“The Orthodox Way” by Bishop Kallistos Ware

“The Orthodox Way” by Bishop Kallistos Ware

I was first introduced to Kallistos Ware’s book The Orthodox Way on September 2, 2006 when it was given to me after a chance meeting with an Eastern Orthodox priest. This priest, whose name I do not know, gave me five books about the Eastern Orthodox Church after briefly taking to me in a hotel restaurant in Los Angeles. Of the five books the priest gave me, Ware’s The Orthodox Way stood out because of its spiritual depth and simple prose. Twelve years later I can honestly say that this book changed the course of my life by introducing me to the path of the mystic. The book itself isn’t that long, just six short chapters bookended by a prologue and epilogue. The purpose of the book is to introduce the reader to the “fundamental teachings of the Orthodox Church”[1] without being exhaustive or too technical. Rather, Ware lays out “some of the decisive signposts and milestones upon the spiritual Way.”[2] He does this by addressing six different facets of God as noted by the chapter titles: “God as Mystery,” “God as Trinity,” “God as Creator,” “God as Man,” “God as Spirit,” and “God as Prayer.”[3] Though each of these chapters are packed with amazing gems, the first chapter, “God as Mystery,” was the one that had the most lasting impact on my life. The overall gist of this chapter is that God cannot be known strictly by intellectual reason or as the “conclusion to a process of reasoning.”[4] Rather, knowing God means knowing him as a person who loves and cares for us. Faith in God is, after...
Following Those Before Us

Following Those Before Us

Our journey through the darkness of life is a lot like a blundering trip through the woods at night. The circumstances of life will sometimes force us to strike out into the unknown though we may want to stay where we are. We may even start off walking on a familiar path only to find ourselves lost in confusion far from any recognizable landmarks. At some point during these times of wandering we will most likely stumble across some type of marker left behind by those who went before us. And when we do stumble upon a marker, it can be hard to know which direction to go. Luckily for us, some of the people before us kept a record of what they did and what the Lord did around and through them. We call this record the Bible and it was written over approximately 1,500 years by at least forty different authors. Within its pages we find life and encouragement to keep walking into the darkness of the unknown. We can read about a farmer named Gideon who nervously stepped out in faith and followed the Lord’s command. Or we can hear how a few fishermen, a tax collector and some backwoods nobodies changed the course of human history. Furthermore when we are awakened in the night by a thought provoking dream, we can open up the Scriptures and read about Joseph and his dreams. In reading these stories, we can build up our faith and courage as we see how God worked in and through average folks just like us. In addition to reading the ancient stories,...
No Simple Answers

No Simple Answers

There is a myth that is so pervasive and widespread that most of us believe its lies without thinking. What, you may ask, is this myth? It is the myth of common sense. Or, to use different words, it is the belief that people everywhere have the ability, wisdom, and understanding to come to the same conclusion as we would or do the same thing that we would do in a given situation. After all, some things are just plain common sense. Or so the argument goes. The problem with this chain of thought is that everyone on the planet has a different way of seeing the world. We are all unique beings with our own experiences, abilities, thoughts, and actions. Taken together, it means that there is no such thing as “common sense” as we all have our own sense of the world around us. True, as some might say, there are some shared cultural events, precepts and beliefs. After all, societies work specifically because of shared cultural norms (i.e. attitudes and behaviors that are considered normal with a culture, such as how one is to greet each other). However I would argue that just because we might agree on broad cultural norms, this doesn’t necessarily equate to having a common sense that is shared among humanity.  The world is too large and too multifaceted for such a phenomenon. I highlight this myth because it shows how strongly the desire is within us for simple answers. We want a simple world with simple answers to simple questions.  We desperately desire a world that is easy to understand and...
Learning to Embrace Doubt

Learning to Embrace Doubt

Barna Group released a study yesterday stating that the majority of Christians have either doubted their faith or are currently doubting their faith.  40% said they worked through doubt at some point in their journey while 26% of those surveyed said they still experience doubt. Only 35% said they never doubted the faith. The authors of the study went on to explore what happens to those who doubt (i.e. who do they talk to, what do they do, etc.) before coming to the conclusion that “doubt is a catalyst to spiritual growth.” Hence their suggestion for “lead pastors and spiritual mentors to view seasons of spiritual doubt in their constituents as fertile soil—not as dangerous ground.” I would have to agree with this conclusion as I feel that followers of Jesus should learn how to embrace doubt and unanswered questions rather than seeking to move past them. To quote a previous post: It may sound strange in a society of answers, but not knowing can actually do more to free your soul than all the answers in the world. Learning to be conformable with unanswered questions means living a life of trust. We trust Jesus with our concerns and questions. We trust the Holy Spirit to guide and direct ourselves and those around us. We trust the Father with the future and what might or might not happen. Trusting Jesus. What a novel concept… yet it something we in the Western world don’t do very good. Rather than trusting an invisible, perhaps-distance spirit who may or may not be real, we like trusting in our understanding of the Scriptures....
When Sh*t Happens: Why Your View of the Sovereignty of God Matters

When Sh*t Happens: Why Your View of the Sovereignty of God Matters

Theology for theology sake is worthless. The reason we ponder the mysteries of the cosmos is so that we can live life better. Nowhere is this concept more applicable that when dealing with the great Sovereignty of God/Free Will dilemma. To some, this dilemma is so huge and so crazy that they will walk away from it with their fingers in their ears. However  I would say that we need to think about this issue for it affects how we act when sh*t happens in our lives. Pastors especially need to ponder this issue as they will be called upon by others in the middle of some sh*tty events and how they answer this question will color their interactions. Over the last few weeks, I have talked about some alternatives to the typical Arminianism/Calvinism option given to folks. Namely I brief discussed Open Theism and the Eastern Orthodox’s consent and participation view of God’s rule. Today I’m going to try to think through how these views would color one’s interactions with folks who are in the middle of pain and suffering. In doing this, I fully note that I will most likely misrepresent one or more of these groups….and for that I will apologize in advance and ask for your help via the comment section below. Calvinism There are five major points within Calvinism that dictate how they view the world. These five points (also known as TULIP) are listed below:   Total Depravity Unconditional Election Limited Atonement Irresistible Grace Perseverance of the Saints Because of Calvinism’s position of Total Depravity (i.e. original sin; everyone is born a sinner), Irresistible Grace...