A Truly Rational Faith


St. Paul notes that “faith works through love” (Gal. 5:6). This describes the very heart of the ascetic life. Only love extends itself in the self-emptying struggle against the passions without becoming lost in the solipsism of asceticism for its own sake. It is love that endures the contradictions of reality without turning away or reducing them. And it is love that finally comprehends the reality hidden within the contradictions that confront us.


It would not be surprising, if you were speaking to a group of fish, for everything you said to be understood in terms of water. If something completely permeates our world, it’s hard to imagine anything in other terms. This is the difficulty in speaking about faith in the context of our modern world. Our culture thinks in terms of “thinking” (ratio). However, Christian faith is not a subset or a mode of discursive reason. It is, however, a mode of perception, just as is seeing, smelling, hearing, or touch. Faith is the mode of the heart’s perception, and since everyone, even a modern person, actually has a heart, everyone is capable of faith. It is, however, something that takes practice and patience.

Vladimir Lossky, the great Russian theologian of the mid-20th century, wrote:

Christian faith… is adherence to a presence which confers certitude, in such a way that certitude, here, is first….Thus faith allows us to think, it gives us true intelligence. Knowledge is given to us by faith, that is to say, by our participatory adherence to the presence of Him Who reveals Himself. Faith is therefore not a psychological attitude, a mere fidelity. It is an ontological relationship between man and God, an internally objective relationship for which the catechumen prepares himself, and through which baptism and chrismation are conferred upon the faithful: gifts which restore and vivify the deepest nature of man. “In Baptism,” said Irenaeus, “one receives the immutable canon of truth.” It is first the “rule of faith,” transmitted to the initiated. But this regula fidei (Tertullian, Irenaeus) implies the very faculty of receiving it. “The heretics who have perverted the rule of truth,” St. Irenaeus wrote, “preach themselves when they believe that they are preaching Christianity” (Adversus haereses, Book III). This faculty is the personal existence of man, it is his nature made to assimilate itself to divine life – both mortified in their state of separation and death and vivified by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Faith as ontological participation included in a personal meeting is therefore the first condition for theological knowledge.

From Introduction to Orthodox Theology, pp. 16-17.

That is a very meaty quote, worth looking at carefully. Lossky defines faith as “ontological participation included in a personal meeting.” This is absolutely not the “faith” of discursive reason – it is not something that involves a “leap.” It is not something we use to get around or over doubt. It is not about “thinking.”

In the disintegration of human understanding that marks our present age, reason has been reduced to discursive reasoning, i.e. logic. Popularly, it refers to what can be proven by demonstration (and often less than that). At the same time, there has been a groundswell of sentimentality, in which how we “feel” about something has been elevated to a position above rational argument. It is in this context that faith is easily misunderstood. Faith is not a leap beyond the provable, nor is it a motion based on strong sentiment. Faith is a mode of perception, a means by which we may know. But it belongs to a much larger understanding of human cognition that is unknown to our culture.

Lossky’s weighty description of faith is: “a participatory adherence to the presence of Him Who reveals Himself.” Every word of his definition is primary. First, there is the notion of participation (koinonia). This is thoroughly Biblical where knowledge is seen as participatory, the result of communion and coinherence. This is problematic for modern understanding. Our culture is rooted in assumptions of radical individualism. It believes that we are not only distinct and separate from everything around us but also that what we think about something is, largely, the sum total of our experience. Thus, what I think and how I feel are considered sufficient to define “my reality.” There is no communion, only occasional alliances with other individuals for a common purpose.

In the Old Testament, it is said that a man “knew his wife,” when making reference to their conjugal union. Modern thought tends to smile knowingly and think that what is being said is but a quaint metaphor for sex. But “sex” is itself the crude metaphor of an individualistic culture that has reduced “union” to a set of feelings. The Biblical phrase expresses the understanding that what is taking place between husband and wife transcends its physical expression. It is a true union in which the two “become one flesh.” Again, such a statement is treated as “mere metaphor” in our modern culture, when it is quite the opposite. It is an effort, in words, to give voice to an experience of knowing that is virtually inexpressible. The modern assumption is that the phrase, “knew his wife,” is an effort to avoid what is actually happening, when it is, in fact, an effort to actually express what is happening beyond direct observation.

Every act of true communion is an act of faith.

The crude materialism of our culture has no way to give an account for the notion of communion. In truth, it does not give a very good account of materialism. Even on the purely material level, our experience of the world and of each other is far more participatory than we consider. We breathe our environment. We eat and drink our environment. The whole living world is a communion of DNA, an interplay, and interrelationship of organisms who have never been utterly distinct. Our own existence and health is itself a symbiotic relationship with colonies of bacteria living within us. Indeed, according to some studies, those same bacteria have an impact on how we think and perceive. And our being unaware of such relationships does not negate them. It only underlines how ignorant our modern perceptions often are.

Lossky adds to communion (participation) the word adherence. Faith is a knowledge that does not come by brief encounter. It is a perception that goes deeply beyond mere observation. It requires true attention. Attentiveness (nepsis), often rendered as “sobriety,” is a key element of the ascetic life of classical Christianity. It is more than mere mindfulness, much less holding a single thought. Rather, it is the fruit of love. It is the attentiveness that is reserved for the beloved – a communion of adherence.

And this is the last word of Lossky’s definition: presence. Faith is a perception and communion, which means that there is actually something (someone) to be perceived and with which to have communion. Faith is not an action reserved to some portion of our mind – it does not take place within us. It is a perception that is true communion.

This recalls an earlier article that reflected on Pavel Florensky’s description of contradiction. Reality, especially the Presence of God who is the only truly existing One, confronts us as something of a contradiction. It cannot be reduced to discursive reasoning, as indeed is true of anything within the created order as well. Discursive reasoning is but a small sliver of human activity (sentimentality is smaller still). True reason or rationality (logikos) was never meant to be restricted to mere discursive patterns. True reason is the whole capacity that we have as human beings to perceive, know, consider, commune, etc. We are logikos because we are created in the image of the Logos, not because we think in terms of “A” and “not-A” being mutually contradictory.

Florensky centered the perception that carries us past contradiction and into Truth, in the ascetic life of love. This is in full agreement with Lossky’s “participatory adherence to the Presence.” In our cultural context, to use the word “love,” is to invite the entire world of sentimentality into a conversation where it does not belong. The contemporary world knows very little of love in its proper sense. For “love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (1John 4:7). We are told that “faith works by love” (Gal. 5:6). We are able to perceive what is true by the ascetic life of participatory adherence to the things of God.


About Fr. Stephen Freeman

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





45 responses to “A Truly Rational Faith”

  1. Byron Avatar

    Thanks for reposting, Father. There are some excellent comments on Love in the original posting of this article. Well worth going back and reading!

  2. George Avatar

    Adhere-to stick fast to

  3. Peter Andonian Avatar
    Peter Andonian

    Thank you Father Stephen for this. I have been thinking lately that my biggest lack in life has been weak love for God and others. In my remaining life however long it is, I am praying that God gives me a greater love of those around me and a love of himself. I realize all the things I have though of as inadequate in my life are secondary to this. I know that if I ask he will give it.

  4. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    By God’s grace I was given to perceive the possibility of the “ontological relationship between man and God” early in life. It took me 39 years to find a communion (the Orthodox Church) where realizing the interrelationship could occur. And another 35 years kicking against the pricks.

    It is a communion realized with both my seen and unseen fellow communicants. Realized even in what I often perceive as messiness even sin especially in my own heart.

    Mt. 4:17 indicates the way to deeper participation. A participation that C. S. Lewis described in The Chronicles of Narnia as going “higher up and further in.”

    I find such joy to be deeply humbling/convicting and incredibly transcendent at the same time. Especially as my physical faculties are waning. The joy of the communion tends to overcome everything else.
    Glory be to God.
    Thank you Fr. Stephen and all here.

  5. Byron Avatar

    I note how this all ties together an understanding of true communion. A previous blog comment noted the following.

    It is not simply that salvation is freely given without regard to merit, etc.(though it is), but that salvation is the natural effect of God’s presence (grace) at work in our lives through union with Him. “Saved by grace” isn’t about the price I (don’t) pay. It’s about the continuous unfolding of the work of God for our good as we commune with Him in faith, hope, and love.

    Lossky’s “participatory adherence to the Presence” reflects the ever-unfolding of God’s grace in the communion He shares with all of His creation. Faith is how we experience and partake of His Grace. Being made in His Image is to be able to know Him in the fullness of the communion He reveals to us. As the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is in full communion with One Another, so God reveals this communion to us in His on-going sustaining of all Creation. This is especially revealed in mankind who is made in His Image for the very purpose of taking part in His (eternal) Life. Just thinking out loud.

  6. blind bartimaeus Avatar
    blind bartimaeus

    I resonate with this understanding of faith, and I’m also interested in how the above article would interact with the author of Hebrews’ assertion that “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews’ definition does sound much more like a sense perception than it does an intellectual ascent, but I am struggling to make the connection between Hebrews’ definition and Lossky’s “a participatory adherence to the presence of Him Who reveals Himself.”

  7. Byron Avatar

    And then to Love, from (much shortened by me) comments by Dino and Father in the previous posting of this blog.

    But we can’t disregard the experiential reality that we actually cannot truly love: not like God loves… the truth is we haven’t got it in us, and even if we did, (without an absolute reference to ‘Love Himself’), our love would be invariably based upon our own motives. For such a thing as true love we need God’s Grace acting through us. Only then, when it becomes God Himself who loves through us, can we fulfil the commandment of love in its fullness.

    …One of the greatest paradoxes in one’s effort towards acquiring true love is that Love’s practical antagonist is not hate, but “other loves”. The OT, for instance, testifies repetitively that a cold-heart towards God is mostly a product of turning to other ‘gods’….

    All we can do is peacefully and singularly focus on God alone (who is Love) in the unceasing remembrance of our complete weakness. His Grace will eventually make us unable to differentiate between ourselves and all others because of our love towards Him. We will only then be fulfilling the second commandment in its fullness through the Holy Spirit.”

    And Father’s note.

    …“Love is from God,” meaning, it is not human – at least not the love we are commanded to have. But to offer ourselves to Him with what we have – particularly the recognition of our weakness (which is the heart of repentance) is the right path.”

    So much of “faith, hope, and love” is found in our self-emptying before God to, as St. Paul says, “be filled with His Spirit”. It all harkens back to Jesus’ commandment to “deny yourselves…and follow Me”. The paradoxical nature of ascetic self-denial leads to salvific self-fulfillment but only in communion with God. In the fullness of our (salvation) union or knowing with Him, our own fullness–what we are created to be–is revealed.

    My apologies if this is too random or badly off-base. I’m trying to connect certain dots and I’m not positive I am understanding the connection in all of these things correctly. Please forgive me and offer correction as needed.

  8. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    blind bartimaeus, a stab at it. In our participation we are assured of that for which we hope and no matter how much is revealed there is still much more unseen. Our hope is ever deepening and I cannot see even the entirety of my own heart, let alone anyone elses’s. Only to the extent it is revealed through faith, humility and grace.

  9. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    There is a strong but destructive the in the U. S. mass mind that proclaims the power and self-sufficiency of the independent individual. The myth of the frontier popularized in the late 19th century did a lot to imbed that lie in our hearts. Combined with the “revolutionary” persona and the Protestant dogmas, a proper understanding of faith was difficult.

    Even if rejected, the lie has its effect. With the socialist ideology of the submergence of the individual to the collective made knowing even more difficult.

    Yet genuine faith persisted. It can still be a difficult struggle with the passions in our soul that want to “rule in hell” so to speak.

    Yet the vision and reality that our Lord Incarnate has preserved in the Church of genuine community in communion with the Holy Trinity still lives. Indeed is “at hand”.

  10. Andrew Avatar

    I’ve heard it said that many of the instances of the word ‘faith’ in the Scriptures would be better rendered as ‘faithfulness’. It does seem to make better sense of a lot of passages like Heb. 11:1, for example. Faith as mere intellectual assent or hope gets messy when you read that God is ‘faithful’.

  11. Eric Avatar

    Thank you for this Father Stephen
    I particularly resonated with what you wrote about the absence of communion in our society which ironically makes us rather poor materialists, certainly materialists are the dullest of the dull!
    It reminded me of something which I have encountered over and over, that relationship is prior to those things which are related. That ‘material’ things come out of prior relationship. This increasingly seems true to me. It is in accord with quantum reality (I have a background in physics) and after a wile seems obvious.
    To give a most obvious example – we are all in some sense the product of a relaitonship prior to us, which was itself etc. etc. In the beginning was the relaitonship
    I was recently with someone who was rather despairing of that was happening in their church, for a new priest had been waylaid by people with an agenda. Our society seems to think that one can have meaningful conversation apart from relationship. It has no foundation. This perhaps is the root of that quaint custom in my (English Anglican) tradition, that whenever one meets someone, to ponder a matter we first suggest ‘a cup of tea’ 🙂

  12. Drewster2000 Avatar

    One time in college a teacher did a role-playing game with us. She divided the class up into 2 groups, putting one out in the hallway and instructing each group separately. The basic rules were that both groups interacted with each other and both passed cards around – but neither group could talk. The silence element seemed to be crucial in order for us to understand the exercise.

    As it turned out, for the classroom group the cards were just an excuse to interact. In the end they didn’t really matter. The hallway group however reminded me of the stock market. The cards were what mattered and all interactions were chiefly for the purpose of obtaining more cards of certain sorts.

    I learned decades later that this was about relationship (classroom group) vs. transaction (hallway group). While both are essential to the process of being in communion (at least in this life), our Western culture has elevated the value of the transaction WAY over that of relationships. Thus the triumph of individualism and the breakdown of communion.

    I feel like one of the chief tasks of the second half of my life is learning what it looks like to see and manifest the true value of relationships. And I usually feel like a salmon swimming upstream as I do so.

  13. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Following a lead from a friend, I took up reading about the Industrial Revolution several years back. The tale of the “Enlightenment,” of French ideas of “liberty, equality, brotherhood,” etc., married together with reason and the application of the Scientific Method is the way the story is usually told. It sounds noble – those great sentiments warring against ignorance and supersition. You’d have thought we were on the verge of some great and wonderful thing.

    But the suggestion that was given to me was to read about the “Scottish Enlightenment.” That tale (How the Scots Invented the Modern World) is much different in its actuality. The great breakthrough of the Scottish Enlightenment was the discovery of how “science” and “invention” could be monetized. It was not the pursuit of knowledge, nor pure science, nor reason, nor any such thing that created modernity: it was the pursuit of profit.

    This is the modern world: the Enchantment of Mammon (I recommend the recent book by that title as well). That is the “invisible hand of the market” that has guided the path for us. Mammon (profit) works well because it feeds the passions. Modern science has been effectively applied to discovering how to sell stuff to people who don’t need any more stuff. It also knows how to form and shape their “morality” into immorality in the name of compassion and the relief of suffering.

    In short, we have been bought. Communion comes at a much steeper price. It requires that we wrestle with the passions. That we attend to one another. That we love.

    There are lies out there that if we all follow are own self-interests, we will build a democratic paradise. Over two-hundred years of our modern democracy has produced a government we despise (no matter who’s in power) and a world awash in violence, weapons, and hatred. In short, it’s hard to be a Christian.

  14. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Father, what a packed comment. It will take a bit of work to contemplate the various threads.

  15. George Avatar

    Michael Bauman
    What the worldly people need from all of us followers of the WAY is to love them no matter what.

  16. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    George, my point is that save for a very few, each of us is infected. When I repent, God’s mercy seems to affect everybody to whom , I am connected. My father actually taught me that. It was a chief principle in his approach to what he called Community Health and everybody else calls public health (what ever that is). He insisted that if the health of one person in the community was made better, the whole community got healthier. Because as human beings we are all interconnected. He learned that growing up on the high plains of eastern New Mexico as a family dry land farmer and rancher in the early 20th century.

    The fact is I am a deeply worldly person. I struggle with that every day, every minute. The unmerited Grace of God’s mercy is what keeps me from sinking into the world more and more deeply where I would embrace many soul killing ideas, thoughts and actions to the fullest.

    Please pray for me George and all of my family.
    Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.

  17. George Avatar

    Michael Bauman, I meant that comment for Drewster.
    For you Michael, love yourself,, no matter what.
    As we do what is Holy, love God and our neighbor,, we infect our neighbors and make the world a better place to live.

  18. George Avatar

    What the worldly people need from all of us followers of the WAY is to love them no matter what.

  19. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    I share the perspectives you express. However, I haven’t read the books you mentioned.

  20. Byron Avatar

    What the worldly people need from all of us followers of the WAY is to love them no matter what.


    I think a better statement is that we need to love “the worldly people” as God loves them. I worry that your statement is too generic and too often misinterpreted by “the worldly people” as love being the equivalent of wholesale acceptance of all things. Our love should be God’s love, which results in the repentance of which Michael speaks and the transformation that our faithfulness (“participatory adherence to the presence of Him Who reveals Himself”) accepts and embraces.

  21. Drewster2000 Avatar


    I truly agree. We need to love them no matter what.

    However, I’ve learned that loving someone involves knowing them…which requires relationship instead of just a warm fuzzy feeling. And in my experience I end up figuring out that I’m much more like them than I had initially imagined. In fact instead of saving them through my love, I often end up sitting beside them and asking the Lord to save us both. “My brother is my life,” as the Saint said.

  22. George Avatar

    Having a relationship with someone is good. For me, loving someone is wanting what is best for him or her and what is best is Theosis.

  23. Drewster2000 Avatar


    My contention is that if you love me and yet you don’t know me…I’m not sure how real that love actually is. I’m not sure just how much it accomplishes other than warm, earnest feelings inside yourself. It has no actual effect on me that I’m aware of.

  24. George Avatar

    Love for me is not an emotion. It is to will the best for others and to do, to the best of my ability, what I can to bring that best to fruition. Fr. Stephen can correct me if I am wrong, but that understanding is the Orthodox Christian understanding of love.

  25. Fr. Marty Watt Avatar

    Second the recommendation of “The Enchantments of Mammon.” The author has some YouTube videos as well, for those who don’t want to read (and why would one not want to read?).

    I’ve often thought that American self-sufficiency never existed except on the absolute frontier. Everything else was interaction with others, creating community. Perhaps we’ve (as a society) forgotten what community is, and what its significance is, thus becoming the biggest hurdle people encounter to immersion in the Orthodox Church.

  26. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Fr. Watt, if the experience of my grandparents, my Dad and my uncles is any guide (homesteading on the high, dry plains 9fveastern New Mexico in 1908 is indicative, “self-sufficiency” never actually existed. Their life and lively hood was always linked to the earth and the greater human communities to which they were connected. Indeed it was there that my Dad learned indelibly about the interconnectedness of life. He never made the connection to God but my brother and I did. We are both Orthodox.

    We owe our hunger for God to both our parents and the Holy Spirit. That hunger is only fed in the Church, within the community of the Church and the activity of the Living God, in three persons, that gives life to that community.

  27. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I think your take on love is accurate. I would add (on its deepest level), it has an ontological aspect – such that I would say that in our heart (deep heart) and our actions, we participate in love which transcends us. It makes it possible to love beyond the limits of what might otherwise be impossible.

  28. George Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,
    …we participate in love that transcends us. Not I, but Christ in and through me. I’m just the wineskin.

  29. Lynne Avatar

    These comments remind me of a relatively recent set of observations that there are more responses to danger than just “fight or flight.” There is also “tend and befriend.” From Wikipedia: “Tend-and-befriend is a behavior exhibited by some animals, including humans, in response to threat. It refers to protection of offspring (tending) and seeking out their social group for mutual defense (befriending). In evolutionary psychology, tend-and-befriend is theorized as having evolved as the typical female response to stress.” It was first described by Shelley E. Taylor. Her book is called The Tending Instinct: How Nurturing Is Essential To Who We Are and How We Live.

  30. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Loving myself, truly, requires deep repentance to uncover the image God has in me. Anything else is just a form of narrcicism. That is part of the ontological aspect of which Fr. Stephen.
    The spirit of the world is quite skilled at forming false images in us and encouraging us to love the false image while inducing us to worship those false images and/or become slaves to the untruth.
    Thus the life of repentance to which we are called in the Church becomes the path that allows us to discover and love that which we truly are
    That entails penetrating, by Grace, into one’s own heart.
    Our Lord’s grace is always there no matter how badly I mess up because repentance is always possible and available. A deep proof of God’s love for us and how much He values us.
    Not surprisingly the idea of repentance has become cannibalized by the spirit of the world and a false idea of repentance as self hate popularized.
    Arthur Milker’s great play, The Crucible, is a searing portrait of that BTW. Reading it and seeing it preformed was the first inkling I ever had to the nature of genuine repentance.
    Published in 1953, it was originally meant as an allegory of the destructive nature of the McCarthy Hearings in the U. S. Senate It has always been much more than that, at least for me.
    The path of repentance is difficult. I have only begun to scratch the surface and Jesus has done most of the work. Indeed, His Grace and Mercy alone make it possible. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” is the core.
    Repentance is the way to loving myself as Jesus does.
    Forgive me a sinner. Thank you for your prayers.

  31. George Avatar

    Michael Bauman,
    I agree with what you said about repentance. What the devil can’t subvert , he convert to his purposes.
    The world has lost ontological understanding and relies only on rational logical understanding. I found having discussions with atheists impossible because they have no ontilogical understanding.

  32. Matthew Lyon Avatar
    Matthew Lyon

    Fr. Freeman,

    I have 3 younger boys and I’ve tried to convey what God’s presence in the world is like in an analogy of a fish, or of being in a snow-globe. The one thing I kept in part from recent Reformed apologetics, and then I realized it was just Orthodoxy all along, is something they call Presuppositionalism. This is the sort of article to me, when you talk about your Reformed (brother?) that there is a contact point with a strong contrast at the same time. I am sort of keen to see such things because it one, throws a bone so speak, and gives a sharp criticism that I think is actually graceful (I mean, I think showing commonality is a good thing to do before you criticize). Several times I’ve thought of your Reformed family member when writing comments here.

    Hebrews says that to please God, you must believe He exists and rewards (presupposing both Christ and the Holy Spirit and much more). But for any epistemology to work, you must ground sensory experience, and later you must ground your personal experiences in the context of reality. This is more than the need to know how or why you know but Who you know in the world He made. It is greater to need faith/belief to please God, but it is also true that to trust your own sense perception means it must align to something more than the random evolution brain we supposedly receive. You need faith in order to think and thinking then must be in the service of faith. Why trust your brain if you can’t trust what made it? Why, ever, pretend that you can think apart from faith? Here’s a major flaw in the Calvinist take – that after regeneration – how do you know – when you could just have a predestined reprobate mind – how can you trust Who made it – that you are actually a Christian? And from there you need evidence/proofs. But they are ultimately like the proofs of a syllogism, and even syllogisms can be subjective. So, proofs aren’t good enough, and some see this, so – you need the internal witness of the Holy Spirit. And from there, you can speak from personal experience (and ruin ecclesiology). I just tied both syllogisms and personal experience to Calvinism/Augustinian soteriology by way of their theology in our current cultural situation as authority-makers. But when there is such a clear correlation, I can’t help but think that “one thing, leads to another.”

    We take for granted that we live like the fish who doesn’t think much (I would guess) about water. We presuppose, everyone, God’s existence, and must in order to live or think, but this is not the same thing as union. And this is where the popular presentation of presuppositional apologetics quits, before union, largely because it’s not the goal and they wouldn’t see that it is. They wouldn’t see that the end of a true apologetic is union, and they don’t understand union anyway. My point is though, that in our methodology which should exclude proofs, there is a greater Proof (the Holy Trinity) which grounds all other real proofs. And when He is recognized, He draws us into union. But often first, a disunion must occur for us to take any steps towards union unless it happens in the moment – like the Prodigal.

    I think politicians (besides the fact that they employ massive numbers of psychologists) have picked up a lot from Christian evangelism. I remember being told as a teenager that when talking to others about Christ your personal testimony (often doctored up a bit to look more dramatic) was sort of a trump card because others couldn’t argue as well with personal experience. That’s bad advice, but good advice politically as you can trump any argument with, “but I feel.” But the evangelicals got the idea from Calvinists.

    “The heretics who have perverted the rule of truth,” St. Irenaeus wrote, “preach themselves when they believe that they are preaching Christianity” (Adversus haereses, Book III). ”

    I can’t help but think this quote must be referencing someone comparable to a Calvinist since he uses it between sentences on capability to believe.

    To be honest Fr. Freeman, much of my mental labor, and rethinking the Scriptures, and our theology, is to show both the capability and the dangers of toying with this capability as it can be lost or at least very hard to regain, because capability and freedom go together. Having capability is useless if the will is bound to do only evil. This is Jonathon Edward’s argument in large part, that when God asks us to obey, technically we have the capability or the mechanics, but not the willingness. We could get out of the quicksand of sin, but we like it too much. The atheist responds almost identically. We can’t escape fate, unless there is outside intervention against our will. And here, there’s some truth, about not leaving the quicksand, but it’s ultimately a lie. And to me, as Lossky writes above,

    “It is an ontological relationship between man and God, an internally objective relationship for which the catechumen prepares himself, and through which baptism and chrismation are conferred upon the faithful: gifts which restore and vivify the deepest nature of man. “In Baptism,” said Irenaeus, “one receives the immutable canon of truth.” It is first the “rule of faith,” transmitted to the initiated,” – this has been my answer to the capability and the will question – with exorcism.

    Would Lossky or Irenaeus or Tertullian have imagined a Baptism without an exorcism? I don’t see how they could. This fills in the missing soteriological answer – the purposeful disunion between you and the demonic who exercise some control over you. A disunion between you and nurture (which includes death as first in influence, and everyone/thing else also firstly influenced by death) and nature (as nature is not distinguishable from “supernature”, the demonic are part of nature in this sense). Exorcism answers part of the will question – where without it, without the disunion from the demonic, there is not enough explanatory power for human evil and there is definitely no trust in the Scriptures concerning the will and evil – to explain both the freedom and the bondage of the will Biblically and experientially. As I’ve said many times, the ending of the Lord’s Prayer is truly, “deliver us from the Evil One.” With the gifting of the Holy Spirit – with Resurrection – and the ongoing access to Life, in the Church, among the “dead to sin, alive to Christ”, this explains how we can live and be free in Christ with His Body and acknowledges the fact that the will’s motivation to do evil is real. and dangerous. There’s no semi or full blown Pelagianism. The devil is a conundrum in Reformed theology due to the explanatory power in Total Depravity. But it’s not Biblically explanatory. Death and Satan were conditioning man not inherited depravity. To deny this is ludicrous.

    Last, your comment on “knowing” – that is a point well worth taking. Something that needs repetition. I don’t know how many times I’d read something about how Biblical writers or translators were embarrassed to use “sex”. Thinking about it right now, think how much they weren’t embarrassed to say! The imagination goes from physical/animal to analogies of incarnation and deification. I mean that the physical is joined to the physical and the union transcends yet keeps the physical. At first, I felt a little trepidation saying that but then I remembered, marriage is an analogy of Christ’s Body. Ephesians 5:31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

    It’s got to be profound if St. Paul says it’s profound. I wonder if this sentence grounds in large part the Church’s stance that marriage is a sacrament(mystery) – and the underlying union logic (can you suggest a better word than logic that is one word).

    Thanks for this,
    Matthew Lyon

  33. George Avatar

    Acquire the HOLY SPIRIT and thousands around you will be saved This approach to evangelism is unique to Orthodoxy. My first task in helping others find Christ in His Church is to become holy myself..

  34. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Dear Father Marty Watt,
    Thank you for the heads up about the YouTube videos available on the Enchantment of Mammon lecture series. I love reading, but lately, my reading time has been taken up with heavy reading requirements for my work (helping students conduct their research in science/chemistry). (Thank God I have time to at least read a couple of chapters in the Bible) I do, however, have long commutes, so listening while driving or cleaning/organizing is a great way to gather new concepts and materials.

    Thank you so much!

  35. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    George, indeed. Also, I see that repentance is not just about my sins but brings everyone else along too. My gift on the altar in a way.
    It is also of repentance to say: “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

  36. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Dee, thank you. Your posts strengthen my hope. May God continue to give you strength.

  37. George Avatar

    Dee, for listening in the car: 10 hours of the Jesus Prayer at the Sound of Prayers on You Tube.

  38. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Wow, George!
    I haven’t explored the Jesus Prayer on YouTube either. 10 hrs? I think I might listen with earbuds as I sleep at night. However, I have said the Jesus Prayer for the entire drive to work and back (about an hour each way). Come to think of it, I’ve done this on many coccasions. And my prayers are particularly fervent when the rush hour traffic is particularly ferocious!

    I’ll check it out. Thank you!

  39. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Dear Michael,
    Thank you so much for your gracious words. I’ve been kind of blue today and your words lifted me up.

    May God bless and keep you and your sweet Merry!

  40. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Dee, by your prayers.

  41. Pete Avatar

    That was a great way to end the whole narrative Father “We are able to perceive what is true by the ascetic life of participatory adherence to the things of God,” or to the presence of him, because at the end of it all, the connection of all is all and in him – and that by love. The vision is grand. We live so far beneath it.

  42. David Sandborgh Avatar
    David Sandborgh

    “ Discursive reasoning is but a small sliver of human activity (sentimentality is smaller still). True reason or rationality (logikos) was never meant to be restricted to mere discursive patterns. ”

    A good friend of mine, Bill McCurdy of blessed memory, taught Logic here at Idaho State University. He was a huge fan of Semiotics and Charles Sanders Peirce. Peirce was a great proponent of Inductive and Abductive logic, dismissed by many as “it’s not deduction.” Bill showed how Induction and Abduciton moved the conclusion of deductive reasoning into the premise of I & A respectively. As Bill and I talked over the years I realized Abduction has some echoes or relations to our noetic faculty. Bill was also a huge proponent or triadic relations, relations that require three participants rather than unic (p & !p) and diadic (p && q). He was convinced that a triadic relation was the fundamental relation required to model all other relations. He was also a great lover of Maximos the Confessor and Yannaris. Man I miss him, we were chrismated together. This semester I am teaching my first college class (intro to programming(, following in Bill’s massive footsteps.

    All that to say “discursive patterns” can be a death sentence if we are pursuing our personhood. E.G. A student raises their hand in class in a flash of intuition. I answer best I can with a bunch of excitement and nervousness. Enter the demon of familiar patterns – the student may be encouraged to follow their thought, temporarily satisfied or shut down depending on how my answer goes. “If the professor says ‘Not really’ then my reasoning was bad.’” How does a teacher encourage that faith perception in their students, draw it out?

  43. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    When I was in the doctoral program at Duke, there was a guy who was doing his doctorate on Pierce and semiotics. Interesting stuff.

  44. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    For what it’s worth, I was trained in chemistry using the pedagogical approach to use inductive (and adductive) reasoning rather than preferentially applying deductive reasoning. I had good teachers providentially and tried to implement similar when I started teaching at a different institution. However, the approach was not welcome among my peers or the students at that time. Now that I teach at a Tribal University, that (deductive-centered) philosophy is no longer pushed, gratefully.

    Your question: How does a teacher encourage that faith perception in their students, draw it out?

    Students can be quite inventive when they try to grasp chemistry. I don’t know your field well enough to offer advice. My first approach is to pray for an answer that validates their creativity. If it is partially correct, I might say, ‘that is true, and here is a full elaboration of where that works’, skirting the error. Usually, they figure out the error and still feel validated that they figured out the error on their own.

    One time a student looked at the atomic structure I was drawing (shell model) and described it as a watermelon. I really loved that analogy and agreed. Also, I don’t discourage students from describing atoms as “liking” some other atoms and “disliking” others. It’s not the traditional verbiage, but it works for them to help them make valid conclusions.

    –Just some thoughts

  45. Mark Spurlock Avatar
    Mark Spurlock

    Hi David,

    Not at all something I know much about, but from online searching it seems many educators are of the opinion that the way to go about it (regardless of discipline) is to move from an Initiate Response Evaluate model to an Initiate Response Feedback model. In other words, instead of evaluating the student’s response against the expected answer, you would address the student’s answer on its own terms.

    This is a piece specific to teaching programming: https://www.codegrade.com/blog/how-better-feedback-will-prepare-the-tech-talent-of-the-future

    And this is the formal research paper that the article above cites: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343517875_Adaptive_Immediate_Feedback_Can_Improve_Novice_Programming_Engagement_and_Intention_to_Persist_in_Computer_Science

    Hope that at least helps spark you toward what you’re looking for!

    Personally, I would intuit the key is looking at the subject matter as the third “person” in the relation, along with the teacher and student. The teacher is not a gatekeeper between the subject and the student, but rather each has a separate relation with the other two. That would seem to me to make teaching a much more interesting occupation because, in the gatekeeper model, the teacher’s task is highly repetitive (transferring knowledge over and over from subject to student). In the triad, the teacher gains a fresh perspective on the subject each time, as well as developing a more individualized and therefore complex (and hopefully rewarding) relationship with the student.

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