tag:qohelet.io,2013:/posts Qohelet 2024-01-26T22:37:05Z Dan tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/2081235 2024-01-26T22:37:04Z 2024-01-26T22:37:05Z Christ is the only exit from this world

Christ is the only exit from this world; all other exits—sexual rapture, political utopia, economic independence—are but blind alleys in which rot the corpses of the many that have tried them.

Fr. Seraphim Rose, journal entry dated February 3, 1961. From Hieromonk Damascene, Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works (St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2003), 95.

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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/2076357 2024-01-17T03:35:37Z 2024-01-17T03:38:46Z Self-examination and weeping willingly

The saint of God[, St. Agathon,] constantly and strictly attended to himself and said that without intense self-examination, no person can achieve success. This is the path to salvation. The saints of God, who constantly examined themselves, constantly found within themselves new failing, and once they found them, they plunged ever deeper into repentance that purified them and prepared them for heaven. On the contrary, evil inattentiveness and busyness are always connected with a profound ignorance concerning oneself; not surprisingly, such self-ignorance is always very self-satisfied and proud of itself. "Many delude themselves," said Blessed Theophylact, "with vain hope, thinking that they will receive the kingdom of heaven, and they in advance add themselves to the ranks of those who rose up because of their virtue, imagining great things about themselves.... Many are called, because God calls many, even all, but there are few chosen, few who are saved, few who are worthy of being chosen by God. To call is God's work, but to be chosen is ours: the Jews were called, but were not chosen, for they were not obedient to the One Who called.

St. Arsenius, who was great among monks, during the entire course of his life, whenever he did manual labor, put a kerchief on his knees because of the amount of tears that fell from his eyes. He died. Abba Pœmen, a father who was gifted with unusually profound spiritual discernment, said upon hearing of this man's death, "You are blessed, Arsenius, for you wept for yourself during this life. Whoever does not weep for himself here will weep eternally. It is impossible to run away from weeping. Either you weep here willingly, or you will weep there unwillingly, in tortures." Hearing of this death, Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria said, "Blessed are you, Abba Arsenius! You constantly remembered the hour of your own death."

St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, "A Homily on Death" in The Threshold: Trials at the Crossroads of Eternity, trans. Nicholas Kotar, The Collected Works of St Ignatius (Brianchaninov), vol. 3 (Jordanville: Holy Trinity Publications, 2023), 88.

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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/2073023 2024-01-12T00:00:00Z 2024-01-12T04:00:04Z Fragmented people make for better consumers

I sense that striving for wholeness is, increasingly, a countercultural goal, as fragmented people make for better consumers, buying more bits and pieces—two or more cars, two homes and all that fills them—and outfitting one's body for a wide variety of of identities: business person, homebody, amateur athlete, traveler, theater or sports fan. Things exercise a certain tyranny over us. Whenever I am checking bags at an airport, I recall St. Teresa of Avila's wonderful prayer of praise, "Thank God for the things that I do not own." Things are truly baggage, our impedimenta, which must be maintained with work that is menial, steady and recurring. But, like liturgy, the work of cleaning draws much of its meaning and value from repetition, from the fact that it is never completed, but only set aside until the next day. Both liturgy and what is euphemistically termed "domestic" work also have an intense relation with the present moment, a kind of faith in the present that fosters hope and makes life seem possible in the day-to-day.

Kathleen Norris. The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and “Women’s Work” (New York: Paulist Press, 1998), 35.

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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/2073000 2024-01-10T05:07:17Z 2024-01-10T05:07:17Z Reinforcement of depravity in online communities versus finding perspective in good books

I was fortunate enough not to grow up today, where this loneliness and anger might have found an online community. They would reinforce my feelings, confirming that I was in the right and everyone else was in the wrong. If they rejected me, I would have wandered until I found another group. The power of the internet is the ability to self-select for your level of depravity.

Instead, wandering the poorly lit stacks of the only library in town, I came across a book that child me couldn't walk pass....

I quickly expanded, growing from this historical text to a wide range of topics. I quickly find there is someone there to meet me at every stage of life. When I'm lonely or angry as a teenager I find those authors and stories that speak to that, put those feelings into a context and bigger picture. This isn't a new experience, people have felt this way going back to the very beginning. So much of the value isn't just the words, it's the sense of a relationship between me and the author. When you encounter this in fiction or in historical text, you come to understand as overwhelming as it feels in that second it is part of being a human being. This person experienced it and lived, you will too.

You also get to experience emotions that you may never experience....

Instead of finding a community that reinforced how alone and sad I was in that moment, I found evidence it didn't matter. People had survived far worse and ultimately turned out to be fine.... Humanity is capable of adaptation and the promise is, so are you.

Matthew Duggan, "AI is Already Killing Books" (mattduggan.com; November 24, 2023). Retrieved from https://matduggan.com/ai-is-gonna-kill-books/.

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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/2070478 2024-01-04T02:34:52Z 2024-01-10T06:17:21Z We can find Christ partly in all until he has been made all in all

... [H]e must not seek all the kinds of virtue from one person, however outstanding he may be. For there is one who is adorned with the flowers of knowledge, another who is more strongly fortified by the practice of discretion, another who is solidly founded in patience, one who excels in the virtue of humility and another in that of abstinence, while still another is decked with the grace of simplicity, this one surpasses the others by his zeal for magnanimity, that one by mercy, another one by vigils, yet another by silence, and still another by toil. Therefore the monk who, like a most prudent bee, is desirous of storing up spiritual honey must suck the flower of a particular virtue from those who possess it more intimately, and he must lay it up carefully in the vessel of his heart. He must not begrudge a person for what he has less of, but he must complete and eagerly gather up only the virtuousness that he possesses. For if we want to obtain all of them from a single individual, either examples will be hard to find or, indeed, there will be none that would be suitable for us to imitate. The reason for this is that, although we see Christ has not yet been made "all in all" (to cite the words of the Apostle), we can nonetheless in this fashion find him partly in all.... Christ is now divided among each of the holy ones, member by member. But when all are assembled together in the unity of faith and virtue, he appears as "the perfect man," completing the fullness of his body in the joining together and in the characteristics of the individual members.

St. John Cassian, The Institutes, trans. Boniface Ramsey, Ancient Christian Writers, no. 58 (New York: Newman Press, 2000), 118–119.


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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/2031356 2023-10-01T23:05:42Z 2023-10-02T16:32:02Z I wish to set you free from the condemnation that attaches to wealth

The things and possessions that are in the world are common to all, like the light and this air that we breathe, as well as the pasture for the dumb animals on the plains and on the mountains. All these things were made for all in common solely for use and enjoyment; in terms of ownership they belong to no one. But covetousness, like a tyrant, has intruded into life, so that its slaves and underlings have in various ways divided up that which the Master gave to be common to all. She has enclosed them by fences and made them secure by means of watch-towers, bolts, and gates. She has deprived all other men of the enjoyment of the Master’s good gifts, shamelessly pretending to own them, contending that she has wronged no one. But this tyrant’s underlings and slaves in turn become, each one of them, evil slaves and keepers of the properties and monies entrusted to them. Even if they are moved by the threat of punishments in store for them, or by the hope of receiving them back a hundredfold (Mk. 10:30) or by sympathy for the misfortunes of men, and take a few or even all of these things to give to those who are in poverty and distress whom they have hitherto ignored, how can they be accounted merciful? Have they fed Christ? Have they done a deed that is worthy of a reward? By no means! I tell you that they owe a debt of penitence to their dying day for all that they so long have kept back and deprived their brothers from using!...

But if anyone says, “Since this is so and we have no reward for the money and possessions we give, what need is there to give to the poor?” let him hear from Him who will judge him and requite to every man according to his works (Rom. 2:6), as though he were speaking to him: “You fool, what have you brought into the world (cf. 1 Tim. 6:7)? Have you yourself made anything that is visible? Did you not come forth naked from your mother’s womb? Will you not depart from life naked (Job 1:21) and will you not stand exposed before My judgment seat (cf. Heb. 4:13)? What money is there of yours for which you ask compensation? By what possessions of yours do you claim that you give alms to your brethren, and through them to Me? I have given you all these things, not to you alone, but to all men in common. Or do you think that I covet something and that I can be bribed like the covetous among human judges? For it is impossible that you have so thought in your folly. It is not that I covet any wealth, but that I have pity on you; it is not that I wish to take what is yours (cf. 2 Cor. 12:14) but that I wish to set you free from the condemnation that attaches to them that I so legislate, and for no other reason.”

Do not think at all, brother, that God is at a loss and is unable to feed the poor, and for this reason commands you to show mercy to them and highly values this commandment. Far from it! But Christ has taken that which the devil through covetousness has wrought against us for our perdition, and through almsgiving has turned to our good to make it redound for our salvation. What do I mean? The devil has suggested to us that we appropriate the things that were provided for our common use and hoard them for ourselves, so that through this covetousness he might make us liable to a double indictment and thus subject to eternal punishment and condemnation—the one, of being unmerciful, the other, of putting our hope in hoarded up wealth instead of in God. For he who has wealth hoarded up cannot hope in God, as is clear from what Christ our God has said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Lk. 12:34). He, then, who distributes to all from the wealth that he has stored up has no reward owing to him for doing this; rather, he is to blame for hitherto unjustly depriving others of it. Further, he is responsible for those who from time to time have lost their lives through hunger and thirst, for those whom he did not feed at that time though he was able, for the poor whose share he buried and whom he allowed to die a cruel death from cold and hunger (cf. Jas. 2:15f.). He is exposed as one who has murdered as many victims as he was then able to feed.

St. Symeon, Symeon the New Theologian: The Discourses, ed. Richard J. Payne, trans. C. J. de Catanzaro, The Classics of Western Spirituality (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1980), Discourse 9.4: 152–153, 9.6: 155–156.

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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1983494 2023-06-03T21:42:22Z 2023-06-23T07:03:20Z Abba Moses' basket of sand

A brother of a Skete once committed a sin, and a council was held by the brethren to adjudicate the matter. They sent for Abba Moses, but he did not wish to come. The presbyter again sent for him, saying: "Come, we are all waiting for you." Then Abba Moses arose and took a basket with holes in the bottom, filled it with sand, and carried it on his back to the meeting. The Fathers came out to meet him, and when they saw him carrying the basket on his shoulders, they asked him: "What is this, Father?" The Elder replied to them: "They are my sins that are flowing out behind me, and I do not see them; and yet, I have come today to judge someone else's sins." When they heard this, they said nothing to the brother whom they wished to judge, but forgave him.

Archbishop Chrysostomos, Hieromonk Patapios et al., trans. and ed., The Evergetinos: A Complete Text, vol. III (Etna, CA: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 2008), 24.

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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1954203 2023-03-17T04:04:00Z 2023-03-18T18:23:30Z Would the real 1904/1912 Patriarchal Greek New Testament (PATr) please stand up?

When reading the New Testament, the main (Koine) Greek text that I consult is the Patriarchal Greek New Testament (PATr) that was published by the Patriarchal Press of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1904. My understanding is that it was based on a little over 100 lectionary manuscripts from the 9th – 16th centuries and that it was corrected in 1912 by Professor Basil Antoniades of the Theological School of Chalki. As such, it is often abbreviated "PATr 1904/1912." Because I mainly use Verbum (AKA Logos Bible Software) when consulting the Greek text, I predominantly use their electronic edition which was published in conjunction with the Hellenic Bible Society. My understanding is that this text is in the public domain (and the Logos copyright information indicates as such).

However, I've noticed there appear to be several variations / streams of this text. Sources I've identified, all of which claim to be PATr 1904 and/or 1912 (some acknowledging later corrections), include (with unofficial abbreviations in the "Abbrev." column that are used only for the purposes of comparison in this article):

Abbrev. Description
eBible "1904 Patriarchal Greek New Testament with 20 corrections from later editions." Edited by Robert Adam Boyd.
Robinson "Dr. Maurice A. Robinson's ... New Testament Greek text of Antoniades' 1904/1912 Patriarchal edition." Dr. Robinson is credited as the primary editor and Jussi Ala-Konni as a contributor, along with Dr. Ulrik Sandborg-Petersen as the maintainer of the associated GitHub repository.
GOA Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA) website. "The Greek New Testament displayed is the authorized 1904 text of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Patriarchal text has been made available courtesy of the Greek Bible society and was digitized in XML in cooperation with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Department of Internet Ministries, the Greek BIble Society and the American BIble Society IT Department's OSIS project. The Open Scriptural Information Standard (OSIS) was developed by the Bible Technologies Group in co-sponsorship with the American Bible Society and the Society of Biblical Literature."
HBS Hellenic Bible Society (HBS) website. Πατριαρχικό Κείμενο (Έκδοση Αντωνιάδη, 1904). "Copyrighted by the Hellenic Bible Society, 2017." This text appears to be getting fetched via API calls to the American Bible Society's Bible API.
Logos Logos edition of The Patriarchal Greek New Testament (PATr 1904/1912) by the Hellenic Bible Society and Logos Bible Software.
Accordance Accordance edition of the Greek New Testament: Ecumenical Patriarchal Text (GNT-EPT). "Prepared by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople." "Basil Antoniades, ed. (1904/1912). Includes subsequent corrections by the Church of Greece." "Version 2.3."
e-Sword The "Greek New Testament" dated September 30, 2013 in e-Sword Bible downloads. "This Greek New Testament is the 1904 'Patriarchal' edition of the Greek Orthodox Church."

There are other electronic editions that claim to be this text, too, some of which almost certainly are not PATr, but for the purposes of this post I'll compare a few examples from the above editions to illustrate this issue.

Matthew 22:32

Excerpted Text Matching Edition(s)
... οὐκ ἔστιν ὁ Θεὸς Θεὸς νεκρῶν, ἀλλὰ ζώντων. eBible, Robinson, GOA, Logos, Accordance, e-Sword
... οὐκ ἔστιν ὁ Θεὸς νεκρῶν, ἀλλὰ ζώντων. HBS

Mark 4:3

Excerpted Text Matching Edition(s)
... ἐξῆλθεν ὁ σπείρων τοῦ σπεῖραι. eBible, Robinson, Logos, Accordance, e-Sword
... ἐξῆθεν ὁ σπείρων τοῦ σπεῖραι. GOA, HBS

I believe the GOA and HBS have a reading with invalid morphology for ἐξέρχομαι but am unsure (i.e., this may be an erroneous reading in those editions).

Mark 12:31

Excerpted Text Matching Edition(s)
... ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς ἑαυτόν. eBible, Robinson, Accordance
... ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν. GOA, HBS, Logos, e-Sword

Luke 8:56

Excerpted Text Matching Edition(s)
καὶ ἐξέστησαν οἱ γονεῖς αὐτῆς.... eBible, Robinson, Accordance, e-Sword
καὶ ἐξέστησαν οἱ γονεῖς αὐτοῖς.... GOA, HBS, Logos

John 19:31

Excerpted Text Matching Edition(s)
... ἡ ἡμέρα ἐκείνου τοῦ σαββάτου.... eBible, Robinson, HBS, Logos, Accordance, e-Sword
... ἡ ἡμέρα ἐκείνη τοῦ σαββάτου.... GOA

Acts 4:36

Excerpted Text Matching Edition(s)
... ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποστόλων.... eBible, Robinson, HBS, Logos, Accordance, e-Sword
... ὑπὸ τῶν ἀποστόλων.... GOA

Acts 16:34

Excerpted Text Matching Edition(s)
... καὶ ἠγαλλιᾶτο πανοικὶ πεπιστευκὼς τῷ Θεῷ. eBible, Robinson, HBS, Logos, Accordance ("ἠγαλλίατο")
... καὶ ἠγαλλιάσατο πανοικὶ πεπιστευκὼς τῷ Θεῷ. GOA, e-Sword

Acts 26:30

Excerpted Text Matching Edition(s)
... Βερνίκη.... eBible, Robinson, GOA, Accordance, e-Sword
... Βερενίκη.... Logos, HBS

2 Corinthians 8:2

Excerpted Text Matching Edition(s)
... βάθους πτωχεία αὐτῶν.... eBible, Robinson, HBS, Logos, Accordance, e-Sword
... βάθος πτωχεία αὐτῶν.... GOA

Hebrews 8:11

Excerpted Text Matching Edition(s)
καὶ οὐ μὴ διδάξωσιν... eBible, Robinson, HBS, Logos, Accordance, e-Sword
καὶ οὐ μὴ διδάξουσιν.... GOA

James 4:14

Excerpted Text Matching Edition(s)
... ἀτμὶς γάρ ἔσται.... eBible, Robinson, GOA, Accordance
... ἀτμὶς γάρ ἐστιν.... HBS, Logos, e-Sword

I've only included a small number of examples and have excluded certain differences from consideration such as movable nu and other minor orthographical differences such as elision (e.g., αλλ` vs. αλλά, απ` vs. από), certain word-break differences (e.g., εἰμὴ vs. εἰ μὴ), verse numbering differences, etc. It's perplexing that they don't all differ in a consistent manner. These all claim to be reproductions of the PATr 1904/1912, but clearly have more variations between them that don't support them all being the same text. Granted, they are all very minor and in some cases untranslatable differences, but perhaps none of them accurately represents the printed edition of PATr from 1904 and/or 1912 (which would include any published errata). I understand that later editors are trying to correct what they perceive to be errors, but ideally clear version control would occur and these editors would document what was changed, or at least provide an updated date when the changes occurred (versus still calling it the 1904 and/or 1912 edition).

I think a little humility is in order here. As much as some scholars bemoan that ancient scribes (who hand-copied texts) created so many manuscript variants, the printing press—let alone structured electronic markup formats—clearly still haven't created more textual uniformity!

Also, this issue isn't limited just to PATr. Alan Bunning indicated that he ran into the same issue with other online texts including Westcott and Hort and Stephanus 1550, and I have seen this also with other electronic Greek New Testaments that are allegedly from some published edition (including some recently-published editions!).


I posted an earlier version of this article on the B-Greek forum. Many thanks to Jeff Dodson for assisting with collations and alerting me to the inconsistencies in the first place!

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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1936260 2023-02-02T04:43:39Z 2023-02-02T04:43:40Z Anger as a check engine light of the soul

... anger is often linked with another passion—pride. Now we will go so far as to say that anger does not often appear as an independent or fundamental passion in the human heart. Most often anger expresses the dissatisfaction of another passion, or even of the casual desires that a person may have from time to time. In the latter case, anger is called impatience or obstinacy, which in turn are expressions of a general self-love, lack of brotherly love and lack of desire to attend to oneself and struggle with oneself. The stronger a passion is in a person, the quicker and more fiercely it turns into anger when it is not satisfied. Thus the vainglorious and lovers of money become envious, the lustful become jealous, the gluttonous become over-critical and irritable, and so on. In general, anger is an indication of various sinful passions, and one can find out about these by noticing when a person begins to get angry: if it is during a conversation about fasting and sobriety, then he sins with the passion of overeating and drunkenness; if it is on occasions when he loses money—love of money; if during talks about the saints' feats of humility—he is proud, and so on. This is why we began our instructions to spiritual fathers with the struggle against anger, as it is an involuntary indicator of other passions. A person's enslavement to them is expressed first of all as enslavement to anger, which bursts out even with very cunning people who are otherwise able to hide their passions and keep quiet about their bad habits.

Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), Confession: A Series of Lectures on the Mystery of Repentance, trans. Fr. Christopher Birchall (Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1996), 53.

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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1928014 2023-01-12T15:07:37Z 2023-01-12T15:07:37Z Defining morality in narrow terms

... far too often morality in the United States has been defined in very narrow terms, focusing on select groups of individuals and on very specific behaviors, such as sex and sexuality, marital status, and social standing (it is interesting to note that rarely do those criticizing the poor also frame behaviors such as greed or lacking compassion in moral terms).

Michelle E. Martin. Introduction to Human Services: Through the Eyes of Practice Settings, 4th ed. (New York: Pearson Education, 2018), 34.

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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1909151 2022-11-27T05:03:26Z 2022-11-27T05:03:27Z A "literal" English Bible translation is inherently anglocentric

When we translate from a source language into a target language, there is no such thing as “keeping all the words”. Greek words are not English words and ruling that only specific translational glosses can be used, does not constitute keeping all the words. The English word ‘ears’ isn’t “all the words”. Translating ὦτα as ‘ears’ isn’t translating the words. It’s still translating the meaning. ὦτα is gone. If you choose that as a gloss, all of the original words are still gone. Literal translation prioritizes English over Greek by assuming that English words have some bizarre one-to-one correspondence to the original language that doesn’t actually exist.

This is the hidden lie in the English Bible tradition. Literal translations only exist in languages that already have a translation. A literal translation is the product of a community conventionalizing a set of target language glosses as authoritative over and against any other glosses. It places the authority of those conventions over the authority of the original text itself. It is, thus, for the English Bible tradition, inherently anglocentric. Without an existing tradition of translation, the idea of “keeping all the words” wouldn’t exist. All the words are Greek.

Mike Aubrey, "On literal translation: He that hath eeris of heerynge, heere he." From Koine-Greek blog. Retrieved November 26, 2022, from https://koine-greek.com/2020/04/22/on-literal-translation-he-that-hath-eeris-of-heerynge-heere-he/.

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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1907930 2022-11-24T05:56:54Z 2022-11-24T05:58:08Z Cosmetic piety

The vast majority of Christianity has been concerned with "churching" people into symbolic, restful, and usually ethnic belonging systems rather than any real spiritual transformation into the mystery of God....

... I am convinced that most of our ministries have legitimated the autonomous self and even fortified it with all kinds of religious armor. Religious people are even harder to transform because they don't think they need it.... I find much more openness and response at the county jail than among the typical group of churchgoers....

Much of what is called Christianity has more to do with disguising the ego behind the screen of religion and culture than any real movement toward a God beyond the small self, and a new self in God. Much of our work feels like cosmetic piety, and often shame or fear-based at that, rather than any real transformation of the ego self, or what the Eastern churches rightly call "divinization...."

Richard Rohr, Andreas Ebert, and Peter Heinegg, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective (New York: Crossroad Pub, 2001), vx.

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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1875363 2022-09-01T19:39:33Z 2022-09-01T19:49:45Z Never stop learning and growing

As long as you are green, you will grow; when you are ripe, you will rot.

Source unknown

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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1864200 2022-08-04T20:55:16Z 2022-08-04T20:55:16Z Whose recipe is it anyway?
The sad state of American Christianity has as its basis, a constant attempt to conform to an ever changing society, and with each change, there is less and less of authentic, ancient Christianity to be seen. It could be compared to using an old family cake recipe, dropping one ingredient, or changing another, with each passing generation. In the end, is it really great great grandmother’s cake recipe, or is it something else?

Abbot Tryphon, "Doctrinal Teachings." The Morning Offering blog. Posted August 4, 2022. Retrieved from https://abbottryphon.com/doctrinal-teachings/

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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1838565 2022-06-05T03:47:47Z 2022-06-05T03:47:47Z Evil exists like holes in Swiss cheese
Evil exists in the cosmos like holes in a Swiss cheese: the holes are there, but they are only as noncheese and have no existence apart from the cheese. As one cannot eat a cheese and discard the holes into a box, one cannot remove good and put evil into another category. Evil is merely the absence of good.
Jeffrey Burton Russell, The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity (Ithaca, N.Y: Cornell University Press, 1993), 205.]]>
Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1826633 2022-05-05T21:41:56Z 2022-05-20T02:11:11Z The miracle of human clay bearing divine fire

... Orthodoxy is expected to do something. It's not just a matter of having the right theology, or the right ecclesiastical institution (though I believe it does have those things). It's that there is an innate dynamism. This faith is expected to accomplish something—to enable a person to grow in union with God....

The Eastern Christian Way includes the elements we'd associate with any spiritual path—prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and so forth—and they fit together organically, like the parts of a diet-and-exercise program. Somebody who doesn't actually do the work and put it into practice won't see any benefit (another way it's like a diet-and-exercise program). But for those who do, transformation takes place. It happens in ways that are notable and recognizable, and even, in some cases, miraculous....

Wherever the faith is taken, this Way takes root and bears fruit....

The goal of this healing path is union with God. This is called theosis, which is usually translated "deification" or "divinization...." We can dismantle the Greek word and see that it is composed of theos, which means "God," and the suffix –osis, which indicates a process. As red dye saturates a white cloth by the process of osmosis, so humans can be saturated with God's presence by the process of theosis....

We can see this transformation in the Gospel story of Christ's Transfiguration. He took Peter, James, and John aside and led them up a high mountain. "And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became as white as light.... A bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.' When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, 'Rise and have no fear'" (Matt. 17:1–8).

This was not a change in Jesus; he had always been filled with glory. It was a change in the disciples' ability to perceive.... The Orthodox hymn for the Transfiguration says that Christ revealed his glory "as far as they [the disciples] could bear it...."

The light of the Transfiguration is not ordinary earthly light, but the light of God's glory, the light that was before the universe was made, called the "Uncreated Light" in Orthodoxy. God made us like himself ("image and likeness") so that we could take on this light as a lump of coal takes on fire. This is the destiny we were created for: participation in the light and glory of God. This expectation is the catalyst of Orthodox spirituality….

The miracle of human clay bearing divine fire is foreshadowed in the burning bush (Exod. 3:1–6). God's presence wholly irradiates a dry desert shrub, but does not destroy it. Miraculously, the bush remains intact, remains itself. God's presence doesn't obliterate or replace us, but helps us to become ourselves—each of us the real self he has always intended us to be....

Theosis is not something we achieve by trying really hard. We require a more radical kind of surgery; in fact, we must die. As we die to self and get out of the way, Christ's life can fill us. "You have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3).

Frederica Mathewes-Green, Welcome to the Orthodox Church: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity (Brewster, Massachusetts: Paraclete Press, 2015), 67–71.

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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1809194 2022-03-20T14:55:06Z 2022-03-21T06:00:06Z On humans comprising 1/3 of the divine council

The New Testament authors and the Fathers—most famously St. Athanasius—speak of our becoming sons of God. When St. John bears witness to the worship of heaven near the end of his life, in addition to the angelic hosts seen in similar previous apocalyptic visions, there are glorified human members of the divine council. These are represented by the twenty-four elders (Rev. 4:4, 10; 5:5–14; 7:11–13; 11:16; 14:3; 19:4). These elders are seated and wearing crowns, sharing in Christ’s rule over the creation (4:4)…. [T]he divine council is composed of seventy/seventy-two members. This means that human saints in glory constitute one-third of the divine council. This is the precise proportion of the heavenly host that had joined the devil in rebellion by the time of the birth of Christ, according to St. John (Rev. 12:4). Saint John is not saying that there are only twenty-four demons or twenty-four saints. Rather, he is using these numbers symbolically to indicate the replacement of the fallen members of the angelic host with the saints in glory.

Fr. Stephen De Young, The Religion of the Apostles: Orthodox Christianity in the First Century (Chesterton, Indiana: Ancient Faith Publishing, 2021), 129.

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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1808941 2022-03-20T06:00:04Z 2022-03-20T06:00:04Z Grace and peace to you

Paul's first hint to us that he is addressing a transnational church comes in the greeting he offers in the beginning of all thirteen of his letters. "Grace and peace to you" is a remarkable combination of a Greek salutation charis (grace) and the ancient Hebrew blessing shalom (peace). Grace expresses the joyful fullness of the gospel and peace expresses the fullness of well-being that God desires for us. In this unique greeting, Paul addresses Gentile and Jewish believers together, as members of one church.

Notice that Paul does not write, "Charis to you Greeks and shalom to you Hebrews." Grace is not just for Gentiles and peace is not just for Jews. God desires the whole body of Christ to receive his grace and to experience his peace. Paul writes with respect for his readers' own ethnic and cultural backgrounds, yet he points to a new countercultural reality—a community in which the barriers between Jews and Gentiles is broken down and eliminated.

Writing to congregations that were often divided and torn by factional strife, Paul's greeting is a concrete reminder to believers that they are called to be a "new creation." While affirming the diversity of every part of the church, Paul transcends their differences to forge a new identity. The church is not a congregation created simply by linking Jews and Gentiles together but a united body of Christ, a transformed people made new in the risen Lord.

Stephen J. Binz, Panorama of the Bible: New Testament (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2016), 65.

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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1808934 2022-03-19T20:56:03Z 2022-03-19T20:56:04Z The work of "making it so" is always an act of violence

We can indeed make things happen, and, in a limited way, control their outcome. But we soon discover (and have proven it time and again) that our ability to control is quite limited. Many, many unforeseeable consequences flow from every action. If I am working in a very, self-contained environment, then the illusion of total control can be maintained for a very long time. If, say, I am building a watch, my actions and their results can remain on a desktop. However, when the scale of action begins to increase, the lack of true control begins to manifest itself. Actions on the level of an entire society or culture are beyond our ability to manage. A culture is not a very large watch.

But we think it is. That delusion lies at the very heart of the philosophy of modernity....

The work of "making it so," is always an act of violence. We take what is not so and force it to be otherwise. Whether it is the violence of a plow making a field suitable for planting, or the violence of creating a parking lot, human beings have formed and shaped their world by "making it so," throughout our existence. The field and the parking lot, as innocuous and innocent as they may be, also create consequences that were not part of the plan. The only means of dealing with these consequences are to employ more violence to alter things yet again (requiring yet more violence, ad infinitum), or to treat the consequences as an acceptable change.

In this sense, to be an active part of the world is to employ violence....

This picture of the modern world can, in the modern Christian mind, provoke an immediate response of wondering what can be done to change it. The difficult answer is to quit living as though modernity were true. Quit validating modernity’s questions. Do not ask, "How can we fix the world?" Instead, ask, "How should Christians live?" and give the outcome of history back to God.

Fr. Stephen Freeman, "The Violence of Modernity." Glory to God for All Things blog. June 1, 2020. https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2020/06/01/the-violence-of-modernity/

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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1806719 2022-03-14T00:49:53Z 2022-03-14T00:49:53Z Man seeks to become "one flesh" with woman to regain a lost part of himself

Concerning the creation account in Genesis 2 and God's statement that "it is not good for man to be alone:"

Eve has been promised. She is then withheld for two carefully framed verses while God allows the human creature to perform his unique function as the bestower of names on things. There is implicit irony in this order of narrated events. Man is superior to all other living creatures because only he can invent language, only he has the level of consciousness that makes him capable of linguistic ordering. But this very consciousness makes him aware of his solitude in contrast to the rest of the zoological kingdom. (It is, perhaps, a solitude mitigated but not entirely removed by the creation of woman, for that creation takes place through the infliction of a kind of wound on him, and afterward, in historical time, he will pursue her, strain to become "one flesh" with her, as though to regain a lost part of himself.)

Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, rev. & updated ed. (New York: Basic Books, 2011), 34.

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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1585075 2020-08-20T05:41:26Z 2020-08-20T05:42:19Z The transmutation of faith into some surrogate

... [T]he modern demand for total, factual, and impersonal objectivity presents serious difficulties for one whose object of study is the faith in which one puts one’s trust and to which one has dedicated one’s life....

... [A] Christian might stay in academe and dissimulate belief. Such people are no doubt more numerous than those who get out of academe for ascetical purpose. They remain in academe and are worn down by it. Being worn down is often imperceptible in its slowness; it usually involves a transmutation of faith into one or more surrogates such as scholarship for its own sake, ideological distractions, or some form of involvement in activist causes of a political nature. The transmutation of faith into some surrogate is often accompanied, furthermore, by symptoms typical of transitions from one mode of life to another—symptoms of release, exhilaration, and freedom, a sense of new power, and feelings of having been “reborn.” The transmutation is thus easily perceived as a conversion. And so it is, for conversion is a two-way street; whichever direction one takes produces largely the same feelings in the moving subject. One often encounters students who came to a seminary seeking less ordination than faith, only to discover counseling or social action as faith surrogates. One even encounters colleagues who at some point rise, as it seems, above faith only to vanish into therapy, eastern religions, another marriage, or some new ideology. Such folks, worn down by the unmanageable welter of modern academe, and dissimulating faith all the while in order to appear respectable, finally succumb to the lure of works which occupy but do not save. As Walker Percy says, they began by blowing their minds and end by blow-drying their hair. They leave us with neither insight nor faith, but with trivia of a certain passing interest.

Aidan Kavanagh, On Liturgical Theology (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1992), 12-13.

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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1584290 2020-08-17T14:21:45Z 2020-08-17T14:21:46Z The cross as the kingdom come
The cross ... loom[s] not as a ritually prescribed instrument of propitiation but as the political alternative to both insurrection and quietism.... The cross is not a detour or a hurdle on the way to the kingdom, nor is it even the way to the kingdom; it is the kingdom come.

John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994), 36, 51.

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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1572538 2020-07-13T01:53:39Z 2020-07-13T01:54:32Z Bearing a little shame

It seems to me that we have acquired the spiritual habit of making our salvation into an abstraction. We speak of being “crucified with Christ,” or of being “baptized into his death,” language that holds a prominent place in the lexicon of the New Testament, but we tend to treat these as though they were happening in a manner somehow distinct from our experience. Neither crucifixion nor death should have an association with things that seem pleasant. Christ himself constantly makes reference to very unpleasant things: forgiving injustice towards the self, the loss of what is rightfully due, giving what is not deserved or merited. These are all things that we seem to instinctively loathe. The shame we encounter through such acts of self-emptying is invariably painful—but this is the Gospel.

It is in this vein that the Elder Sophrony speaks from within the Tradition saying that we must learn to “bear a little shame.” There is much that must be said in this regard. First, bearing shame can only be voluntary; involuntary shaming is always toxic and leaves very deep wounds. The experience of such wounds, which underlies and provides the vast source of pain associated with forgiveness, surrounds the entire experience of forgiveness. To be told, “You must forgive…” in such circumstances is tantamount to saying, “You must endure the shame.” This can easily be nothing more than an invitation to more toxicity. So, the “moral” use of the commandment, “You must forgive,” can inadvertently be another tool in the hands of others to drive the pain and burden of shame ever deeper....

In our communion with Christ, and in the bosom of the Church, it is possible to know the safety sufficient for forgiveness and bearing its shame, but, again, it needs to be voluntary, the acceptance of Christ’s Cross, in union with his own joyful acceptance and not through some moral compulsion. One enemy at a time, we make our way into the love of God, learning step-by-step the joyful way of Christ’s self-emptying.

St. John of the Ladder wrote, “You cannot escape shame except by shame.” It is one of the great paradoxes of the faith, a paradox resolved only in the Cross of Christ.

Fr. Stephen Freeman. “Justice, Forgiveness, and Bearing a Little Shame” [podcast] (May 31, 2017). Retrieved from transcript available at Ancient Faith.

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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1534426 2020-04-23T00:48:02Z 2022-01-16T18:43:24Z The Word isn’t a book

Growing up entrenched in a sola scriptura environment (that assumed verbal and plenary inspiration), historical criticism shattered where I looked for authority. At some point I shifted to a more empirical approach, seeking authority in experience. But in fact, I am often self-deceived and led astray by my own emotions or those of other passionate people around me. Eventually I found myself in a quixotic pursuit of the early church, at various points succumbing to (fashionable) anti-hegemony, but eventually landing at a crossroads between Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism through (misguided) study of (romanticized) history. I opted to cross the Bosphorus rather than the Tiber, but I think in reality I was seeking a new authority—and there are plenty of institutions who are happy to provide that. Trusting an institution is easier; it means there is no burden on me to figure it all out.

But what am I looking for in such an authority? Something to appeal to in order to be right? Something that will make life simple again? A better fire insurance policy? A way to shirk responsibility and assuage guilt over ignoring vocational paths I’ve felt called to in the past (that offer far less safety)? Something else?

But the way, the truth, and the life in the Christian faith is a person, not a collection of texts (John 14:6). And this person is called the Word; He taught that the Scriptures point to Himself, and He invites me to come to Him to have lifenot to get answers.

“‘You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life’” (John 5:39–40, ESV).

Instead of pursuing creation, I am invited to pursue the Creator. And my healing (or salvation) is bound up with that of my neighbor.

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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1524140 2020-03-26T21:48:15Z 2020-03-26T21:48:15Z No longer a space of common action but rather a space of mutual display

While fashion is a medium of expression for my individuality, it is also inescapably relational, almost parasitic: "The space of fashion is one in which we sustain a language together of signs and meanings, which is constantly changing, but which at any moment is the background needed to give our gestures the sense they have" .... This is no longer a space of common action but rather a space of mutual display—another way of "being-with" in which "a host of urban monads hover on the boundary between solipsism and communication" .... This breeds a new kind of self-consciousness: "My loud remarks and gestures are overtly addressed only to my immediate companions, my family group is sedately walking, engaged in our own Sunday outing, but all the time we are aware of this common space that we are building, in which the messages that cross take their meaning" .... In other words, we all behave now like thirteen-year-old girls.

It is these spaces of mutual display, Taylor argues, that are most prone to being colonized by consumer culture, so that "consumer culture, expressivism and spaces of mutual display connect in our world to produce their own kind of synergy" .... "The language of self-definition is defined in the spaces of mutual display, which have now gone meta-topical; they relate us to prestigious centres of style-creation, usually in rich and power nations and milieux. And this language is the object of constant attempted manipulation by large corporations" .... Indeed, this construction of a consumer identity—which has to feel like it's chosen (consider the illusion of noncomformity in the case of the suburban skater kid whose mom buys him the $150 board blazoned with "anarchy" symbols)—trumps other identities, especially collective identities like citizenship or religious affiliation. "One could argue that for many young people today, certain styles, which they enjoy and display in their more immediate circle, but which are defined through the media, in relation to admired stars—or even products—occupy a bigger place in their sense of self, and that this has tended to displace in importance the sense of belonging to large scale collective agencies, like nations, not to speak of churches, political parties, agencies of advocacy, and the like"....

James K.A. Smith, How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor (Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014), 86–7. Smith is citing Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, Belknap Press, 2007).]]>
Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1523248 2020-03-24T18:20:35Z 2020-03-26T21:32:46Z Utterly dissolved

Coming himself into our realm, and dwelling in a body like the others, every design of the enemy against human beings has henceforth ceased, and the corruption of death, which had prevailed formerly against them, perished. For the race of human beings would have been utterly dissolved had not the Master and Savior of all, the Son of God, come for the completion of death.

Truly this great work supremely befitted the goodness of God. For if a king constructed a house or a city, and it is attacked by bandits because of the carelessness of its inhabitants, he in no way abandons it, but avenges and saves it as his own work, having regard not for the carelessness of the inhabitants but for his own honor. All the more so, the God Word of the all-good Father did not neglect the race of human beings, created by himself, which was going to corruption, but he blotted out the death which had occurred through the offering of his own body, and correcting their carelessness by his own teaching, restoring every aspect of human beings by his own power.... For since through human beings death had seized human beings, for this reason, again, through the incarnation of the God Word there occurred the dissolution of death and the resurrection of life....

St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation (Popular Patristics Series, no. 44a), trans. John Behr (New York: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2011), 69–72.

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Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1518488 2020-03-10T05:50:06Z 2020-03-10T21:59:34Z Approximating the will of God

... [M]an in his everyday life is confronted with an endless complexity of situations, and very often does not see what to do to comply with God’s will.

The man who has the love of God in his heart, prompted by this love, acts in accordance with dictates which approximate to the will of God. But they only approximate: they are not perfect. The unattainableness of perfection obliges us all continually to turn to God in prayer for understanding and help.

Not only perfect love but complete knowledge is out of our reach. An act performed, it would seem, with the very best intention often has undesirable and even evil consequences because the means employed were bad, or simply mistaken. People are often heard to justify themselves by saying that their intentions were good. But good intentions are not enough. Life abounds with mistakes of this kind. That is why the man who loves God never ceases to ask Him for understanding, and has a constant ear for the sound of His voice.

Archimandrite Sophrony, Tr. by Rosemary Edmonds. The monk of Mt. Athos: Staretz Silouan 1866-1938 (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1989), 51-52.]]>
Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1474363 2019-11-06T01:46:40Z 2019-11-06T01:48:03Z What convinces us our knowledge is so final?
If I called myself an atheist at twenty, and an agnostic at fifty and sixty, it isn’t because I’ve acquired more knowledge in the meantime: just more awareness of ignorance. How can we be sure that we know enough to know? As twenty-first century neo-Darwinian materialists, convinced that the meaning and mechanism of life have only been fully clear since the year 1859, we hold ourselves categorically wiser than those credulous knee-benders who, a speck of time away, believed in divine purpose, an ordered world, resurrection and a Last Judgment. But although we are more informed, we are no more evolved, and certainly no more intelligent than them. What convinces us our knowledge is so final?
Julian Barnes, Nothing to Be Frightened Of (London: Jonathan Cape, 2008), 23-24.]]>
Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1452483 2019-09-06T15:48:44Z 2019-09-06T15:50:46Z The forgotten frontier

For those of suburban Christian faith, developing the capacity for spiritual consciousness tends to be the forgotten frontier. At least that's true in the Protestant tradition in which I grew up and which I, for the most part, still inhabit. The kingdom of God belongs to the busy, to those who know how to work, to the spiritual entrepreneurs. The highest compliment to pay a young woman from the rural culture in which I was raised is: "She's a hard worker (and a good cook)." My suburban neighbors are a bit more sophisticated: "Mary is on the traveling soccer team and has the lead in the school play, and she has three hours of homework every night! Oh my God, can you believe it?"

Add to that the suburban environment of security, efficiency, and opportunities—and the overindulged self, which desperately needs all three—and spirituality morphs into activities: Bible studies, small group meetings, reading yet another best-selling book on the key to victorious Christian living, even serving at the local homeless shelter. It's the reverse, through, of what should happen. Such activities or practices should open our eyes to the larger world. Instead, they obscure it. I've always felt cheered by the comment a friend made about his prayer life: he said he didn't really like the actual act of praying much, though he loved the open space that praying created in his life for God to work.

In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Pulitzer prize-winning writer Annie Dillard writes that "the mind's muddy river, this ceaseless flow of trivia and trash, cannot be dammed, and that trying to dam it is a waste of effort that might lead to madness." The muddy river of suburban life cannot be stopped. It simply is. The muddy river of illusion cannot be escaped, really. There's not much use in moralizing about it, mocking it, thumbing your nose at it, treating it with light disdain—or sacrificing your way out of it (I'll drop everything and become a missionary or move to a Wisconsin cabin to live the simple life)....

You can try to slow down your life, adjust your lifestyle downward, give more, pray more. Another study group, another stint on a church committee, another year as the nursery coordinator, another mission trip to a Third World country—all good things—but not necessarily superhighways to the deeper life....

For centuries, the classic spiritual disciplines and practices enlarged the capacity of ordinary people to engage the Sacred. Spiritual practices are not really a direct route to an awakened God-consciousness. Some days, they seem stupid, quite worthless, even just one of the many activities that keep me from God. Yet over time they awaken us to a brave new world that is, ultimately, more satisfying and true to who we are than is what we encounter without them....

... [But] [d]oesn't Jesus require something more radical? Doesn't Jesus demand immediate results, fresh sacrifice, more doing?....

But more what? More sacrifice? More church activities? ... The Protestant tradition loves the heroic call to sacrifice all for the kingdom of God. But the call to sacrifice often feeds, ultimately, mostly the ego.... The kingdom of God often appears plain, ordinary, small, in the moment.

David L. Goetz, Death by Suburb: How to Keep the Suburbs from Killing Your Soul (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2006), 14–17.]]>
Dan O'Day
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451954 2019-09-05T00:41:48Z 2019-09-05T01:14:11Z The pursuit of happiness

Medieval people believed with great seriousness that final happiness lay on the other side of death. They did not expect it in its fullness on this earth. But the methods of modern science provide no grounds for belief that there is anything beyond death. Hence, the whole freight of human happiness has to be carried in the few short and uncertain years that are allowed to us before death ends it all. The quest for happiness becomes that much more hectic, more fraught with anxiety than it was to the people of the Middle Ages.

There is a further implication of the emergence of the concept of human rights.... [T]he concept would have been meaningless in an earlier age. "Rights" only exist where there is a legal and social structure that defines them. Anyone can, of course, assert a need or express a wish apart from such a legal or social structure. But a claim to a right must rest upon some juridical basis. Asserting a right where there is no such basis would be like writing a check on a nonexistent bank. Therefore, if the right of every person to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is asserted, one has to ask, "Who is under obligation to honor the claim?" In the Middle Ages the answer was found within the network of reciprocal rights and duties. The man farming the land had a duty to provide troops to fight his lord's battle and a corresponding right to his lord's protection. Duties and rights were reciprocal. One could not exist without the other, and all were finite. But the quest for happiness is infinite. Who, then, has the infinite duty to honor the infinite claims of every person to the pursuit of happiness? The answer of the eighteenth century, and of those who have followed, is familiar: it is the nation-state. The nation-state replaces the holy church and the holy empire as the centerpiece in the post-Enlightenment ordering of society. Upon it devolves the duty of providing the means for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And since the pursuit of happiness is endless, the demands upon the state are without limit. If—for modern Western peoples—nature has taken the place of God as the ultimate reality with which we have to deal, the nation-state has taken the place of God as the source to which we look for happiness, health, and welfare.

Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986), 26–7.

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Dan O'Day