue even in the Church. There are many who seem to ache to recast Orthodoxy in the image of modernity.

  25. Larry Jones Avatar
    Larry Jones

    One of the great false emotions that I felt as a protestant was that of abandonment by God. We are here with a few rules and a lot of pain waiting on this transcendent God to arrive at some point in the future. Your explanation of the Kingdom changes everything. “Christ is risen” and “Christ is in our midst” are more than memorial greetings. They are the proclamation of our current state. This is another switch that needed to be thrown in my ever converting mind. Now, how shall I live with this?

  26. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Michael,
    There is no plan, I think, other than living the reality of the Kingdom. God in His providence has allowed modernity to come about – it is – I think – the greatest challenge the Church has ever faced. But the Kingdom itself is greater and is our refuge.

  27. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Larry,
    By giving thanks always and for all things. It is – eucharistic.

  28. Jean Hoefling Avatar

    Thank you for this thoughtful piece. It’s taken me years to turn loose of my evangelical world view since becoming Orthodox, but words like yours help.

  29. Jean Hoefling Avatar

    Fr,
    It’s taking more than a while to truly shed my evangelical world view since becoming Orthodox in 2001. Hey, the first book in the Left Behind series was pretty exciting, you have to admit! But words like these make the alternative very winsome and have much more substance for the long haul. Thank you.

  30. Dino Avatar
    Dino

    It’s not much effort to recognise that modernity, especially in its capacity to pervert that inner voice that calls man to repentance and to the Kingdom, is the spirit of the Antichrist in its most subtle yet most corrosive guise.

  31. Nicholas Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Nicholas Stephen Griswold

    Dino
    There is no doubt in my mind that modernity is the ultimate expression of rebellion against God with its focus on Self as the source of wisdom and guidance. To me it is the full flower of Adamic sin.

  32. David A Foutch Avatar
    David A Foutch

    I would hesitate to characterize anything as the “ultimate expression of rebellion against God”. It wasn’t that long ago for me that I remember thinking to myself “IF there is a God, then he has abandoned us by the side of the road a long time ago. We are on our own. We have to do the best we can with what we have got because no one is here to save us from ourselves.” It isn’t that people are against God. That cannot possibly be true. People are confused, lost, sheep without a shepherd…but they aren’t rebels. People need compassion and sympathy, not blame, for not knowing what to do with themselves.

  33. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    David,
    “We all like sheep have gone astray everyone to his own way.”
    You and Nicholas are both correct.
    Human beings rebellion against God is initially rarely malicious or even done with intent. It is habit born out of ignorance, fear and shame. But it is largely willful ignorance. As Romans 1 testifies.

    Mercy is the healing balm, but some will reject mercy for the law, power and control.
    Modernity is a demonically woven delusion that is like a Chinese finger trap.

  34. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    David,
    You are correct inasmuch as few, if any, would refuse God is they had some sort of blatant, objective things in front of them. Or so we would think. But the heart is always the lens through which we see. As such, we see (or don’t see) pretty much as a revelation of the state of the heart. It’s not so much the choices we make as it is that our choices are merely reflections of the heart. Healing and curing the heart is the loving task of the Church in the world. Sometimes it doesn’t go so well. I would take Nicholas’ statement to mean that modernity presents the single most difficult condition of the heart that the Church has ever faced. I agree with that completely.

  35. David Foutch Avatar
    David Foutch

    Michael,

    People can be vicious. Worse than animals. But, they cannot rebel against that which they have no experience or awareness of. God has subjected all things to futility, God imprisoned all things under the power of sin, and God imprisoned all in disobedience. God did that on the basis of hope and for the mercy of all. I am afraid, however, that one one of the consequences of that is that the world appears as if God has abandoned to its own means. When I hear someone say that humans are in rebellion against God, I think to myself, “IF God was making himself unmistakably known as God and IF there was a ready distinction between the righteous and the unrighteous, then “Yes” there would be a case to be made for the rebellion of humankind.” But, none of that is true. This is what I hear Christians saying, “Cthulhu is angry with humankind because they willfully refuse to surrender themselves to his will even though his creation declares his glory.” I’m sorry, but it doesn’t add up.

  36. David Foutch Avatar
    David Foutch

    Fr,

    It looks like we posted at the same time. I think we are making very similar points.
    The only thing I would add is that we need to assume responsibility for the condition of the world and not blame people for their apathy. Maybe they didn’t want to be apathetic, but life was more than they could take.
    If the Church is God’s means of salvation, revealing the kingdom as already present, and the means of the kingdom coming then we are best to repent for the state of things in the world and do what we can to bring healing and wholeness to people who have become disappointed with talk about God and religion.

  37. David Foutch Avatar
    David Foutch

    We need to be very careful about how we see people…

  38. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    David,
    I think this is too flat-footed as an analysis. God is indeed making Himself known and people are responding. Their response can be as mysterious and hidden as is His self-revelation. Life is rarely lived on the level of the obvious. The math of the obvious doesn’t add up because it’s not really what’s going on.

    The heart is always perceiving and responding. Sometimes that response takes a rather obvious form (life in the Church). Although that obvious form should never be mistaken for the literal truth. The heart of Church members can be as far removed from God as the darkest “unbeliever.” And vice versa…

  39. David Foutch Avatar
    David Foutch

    Fr,

    “Their response can be as mysterious and hidden as is His self-revelation. Life is rarely lived on the level of the obvious. The math of the obvious doesn’t add up because it’s not really what’s going on.” I agree with this entirely and for this reason if the world is in a rebellion-like state…who is to blame?? Who imprisoned everyone in sin and disobedience?? Who is it that works so subtly that he goes unperceived?? The desire, or tendency, to cast the world and the people in it as rebels is does not help.

    I have been certain about many things over the course of my life. And it would seem that the more certain I am of anything with respect to God the more probable it is that my pride has got the better of me. I cannot say that God has made himself known to me. And if God is out there in the world making himself known then I wish that he would shed a little light my direction. As for the mysterious interactions between the heart and God, these are very subtle, and depending on how you have been raised these may be interpreted in many different ways. God’s presence may go completely unnoticed and in the mean time the compounding sins of one lost generation after another makes the present generation appear godless. It isn’t that they are godless–they are LOST.

  40. Nicholas Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Nicholas Stephen Griswold

    David
    I am talking about a system of thought, not individual people. We, the people are trapped in it, seduced by it and misled by it. Very few people I have ever met in my nearly 69 years of life are willfully malicious and God hating. Having said that, I know many, even in the faith community and in academia, that buy into modernity. I do not think they do so willingly or in rebellion to God but as a consequence of their education and up bringing.

  41. Dean Avatar
    Dean

    Thank you Father Stephen. …”the heart is always receiving and responding….Their response can be mysterious and hidden” (to us, not God). The heart is very mysterious, who can know it? My wife’s nephew was recently placed in prison for sins against a family member. His heart in one sense was hard. And yet when his 87 year old mother visited him behind bars, the first thing he did was weep like a small child…I’m sure for the shame he feels. The heart of the little innocent ones shows how they are even more attuned to God than most adults. I was once holding my granddaughter in my lap. We were the only ones home. Our conversation came around to Christ. I had told her that if we close our eyes and are very quiet, that we can, at times, hear God speak to our heart. She closed her eyes. After about 10 seconds, I asked her to open them…must have seemed an eternity to her! I asked if she had heard anything. She said she had. I asked what. She replied. “Jesus told me he loves me.” God’s work is so often hidden. But His grace continues softening hearts, molding and fashioning them in ways unseen, amongst Orthodox and non Orthodox…even among those who do not call themselves Christian. Glory to God for all things!

  42. David Foutch Avatar
    David Foutch

    “Modernity…is the spirit of the Antichrist.”
    “Modernity is the ultimate expression of rebellion against God.”

    Those are strong statements. Right? Why is modernity the spirit of the Antichrist and the ultimate expression of rebellion against God rather than a reflection of the despair of a world that feels abandoned and without hope??

    …I feel like that’s all I can say about that.

  43. James Avatar
    James

    Excellent article Fr. Stephen! This reminds me during liturgy when our Priest turns from the altar and to the people and says, “Christ is in our midst!” And we respond, “He is and ever shall be!” It took me awhile to realize this is not just a pious greeting, but an invitation or entering into the spiritual world.

  44. Nicholas Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Nicholas Stephen Griswold

    Why, because modernity is a system that exalts man to the place of the supreme position and dismisses God. Its basic premise is that God is unnecessary as man can solve all the problems and man knows all the answers. What greater rejection can a system of thought direct towards God?

  45. David Foutch Avatar
    David Foutch

    Nicholas…99.99% of the world has had useless, baseless, violent, ignorant to the point of stupid ideas about God. It isn’t really God that people are rejecting, it is every other dumb idea about God that people have been coming up with for the last 6,000 years…and you do to.

    It is a mercy on God’s part that he places himself in a position not to come into conflict with our ignorance.

  46. David Foutch Avatar
    David Foutch

    Man…I wish I could edit my comments…

  47. Nicholas Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Nicholas Stephen Griswold

    David
    Again, I am talking about a system of thought, not people. People do as they do but modernity is a system of thought that is not a person. The system was invented by people, mostly philosophers, but that does not make them utterly evil either. Modernity replaces God with Man and makes him (Mankind) the supreme authority in the Universe. One cannot reject God more thoroughly than this system of thought does which is why I described it as ultimate

  48. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    The two most telling statements that define the modern mind are DeCartes’s blasphemy “I think therefore I am” and Nietzche’s Will to Power. If the description Nietzche gives in The Three Metamorphosis of the Sprit is not a description of the modern mind and it’s end, I don’t know what is.

    All sin is rebellion against God. Modernity seduces, disenheartens, creates rage and makes death and destruction attractive. Not one person escapes it entirely. Thus the saying to St. Silouan and it’s logical corollary: Glory to God for All Things.

    God is perfectly evident once thanksgiving begins.

  49. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    God has subjected all things to futility, God imprisoned all things under the power of sin, and God imprisoned all in disobedience. God did that on the basis of hope and for the mercy of all.

    David, my understanding is that these things are rooted in Man’s action, not God’s. Your statement seems to set God up as the angry, wrathful protestant god who punishes his creation. Perhaps I have misunderstood you though. Forgive me if that is so.

    What greater rejection can a system of thought direct towards God?

    Give us another generation, Nicholas. We’ll undoubtedly come up with worse (somehow)….

  50. Dean Avatar
    Dean

    David,
    Why not write your comment but then wait 15 minutes before sending it. Might help. I do this at times. And I sometimes rewrite things. This way you can self edit.

  51. Nicholas Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Nicholas Stephen Griswold

    Byron,
    Perhaps but it would be hard to top removing God and placing Him with Man as the supreme being in the Universe. Thankfully, our God is not desirous of our destruction and is Hesed itself, long suffering, patient loving kindness and concern or in more current words, mercy.

  52. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    David, I agree completely! Glory to God!

  53. David A Foutch Avatar
    David A Foutch

    Let me tell an anecdotal story. I was raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was a JW for 33 years of my life. I will never forget the pain I experienced at the onset of my doubts. Finally, after all else about my loyalty to the religion had unravelled and I was being accused as a heretic, apostate and antichrist by three different congregations I had finally come to question whether or not everything I had ever believed about God was wrong. So, my apostasy was complete when I doubted the existence and truth of Jehovah as God. I’ll never forget the cold and lonely feeling of standing in this sacrosanct place in my mind after having deposed my God. I remember thinking “How am I going to live? What is going to guide me?” The elders in my congregation accused me of being selfish and self-willed. They accused me of putting myself above everything and everyone including God. But, there I was with no guidance in my life trying to figure out everything on my own. I didn’t want to be in that position but that was a necessary transitional phase. It opened me up to the possibilities that brought me into contact with Orthodoxy.

    That is what I see in the people of modernity, going through the same transitions that I did. I give glory to God for modernity. Perhaps it’s aridity will open people up to possibilities that they would have ignored otherwise.

  54. Alan Avatar
    Alan

    Jordan,

    “Why can’t Orthodox theologians just say outright that Jesus will *physically* return to the earth? ”

    Actually, we say that in every single Divine Liturgy when we recite the Creed.

  55. David A Foutch Avatar
    David A Foutch

    Byron,

    The only thing I mean by reference to those verses is that God has constrained humanity for our own protection. But, one of the results of that is that we inevitably end up misusing and misdirecting our freedom and our attention.

  56. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    Thanks David! My apologies for misunderstanding your comment.

  57. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Alan, Jordan:
    In saying that, as I’ve noted, it can be quite misleading and miss most of the point of His parousia. Contemporary Protestantism has invented a whole industry on the rock of false teaching (Dispensationalism, Darbyites, etc.). A Protestant critique of Orthodoxy in this matter is so misplaced as to be comical. As I noted, to say “physically” return can mean something absurd – and is actually treated that way by many. TV coverage of the Second Coming, for example. Absurd. If you say “physically” then you most qualify what you mean. The Creed does not say “physically.” It says “come again.” I daresay that Coming will be the resurrected, glorified Christ. To say resurrected and glorified is more accurate than “physical.” It subsumes physicality and carries into something much greater.

  58. Agata Avatar
    Agata

    Father,
    Thank you for your replies to Jordan and Alan, they are very helpful.
    I did not realize that people have such specific “objections and expectations”…

    I really like what Clark Carlton says in one of his talks, he says when Christ returns, He will not be like Jesus of Nazareth, walking around in Galilee as He did before.

    He will be All in All.

    (how can we possibly begin to imagine what that will look like?!!), “there will be no place to run, no place to hide”. What will condemn us on that day will not be Him, but our own sinfulness, our inability to love Him and be in His Presence. To those who love Him, it will be total joy and blessedness, to those who don’t, it will be hell… (Clark goes into what our Orthodox understanding of hell is).

    I guess to some, this is pious nonsense…. 😉

  59. Debbie A. Avatar
    Debbie A.

    Oh my, so much modern thinking in my life to uproot – or better yet, to stand and stand again, gratefully, silently in healing His presence… thank you Father Stephen. I grew up have nightmares about the second coming of Christ and being left behind…I’ve lived much of my life in a two story universe/world and being separated from myself, others and God. My heart is so grateful to be coming home, now.

  60. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    A really good exposition of the Spirit of modernity and how it effects us can be found in Archbishop Averky’s book: The Struggle for Virtue.

  61. Drewster2000 Avatar
    Drewster2000

    Fr. Stephen,

    I understand the spirit of Jordan’s comment and appreciate the candidness. It’s like being told all the benefits of eating your meat and vegetables when you’ve long been used to a diet of junk food. Your “airy fairy” descriptions don’t initially have any of the ear and eye candy of the gripping Protestant stories of some being taken, some left behind, and all the people who will bend the knee when the Master returns.

    It’s hard. It’s like going to detox. Seeing the truth is very difficult until you come down off the high and start being open to reality. We suffer blindness and deafness to the truth, some of which will only be cured at the time of the Revelation.

  62. Dean Avatar
    Dean

    Agata,
    The Gospel has always seemed foolish nonsense to the unbelieving. 🙂 I can’t remember who said this but I believe it to be true…perhaps Pascal. If I live as if there is no God and there is a God, then at my death I’ve lost everything, and that for all eternity. If I live as if there is a God, and live the best I can with others who love me in return, and at my death there is no God, then I’ve lost nothing but lived a good life. But if there is a God then I’ve gained everything and that for all eternity. My apologies for remembering this poorly.

  63. David A Foutch Avatar
    David A Foutch

    Michael Bauman,

    Give God glory for all things…even modernity 😉

  64. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Agata,
    I noticed that you saw the brief appearance of the comment by “Leigh.” I choose to remove it – I thought it too distracting from the conversation. But, I would note if the only choice I had was unbelief or fundamentalism (complete with its flat, two-storey world and literalism) I would easily choose unbelief – I would certainly be forced to. It simply fails in so many ways.

    I have written before (in my book no less) than the two-storey universe is a breeding ground for atheism. My point was proven yet again.

  65. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    David,
    I took the liberty of correcting a typo. You had “Batman” where you meant “Bauman.” My first thought was, “The Dark Knight Comments…”

  66. Terry Heaton Avatar

    The anthropomorphization of spiritual concepts always makes for difficulties when trying to discuss spiritual matters. One of my favorite passages is Paul speaking to the Romans where he is trying to justify the priesthood of Melchisedek as higher than that of the Levites, and he does so by saying that “you could say that Levi was present in Abraham’s loins when he paid a tithe to Melchisedek.” That one speaks to your version of time, and I agree with you. We also forget that linear time is a created dimension, “And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” I don’t believe God is “outside” time and distance.” To me, it’s more that time and space are within God, just as we live “in God” and, thanks to redemption, are also able to abide in the Kingdom of Heaven as well as time and space. To me, the quest is to be a better human, not be “more spiritual,” for I’m not sure that’s even possible. Thank you for your work.

  67. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    I guess to some, this is pious nonsense….

    Sadly, to many within the Church, this is considered “pious nonsense”. I recently spoke with two women online who considered science to be the test for the validity of Church dogma, much of which they considered “archaic”.

  68. David A Foutch Avatar
    David A Foutch

    Byron,

    I feel like I have thoroughly internalized the modern or post-modern world view and ethics. In fact, I work from and through them on a daily basis. I’m not threatened by them.

    Pretty much I’m more than ready to begin at the assumption that there is no god, religion is superstitious nonsense, and humans are in charge of it all. It doesn’t spook me.

  69. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    David, have not gotten there yet.

  70. Dean Avatar
    Dean

    Didn’t spook me either. I had the same assumptions when I was 22, imbued with the secular world view. But then I got on a train traveling in the opposite direction. Have never looked back.

  71. Agata Avatar
    Agata

    Thank you Father.
    I agree with you wholeheartedly, and often wonder how people believe in God that is presented to them in those other supposedly Christian denominations. I remember Fr. Tom Hopko saying that too, that it’s more honest to be unbelieving, but then he worked all his life tirelessly to “speak the Truth in Love” (which I believe you are now continuing, thank you!)…
    That comment really upset me, I took it too personally, as she called something in my earlier comment “pious nonsense” (and the best part of it, straight from my beloved source!!)…. and then topped it with a rude remark towards you…
    Once I get over being upset, I feel sad for such people. They obviously are not happy with their beliefs since they come here and read what you offer, and what others have to say. Deep inside they know there must be more to it all, and they search for “truth and wisdom”… Clark says that this is what “living philosophically” means and always meant.

    Thank you Dean for those thoughts from Pascal. Very beautiful and true. Something like this always reminds me of the final scenes of the Harry Potter movie, when Harry is battling Voldemort and is almost loosing, since Voldemort forces memories of death, destruction, pain, cruelty and loss. Harry summons his strenght and tells him: “I feel sorry for you, you will never know love and friendship” (and then he remembers the beautiful moments, and defeats Voldemort). I think people who don’t believe should be pitied like that. They have no idea what believers are talking about and they lash out…

    Please delete if this does not belong here. Just wanted to say thank you one more time…

  72. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    David, upon reflection I think it is important to understand the spirit of the age and discern it’s working in ourselves. The spirit of our age whether it is called modernity or nihilism is deeply corrosive and evil. It is warfare against humanity itself disguised and marketed as progress. It is actually death.

    That said the mercy of the Cross is the only way to be victorious and in fact we just have to enter into it. Learning to be thankful for the particular way in which the Cross manifests in my life is not easy however. It is not about feeling glad or happy or feelings at all. It is even less about control. “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

    As Father Stephen points out, salvation is particular. The more I practice giving thanks for the particulr gifts in my life, the more God becomes evident and the easier it becomes to give thanks.

  73. david foutch Avatar
    david foutch

    Michael Bauman,

    There are thee things that I am teaching myself to eschew in my spiritual disciplines: Concerns for bookends, concerns for general cases, and concerns for whys.

    There are a few issues that I can’t seem to pry myself away from in terms of beginnings and ends (bookends). However, as a rule, I don’t want to feel compelled to make strong statements about things I CANNOT have knowledge of. For example, do I have to be concerned with HOW life got here or HOW the world has come to be such a mess? Why can’t I just accept it as it is (as brute facts) without judgment or concern regarding how it came to be this way? Why can’t I say “I don’t have any knowledge about the endpoints in either direction of time. I have been dropped somewhere in the middle of this mess and now I have to act right here, right now.” Why isn’t that acceptable?

    I also am in favor of eschewing abstractions and broad generalizations in favor of the highly particular. In modelling and mathematics abstractions are fine but, in regard to spirituality, not fine. We worship an incarnate God that became an individual person in a particular sociocultural history. I weight the radical particularity over the statistical vagary of the normally distributed average person.

    Connected to the previous two is my desire to easchew chasing the rabbit of causality down a hole of infinitely regressing antecedent conditions.

    Now all of that means this: I don’t need to know how it got started, I don’t need to know how it ends, I don’t need to know why it got to be this way, or how to abstract it to a general case. I just want to accept the world as it is and as it comes to me without judging it. Because to me, where I am at right now in my spiritual walk…that is what forgiveness looks like.

    Everyday I pray: “Strike me and heal me. Cast me down and raise me up.” If anything I have said is wrong, please, correct me.

    Based on Scripture and the writings of the Fathers I understand that there is a “spirit of the world” that is at best indifferent or at worst in opposition to the Spirit of God. I am aware of that. But, I have no need to classify the prevailing zeitgeist as “the spirit of the Antichrist” or “the ultimate expression of rebellion against God.” To me, it isn’t helpful and worse yet may actually get in the way of actually listening to someone and hearing what they have to say without bias.

  74. david foutch Avatar
    david foutch

    Michael Bauman,

    If I haven’t explained myself clearly yet. Then maybe I don’t make as much sense as I think I do and I should just stop.

  75. Paula Avatar
    Paula

    Just some simple thoughts of mine in reading through the comments:
    (David, if you should stop commenting, I’ll never figure out what you’re trying to say! 😉 And if you want another example not explaining clearly, just continue to read my post! What I want to say I find very hard to state concisely.)
    Isn’t “the spirit” of the “spirit of this age” the workings of satan? The spirit of every age is satan, the prince of this world. These are the very words of scripture. Yet Christ has conquered him, the Kingdom has come, “is” come, and yes, we enter into it. I do not see it as a dual existence, entering with the spirit of the age on our back, even though it may “feel” like that. Rather it is leaving behind the attachments, throwing them off, as you would with something repulsive touching you, and entering into another existence, in Christ. Who can explain such a thing? You can’t. After all our reasoning, it is done by faith. I don’t know much, but one thing I know…Christ, and all He has done for mankind is real, a reality beyond our earthly existence… God, Creator of the universe taking on flesh, dying to the death of our sins, risen and conquering that very death, and risen to His throne that He never actually left, only to send The Spirit, all powerful, our Enabler…all this is done because of His love for us, because He desires our communion. I have to trust in that. Either that, or I perish. And I didn’t have to be told “you will perish!”…I knew it by the very emptiness of my soul. I have known that death. Once you know, and then are granted the taste of Life…no…there’s no going back. That’s how I know it’s real. And somewhere in there I made a choice. If there was any coercion, it was God’s great mercy of pulling the rug from under my feet. But I still had to choose. Don’t ask me for proof of any or all these things. Those who demand more proof are asking the impossible. But if they ask with a “mustard seed” of faith, with a desire to believe, God will in no way refuse that. He knows that person…He knows what it will take for them to believe, always beckoning.
    So don’t we have to choose? To trust…to have faith that Christ has done all. What more can He have done? How one comes to making the choice is ultimately between him and God. To say all unbelievers are “lost” is undoubtedly true…but why they are lost (the reasons are countless) and whether they will find their way is not for me to know. If He has given us a will, and a reasoning mind, and an inherent knowledge of His existence, as we are made in His image, then we have all that is needed to make the right choice. Not to mention His body, the Church, the Divine Liturgy, the sacraments, especially His body and blood, His word (scripture), and the witness of the Saints triumphant. Again, what more is needed?

  76. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    David I can relate but I will give you some background. Part of my journey to the Church involved an intense study of Nietzche in an historical context. You are right that the beginning of anything in history is quite arbitrary. But, after Neitzche I spent some time in a syncretistic group.

    My experience has led me to the position that being able to discern is quite important. It has certainly shown me many things that Christ is not and many things that I am not.

  77. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    So don’t we have to choose? To trust…to have faith that Christ has done all.

    I have recently considered that maybe “choice” is not as much a determinant as I once thought. I considered this example: a man or woman standing at the edge of a great canyon, dwarfed by its breadth and depth and beauty. They do not “choose” to be overcome with awe; it is a natural reaction. I think it may be this way in the face of God’s revelation; we do not “choose” so much as naturally react. I think trust may come naturally in this scenario….

    (Of course, we could still choose to turn away from the awe and splendor and move away from the canyon. I suppose that is an aspect of choice in this scenario, but I am not trying to completely remove choice from it anyway; only lessen its primacy in my thoughts). Just thinking out loud.

  78. david foutch Avatar
    david foutch

    Byron,

    I like it. I have never “chosen” to experience awe, or compassion, or faith or any number of other subjective states I’ve had. I have also thought that my response to pray, to give thanks, to believe, to hope wasn’t a choice…but more of a reflexive reaction. I don’t think that diminishes the value of it in any way at all. We are not as free as we think.

    I have been fond of the idea that it isn’t that we have “free will” so much as we have a “free won’t”. As you say in your example, the experience of awe is elicited naturally, it isn’t willed. The only decision that you really are making, or that is willed, is in NOT leaving…which is logically equivalent to just staying…its a simple example.

  79. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Byron, your example reminds me of the judgement of Narnia in The Last Battle. Aslan standing where everyone would see him. Those that looked up went to his right into the light. Those that looked away went to his left into darkness.

    The dwarfs choose to see nothing but their immediate surroundings but they still did not go into darkness.

  80. Chris Avatar
    Chris

    Pardon my question (I know there’s a riveting discussion already happening), but I’m trying better understand the Kingdom of Heaven as it is present in our ordinary time. I don’t know if I’ve experienced the Kingdom, but I have had moments of utter peace and tranquility; it was as if a still small voice was whispering “everything will be ok.” Some people would describe this as an experience of the transcendent; others would offer a biological explanation for it. How do we discern what is truly the Kingdom of God from what is mere euphoria? As a related question, what is the response to religious movements that seek “spiritual experiences” by means of drugs or heightened emotional states?

  81. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    How do we discern what is truly the Kingdom of God from what is mere euphoria?

    Welcome Chris. Father will be much better at answering your questions and I would only note that the Kingdom is not necessarily euphoric but peaceful. It is, in many ways, a return to our natural state within the revealed Grace of God. Just my thoughts.

  82. Dean Avatar
    Dean

    Paula,
    Wonderful comment…”deep calls to deep….” Thanks.

  83. david foutch Avatar
    david foutch

    Chris, the Kingdom of God is within all things–absolutely all things. With time, patience, and thanksgiving you will SEE that it is no ordinary world that we live in, but it is a world suffuse with divine energy. Forget experiences. HOW you experience the world, even mundane things, will change. Use the crucifixion to interpret and understand EVERYTHING. Then give it more time.

  84. david foutch Avatar
    david foutch

    “It is, in many ways, a return to our natural state”

    Yep

  85. Alan Avatar
    Alan

    Thank you Father. I apologize as I realize my comment was not helpful.
    I fully realize that The Creed does not say “Physically.” Thank you Father for your comments on this matter, they were most helpful. Again, my apologies.

  86. Paula Avatar
    Paula

    Byron
    You make a very good point in that “responding” would be a more accurate word than “choosing”. I would add *especially in light of our first conscious encounter with the presence of God*. That for me was indeed more of a “response”. Similar to how Father describes a “movement”… a dance…and God takes the lead. The problem with the word “choice/ to choose”, IMO, is its association with “making a decision for Jesus…to let Him into your heart”…a too cut and dry approach to salvation, as opposed to an ongoing movement/response. Still, the Church (and scripture) speaks of a synergistic relationship with God…and somewhere in there the word ‘choice’, as well as submission, obedience, follow are very relevant, even if only to recognize the possibility that one can very well turn away. So Byron, I appreciate the point you made, and the opportunity to think this through.

  87. Adam N Avatar
    Adam N

    Michael,

    How is Descartes’s “I think; therefore, I am” blasphemous?

  88. jacksson Avatar
    jacksson

    Dean, I don’t know about Pascal regarding the gospel, but I do know what Saint Paul said.

    1 Cor 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

  89. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    Adam,

    Nothing is created by our thoughts, our mind, our will; we are subject to reality; we do not control it. As Father has mentioned many times, we are not self-created nor self-sustaining. Descartes’ quote places humanity in the place of God by claiming that we are, in fact, self-existing, based on our own faculties.

  90. David A Foutch Avatar
    David A Foutch

    Byron, a 20th century framing of Descartes’ classic thought experiment (which is really Plato’s allegory of the Cave redux) is that if you were trapped in the Matrix where your entire universe was controlled by a malevolent machine, how would you know anything is true? What truths, if any at all could you know for certain in a world where all sense perception was being lied to ALL the time? Well, a deception requires a deceiver (the Machine) and the deceived (Neo). Therefore, in the Matrix even if everything is suspect and might possibly be a machine constrict there is one thing that is real: The mind, you the thinker. So, Descartes’ I think;therefore I am is really intended to say affirm that whereas I may doubt the existence of all else in my universe as if all else is an elaborate ruse but I cannot doubt the existence of the doubter otherwise who is it that is doing the doubting? I think therefore I at the very least know that I exist.

  91. Adam N Avatar
    Adam N

    Byron,

    Thanks for your points, and I understand your apprehension; however, I think the quote is being taken out of context. Descartes wasn’t trying to claim that our existence is created by our thoughts, but rather that our existence can be known by our thoughts. It was a response to radical doubt to the point of questioning one’s own existence, saying that we can at least be solipsists; the mind must exist in some sense because something has to be thinking.

    Of course, that’s not to say I’m a big fan of Descartes or his methods, as he’s basically the founder of modern Western rationalism. But I don’t think that this quote necessarily implies that we are self-existing or self-creating.

  92. David A Foutch Avatar
    David A Foutch

    Lots of thinkers end up being called the father of ideologies they would have rejected out of hand.

  93. Adam N Avatar
    Adam N

    David,

    Descartes, being a Roman Catholic, I’m sure would reject the more recent atheistic incarnations of rationalism, but it’s hard to understate his influence on it, or modern philosophy in general.

  94. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Adam, good question. Read Psalm 103/104 then consider.

    Descartes’ statement denies God as creator, denies our creature hood, makes us autonomous; God unnecessary. It inverts the natural order of our being and leaves us wretched and without hope.

    The reality is “God loves, therefore I am”. Descartes codifies Adam’s sin and officially makes each of us God. The Holy Spirit is the “giver of life”, not me.

    Our thoughts bring nothing into being, form or substance. We are creative only by the fact that we are made in His image. Our creativity reaches it’s highest point when we live Euchristic lives offering ourself, each other and all our lives to Christ our God. At best we are icons of Christ. Even Jesus says that by Himself, He does nothing.

    Descartes turns us in narrcissistic idolators of ourselves and leads to destruction, insanity and death. The rampant nihilism of today’s culture in which men animated by the Will to Power stalk humanity and ravage the land takes its impetus from Descartes’ arrogant pride.

    “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21.

  95. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    David, we are powerless in the deteministic world of the Matix and in the darkness of the Cave. Only God Himself, if He exists, can save us. We cannot save ourselves least of all through our minds. There is God, the real cave, the Cross, the grave and the Glorious third day Ressurection or there is nothing.

  96. Tom (aka Volkmar) Avatar

    There is an apparent reality to our limited senses that, as David expressed, “God has left us to the side of the road.” I have had that sense so many times that I have come to ignore it and instead whisper to myself, “I AM with you always.”

    “Let me admit right away that the universe into which that mystery thrust us is not the place you or I would have chosen as our cup of tea. All kinds of questions come up about it. If the Word has tidied up the mess of history from the beginning, why hasn’t he exempted the world from having to slog through it? Why does he insist on time, space, and history at all? Why doesn’t he just settle for an unwritten novel in his own head where no real beings will have to scream their way through the torture chamber of creation?

    There are, of course, no satisfactory answers to such questions. There is only the paradox of the Word’s final response: by his Incarnation, he assures us that he’s as much in the chamber of horrors as we are. He brings his Divinity down into the misery of our humanity, and he lifts that very misery up into himself. He doesn’t simply contemplate the brokenness of the world from on high. On the cross, he breathes his last in the midst of brokenness he’s freely taken on for our sakes: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ He who is the Answer dies as lost as anyone who never found answers. But even then, it’s he himself, in the mystery of his lostness, who remains the only Finder of us all.”

    — Robert Farrar Capon, The Fingerprints of God

  97. Tom (aka Volkmar) Avatar

    Fr. Freeman wrote;

    “I have written before (in my book no less) than the two-storey universe is a breeding ground for atheism. My point was proven yet again.”
    _______________________________

    I was raised Church of Christ, which is perhaps the ultimate Fundamentalism but certainly not “Evangelical” or Premillenial-Dispensationalist–so I was saved from at least one folly. At age 45 I officially departed from my tradition of birth and began an exploration of what I thought at the time a more vital way of experiencing Christ. In the ensuring space of the next 12-15 years I saw happen exactly what Fr. Freeman expressed–especially so among people in their 20’s and 30’s. The Evangelical Circus offers much by way of entertainment and distraction, but very little–nay, I’ll say nothing–of substance. When young people begin to experience the abandonment of God, the “dark night of the soul” they have nothing of guidance except trite admonitions to “pray and read your Bible more”. “Experiencing Jesus” is always depicted as cataphatic and if it isn’t it must be your fault–likely because of “hidden sin”. When people who have lived and breathed Modernism–and modern day Evangelicalism is nothing but Modernism with Jesus syrup — encounter their darkness the only answer they have in their toolkit is “I must be an atheist”.

  98. David Foutch Avatar
    David Foutch

    Michael Bauman: I can tell you are not familiar with Descartes’ argument. Descartes does NOT deny God. Descartes is doing what many philosophers were doing before and after him: Investigating the nature of the mind and the implications of that investigation on epistemology and theology. One of the principle aims of his thought experiment was to provide a rational means for showing the existence of God. Descartes does NOT deny God as creator AT ALL. He was trying to show that even if all the objective facts of our existence were untrue, there is still a means of knowing truth and God. He anchors his “res cogitans” (rational being) as an attribute of the soul and then moves from the existence of the soul to a knowledge of the existence of God. Which implies that ANY truth we discover is directly facilitated by a God given ability to KNOW truth AND this is also how Descartes reasons that God then MUST be Good.

  99. David Foutch Avatar
    David Foutch

    Tom, did you drop the mic when you were done? You should have dropped the mic. I love that quote from Capon. It sums up beautifully the question that grinds in the back of my mind. However, learning to see the beginning the middle and the end of human experience in the cross…it gives me a compass. I know which way to look. But, I still get lost from time to time.

    Also “modern day Evangelicalism is nothing but Modernism with Jesus syrup” that’s a good.

  100. David Foutch Avatar
    David Foutch

    Michael,

    I can’t go into the lab and say “We don’t need to do any more work in genomics because God does it all. From one moment to the next he sustains all things by the word of his power.” I’m a paid junior professional and if my boss wants me to tackle a problem that needs both a rational and mechanistic understanding, then that is the product that I will attempt to deliver. Descartes was a professional philosopher that was facing a rising tide of atheism. It would not suffice to appeal to the authority of the church or tradition or scripture to quell their skepticism. Descartes was attempting to construct an air tight entirely rational argument that one could follow axiomatically to the inevitable conclusion that God exists. And yet you are trying to tell me that Descartes denies God as creator…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Subscribe to blog via email

Support the work

Your generous support for Glory to God for All Things will help maintain and expand the work of Fr. Stephen. This ministry continues to grow and your help is important. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement!


Latest Comments

  1. Amen! Thank you, Fr. Stephen, for these encouraging words.

  2. Matthew, “finding those firm foundations of goodness of which you speak can, sometimes, be difficult especially when we read something…

  3. Just want to add that I believe that Father has said many times (please feel free to correct me) that…

  4. Janine said: “How do you know God is not looking at you the same way you see your son?” Man…

  5. Thank you SO much Carlos! I really appreciate your thoughts and your prayers. Thanks also Fr. Stephen and Simon. Do…


Read my books

Everywhere Present by Stephen Freeman

Listen to my podcast



Categories


Archives