Monday, November 24, 2003


Greek Orthodox priests I've spoken with have asserted that, unlike in the Catholic Church, Orthodox sainthood begins at the popular level, with those who knew the reposed holy man or woman and knew their manner of life beginning to request their intercessions, commemorate the date of their repose, etc--that the official recognition of a saint by the Church authorities is merely a ratification of a veneration already long practiced by the people.

This seems to be a prime example of such a thing. It's a New York Times story about a Russian Orthodox army private in Chechnya seven years ago who was beheaded after refusing to renounce the Christian Faith or remove his baptismal cross, despite the threats of his Muslim captors. His mother later learned of the story of his death, and, as it spread, people throughout Russia began to commemorate him as a martyr.

Apparently, however, the Russian Orthodox Church authorities are objecting. I'm not quite sure why. Such an objection doesn't jive with what my Greek Orthodox priest said. Moreover, martyrs are commemorated immediately after their witness is done (to the best of my understanding). One of the few American saints (indeed the only one born on North American soil), Peter the Aleut, was martyred by Spanish Jesuits--and the monk-saint Herman of Alaska recognized him as a saint immediately after hearing the story. Similar things happened with the ancient martyrs, such as Polycarp, Ignatius, etc. Perhaps the story got it wrong and the Russian Church officials are objecting to the likely excesses of popular devotion. Or perhaps they're just on a power trip. *sigh*

Setting that strange bit aside, I appreciate the fact that, for the most part, the devotion to this martyr seems fairly distinct from any blind patriotic support for the Russian army's presence in Chechnya. Here's this quote from a Russian army officer. "The kids in Chechnya, they feel they've been abandoned by the state and abandoned by their commanders," he told the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets. "They don't know who to appeal to for help, but they understand that Zhenya is one of them."

Here's one of the icons that has been painted of him.

Sunday, November 23, 2003


So I stopped checking the news every half-hour for a few hours, and look what I missed. So Shevardnadze (try saying that 10 times really fast) is out, Georgia has a new president, and things are interesting. I still don't know what the Georgian Orthodox Church thinks of all this. But the US likes it, it seems.

But, even if the world goes on without me watching, I'm going to go snooze now. Don't wake me up till 5. Even if the world ends.
Doggone it, I'm trying to write a paper, but my 'net searches keep bringing up interesting things. The link in the post below is a blog kept by a recent Catholic convert (he looks like he's Eastern Rite) who is considering monasticism. This site is a Mormon discussion board, it seems, discussing whether or not the Catholics and Mormons agree that the human soul that is made like Christ will become uncreated (something which St. Irenaeus taught, apparently). Fascinating--especially seeing the way the LDS folks think.

Ok...back to my paper.

I want to delve more deeply into this site. For now, I'm just fascinated.
This piece on the current unrest in Georgia is intriguing. I'm very curious what the religious leaders in the country are saying...from what little I know, Georgia is very strongly and devoutly Orthodox. I'm curious how that interacts with the politics.

And now, I'm going to bed.
Here's a nice little piece on the future of the Middle East. Nothing really new, but an interesting summary of some things. See what you think

Saturday, November 22, 2003


So my lovely almost-wife, officially dubbed Mrs. Gugg by the Danckaerts, just took the little personality thing. Her compatibility rating with me destroys any possibility for anything between me and Metzger. I'm saved!!

On the other hand, her similarity rating with Metzger is a little disconcerting, I must say. But that's ok.

Welcome her to the blogosphere, if you would please. :)

SimilarMinds Compatibility Results
okoye |||||||| 88% |||||||| 93%
arandir |||||||| 85% ||||||||| 95%
hebe ||||||| 84% |||||| 73%
pulchersentio ||||||| 75% ||||||| 77%
bobgolding ||||||| 78% |||||| 70%
tildegauche |||||| 72% ||||| 61%
ockhamist ||||| 58% ||||| 62%
djhugger |||||| 65% |||| 54%
similarity complementarity  
How compatible are you and your friends?
Dang...I'm a blogging machine tonight. I think it's time for bed.

'night all.


Finally, I am posting some pictures. I got some pictures from two summers online at pbase, and hence am now putting them here so people can see what I look like. The hair-etics of the Ecumenical Council of Orthodox Bloggers should note that this picture was taken a year and a half ago--my hair has not been cut since, and that is the most trimmed my beard has ever been. Those who actually want to see my ugly mug can see it more closely over to the left. The picture above is, of course, the graduation photo of myself and my bride-to-be (to be married in just barely over a month!!!! AAAAAHHHHH!!!).

The above picture was taken in a park in Barcelona. That was a fun trip. :) All the locals were down below saying I was going to die in Spanish. When it came time to try to get down, I almost believed them.

As I said, all sorts of fun.

Friday, November 21, 2003


Konrad LaPrade is posting again. I am very happy.

In other news,Konrad LaPrade is posting again on Xanga. I am very sad.

Also, I am both happy and sad. I am therefore confused.

Which reminds me, Bob, of your mother's use of the word.

Which in turn reminds me of all that I am missing at the Beat.


I miss those guys.

In other news, my reliable little Prizm is in the shop right now. It had been making weird sounds and not accelerating so well for the past few months, but inconsistently enough that I could never catch it while asking mechanics about it. Turns out it needed a new clutch. Grrrr...that's what I get for teaching two girls to drive a stick. Fortunately, I'm marrying one of them, so I get to use her money to fix it. ;) Which is good, because it's costing me like $650.

Did I get ripped off, Bob?

I hope not...dunno if I'd be able to live with myself if I did.

Anyway, I'm picking it up tomorrow, and hopefully all will be well, because I have to drive down to DC and my future in-laws' place next week for Thanksgiving.

So if I'm incommunicado for a few days, that's why--don't consign me to hell again, Prizio.

Apparently I had all the wrong best friends at Hillsdale. Humph. I wonder what this means.

In other news, I'm going to see if I can get the other guys at the Beat to join in this little crazy thing--visit the BeatBlog to help me encourage them.

SimilarMinds Compatibility Results
okoye |||||||| 91% |||||||| 87%
MrsGugg ||||||| 78% |||||||| 86%
bobgolding |||||| 74% ||||||| 80%
hebe |||||| 67% ||||||| 75%
pulchersentio |||||| 69% |||||| 69%
ldheyman ||||| 63% |||||| 72%
tildegauche ||||| 56% |||||| 67%
djhugger ||||| 58% |||||| 66%
ockhamist ||||| 60% ||||| 60%
similarity complementarity  
How compatible are you and your friends?

The really funny thing is, I just spent four hours today taking the manditory psychological evaluation for prospective seminarians here at Holy Cross. I am very happy to spend the evening using such silly questions for fun. It makes me feel better, somehow.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

ἐν ἀρχή ἦν ὁ λόγος

Wednesday, November 19, 2003


Ok...I'm confused. I thought was liberal. But this piece doesn't read liberal. Matter of fact, it reads in a more unbiased, open-minded way than anything I've read for a long while. Skeptics in the blogosphere should note that I'm not asserting anything about the supposed Iraq-bin Laden connection. Just commenting on the piece and on the associated news.

Silliman--did Slate become conservative when I wasn't looking?

Sunday, November 16, 2003

ἐν ἀρχή ἦν ὁ λόγος

Thursday, November 13, 2003


Award for most incendiary post this week goes to Karl Thienes of St. Stephen's Musings over on the Orthodox side of the tracks. His post on the Matrix Trilogy and the legitimacy of Christian patronage of the arts in general (but specifically movies with sexual content or violence) has polarized the Orthodox Blogosphere. The comments section to this moment boasts 34 (lengthy) comments since the post went up on the 11th. I'm sure there are more to come. Kudos to Karl for making us think and further commendations for maintaining a careful balance between extremes. I look forward to more from him and the others.

Myself, I may even re-post my final movies dissertation from last spring if I get a chance (with current thoughts included). We'll see. I have a paper due tomorrow. Fortunately, I've found a way to incorporate my recent posts on language, philosophy and theology into the paper, so that means I'm almost done already. :)


Tuesday, November 11, 2003


Some days the flowers bloom, the sun shines and all is well with the world. On such days, nearly comatose bloggers return to the 'net and old college friends become fathers.

It's a beautiful thing when both happen at once. Mr. D has returned, and as his first announcement back he bears witness to the birth of my old roommate's first child.

Pictures of the lovely Miss Alyssa Rachelle Helmick are posted here. Heartiest and very Excited Congratulations to Chad and Kristen.

And now, to bed!

Saturday, November 08, 2003


I just can't resist posting this link. I spent my college days being mildly teased for my preferred attire: a flannel shirt and a pair of brown Cabelas work pants. And now, just after I finally leave that look behind for black slacks and a button up shirt, it becomes trendy.

*sigh* I am forever damned to be out of fashion. For which, come to think of it, I'm grateful.

And I am glad that my generation is at least in part rejecting the ludicrous fashions of the day and putting comfort first. That should leave more time for the more important things in life.

Friday, November 07, 2003

I have written this in an attempt to speak in some fashion to Metzger's particular issues with me. But this clarifies what I say below. Hence I submit it for all.

Dear Jonathan,
I appreciate your charity in removing your first post. I had no desire to offend. On the contrary, you nearly top the list of those with whom I would like to speak about this. Because you especially, along with Sam and Prizio, somehow exemplify what is needed. All three of you have in some sense rejected the faith in which you were raised, and all three of you have to a significant degree still clung to it. I do not blame any of you--those things which drove you drove me as well. I deeply regret that our separate paths have caused me to become, in any sense at all, your enemy. I simultaneously consider it a weighty compliment that you consider me worthy to be called your arch-nemesis--it implies that you detect in me enough honesty, authenticity and genuine desire for truth that you think it worth your while to express your disagreement with me (unless it simply expresses the fact that I managed to piss you off, in which case, I'm not sure what to say). But if it is the former, I like to think I have at least enough Christian charity to return the favor. Which is a roundabout way of saying that, for all I speak of Christianity and the superiority of the Orthodox faith, you shame me in your love for others.

I am, at the moment, trying to find a way around the label of heresy which the Orthodox in this country throw around perhaps too loosely at all who are not Greek, Russian or wearing a strange enough hat. It is not a comfortable label to throw. Nor is it charitable, and seldom is it profitable or edifying. I doubt, indeed, that I have ever heard it used in a helpful or edifying manner. The term seems only to have a limited usefulness in excluding certain doctrines which are antithetical either in and of themselves or in their consequences to the fundamental, unchanging Christian Faith.

But I do consider the Christian Faith to be unchanging. This is fundamental--but what I mean by it needs explaining. I do not assert, for example, that the Nicene Creed was the Christian expression of faith from the beginning. I do say, however, that it is precisely that, an Expression of Faith--that Creeds may change, but the Faith does not, being, fundamentally, the encounter of men with the immutable God. Or, put another way, men change, but God does not.
Therefore, as our ideas develop and shift, as our cultures evolve or devolve, our encounter with God may change, or, at least, the words we use to describe that encounter. For the encounter itself comes when we are most like God--so perhaps this is a common experience that transcends words and culture, being a mystical experience, devoid of image and form and defying description. Or, put even another way, the Faith is unchanging in the sense that a Christian man of prayer today shares something deeply fundamental to his being with Christian men of prayer of old--there is a relational identification between myself (if I am living my life existing in communion with God) and the Apostle Paul or Peter. I am sure the Scriptural quotes relevant to this are obvious--statements such as God is the same yesterday, today and forever, Paul's statement that, "For me, to live is Christ..." or "It is not I who lives, but Christ that lives in me," or John's statement that "everyone that loves is born of God and knows God..."

So the Faith is unchanging, immutable, indescribable. But just so it must be described, clothed in human terms, just as the uncircumscribable Son of God was circumscribed, was clothed in human flesh and in created time. For the Christian faith is a Faith of and in Incarnational Revelation--that the unknowable God posited by philosophy made Himself known, that the Infinite Truth became somehow comprehensible to the finite mind. Christians have maintained from the beginning that the essence of Christianity is found in the experiential encounter with God--but in that encounter, God enters the realm of human experience, and becomes someone of Whom we can speak in accurate or inaccurate terms--even if those terms are limited their accuracy, even if all that can be said of God with anything approaching complete accuracy is that He Is.

It is precisely this faith, this confidence (that it is possible to speak of God at least to a limited degree), which is represented and exemplified by the Scriptures. The Old Testament uses Hebrew language to describe the encounter of the Hebrew people with the God who revealed Himself to their forefathers, called them out of Egypt and spoke to them through the prophets. The New Testament speaks in Greek of the same God, revealed in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. But, though it is written in Greek, it is written by Hebrews, steeped in Hebrew culture, history and language. It represents a transition point--from Hebrew to Greek. It is at once the last expression of the revelation of God in Hebrew and the first in Greek, analogous to what a Greek might write in English today--the words would be English, but would be mere English translations of Greek ideas, meaningless removed from their context (as indeed most English-speakers find such writings today). We know that the Scripture was similarly meaningless to the Hellenistic philosophers of the day. To understand them required that on, in some sense, though still speaking Greek, become Hebrew. As the first century drew to an end it became clear that it was impractical and untenable for the Church to make this demand of the Greco-Roman society in which it lived.
The Gospel of John is, indeed, in many ways the first effort we can see to speak to the Hellenistic world in its own terms--Christ is spoken of as the Logos. And we're off to the races...from this point onward Christianity is dedicated to bringing the Gospel to the people, not in bringing people to the Gospel.

The second century of the Christian era is characterized by the efforts of Christian apologists and writers to make the Christian Faith, something intrinsically connected with Hebrew history, language and culture, comprehensible to the Hellenistic mind. From very early on, this effort took the form of re-articulating the Gospel in the terms of Hellenistic philosophy, of answering the questions of the philosophers from the Christian perspective and of following the first Christian articulations in this medium through to their logical conclusions, constructing an entire cosmology in competition with and in apposition to the systems of Plato, Aristotle and later, Plotinus. These efforts reached their culmination in the work of Origen in Alexandria.

This system can, for all intents and purposes, be characterized as the perfect syncretistic melding of Christianity and neo-Platonism. Which is to say, Origen got some things very, very wrong. One does not wish to be trite in an oversimplification of his ideas, but his lava-lamp idea of pre-existent souls constantly and eternally drawing closer to God as they heat up spiritually and lapsing again down to the material world as they cool seems at first glance to have almost no relation to the most basic of Christian doctrines. Yet Origen headed the catechetical school in Alexandria, influenced generations of Church hierarchs and theologians, and was only condemned for very specific heresies (including the above) several centuries later.

Indeed, at the time, Origen was a standard of Orthodoxy. His philosophical system was hailed as perfect and adopted almost universally throughout Africa and much of the Eastern Church. For he was the culmination of that first generation of Christian philosophers, the originator of the best philosophical system Christianity had possessed since John committed Christianity to this engagement with Hellenism with his adoption of the term �Logos.�

In the century and a half following Origen�s death, however, more and more pillars of his carefully constructed philosophical system were discarded as Christians more carefully considered their ramifications and decided they were, at best, defective (at worst incompatible with reality and Scripture). But no cohesive system arose to replace it, creating a meltdown of sorts in Christian doctrine, a crisis of belief, culminating in the Arian crisis, which simultaneously was the culmination of the Church�s rejection of Origen.

Arius was seemingly the first to openly and insistently reject Origen�s definition of Christ�s origin (no pun intended) as �eternally created by the Father� as the sort of first emanation (cf. Plotinus, etc). The problem lies in the fact that Origin�s creation of ALL spirits by emanation, as it were, removes any meaningful distinction between Christ�s nature and ours�but once the doctrine of emanations as a means of connecting the agenetic Father with the genetic Spirits is removed, one ends in making all into mere creatures, including the Son and the Spirit. Arius, in articulating this, boldly and insistently, sounded the death-knell of Origenism. *Note* The philosophical, theological and political issues behind this entire issue are complex (too much so for examination here), but let it suffice to say for the moment that there�s a lot more going on than I�m saying. I have a paper due on this in a few weeks, which I will post, hopefully filling in the picture. *End Note*

While the decrees of Nicaea rejected Arius� assertion and established the logical refutation of his doctrine, that rather than a created being, Christ is of one essence with the Father, co-eternal with Him, uncreated and never having not-been, they had no philosophical system to back them, to explain them, etc. The protracted controversy regarding Nicaea that followed the Council itself was a simple consequence of this�fully Christian bishops, priests and laymen were left in a philosophical vacuum following this wholesale abandonment of the systems that had tied the intellectual tenets of the faith together for the Hellenistic mind. It was only with the work of the Cappadocian Fathers that a system was developed to replace Origen and the other early apologists.

Their great and lasting contribution was the creation of a system incorporating the Nicene definitions, the tradition of the Church and the best of Hellenistic philosophy into a single, seamless system, at once fully consistent with the inner life of the Church and the reality of her encounter with God, nonetheless treating and adopting the best of philosophy with such faithfulness to its fundamental kernel (the illumination of Socrates, Plato and Plotinus that had spawned it) that many even of the philosophers of the day held them in high regard.

Its perfection is indicated by the fact that, in the Greek-speaking, still Hellenistic East, the Cappadocians� system perseveres to this day as the standard of Orthodoxy. Other theologians have written, of course, but they have merely filled in less developed portions of the Cappadocians� system. One could even attribute the supposed stagnancy of Byzantine intellectual thought (an accusation often leveled against the later Eastern Roman Empire) to this�after the Cappadocians, there was little to say. The definition of Christianity in the Greek language was complete, the energies of Byzantium�s intellectuals directed elsewhere. As much had been said about God as could be understood by the rational mind�to discover more was the arena of the mystic, the hesychast, the man of prayer. Words and ideas had reached their limit�more could not be learned without shedding these transient things and delving into the blinding darkness of God Himself.

Such a system, however, was not developed in the West. I say that not in any attack upon Augustine, Aquinas or any of the other theologian-philosophers with whom the Latin West has been graced. Their work was good�but the very existence of the subsequent philosophers and theologians, of the Renaissance, of the Protestant Reformation and, in more modern times, of the parallel developments of modernism/post-modernism on the one hand and the denominational explosion on the other bear witness to the imperfect nature of Christianity�s Western philosophical clothing.

This can, I think, probably be attributed to external pressures. There was a lengthy period of peace and security in the Eastern Roman Empire which provided the environment necessary for a protracted discussion. But Augustine himself only scarcely outlived the fall of Rome in 410, and whatever one may say of the centuries following, they were not an age of peace and security. Indeed, there has been no opportunity for Christianity in the West to regroup and re-examine the philosophical system clothing the Faith since the fall of Rome. Or rather, on the rare occasions that the opportunity has presented itself, it has led to more schisms, more divisions and more confusion.

In modern America, this theological meltdown has reached its apogee�but it is here, in this time and place of peace, prosperity and security, that we Christians of all stripes are finally presented with the crucible we have needed for so long. It is far past time for a Western culture to develop a consistent philosophy of Christianity that can finally give an answer to all the controversies that have plagued us for so long. I am convinced that there is a way to resolve the questions that divide us, whether they be ecclesiology, soteriology, Christology�even the question of free will seems within reach.

I see all the pieces moving towards this very conclusion. The English-speaking world is full of those who have experienced in themselves the failure of the Church in the West to answer the fundamental questions, those who have at once left the Church and still cling to it despite themselves. It is at peace (in that its lands are not ravaged by war), secure, with energy to spare for intellectual pursuits. It possesses an unparalleled knowledge of the past, an unequaled ability to look with clear sight at the 20 centuries which lie behind us and understand them in their virtues and their faults. It is an age of hope and despair united, an age in which people are willing to surrender ancient feuds and pet ideas. And it is an age in which finally the Christian-philosophical traditions of East and West are co-existent in one land, speaking one language, experiencing one culture, facing common enemies. All of Christianity is gathered here, in person or by proxy. There will be no better time than this.

It's always interesting when a scientist promises the moon to the waiting world. Especially when he does so literally. And most especially when it's actually believable. I eagerly await further developments on this front.

Monday, November 03, 2003

I really truly should be going to bed by now. But I haven't blogged for a month, and I have something significant on my mind. Justice and reason dictate that my first post back should be a response to the questions so kindly posed to me by Karl Thienes. I am in the middle of composing such a post. But some of the answers are taking me more time than I had expected, and I am currently excited about something else. So I will post, promising, as I have for a month now, that "next post" will include the interview.

This post owes much to my current courses here at Holy Cross (which have apparently been more thought-provoking than I had thought), especially to my Church History course with Fr. Thomas Fitzgerald and to the massive paper assignment from Fr. George Dragas. It also owes much to my Beloved Enemy and good friend Daniel Silliman and to our epic conversations regarding Orthodoxy and Anglicanism, to the recent joint statement issued by Orthodox and Roman Catholic theologians regarding the Filioque clause of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, and to a myriad of other influences. Mainly it's my overactive brain on overdrive. to the races...

Since I was old enough to comprehend that it existed, I have abhorred the rift between denominations of Christians. While I was still Protestant, I sought to distance myself from denominational barriers and derided denominationalism as blasphemous to the name of the undivided Christ which we claim to bear. To this I still hold.

My conversion to Orthodoxy vastly improved my position and aided my image of myself. For now, I can claim to be a part of that true and complete Body of Christ from which the others have split off. I have been able to say to myself in good faith that it is not I that blasphemes Christ, not I that makes Him divided in the eyes of the world outside--it is THEM! And this has been pleasant.

Yet I have maintained, parallel with that view of myself, a pity for those outside--for the schisms and heresies which spawned this abomination which we call the denominational explosion all lie far in the past (and many even were spawned in good faith, with the intention of preserving the Faith and worshipping God in spirit and in truth). Moreover, I know all too well that those who today exist in schism with the Orthodox Church do so by default. They never left the Church; rather, they grew up outside Her, and know nothing of Her. So I have pitied them and tried to communicate to them the truth which they lack, that they too might partake of the wonder and blessing that lies constantly within my grasp here.

I have, however, been constantly frustrated in that many dear friends have failed to understand, failed to be interested, ultimately failed to convert. I have questioned what ailed them. Did they not see? Could they not hear? And I ultimately attributed it to the ineffable workings of the human soul and consigned them in prayer to the far more ineffable mercy of God.

But I have recently understood something which had before escaped me. I came to college and encountered Orthodoxy with a mind and heart purposely wiped clean of a theological vocabulary. I had intentionally shunned preaching, teaching, books and church attendance itself in a desire to rid my mind of preconceived notions and expectations and approach Scripture truly openly, that I might understand what God said to men, not what men said about God. And consequently, I had far less of a theological system to shed as I embraced the Eastern theological system by which Orthodoxy is expressed. I found in it the fundamental truths of the Scripture in which I had immersed myself for the past two years, and knew of a certitude that here I belonged within three months of my first encounter.

But others cannot be expected to do so. Others have far too much invested in a system of thought that is existentially Western and English, as opposed to Eastern and Greek. Moreover, there exists the ever present handicap to the modern American mind of the inprecice nature of the English language theologically speaking. There have been so very many writers who have bandied so many words so differently that it is truly possible for thousands of differing denominations to confess the very same creed as I do (save the Filioque) and mean something utterly divergent from Orthodox Christianity.

This was not the case 1500 years ago in the Eastern Roman Empire. There, there was a literature, a dialogue on papyrus and parchment, a refining fire in which words were tested and tried--so that when a catechumen stood up in the Church and confessed "Pistevo eis ena Theon, Patera Pantocrator..." those receiving him for baptism could be confident that, if he spoke in good faith, he truly held the Faith once delivered to the Apostles, that he truly believed in one God, the Father Almighty...

It is a matter of fact that language is by nature an imprecise and fluid thing. A word means practically nothing removed from its context. Just so, a word, a sentence or a creed mean nothing when removed from the larger context of literature in which they were spoken. The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed itself expresses little of the faith--but it represents countless volumes which carefully define every single word within it, so that, on that imagined day 1500 years ago, the newly baptized Christian knew precisely what it was to which he had committed himself. He knew that his confession of Christ as "homoousion" denied the belief that the Son of God was a mere creation. He knew that a distinction existed between the word "ousia" and the word "hypostasis;" that three of the latter could exist in one of the former, and that this was how the Trinity was to be described. And this he knew because Gregory of Nyssa, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, Athanasius, Arius, Cyril of Alexandria, Nestorius, Eutyches, Origen and countless other Saints and heretics had fought long and hard over each word until there could be no doubt of the meaning of the Creed. Indeed, the Creed is the summation of the entirety of Holy Tradition--and its translation in each language must needs be based in a similar corpus of literature.

The strange thing to realize is that it will not suffice simply to translate that older corpus. For the distinction between ousia and hypostasis and the heresy that spawned it is a Greek distinction and heresy, not an English one--and any English translation will have its own issues, countless and myriad and each a latent heresy. After all, English is its own language, with its own history and an already vast corpus of literature. Rather, the same battles which defined the early centuries of Christian history must be each re-hashed, re-examined, re-fought. And new battlefields must be created, new battle lines drawn. There will be heresies. And it must needs be so.

But for the moment, it is too early to begin pointing fingers, to begin issuing anathemas. The language is far too imprecise. I cannot in good faith point a finger at any random Anglican or Roman Catholic at a first encounter and call him a heretic. His belief may be heresy, but I cannot know that so soon. Indeed, so many of my conversations are primarily semantic--the entire time is spent defining and redefining terms. And all too often, in the end, we realize that that which divides us is far less than it had seemed.

This is not to say that heresy cannot or does not exist in this English-speaking land. But in the past, the wisest among the Fathers always took very great care to ensure that a man was not condemned for his heresy until he understood the meaning of the words he used and nonetheless stood by them--it was only when a heretic, fully understanding that in his belief he differed from the decision of the council in question, refused to renounce his beliefs, his terminology, that he was finally condemned. The instances of Nestorius and Eutyches come particularly to mind.

It also must be borne in mind that the Fathers were this merciful to the heretics themselves, the first originators of the false doctrines. Who are we, who am I, to point my finger at my estranged Christian brother (a Pentecostal, for example), reared in the West, ignorant of history, ignorant of any church but that in which he took his first steps in Christian thought and philosophy, and accuse him of heresy. The kernel of his faith may well be as Orthodox as mine, if not more so. If he does not understand the consequences of his individual beliefs, can I condemn him? If the language I use to speak to him is incomprehensible or, worse, is that which he associates with a Mormon, a Buddhist, or (as this is very common with those among whom I grew up) a Roman Catholic? He has been conditioned to reject these from his birth--he took in the reflex reaction with his mother's milk.

But he, and indeed no devout Christian upon this earth intends to be a heretic. After all, even the heretics thought that they was upholding the fullness of the Orthodox Faith. Were it not so, they would not have been so recalcitrant. And so, in this age especially, as the Orthodox Tradition, that which most completely possesses the faith of the early Church (for it is organically connected to that Church, both in history and in language) finally is introduced into the sphere of English and American Christianity, what is most needed (next to a genuine faith and a heartfelt prayer on the part of each and every one of us) is a dialogue, a literature, the beginnings of a corpus of verbiage that will give precision and depth to the language we use to speak of the things of God.

But we who are Orthodox must not think that it will suffice to dialogue only amongst ourselves. Amongst ourselves, we already share a vocabulary, much of it taken from those few Orthodox who have written in English, much more simply borrowed directly from the Greek (such as Logos). In many ways, we ARE Greeks, speaking Greek in English. We cannot expect the average American to do this--we must begin to speak in English, and that requires that we begin to address the misunderstandings and problems arising in English. For that, we need controversy, we need contention--we need our estranged brothers in the Anglican and Roman Catholic and Calvinist communions, and perhaps even in the further removed denominations of low-church Protestantism.
We already know that we share many beliefs, even many words with them. There are similarly many matters upon which we greatly disagree. In many cases it remains to be seen whether the beliefs behind the words truly differ--or if they would if we each comprehended what the other side understood us to be saying, what they thought those beliefs implied. I have no doubt that there are hoards of heretics in modern America--but equally I have no doubt that, once all understand what the words mean, far more than those hoards would be Orthodox.

This, then, is what I propose, in my hubris and vanity as a first-year seminarian. Let us ourselves begin such a dialogue, begin intentionally and in earnest the long work of refining English as a theological language. Let us not abandon the roots from which we have sprung, but let us rather begin to remove those seedlings from the temporary pots in which they have for so long remained and begin to transplant them into this new land. The goal is not to condemn, not to immediately establish who is in and who is out--it is simply to talk, to understand, to develop a common vocabulary, so that, whether we end in agreement or not, we KNOW where we stand.

For the Orthodox--I do not propose that we admit that the denominations of America are Orthodox--I merely suggest that we at least extend as much to them as the ancient Fathers did to the heretics. Let us talk to them, crunch terms with them, and understand them. For you who are not Orthodox, I do not ask you to accept Orthodox definitions and schemai--rather simply to at least consider them, critique them, converse with them and seek to understand them. Let us together seek to ensure that, 200 years from now, if there are still denominations in America, those denominations will at least know with certitude what divides them.

For this purpose I offer my papers blog, Pilate's Question. The reference to Truth seems to me a fitting title, and a fitting place to begin. Let us, indeed, see a great conversation begin between Hillsdale's League of Extraordinary Bloggers on the one hand and the Ecumenical Council of Orthodox Bloggers on the other. I suspect it will be most expedient if I remain the sole administrator, posting such things as others may send me. But details may be worked out later.

As I write this, I begin to fear that I am thinking too highly of myself, that I have no right to aspire to this. But, should I ever hope to have such a right, to be capable of writing coherently of the Christian Faith in this English language. I must begin somewhere. And this--this is a lofty goal. I recall something Jake Allen, the Ockhamist, wrote a number of weeks ago--that he had always thought to be a great man someday but had, for the first time, begun to doubt that he truly would, as a great cause in which to prove his greatness had failed to present itself. I have felt similarly. But this--this is truly a great cause, a great enterprise, a great life's work. It is one that could draw into itself even the highest of scholars, but still include the simplest of blue-collar workers, simply because that worker could pipe up and say, "I don't get it--what you said means this to me," or worse, "So why should I care?" So easily do the mighty fall�for the wisdom of the world is made foolishness, and this we must not forget.

So let us take care in our writings, working to always speak directly to the matter at hand, not losing our way in the ethereal heights of reason or rhetoric. Let us equally maintain a publishable level of quality--for this, surely, is something which could be published. Let us always carry on in charity and Christian love, seeking the edification of ourselves and one another, preserving the Faith but never using a particular formulation thereof as a weapon against one another. And let us pray, always pray--for the words of theolgians and councils are but the cloak of the inner life of Christianity, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Consigning ourselves to His guidance, and praying that the mercies of God may ever shown upon us and this land, let us then begin.

Come let us reason together...