Orthodox Theology

The Best of Jonathan's Corner: An Anthology of Orthodox Christian Theology
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Go to:   Orthodox Theology   Articles  Assorted Creations   Journals  Miscellaneous Nonfiction   Novels  Orthodox Humor   Satire   Short Stories  Socratic dialogue   Technology

The works in this collection span many types and genres, but overall they can be gathered into three large categories: theology articles, hymns and poems, and odds and ends, curiosities and creative works, Each of these has author’s picks highlighted; the author is personally partial to hymns and poems.

If you are looking for a place to start in these attempts to share the Orthodox Church’s mystical theology, I suggest Silence: Organic food for the soul or Doxology. Both are taken from the hymns and poems section.

Theology Articles

Suggested starting points include Creation and Holy Orthodoxy: Fundamentalism Is Not Enough, Exotic golden ages and restoring harmony with nature: Anatomy of a passion, Money, A Pet Owner’s Rules, and“Religion and Science” Is Not Just Intelligent Design vs. Evolution.

Amazing Providence (short)
One thing I have learned as a Christian is what it means for God to look after you.
That Beautiful Strength (medium)
A look at the hideous strength of C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength, and the beautiful strength that is even stronger.
Can You Smoke Without Inhaling? Martial Arts and the Orthodox Christian(medium)
After ignoring an uneasy conscience, C.J.S. Hayward tried to study a martial art on Orthodoxy-appropriate terms. Here is a retrospective that looks at the broader question of whether we can “smoke, but not inhale.”
A Comparison Between the Mere Monk and the Highest Bishop
St. John Chrysostom wrote A Comparison Between a King and Monk, which I tried and failed to locate at a U.S. library (it’s not on Orthodox Church Fathers, so far as I can tell). So I wrote my own.

The position of a simple monastic is that position which is to be most desired in the entire Orthodox Church. And that is what I am seeking.

Contemplation (short)
We were made to enjoy contemplation, in more than one sense.
Dastardly duo considered harmful: “Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives” and “Wounded by Love”
A look at two works that may reveal less about Orthodoxy than fashion.

Creation and Holy Orthodoxy: Fundamentalism Is Not Enough(short)

Years back, I wrote a couple of pieces about origins questions. This is a more recent piece that addresses a very specific point about bringing Protestant fundamentalism into Orthodoxy, and it moves away from origins questions towards a more important issue.

You might also read the companion piece, Note to Orthodox evolutionists: Stop trying to retroactively shanghai recruit the Fathers to your camp!.

Our Crown of Thorns (short)
Christ’s crown of thorns has every relevance to our daily lives. Is it something we can have on our own terms?
Desire (short)
A meditation on covetousness, desire, and true happiness.
Dissent: Lessons From Being an Orthodox theology Student at a Catholic University (medium)
When I was studying at Fordham, the question of dissent loomed large. This is an attempt to respond to what was “in the air” at that school.
Does God Suffer? (medium)
A grieving pastor, after the death of his son, wrote that God suffers with his Creation. This is a respectful look at his masterpiece that tries to explain why it is good news that God does not suffer.

Its central points revolve around what is called “theology proper,” or “the doctrine of God.” It responds to a powerful picture, in the masterpiece A Foot in Two Worlds, of a God who can handle creaturely suffering because he suffers with them. And it looks at what it means for God to be so great that he is beyond suffering.

Do We Have Rights? (medium)
We have a lot of rights these days. Or at least we think we do, and the list of our rights is growing longer and longer.

What if I told you that people can get along well without thinking in terms of rights?

The Eighth Sacrament (short)
In Orthodoxy, there are seven sacraments, officially speaking; but there’s a great deal of truth in saying that there is only one sacrament, or that there are a million of them. This is a look at one among many of the “other” sacraments.

Exotic Golden Ages and Restoring Harmony with Nature: Anatomy of a passion (medium)

There is a perennial cry in some quarters to reclaim former glory. We thirst for the exotic, but not always in the best places. Do we appreciate what we have?

Farewell to Gandhi: The Saint and the Activist (medium)

Years back, the author was very attentive to Gandhi’s writing, enough so that his first public speech was formed by that attentiveness. Now, years later, he has some second thoughts, and realizes areas where he was wrong.

God the Game Changer (medium)

A meditation on God as the Game Changer who responds to sin, evil, pain, and death by changing the game.

God the Spiritual Father (medium)

A collection of quotes and reflections on God the Father in light of the spiritual fatherhood in Orthodox monasticism, in its relevance to us today in an economic depression.
Halloween: A solemn farewell (short)
I enjoyed Halloween for many years, but it looks different as I begin to understand Orthodoxy.
The Horn of Joy: A meditation on eternity and time, kairos and chronos(medium)
A meditation on eternity and time.
How to Find a Job: A Guide for Orthodox Christians (short)
A concise summary of both the sacred and secular dimensions to an Orthodox Christian’s jobhunt. (Getting a job for Orthodox Christians calls for both.)
How to Survive Hard Times (medium)
Would you like to know how to survive an economic depression? People have survived every kind of disaster from recessions to economic collapses. The way they have survived may have had something to do with spirituality and faith. Do you want to dig deeper into how to survive an economic depression? You might find some answers here.
On humor (short)
A look at humor (off-color and otherwise) in the light of Orthodox Christian classics.
The Hydra
A look at a hydra whose heads include the covetousness of Romanticism’s Sehnsucht or longing, escapism, fantasy, the occult, and the freedom that comes when one rejects all of these.
Incarnation and deification (short)
An written for the Feast of the Nativity and the Fast before it, about Incarnation that unfurls in deification.
Introduction to the Jesus Prayer (short)
When we pray the Jesus Prayer, God uses it to build silence in our hearts and untangle those things we have knotted inside.
Lesser icons: Reflections on Faith, Icons, and Art (medium)
An Orthodox artist looks at art as a variety of icon.
Monasticism for Protestants
Monasticism is best understood by direct experience, and probably by someone who is a monastic. However, I wanted to write something to give some concrete face to my monastic aspirations when I might as well be describing something as foreign as living on the moon.
Modus Tollens: Meandering Reflections on Life, Faith, and Politics(medium)
Loss is a part of life. In fact, loss is a part of Divine Providence: “Every branch that bears fruit, [the Vinedresser] prunes that it may bear more fruit.”

In truth, everything in life is either a blessing from God or a temptation which has been allowed for our strengthening.

Modus Tollens explores this pruning.

Monarchy (short)
A meditation of mystical theology about kings and kingdoms, monarchs and monarchy.

Money (short)

A homily touching on a subject that doesn’t get much treatment for how important it is.
Book Review: A New Face on an Old Ecumenism (The Orthodox Dilemma Second Edition : Personal Reflections on Global Pan-Orthodox Christian Conciliar Unity)
Ecumenism has been formally anathematized as heresy, but heresies sport new masks: the very name of “New Age” is a lie, and Orthodox concerned about ecumenism might be interested in the particular permutation of ecumenism shown in this title and answered in a review.

Note to Orthodox Evolutionists: Stop Trying to Retroactively Shanghai Recruit the Fathers to Your Camp!

Orthodox Christians may believe in evolution, but when Orthodox claim that the Fathers’ overall teaching goes hand in hand with evolution, there is something fishy going on.

You might also read the companion piece, Creation and Holy Orthodoxy: Fundamentalism Is Not Enough.

Oops… Could the Western Rite Please Try Again? (short)
There is something that is not quite right about the Western Rite in the Orthodox Church. (Really? When they are trying so hard to reconstruct the authentic Western Orthodoxy of the first millenium? Yes!)
An Open Letter to Catholics on Orthodoxy and Ecumenism (medium)
An open letter about an elephant in the room that Orthodox are painfully aware of and Catholics seem not to see at all.
Ordinary (short)
Some of us wish, or are tempted to wish, that we lived in the age of the great Christological controversies, or nineteenth century Russia, or perhaps the Middle Ages or the Baroque era.

But God has placed us here and now, and ordained for us our ordinary lives to live out. Has God made a mistake in doing so?

The Orthodox Martial Art Is Living the Sermon on the Mount (long)

One perennial debate is about war and peace, just war and pacifism, violence and nonviolence, soldiers and armies, and figures like Gandhi. Listen to the mystical theology of the Orthodox Christian Church as She listens out of the depths of Her silence.

Our thoughts determine our lives: Beyond The Secret and the Law of Attraction

A look at Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica’s title, Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives, as uncovering a more interesting secret than just Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret‘ and the Law of Attraction, and a secret for inner transformation—and outer!

A Pet Owner’s Rules (short)

God is like a pet owner who has only two rules.
The Pleasure-Pain Syndrome (medium)
A look at the pleasure-pain syndrome that for an instant crystallizes in the discussion of the Philokalia under a work attributed to St. Maximos the Confessor.

Pride (medium)

A look at the venomous hydra called narcissism and pride, by which Satan fell from being an Archangel in Heaven to being the Devil.

It isn’t good for us, either.

QUICK! What Is Your Opinion About Chemistry?

A look at “religion and science” that takes a slow, careful look at how we should receive patristic attitudes towards what is now considered to be the academic discipline of chemistry. (Note: this has nothing to do with alchemy even if there is a historical relation between modern chemistry and alchemy.)

“Religion and Science” Is Not Just Intelligent Design vs. Evolution (medium)

In my own experience, I started from a very scientific background; I have math awards and letters after my name in the sciences. And this science has been the start of a journey of repentance; it is a starting point of things that would find healing in Orthodoxy. And entering Orthodox theology, mystical theology, has meant unlearning not only the content of my knowing but what it is to know at all. Science is cut from the same cloth, or bedrock to, what it was that I needed healing from the Church as I was reconciled from the kind of background one gets in the sciences.

Repentance, Heaven’s Best-Kept Secret

Virtue is its own reward.

Repentance leads us into the rewards of virtue.

It is Heaven’s best-kept secret.

Rules of Engagement
Soldiers entering a scenario are given a brief list of “rules of engagement” that often fits on a single card.

This work isn’t quite so brief, but it offers rules of engagement for Orthodox spiritual warfare.

A Shaft of Grace (short)
A description of an everyday religious experience.

“Social Antibodies” Needed: A Request of Orthodox clergy (medium)

An article exploring the social issues surrounding technology and faith and inviting Orthodox clergy to provide pastoral guidance, in other words “social antibodies”, for the internet, iPhones, and other features of the technological nexus that we are in.
The Swiss Army Knife and God (short)
Do Swiss Army Knives offer a lens to see God with?
Take Your Shoes Off Your Feet, for the Place Where You Stand Is Holy Ground (medium)
The Fathers see something in the Lord’s command to Take Your Shoes Off Your Feet, for the Place Where You Stand Is Holy Ground, and it has every relevance to Great Lent.

What do the Fathers see? And what does it have to do with Great Lent?

Tong Fior Blackbelt: The Martial Art of Joyous Conflict
This is a work I am still not happy with, and it should be taken with a grain of salt. None the less, it has its strengths as it discusses martial arts as a lens to see the Do / Way of Orthodoxy.
The Transcendent God Who Approaches Us Through Our Neighbor (short)
Everything we say of God is inadequate. Yet this God who is far beyond anything we can say has a vicar on earth: not the Pope, but every person who crosses our path.
Treasure (short)
Calvin and Hobbes said, “There’s treasure everywhere!”

And really, there is.

Treasures in Heaven: The Inner Meaning of “Do Not Store Up Treasures On Earth”
“Do not store up treasures on earth,” in the Sermon on the Mount, may seem to be the ultimate strict standard of sacrificial living.

It is a strict standard, but its plain sense may be the outer shell of an important inner meaning.

Two Decisive Moments (short)

One of the moments is long ago. The other one can be right now.
What Evolutionists Have to Say to the Royal, Divine Image: We’re Missing Something
An article by someone who believes humans genuinely ARE a special flower and royal, on what evolution / revolutionary punk eek has to tell us who believe in the divine image.
What Makes Me Uneasy About Fr. Seraphim (Rose) and His Followers(short)
A look at what exactly about Fr. Seraphim (Rose) and his followers could disturb an Orthodox Christian.
What the Present Debate Won’t Tell You About Headship (short)
Among Christians, there’s a debate about “headship”. And those involved can miss something very important.
Where is the good of women? Feminism is called “The women’s movement.” But is it? (medium)
In the days of Luther, the Roman hegemony was strong enough that even Protestants had difficulties imagining how one could be at odds with the Roman Catholic Church and yet be right with God.

Feminism enjoys a similar position today for women’s interests, but “the women’s movement” is slipping, and there are signs a growing number find that “the women’s movement” is not their movement.

Work-Mystic (medium)

Work offers something of a missed opportunity for many of us: drudgery we endure to get pay, rather than an opportunity to serve and enjoy in a very high sense.

It doesn’t have to be this way, and there is in fact room for a mystical theology that encompasses work, and transforms it.

Your Own, Personal Hell (medium)
It has always been seductively easy to create your own, Personal Hell. The Fathers say that the gates of Hell are bolted and barred from the inside, that Hell is self-chosen, that there are in the end there are two types of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God ultimately says, “Thy will be done.” And some have suggested that even the fire of Hell is the Light of Heaven as experienced through the rejection of the only joy we can ultimately have, Christ Himself.

(You might also be interested in material from other sections of this website, such as Stephanos, and An Orthodox Looks at a Calvinist Looking at Orthodoxy.)

Hymns and poems

Suggested starting points include Doxology, A Pilgrimage from Narnia,Silence: Organic food for the soul, and Why This Waste?.

Akathist Hymn to St. Philaret the Merciful (medium)

An akathist hymn celebrating St. Philaret the Merciful of Asia Minor, who was generous and merciful when he had much, and remained no less generous and merciful when he had little or nothing.

Death (short)

We may have hospitals to hide death from our eyes, but all of us are moving towards death, even if we are in denial as a society. But there is another way; love is stronger than death.

Doxology (short)

A poem to hymn the glory of God.

Glory (short)

We thirst for glory. There is only one way that thirst is rightly slaked.

How Shall I Tell an Alchemist? (short)

A musing prayer about how to open the eyes of an alchemist.

Hymn to the Creator of Heaven and Earth (medium)

A celebration of the resplendent beauty of the natural world.

Maximum Christ, Maximum Ambition, Maximum Repentance(medium)

A meditation on the Maximum Christ we approach and maximum repentance as the true realization of God’s maximum ambition for our lives.
Now (short)
A poem pouring forth mystical theology of eternity, time, and that precious moment we call ‘now’.
Open (short)
A poem about closed fists, open hands, and true joy.
Pilgrim (short)
A prayer and poem about pilgrimage on earth.

A Pilgrimage from Narnia (short)

A poem about a pilgrimage that begins with C.S. Lewis’s Narnia and ever presses ‘further up and further in.’

Psalm picker

This was a tool I made for myself after realizing I wasn’t spending nearly enough time praying through the Psalms. This will pull up different psalms, and there is a a mobile-friendly version too.

Silence: Organic food for the soul (medium)

A meditation on spiritual discipline and silence as an organic diet for the soul reaching out to the whole person.

Why This Waste? (short)

A poem that opens when a woman opens a priceless jar of perfume and a thief asks a question that was deeper than he knew: “Why This Waste?”
A Yoke That Is Easy and a Burden That Is Light (short)
A prayer.

Odds and ends, curiosities and creative works

Suggested starting points include The Angelic Letters, The Best Things in Life Are Free, The most politically incorrect sermon in history: A commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, and Technonomicon: Technology, Nature,Ascesis.

The Angelic Letters (medium)

A collection of letters from a senior angel to guide a guardian angel watching over a man, as envisioned by an Orthodox Christian. Inspired by C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters.
Apprentice gods (short)
A look at this life as an apprenticeship of becoming gods and time as the womb of eternal life.
Apps and Mobile Websites for the Orthodox Christian Smartphone and Tablet: Best iPhone, iPad, Droid, Samsung, Android, Kindle, and Blackberry Mobile Websites and Apps (short)
A look at the best that’s available for Orthodox Christian app seekers with iPhone and Android smartphones and tablets.

The Arena (short)

A work of mystical theology that looks at life as a great spiritual arena and training ground.
Athanasius: On Creative Fidelity (short)
Ever hear a broken record talking about how Orthodoxy has always been a matter of creative fidelity and never a matter of parrot-like repetition?

The Best Things in Life Are Free (short)

An exploration, connected with the chalice, of what it means that the best things in life are free.

The most politically incorrect sermon in history: A commentary on the Sermon on the Mount (medium)

A commentary on the Sermon on the Mount intended to unfold just how it appears to be the most politically incorrect sermon ever.
An Orthodox Bookshelf (medium)
An Orthodox Bookshelf covering The Orthodox* Study Bible, some of the Fathers, Neo-Platonism, and one or two works today.

“Physics” (short)

An Orthodox ‘Physics’, or study of the nature of things, designed to respond to Aristotle’s ‘Physics.’
Prayers (short)
A collection of short prayers for different occasions and purposes, offered to and for the Orthodox Church.
Public Portions of the Divine Liturgy, in Russian and in English
This is not something I’ve written (besides a preface), but something I put together from The Divine Lutirgy to help me understand the public parts of the Russian Liturgy. I offer it in the hope it may help others.
Refutatio Omnium Hæresium
The Refutation of All Heresies
The Royal Letters (short)
Three intimate letters from a father to a son about God, kings, and men.
Rules of Engagement
Rules of engagement for spiritual warfare that has always been waged, and is becoming more intense.
From Russia, With Love: A spiritual guide to surviving political and economic disaster (long)
The Russian Orthodox Church has a lot of experience living with hard times. This piece talks about not only survival lessons but the spiritual beauty that can come in political and economic difficulties.

St. John the Much-Suffering

As the text accompanying this beautiful icon begins, “St. John the Much-Suffering is a saint who fought industrial-strength sexual temptation for decades and WON in every sense of the term.”

Technonomicon: Technology, Nature, Ascesis (medium)

We are entranced by technology, and yearn for harmony with nature. But there is more to life than getting technology or taking walks in the woods.
Twelve Quotes on Orthodoxy, Ecumenism, and Catholicism (short)
Twelve quotes to explain in particular why Orthodoxy seems to have such a cold response to Catholic ecumenical advances.