the Christian Paradox

“We live in an age when unnecessary things are our
only necessities.”

Oscar Wilde


(the sad little cherub birdbath has seen better days / Julie Cook / 2017)

Reflecting back over this past and most chaotic year—chaotic on so many levels….
As it has been chaotic, yes, personally but perhaps the correct word there
would be difficult….

Yet chaotic is what it has been, none the less and more importantly, on
a National and Global level….
thus making it more acute because its a sort of chaotic which affects us all.

It has been a year which has seen its fair share of words and acronyms,
some tried and true, some new and biting…each having left us changed.

Words and letters such as BREXIT, Tweet, Trump, Merkel, May,
Hillary, Russia, Putin, LBTGQ, ISIS, snowflakes, cupcakes, harassment,
sexual, misogynist, tolerance, intolerance, conservative, media, fake news,
liberal, Socialist, Nazi, Communist, accept, Democrats, Homophobic, Republicans, e-mails,
leaks, white supremacist, racist, walls, migrants….

On and on the list has grown….
so perhaps the ending of this particular year is coming none too soon.

It has certainly been perplexing watching the shift in dynamics within our Nation
as well as within the world at large.

It has been disconcerting watching this shift in Culture—
particularly in and with what we thought we knew.

It is maddening to be called “phobic” when one simply disagrees with a sinful
lifestyle.

In the latest posting of Anglican Unscripted, Bishop Ashenden was also opining
the same sorts of issues but with a more keen eye on the shift within Christian
Culture and the Church….

The good Bishop notes that there are all sorts of calls emanating from various pulpits,
all the way to Canterbury itself, the ancient seat of the Anglican Church—

Calls are being made for a total acceptance, absolute tolerance and drastic change….
Coupled by the actual accusations towards those who opt not to get on board with the
acceptance, the tolerance and the change….
Actually accusing those who cling to Scriptural Authority as being outdated,
out numbered and flat out wrong.

I can remember when words from various pulpits were words of God, Salvation, Fatih, Sacrifice, Obedience, Jesus, Love, Grace—
not this modern mantra of jumping on the culture train or else…….

Bishop Ashenden notes that it seems as if the majority of the English Clergy,
(and I would include their kissing cousins of the Episcopal Church), are
either outright socialists or of socialist leanings.
While frustratingly the more Orthodox remain silent for fear of reprisals.

As it appears that the majority of both clergy and laity have lost confidence in the Spiritual message of Salvation, that which calls for all humans to repent,
having rather “transferred their allegiance to a political solution.”
Because who wants to be told to repent from a lifestyle that society has
deemed worthy as God has succinctly and resoundingly deemed as sinful?

And what we the Faithful must note….is that within that notion of all things
of a political solution, there is absolutely no call to or for repentance.

Anglican unscripted:

And now we look to the paradoxical…

We look to the counter balance to all of the liberal heavy handed hullabaloo
with the story of the ancient Coptic Church in Egypt.

It is a church whose roots are found in St Mark who brought the Gospel to Egypt
during the reign of the Emperor Nero.
A long suffering church body of Believers who have suffered at the hands of Islam
since Muslims invaded their homeland in 641.

Believers who do not adhere to the cultural gods, but rather adhere only to the
Word of the One Almighty and Omnipotent God…

For there is no demand for change, or tolerance of the sinful, or acceptance of
society’s demands.


(Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Church of Egypt)


(The Amir Tadros coptic Church in Minya on Sunday.
The building was set ablaze on Aug. 14)

Consider the following comment….

What kind of faith makes people go back to church immediately after that
church was bombed?
What kind of faith makes people chant the Nicene Creed right after their church
was bombed?
What kind of faith makes a community continue liturgy outside because their church
wasn’t yet safe enough to be in?
What kind of faith makes one go on national TV and tell persecutors that they
are loved and forgiven after they just attacked and killed 28 Christians?
The unshakable faith of Christ.

We mourn.
We are in pain.
We are angry.
We have lost many brothers and sisters in Christ, and their blood continues to flow.
But many of us neglect to remember something –
the Coptic Christians remain undefeated.
They continue to grow.
They continue to inspire and strengthen the faith of Christians around the world.

https://howtoreligion.wordpress.com/2017/12/29/coptic-orthodoxy-and-self-defense/

And so will round out these thoughts with the words of the late Orthodox monk and saint,
Saint Paisios…..

“[St. Paisios responds to the question: ‘Geronda, what is this joy that I feel?
Can it be that I am not aware of my sinfulness?’]

No, my child!
God gives you a chocolate here and there, in order to give you joy.
For now, it’s chocolates; later, it will be wine —
like the wine they drink in Paradise.
Do you know how sweet is the wine they drink there?
Oh my!
If God sees a little philotimo (*), a bit of good disposition,
He offers His Grace abundantly, and it intoxicates you —
even from this life.
The spiritual delight one receives, and the transformation he feels in his heart
when the Grace of God visits him, cannot be given…
even by the best cardiologist in the world.
When you feel such joy, try to hold on to it for as long as you can.”
~+~
(*) – Philotimo, is the spontaneous, self-sacrificing love shown by humble people,
from whom every trace of self has been filtered out,
full of gratitude towards God and their fellow man.
Philotimo comes from a deep, abiding connection with God,
so that one is constantly moved to do and seek that which is good,
right and honorable.
(Although this definition has been repeated many times during these teachings,
the last time was 5 months ago,
I feel it is never too often to remind us of its awesome meaning!)

From Discerning Thoughts

And so we end this year of the humanly chaotic being warned.
For we the faithful are being called.
Called not to be quiet, not to fear reprisals, not to accept that which is wrong
but to hold up to the world the Image of God incarnate in His only begotten son….

His duality is seen in the oldest documented Icon of Christ the Pantocrator.
One side of his face is the Christ who is benevolent, kind and loving,
the other side is of the Christ who sits in judgement….judgement of all mankind.

What those who clamor for all things cultural and accepting have chosen to ignore
that Jesus will indeed sit in judgement.

We are called to repent.
To be repentant.
For in that repentance and in that the turning away from sin is found
the true acceptance of Salvation.


(Christ Pantocrator, the oldest known Icon of Christ, 6th Century AD / St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai)

education verses wisdom

Before He is power… God is Mercy, Love and Vulnerability
and He wants to make us into
that same image.

The Rev. Gavin Ashenden


(a section of the magnificent Library at Dublin’s Trinity College / Julie Cook / 2015)

As a former educator, whenever there is talk about our ailing school system–
-of which has been an instrumental part of the bedrock of Western Civilization since
the beginning of such time, my ears most assuredly are always piqued.

I have read, watched and lamented these many months now over the fracas and
sideshows that seem to be happening across our major universities and colleges—
even since before last year’s election was really heating up.

Tales of snowflakes, cupcakes, safe zones, coloring sessions, happy talk and
fairylands has left me both frustrated as well as sad.

The images coming from so many upscale universities and colleges of violent protests
have amounted to nothing more than overgrown temper tantrums…
as students, and even the supposed role models of educators, converge upon all things
they currently find themselves whining against….
All the while administrators are afraid…afraid of law suits, of life, limb and job security as they stand cowering, daring to say nary a word.

Be it speakers who have actually been invited to discuss various viewpoints,
writings or books that just so happen to run counter to the current self absorption
many students are currently wallowing in—-
Or the odd professor who tries to offer some actual sort of sanity by suggesting
that the students should maintain an open mind…..

These students will immediately either rudely walk out
on said guest in some sort of protest when the lecturer dares to
say something these students find “offensive”—or even worse, they will go into a
fit of violent rage….
as most everything said today seems offensive to them.

Were not our hallowed halls of higher education intended for a better purpose?

Intended not to only stir the consciousness of young minds but to challenge said
youthful minds to dig deeper and go further…all in a quest of learning while seeking knowledge and dare we say it, eventually a bit of wisdom….

Did we not ourselves, as students, seek to further our education in order to
learn new thoughts and ideas while venturing further into the
unknown of possibilities?

So I have found it perhaps no coincidence that two of my favorite clerics
from across the pond, just this very week, were discussing issues about both
learning and wisdom in this most modern topsy turvy world of ours.

The Scottish Pastor David Robertson was musing about knowledge and wisdom from the standpoint of the Book of Ecclesiastes and King Solomon while The Rev Gavin Ashenden
discussed the growing concern that anyone who upholds traditional Christian views, particularly on a college campuses, is perceived as anathema and a cause for
censorship—or even worse.

Pastor Robertson reminds us that “in our Western cultures we have largely
forgotten what education is supposed to be about—[that being] the search for wisdom.”

He goes on—We live in a culture where there is lots of information –
but little understanding: what the Bible calls wisdom.

This lack of wisdom is what results in a great deal of argument, irrationality, confirmation bias, fake news, virtue signalling and ignorant prejudice.

He continues….
It is that human beings observe and what we observe in real life is not
always pleasant. There is a heavy burden God has laid on men.
We may live as secularists but the problems we face have been ordained by God.
Mankind thinks and plans. We have been wired that way.
We want to understand.
The problem of life is for us all not just a hobby for philosophers.
The quest of meaning is a quest for God and it is something that God has placed
in our hearts.

Today we may know a lot more.
But are we happier?

Have we progressed?
Are we wiser?
Lets be brutally honest – most of us cannot face the truth.
‘With much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief.’
Is it not the case that the more we really understand, the more we ache?
Is that not why people escape into the fantasy world of films, dramas,
drink and drugs, celebrity gossip and computer games?

David Robertson

Wisdom and Meaning for the 21st Century – Ecclesiastes

Bishop Ashenden in the latest interview on Anglican Unscripted explains that
“our colleges are broken”

He notes one example as to just how broken with the story about the former Bishop of Rochester, who just so happens to be a greatly esteemed theologian and gifted orator,
had been invited to speak at Cambridge. Yet it seems that someone did a little digging
into the background of this intended guest and discovered that he was a priest
who actually held traditional views regarding marriage…
imagine that…
a priest with traditional views….
Who upon which discovery was quickly uninvited.

As it seems that anyone who has a counter thought, particularly one that is a
more Orthodox thought or standpoint, is no longer welcome on the campuses of
higher learning.

The good Bishop notes that Orthodox Christians are being grossly marginalized…
particularly by our more liberal society and on our campuses of higher learning.

Both men agree that there is rather  a sad and frightening trend that we are turning out generations of individuals who have not actually gone to college to seek knowledge or
even wisdom but rather those who have been coddled and merely given a piece of paper

The good Scottish Pastor Robertson notes that “we live in a culture where there is lots of
information – but little understanding…
adding that perhaps it would behoove us to
“stop following the marketing and ‘knowledge’ ways of this world.
Instead let’s return to the ancient paths of wisdom and seek the Lord whilst
he may be found.
We can chase the wind – or we can build on the Rock!

Perhaps a suitable motto for every school and University and church would be these
words from Hosea 14:9.

Who is wise?
Let them realize these things.
Who is discerning?
Let them understand.
The ways of the LORD are right;
the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.

Hosea 14:9.