Gifts of the Desert: The Forgotten Path of Christian Spirituality

Gifts of the Desert: The Forgotten Path of Christian Spirituality

Christianity in Protestant America is, as a whole, very skeptical of anything coming out of the monasteries of the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox tradition. While a lot of this skepticism was inherited from our Reformation fathers (which, oddly enough, was started by a monk), most of it has to do with our tendency to want to have our cake and eat it too. What I mean is that we, if I might be a bit stereotypical for a moment, tend to want to live in the modern world while also hanging onto our Christianity faith. As such, the idea that someone would voluntarily walk away from society and modern conveniences (not to mention sex!) to join a monastery…well, that person must not be right in the head… or so we think to ourselves. The reality is something far different – as is usually the case. The monasteries of our older brothers (Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches) are full of wisdom and life. And we, the younger, more rowdy, sibling would be wise to pay attention to the lessons and traditions of these monks. A good place to start is with Kyriacos Markides’ book Gifts of the Desert: The Forgotten Path of Christian Spirituality. In this book, which is essentially a follow up to his early book The Mountain of Silence, Markides explores the spiritual traditions and practices of the Eastern Orthodox monks who draw from the elders of Mount Athos. Written as a journey of discovery, Markides leads the reader by the hand into the monastic world of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Starting first with a monastery...
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...
A More Christlike God: Thoughts on Brad Jersak’s book

A More Christlike God: Thoughts on Brad Jersak’s book

I read it twice. Within three months. This, I might add, is a VERY rare thing for me as I typically only read a book once. And those books which I do re-read, I usually re-read them after a few years. So to say that I read Brad Jersak’s book “A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel” twice within three months is saying a lot. Granted if I’m being completed honest, I must admit that it was the prospect of meeting Brad in person that prompted me to re-read the book. Brad was scheduled to be my one of my professors at St. Stephen’s University this past October and I wanted to be able to ask him some questions about his book. And yes, the books was required reading by Brad along with N.T. Wright’s “Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters.” (You HAVE to love classes that require you to read the books you would read on your on! No more self-justifications of the cost – instead it is all wrapped up in the “education” bucket of the budget!!) 😀 Before talking about the book itself, it is helpful to know a bit more about Dr. Brad Jersak. As mentioned already, Brad is an adjunct faculty member at St. Stephen’s University in Canada. He also teaches New Testament and Patristics classes at Westminster Theological Centre in the United Kingdom in addition to serving as the senior editor of Plain Truth Ministries. His faith journey includes growing up within the Baptist General Conference before becoming a church planter/pastor within...
Post SSU Report

Post SSU Report

I’m four days back from my trip to St. Stephen’s University (SSU) and still trying to get back into the swing of things. Work, family, odds, ends and all the stuff that you find you miss when you are away for a few weeks. =) My time at SSU was wonderful. At first I was very uptight and nervous as I didn’t know what to expect from the professors, classmates or even the country (it was odd being in a foreign country that wasn’t all that foreign). The altitude and climate difference also threw me for a loop that first week – causing me retreat into myself and be more introverted than I typically am. Somewhere over the weekend I found my footings and started coming out of my self-imposed shell. This caused one classmate to comment on that Monday that I was a different person. 😀 Classes I had four classes crammed into those two weeks. Below is a quick outline of these classes: Spiritual Formation – Lorna Jones, Ignatian Spiritual Director Drawing on the spiritual formation exercises of Ignatian Spirituality, this class walked us through some contemplative practices – giving us a chance to stop and reflect on what we were experiencing and learning. It was interesting walking through these practices as a group as I’ve always heard them talked about within an individual context. I’m looking forward to introducing some of these practices into my local small group here in Boise. 🙂 Historical theology: Ancient Insights for Today (16th–21st C.) – Dr. Peter Fitch This was our main class throughout the two weeks. Dr. Peter is a...
What is Christian Salvation?

What is Christian Salvation?

I’m reading an Eastern Orthodox book for new believers when I came across an explanation of salvation that was amazing! They truly have a robust view of salvation that puts the typical Protestant to shame. Seeing how wonderful their explanation is, I have posted their explanation below for you read (with some emphasis added at certain points). I hope it will speaks to you as it spoke to me. Blessings What is Salvation? What does it mean to be saved? What is salvation in Christ? Salvation is freedom – freedom from the tyranny of self centeredness, freedom from bondage of fear and death. Salvation in Christ is being freed from myself so that I can become they person God created me to be and intends me to become. Salvation is God lifting us up in Christ Jesus. It is God giving us hope. It is God working an unrelenting work in our personalities, in our characters, in our lives.  It is God not giving up on us. Salvation according to Orthodox theology is not the state of “I have arrived. I have made it. I am saved.” Rather, it is the sate of “I am on the way. I am moving. I am growing in God, for God, with God, and through the power of God.” Salvation is Christ overcoming for us our greatest enemy which is at the root of all our insecurity, the fear of death. God does not remain aloof in the heavens while men suffer and die. He takes on a body and by death destroys our death so that now death becomes a doorway...