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[The Creation of the Chicken]

An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Housing

Well the home we liked out in Seabeck is now gone. We had asked for an extension on closing in the hopes that we could quickly find a new buyer, but the seller wanted more cash. Now we know why...he clearly had a buyer already arranged...perhaps an offer waiting if ours fell through. We rescinded our offer thinking we didn't even really know how long it would take to sell our home.

Five days later we have an accepted offer on our home and are awaiting the inspection/appraisal process all over again - and the Seabeck house is sold without ever even showing STI since our offer was rescinded. We are scheduled to close on Sept 28th and at present we have no prospects on the other side of the pond. Waiting and hoping and praying for something to come up...not to mention a more smooth sale process on our home.

Still chasing the "greater self-sufficiency hobby farm dream"...stay tuned.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 1:50 PM [+]
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3 comments

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Translation Problems with regard to Hell

Now, for the sake of those reading who might be offended by my spending most of my time being critical of certain predominant religious traditions here in the west, I will refrain from mentioning in this post which predominant religious tradition was exclusively involved in the translation of the NIV.

2 Thessalonians 1:9

according to the NIV:
They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power

And according to the NKJV:
These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power

I believe it was in a lecture I heard by Fr. Thomas Hopko wherein he says the NKJV clearly has the translation right. There is nothing in the greek, I am told...for my own Greek is about as useful as a Prayer Rope in a protestant worship service...oh crud, sorry....anyway, there is nothing in the greek to indicate "shut out from the presence of"

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 6:12 PM [+]
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8 comments

Monday, August 28, 2006

Maybe you hate God?

Most protestants rest assured (blessed even) that they are saved. And it's easy to be saved, really, you simply fill out the right form and then you get a permit. Yes, I know I am simplifying things here, but there is no doubt that when it comes to salvation for the Protestants you are either in or out and its easy to know which you are.

But maybe you really hate God, you just don't realize it. Sure Sure you sing the songs and get all teary eyed, and you feed the homeless, do a little witnessing, etc etc...but maybe you really hate God.

Stop and consider: have you got any sercrets? Are there any dark desires in your heart that you'd prefer others didn't know about? Do you have some secret sins that you feel bad about, but have never really made any progress to overcome? Maybe you even kind of like them and haven given up fighting them? Anything in particular in your life that you'd just DIE to see published in a newspaper? Any pride in there that is leading you to dishonesty - perhaps even to yourself?

The Scripture tells us that in the end, the "books" will be opened. Some of the fathers of the Chruch have said that what this means is that your heart will be opened and the darkness therein will be exposed to the absolute light and truth of God. In my experience, dealing with the truth about yourself is THE hardest thing we must do in life and I suspect most of us fail at dealing with it. How many of you know someone who was/is living in complete denial about themselves...don't think about this for too long...get bcak to your own heart: any denial in there? We humans are experts at denial, to the point that we lie to ourselves and we can actually reach the point of forgetting the truth and believing the lies, which is an astonishing thing if you really think about it.

But, when you stand before absolute truth and light, we cannot hide behind our self-deceit anymore. The lies vanish away "like wax before the fire", and we are left utterly naked in every sense. Pride, I think, is what will primarily be our downfall in this context. Pride that will lead us to be embarrassed at our nakedness...we may run to try and escape the light...to hide ourselves...anything to escape the truth. You may be holier than me (or perhaps more deceived - were that possible), but I am somewhat alarmed about this.

I say, that those who are suffering in hell, are suffering in being scourged by love.... It is totally false to think that the sinners in hell are deprived of God's love. Love is a child of the knowledge of truth, and is unquestionably given commonly to all. But love's power acts in two ways: it torments sinners, while at the same time it delights those who have lived in accord with it(Homily 84 of Saint Isaac the Syrian)

The medicine of confession is likely one of the greatest "tools" given to us by the Church to prepare us for God's love. Many of you, like myself, were terrified of confession...sometimes I still am...but you can see how neccesary it is. Like stretching exercises, we prepare our hearts to be seen and examined and healed. Plus, trained in the wisdom of the Church, we look to our father-confessors to help guide us away from self-deceit. And not only our father-confessors, but the whole Church as well - those of today and yesterday all work together to bring us healing.

The Way then, is the way by which we learn to love God. And what this also means, I think, is that we learn how to accept and experience God's unwavering and eternal love. To do this, we must experience an ontological change ourselves.

In the future life the Christian is not examined if he has renounced the whole world for Christ's love, or if he has distributed his riches to the poor or if he fasted or kept vigil or prayed, or if he wept and lamented for his sins, or if he has done any other good in this life, but he is examined attentively if he has any similitude with Christ, as a son does with his father.
Saint Symeon the New Theologian

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 1:59 PM [+]
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11 comments

Orthodox Church Offers to Restore Ties with Conservative Episcopal Dioceses

Story HERE.

The Pittsburgh diocese and others asked for a new overseer of the Episcopal Church after the June election of Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori...

Well, since you asked Bishop Duncan...may I introduce you to Metropolitan Herman?

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 1:40 PM [+]
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0 comments

Friday, August 25, 2006

Fire

Trinity Cathedral in St. Petersburg has caught fire. Slide show here.

Thank God no one was hurt and it sounds like most of the icons and relics were rescued.


Lord have mercy.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 4:55 PM [+]
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1 comments

Thursday, August 24, 2006

What’s wrong with a little heresy?

To answer a common email question I've gotten: No, I don't expect to receive anymore requests for book reviews after this.

I get the impression from many PMEers and from Spencer Burke in his book "A Heretics Guide to Eternity" that theology (true or false – terms they’d never ever use) isn’t all that important. And while they would perhaps candy coat that with notations of the expression of theology being the real issue, it would appear to me from what is written in the book that we are seeing a call for not just a "remodel" on an existing home, but a new home altogether. Mr.Burke writes that theological truth was argued about primarily because the medieval church needed to maintain its power and authority over usurpers and underlings.

But such a predilection toward conspiracy is really out of place once it leaves Hollywood, don't you think? It's terribly common today to see such conspiracies leveled at institutions; if only those espousers of such things could discern the conspiracies in their own hearts perhaps they would not trust it to so easily recognize it in the medieval church or Walmart or Halliburton or who or whatever? It's really no different than the many protestants who so readily claim that a man they have never met, never heard speak, never read a word they wrote, and who died over 1600 years ago was never really never a Christian, but instead pretended to be one in order to win power – St. Constantine the Great. What astonishing abilities to judge the motives of others some of us believe we have!

In a chapter entitled "The First Heretic", Mr. Burke identifies the "the first person in the history of Christianity to be executed as a heretic" Priscillian of Avila, whose, Burke says, only mistake was to insist upon extreme asceticism, including the renunciation of marriage. He then ignores this point and goes on to talk about how the authority of the Church was threatened by him. Ahem...ummm...now I could be wrong, but I am guessing that the PMEers of the world would be the very first to condemn this man if he were booked as a speaker at the next Soularize conference and in his presentation he was to insist that they all stop eating anything but beans, fast strictly on Sundays, never sleep on anything but the floor, never own anything at all including Soularize T-Shirts, and leave their wives and families to live a life as celebate brothers and sisters. I mean sure, they wouldn't kill the guy, but if they didn't use the word heretic, what would they call him? Crazy? A Fundamentalist maybe? One thing left out of the story of Priscillian is the fact that his chief opponents, who objected to his rise to the episcopacy, were also the staunchest critics of the emperor’s decision to have him executed.

Mr. Burke says in essence that people today are much more interested in what you do rather than what you believe. Fair enough, but the example of Priscillian makes my point,which is: What you believe usually will spill over into what you do...and furthermore that will spill over into what you teach others to do. Another fantastic example is the gnostic heresy which generally affirmed that all material-fleshy things were evil, consequently they denied the doctrine of the Jesus' incarnation. AND consequently the gnostics suffered from all manner of "wackiness." If the body is evil, some gnostics argued, then it didn't matter what you did with it and so orgies and other depravities abounded. On the opposite end of the spectrum were the gnostics who advocated an extreme and abusive asceticism. In a very real way, what you believe affects what you do and no matter how seemingly harmless a heretical doctrine may seem, once you affirm it is okay to hold unorthodox beliefs, how will you know when you've gone too far? How will you know?

One last very important point and I suspect I will be done "reviewing" the book - as I said in the beginning, the foundational issue must be addressed and I am MORE than willing to discuss the matter. In the introduction, Brian McLaren admonishes us numerous times not to be judgemental toward Mr. Burke's book:

"It's easy for inquisition-launchers to go on fault-finding missions; they have lots of practice and they’re really good at it...perhaps even those who have become legally inebriated on the hops and malt of fault finding, those who are inquisition-aholics but think they can quit anytime..."

We are asked NOT to go on a "fault-finding mission" but a "truth-finding mission." Okay, but what if that results in finding fault?

I hope I am not going to be lumped into that crowd of "inquisition-launchers", but I suppose I will since I am willing to be critical of what Mr. Burke has written. But consider that these men (McClaren and Burke) have virtually made a career of finding fault with both modern and traditional Christianity, so I suspect such an accusation of "fault-finding inquisition-aholics" is a blade that cuts both ways. So, don't expect that people whose religious faith you have found and published fault with, will not return the favor. I don't say that to be mean...but rather as constructive criticism, the introduction came off too much as a "don't touch God's annointed" sorta thing. Better to invite fault finding, as long as it is done honestly.

That being said...I am always open to dialogue on this issue, just expect to be steered toward the foundational issue first. Authority.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 2:40 PM [+]
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11 comments

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Classical Literature

Most of you will likely recall going to your high school literature class and HATING it. Reading great works of classic literature and poetry seemed sooooo asinine. I mean, c'mon, it's the 20th century and I am a cool 17 year old why on earth would I care to read something so utterly inapplicable to my life like "A Tale of two Cities" or "Romeo and Juliet"...especially when I can hardly understand any of it! I read it and I don't get it, it's boring and my generation is crying out for something different. Perhaps today they would prefer to read the staggering wisdom found in the literature and prose of "Puff Daddy", "Snoop Doggy Dogg" or "Killer Klown Posse" (sp?), but in my age it would have been "Midnight Oil" and "U2" (a sight better no doubt...but...)

Luckily, one of the things MY literature class did for me was to teach me to actually understand, appreciate, and apply the classics to my life. Yes, maybe I did have the best high school lit teacher on earth...but he believed these great works spoke for humanity in all ages and that us modern youth needed simply to be illumined to see the wisdom therein. Surely he is right, classic works survive the test of time because humanity recognized, recognizes, and will go on recognizing the inherent value to be found in them. And indeed I can still vividly recall when I began to GET poetry and literature.

How sad that we would toss them aside in order to hear solely our own voices in the here and now. Like an insane man who plucks out his eyes and stabs his earndrums in order to be left to the wisdom he knows may be found in his own head.

I think good old tradional Orthodoxy is the same way. Her experience, her Christian story - as much as it is written and handed down to us - needs no fundamental change. On the contrary, we need to educate and illumine people to see that, like classic literature, the message IS applicable, it is relevant, and it it does "work." Ears to hear and eyes to see beyond the here and now...thats what we need.

God preserve our children from ever NOT learning classic literature in their education....and more than that, they must learn to learn it.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:02 AM [+]
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9 comments

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Point of Distinction, I think

It is not belief in the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, or His literal bodily Resurrection that saves you, rather it is the REALITY of these that saves you.

Belief may be lacking, but if the REALITY is...there is no hope.

Glory to God for ALL things...INDEED HE IS RISEN!

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:32 PM [+]
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2 comments

Monday, August 21, 2006

Who's the Boss?

Continuing to read Spencer Burke's book "Heretic's Guide to Eternity."

Spencer writes: ...the time of traditional religion has passed. I've felt it in my own heart and I see evidence of it in the broader culture as well.

Emphasis mine, of course...but consider the authorities that Mr. Burke is citing here as being worthy of making such an important claim - especially when essentially the coming new age of "religionless Christianity" is left as a sort of copious, undefined mass of universalism. Again, I beg and plead to know and be convinced of how my heart (so easily deceived as I know it to be) along with the culture at large (insane as I know it to be) are to be trusted to determine/interpret what Jesus Christ taught and furthermore to REALLY know what "works for me." I can tell you, everyday people come to my work and undergo something that they would likely say doesn't feel good, but if it kills the Cancer then it "works for them" - though they didn't enjoy it much. Christianity is even moreso the same way...it isn't there to "work for you" it is there to make you better, to heal your disease.

By the way, I don't know if Mr. Burke is going to advocate outright universalism, though he does seem to be leaning in that direction. It has always seemed to me that universalism shares the same oxymoronic label that the statement "There are no absolutes" must own up to.

Burke says: "In today's context, it seems that fundamentalists are intent on hanging on to a particular view of the divine that sacrifices the beauty of God's spirit and grace in exchange for control and authority."

I have written at length about authority and how it was given by Christ Himself to his apostles - authority far beyond what I expect most PME'ers could stomach seeing any man or "institution" given (e.g. forgiving sins), but the irony is blatant that he thinks somehow the beauty of God's spirit and grace is maintained when we give control and authority to our hearts and to the broader culture? I'm not buying it. Obey your own heart, obey your culture...but never obey the Living and Timeless Community of Saints who have developed, maintained, and passed on Holy Tradition.

The fundamentalism of Orthodoxy is beautiful beyond anything I have ever seen or heard - yet it is born in the context of COMMUNITY (not individual hearts) and yet it has all the apparent trappings of "institution" and "religion"...sadly Mr. Burke is obviously writing to a crowd who presupposes that these terms are really bad bad words.

"the church has a tendency to interpret individual's relationships with God for them. Rather than responding to the call of God on their life directly, individuals often find themselves responding to the call of the church."

And the problem here is what exactly? Because it sounds pretty good to me, as I expect it will to others as well who have experienced the unbalanced insanity of people "responding to the call of God" as INDIVIDUALS. Someone ought to count the number of times the world "individual" is used in this text and indeed in all PME related literature. Can we not see how this is a direct descendent - the logical conclusion - of the much despised and "out of touch" enlightenment era modernism?

We are part of a community - you know, the whole "Body of Christ" analogy? We believe as community, we respond as a community, we worship as community. And this community is FAR FAR FAR more than the so called "broader culture"...no she extends backward and forward in time...in fact she herself is timeless, as surely as her truths are timeless. Now, who am I to stand here and say, as an individual, that the timeless teachings and practices just "isn't working" for me anymore? Or what is this "broader culture" that it can stand in the face of timeless truths and say "the time of tradition has passed"? If the teachings and practices which we as a community have consercrated over the ages seems to conflict with my "needs", maybe I ought to reevaluate my "needs"? Read that sentence again.

I was always under the impression that Jesus told us we'd be hated and persecuted by the Broader culture? So, why on earth when the borader culture is in apparent disagreement with the traditional Christian faith are we opting to agree with the former? Is it enlightened? Is it Holy? Is it wise and has it shown itself to be anything more than a mad chaser of bright and shiny things? (oops, did I just quote Bono?)

Later Mr. Burke begins to lay his foundation for some sort of universalism. And he begins it by explaining that the exclusivity claims to truth by religions might have been acceptable when cultures were more isolated, but that today we cannot hope to maintain such "splendid isolation." He even references new technologies like the internet and satellites which exposes us even further to different religions. And, since we have so much more contact with other cultures and religions, surely we must see that claims of religious exclusivity (e.g. "No man comes to the Father but through Me") just "don't work" anymore.

He explains the Great Commission by saying that at the time of the 1st century, the "world" into which they were commanded to go into would not have included the Western hemisphere etc. A bit more than a little stretch I would say. Furthermore, it is not as if the Roman Empire was a monolith of a single culutre and religion...not at all. It was at LEAST as much of a "cacophony of [religious] voices all vying for our allegiance" as it is today. I think his point here betrays a major historical oversight with regard to the cultural/religious state of the Roman Empire at the time...it really was not all that different than today in this regard and thus the exclusivist and universal claims of Christ and His followers are no less applicable today - EVEN if you allow those teachings to be trumpted by the whims of culture. In fact the exclusivity claims of Judaism and later Christianity came as a bit of a shock to many of the religious people of the Roman, who were much more universalist as polytheists are apt to be. So, with that point in mind, Christianity entered into a world of universalism, rejected it, and was persecuted for doing so.

Looks like history may indeed repeat itself.

More later...

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 2:28 PM [+]
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7 comments

Friday, August 18, 2006

Well...maybe we's moving and maybe we's ain't

Your prayers are sought for our sanity. A mere 11 days to closing and a new roof about to be installed and we just hear that the buyer's lender's appraiser is questioning about permits for the remodel/addition to our house. Well...there weren't permits when I bought the house, there weren't permits when I refinanced the house and there aren't permits now. And I never got permits for the finishing up that I did - I'm too much of a poor libertarian.

Anyway, it is all up in the air at the moment and we are just waiting to hear what will happen. We have no idea if the appraiser is saying he cannot apparise the home at the selling price or what. We just do not know for sure. It is a stressfull situation because the installation of the new roof was being paid for by escrow per the purchase/sale agreement. And we wait to know if we ourselves are moving in 11 days (then homeless for three days) in a moving truck all lined up and paid for and the purchase of our new home completely agreed upon and done.

Everything: the excitement, the joy, the dreams, the work, and the money of three entire families hangs on the opinion of one person who deems himself competent to appraise the value of a bunch of wood.

Anyway...God's will be done, it is an issue utterly out of our hands. We wait. And it's the waiting that kills you...better to know, either way so that we can get on with life. Limbo sucks.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:22 PM [+]
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11 comments

Behold the Mystical Power of Cartoons

TV found to be a painkiller for children

Now stop and think about the negative effects of taking painkillers recreationally? Hmmmmm...

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:51 AM [+]
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0 comments

Foundations first

I have always argued that when arguing, arguing (to all my linguistic critics - THAT was deliberate!) about specific details is fairly futile if you cannot first agree about (or at least understand) the foundations upon which those specifics are built. I fear, as I begin to read Spencer Burke'ss book "A Heretic’s Guide to Eternity" that I am going to time and time again grit my intellectual teeth because of the many specific details based on assumptions he makes to which I have little or no allegiance.

It all rests with the issue of authority.

Burke begins in his introduction to describe the new cultural wave of post modernity that is arising amidst the ashes of the failed enlightenment. He and I agree to a large degree, though I would argue that the wave isn't as big or as powerful as he assumes...in my personal experience the secular age is alive and well. None-the-less, I agree that the faith our culture has placed in science and secularism is bound to lead to more and more depravity and human suffering – even if only on an spiritual level. It would seem that Burke is arguing that Christianity must also ride this wave of post modernity.

What will riding this wave look like? Well, I expect the book will lay this all out...but from what I gather in the introduction, it really doesn't matter what it looks like as long as it works. He opts to use the word heretic because he believes that heresy can be a "positive rather than negative force" and he defines it as "those who willfully moved out of perceived orthodox positions" [emphasis mine]. He goes on to write: "contemporary heresy is a means to a new end, a way out of what no longer works." [emphasis again mine].

I was immediately curious to see where he was going with this. Was he going to advocate a sort Spongian revisionist Christianity? Burke writes: "I am not merely seeking to put a new spin on old beliefs ; I am actually declaring that there are new ways of believing when it comes to the Christian story." Hmmm… "Christian story," why does that sound like a loaded term? What does he mean by that? Further he asks us to look "at the gospel story with twenty-first century eyes." Ummm...so do my 21st century eyes see God in the flesh walking out of the tomb ALIVE?

Burke ends his introduction with this: "I am happy to live with uncertainty and in precarious freedom, rather than hunker down in the false security of institutions and recite doctrines that no longer feed my soul."

My questions:

1.How do you know that the hunger of your soul is healthy? In other words what if the hunger you feel, which you believe is not being fed by the traditional Christian faith is the equivalent of a three year old child screaming for candy for dinner? How can you be sure?

2.While trumpeting the failure of enlightenment modernism, have you not also bowed down to the same idol that founded the vast scope of modern Christianity: individualism? In other words: the individual PME is doing EXACTLY what every other founder of the thousands of modern denominations did: decide that the Christianity around them "no longer works" and then simply reinvented it in order to "feed my soul." Have we really left modernity behind? Has the fruit really fallen that far from the tree?

3.Fear of institution is HUGE amongst the PME crowd (and if you've been here at Paradosis for any length of time then you have likely heard me rant against the derogatory use of that term), and yet, curiously they apparently have no qualms in letting the insanity of modern or postmodern culture decide what the Christian story ought to say. Why? Are we seriously under the impression that Jesus' message needs to be overseen, filtered, and dictated by the prevailing and unbound "wisdom" of this age?

I don't know where Burke is going to go from here - especially with regard to doctrine. The introduction seems to indicate that anything is up for grabs. Bishop Spong wrote a lot of the same and he went on to deny the Resurrection, because after all, no rational person today believes in such things today and so the Resurrection "no longer works."

It is one thing to design a worship style to your taste, but it is an altogether different thing to design doctrines to your tatse. One must have a very very high opinion of the quality and discernment of their taste, dangerously high I would suggest.

I'll explain in the next post, but it has to do with humility and community.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:14 AM [+]
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5 comments

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Fantastic Resource!

Many thanks to John Bell from the Hillside Farm for this link to free mp3 downloads of lectures from the St. Vlad's Summer Institute.

Just click "Buy Now" and pay the fee of $0.00 and you'll be given a link to download the lecture.

nice!

This year's topic: death.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 5:05 PM [+]
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3 comments

Accepting Jesus into your heart

I can remember when I had just become a Christian as a young man and was "gung ho" about evangelism. Boy, I tell you what, I'd "witness" to a tree if I thought it could recite the sinners prayer. In that same vein of thinking I also worried about my future children: Would they - at that strange and ethereal "age of accountability" - accept Jesus into their hearts and become a Christian? I can even remeber being counseled to pray for my future kids.

Well, now here I am.

My kids have been listening (alot since we have been living in our van so much these days) to "Adventures in Odyssey", a childrens radio drama series put out by Focus on the Family. For the most part they are great (there was even one episode in which monsticism was protrayed in a positive light - which astounded me), but yesterday I heard an episode in which a young boy raised in a Christian home "becomes" a Christian and accepts Jesus into his heart.

I worried this might confuse my kids who are generally expected not to let Jesus out of their hearts as opposed to having to invite Him where we might think he'd never been before. Furthermore, as best as it might be conceived anyway, we repent daily...we ask God to daily "come into our hearts" (...come and abide in us...).

We are born Christians, and we are brought immediately into the Church, into the community of the faithful. We Orthodox even bring them to the table of our Lord, inviting them to be nurtured by God Himself - a mystery far beyond the saying of the "sinners prayer" (which, we also say before approaching the "dread sacrifice").

I suppose a simple comparative analogy would be the Protestant wedding service and the Orthdoox wedding service: we do not have vows. Whereas in a protestant context you aren't married until you have said the vows...imagine for a moment a protestant wedding that skips the vows? Did anything really happen?

What are words worth anyway? A newborn infant cannot speak, cannot "decide" - so we assume. And yet God's love is not truly visited upon them until they are able to do these things? Or at least God's love is in a sort of default mode that changes somehow when the magical "age of accountability" arrives? I do not understand this.

How wonderful the mysteries of the Church are (which I am much more comfortable not fully understanding)! "Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God" In my experience, the world of children is made up of magic, mystery, and wonder. We Orthodox raise them precisely in that from day number one.

And so, we pray not that our children will GO, but that our children will STAY amongst the magical, mysterious, and wonderful love of our God.

May we adults learn to stay too.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:04 AM [+]
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16 comments

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Off the cuff, initial book reveiw

Not too long ago I received an unusual email from someone working for theOoze.com in which I was asked to review a new book coming out written by founder of “the ooze” and the Soulerize conferences, Spencer Burke. They offered to send me a pre-release copy of the book with the assurance that I would post a review on Paradosis which they told me they read regularly – much to my surprise – and I agreed.

Now, for those that don’t know, (from “About the author”) Spencer is…recognized as a thought leader and prime mover in the postmodern emerging faith movement. Likely you are as surprised as I am that I would be asked to review this new book because I have been a fairly resolute critic of the PME faith movement. I believe that they are but another in a long list of new attempts to reinvent Christianity in ones own image. Excuse me while I generalize: I do appreciate their openness, however they sometimes fail to see that they have the same rigidity and fundamentalism as the “modern” Christianity they wish to escape, only now it is usually applied in the direction of universalism. Their rejection of mega-church business models is definitely something I can appreciate – indeed many of us converts to Eastern Orthodoxy can relate to many of their “issues” with today’s Christianity. We agree that the recipe experimentation that led to today’s most common western expressions of Christianity are flawed, but instead of further experimentation, I have always argued that we ought to check and see if the original recipe is still around.

I believe that the PME faith movement is primarily fueled by precisely what has fueled the thousands and thousands of other fads (i.e. denominations) that have arisen in Christianity primarily since the Reformation. You insert yourself as chief architect and inspector of tradition. Finding what you like (in Scripture, in worship, in praxis), emphasizing what “jives” with you, disregarding what chaffs you, and creating – as I said – a faith that feels better to you (in your image), then finding like minded people and hanging out. It’s an “iffy” foundation at best, sincere though it may be. In the end, we ought not to trust ourselves.

Anyway, the book is entitled “A Heretic’s Guide to Eternity”, which of course will certainly garner attention for its drama, but I am inclined to think that if the PME faith movement really understood what heresy was, then they would not be so swift to seemingly downplay its significance. Now, I have not read the book yet so I am not offering a full review yet…in fact there is a chapter in which the question is asked: “What is a heretic?” So, I’ll reserve correcting the notion until I know what the notion is…gee ain’t I a pretentious jerk?

One brief thing to note: I decided to peruse the index to see who was being quoted and such. Specifically I was looking to see if there would be any mention of any Eastern Saints or Orthodox thinkers. There is certainly a sprinkling of a number of western Saints, but only three (that I could find) decidedly Eastern Orthodox Saints: St. Gregory of Nyssa who is allowed a simple seven word quote, Hieromartyr Dionysius the Areopagite whose context might be lost when the author goes on the criticize church hierarchy (especially when you consider the sequel the Saint wrote in which he explains the importance of Church hierarchy), and St. Irenaios who gets a brief run as well. That’s it. No other Ante-Nicene Father and not a whiff of St. Seraphim of Sarov, St. Xenia of Petersburg, St. Mary of Egypt, St. Gregory Palamas, or the like...nothing. Nilch. And while a host of other "moderners" are listed (from the Dhali Lama to Bishop Spong) I see no Orthodox thinkers at all. And thus, while the cornocopia of Eastern Saints and Orthodox theolgians are represented by three single page listings in the index, Bono from U2 gets five.

Does this say something?

I'll post more as I begin to dig in to the book.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:27 AM [+]
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4 comments

Monday, August 14, 2006

Rumors of my dormition are greatly exaggerated

Spent all of last week at Cape Disappointment camping and (oddly enough) faxing real estate paperwork back and forth.

Much has happened, and much is happening FAST. Our house is essentially sold and we close at the end of this month. We have also essentially bought THIS home, and two days after we close on our old home we will be able to move into our new one. So yes, I will be homeless for two days...expect to see me on the street corner with a sign reading: "Will Blog for food"

As you will note (assuming the link is still up), the property is on 5 acres and is south of Seabeck in an area known as Hintzville. We have some work ahead of us - such as clearing and fencing, but otherwise the property seems ideal for us and our efforts to start the "Paradosis Farm" (I've actually not cleared that name with my wife yet, so don't tell her.)

The property is a bit wet (duh, it's in Western Washington) and so I hired a Wetlands consultant to come out and inspect the property. He assured me we needn't worry about flooding and that the pond and seasonal stream could actually be used for raising fish, or simply extra water to be stored for during the dry season - however short that may be.

I still have much to learn about rural and farm life, and it is somewhat overwhelming that what has been fermenting in our brains for a year or more is now just a couple weeks away. But I am excited about it.

And so our little agrarian adventure is beginning and we will be joining the growing population of people who have decided to find a place where they can live off the land as much as they are able. I hope and pray it leads us toward greater simplicity and greater faith...a greater understanding of life by living it in deeper connection with our community and our environment.

I do not think - though I recognize my limits - that I am wearing rose colored glasses. I expect a long commute (much of which, though, I will be able to actually DO work during) and I expect muddy, grubby, dirty, fecal farm labor...I know it will be good for me.

More details to follow...stay tuned

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:47 AM [+]
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8 comments

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Yeah yeah yeah...

and I'll betcha $100 it causes cancer.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 1:06 AM [+]
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3 comments

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Don't raise chickens in your apartment

...especially if you also have pet pigeons and especially if the "American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals" is looking over your shoulders.

It's a small story so I will reprint it here (my voice of reason accompanied by copious amounts of sarcasm may be found in italics:

Man Accused of Biting Off Rooster's Head
By Associated Press

Sat Jul 29, 10:49 AM

NEW YORK - A man accused of biting the head off his pet rooster was arrested Friday and faces up to a year in prison if convicted, an animal protection spokesman said.

So it's illegal to bite the heads off of roosters? If he'd simply taken an axe to it, would that be legal? Or maybe if he'd simply wrung its neck, what then?

A neighbor had complained about a dead rooster near his Manhattan apartment and agents found the body of the beheaded rooster on a fire escape, said Joe Pentangelo, spokesman for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The rooster's head was not located.

Ahhhh...so perhaps the crime is that he failed to eat the bird after killing it? Or maybe that he ate only the head? I imagine it ought to be illegal to eat rooster heads, though I've seen friends eat chicken feet...that ought to be illegal to. Anyway, I'm not sure I "get" the crime here...thus far I would imagine we have a host of criminals throughout the world who are ongoing repeat offenders...for the love of mercy, we must stop the slaughter of apartment bound roosters!

Humberto Rodriguez, 52, told agents that he bit the rooster's head off because he blamed it for injuring a pet pigeon that he also kept in the apartment, Pentangelo said.

Ahhh....haaaa...so you see he admits he did not intend to feed upon the flesh of the bird! GUILTY!

Rodriguez is charged with animal cruelty and could face up to a year in prison if convicted. It is also illegal to possess a live rooster in New York City, Pentangelo said.

Irony or inronies! It's illegal to possess a "live" rooster in New York City and so Rodriguez was simply trying to correct the error of his ways.

Pentangelo said Friday night he did not know whether Rodriguez had a lawyer.

Better question: did he order fried chicken as his last meal before they fry him? Seriously though, what the heck is this all about?!?!?! Does the "American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals" really think that the chicken in my freezer suffered less than Rodriguez's did when he bit off its head? Help me out here....I get it being illegal to keep a rooster in you NYC apartment...but animal cruelty?

Makes me wanna go eat some veal. I might also add that the "American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals" provided to the press an xray image of the decapitated rooster...which I suppose implies that their medical examiner was having difficulty discerning a cause of death?

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:06 PM [+]
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5 comments

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

As if I needed more reasons to become rural

Cities are hotter than the country
(ABC news video report)

Asphalt, Concrete, and Brick...oh my!

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:25 PM [+]
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2 comments

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The diseases of promiscuity

Herpes infections frequent in adolescent girls

Timely, given my last post. A couple of scary points:

1. Asymptomatic shedding.

In the past, it was always believed that if you had no lesions then you were okay to engage in the recreational activities that earned you the virus to begin with. Our lab was fairly intrumental in putting that notion to bed. As this study shows: Many, many people have HSV and have no idea, and meanwhile they are perfectly infectious. People with HSV can readily shed the virus on their skin and never develope any obvious symptoms.

2.The article kept referring to 14-18 year olds as "women."

3.They point out that efforts to reduce these infections "need to target children before adolescence."

Our doctor recently suggested the new HPV vaccine for our daughters. Human papilloma virus is an unbelievably common STD that besides the joy of causing genital warts it also leads to an increased risk for a number of cancers, including cervical.

Curious about the new vaccine I asked a research pediatrician I work with and she highly recommended it. Of course, the crazy thing about it all is that the conversations with these doctors all worked around the base assumption that teens are going to be promiscuous, and I truly felt as if I could not dare to assert that my girls would not be engaging in such dangerous behavior. Hmm.

It's totally assumed, and so now we are being told that we need to talk about STD's with our CHILDREN, well before they are teens. Of course, we all know what is being implied when the state is "targeting" our children for sexual indoctrination. I doubt they will be told that in reality there is NEVER such a thing as safe sex and that the only way to remain disease free is to keep your pants on.

And, a little reminder...HSV is no joke. It regularly kills or gives brain damage to newborns. Keep that in mind the next time someone tells you that promiscuity is a risk taken only by the participants. Even the bedroom is part of the community.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 1:19 PM [+]
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12 comments

Sex and Community

Another long post...sorry...I know it tends to drive people to go on to their next blog, but I'd ask that you stick it out here for a moment. Our discussion on Community has been very thought provoking and I beg you (for the good of the world) that you don't leave me alone with my own thoughts.

Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community was written around the time of the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas fiasco, which Berry believes is a prime example of the what sorts of things happen when Public vs Private life has usurped Community life. Community having been lost has subsequently been replaced by things such as the daycare industry, cable television, the internet, laws, lawsuits, statutes, regulations, governmental entities, senate hearings, public schools, and of course the ever increasing need for new laws and new lawyers. All of these are seemingly doing the work – however ineffectively – that had once been done by Community.

It might seem that Berry thinks that the loss of community has been the root cause of all our worldly ills…and he may be right if we see the Fall as the first of innumerable steps away from community. Sexuality is one such arena which he believes has particularly suffered from the exploitation and loss of community. Now, it may sound as if Berry is whole-heartedly against technological advance, but as I read him he is more specifically against technological and industrial advance that is done without or with little conscience. In other words, these days no one gives much consideration to the health and well being of their community first and foremost – even to the point of rejecting a technology or an industrial development that is or might be bad for community. We simply do not stop to think about the long term ramifications on our fragile communities and frankly now it may be too late. Hardly anyone cares about their community, and so now we sit in the quagmire of our social and environmental problems and try to solve them one at a time with both sides of the political fence believing they can legislate their way through them (like conservatives who are trying to pass laws for the “defense of marriage” and the liberals who apparently see no need to defend it at all. Republicans misdiagnose the problem and consequently mistreat it, while democrats pretend nothing is wrong except that they have not fully voided communities with their universalism).

The triumph of the industrial economy is the fall of community…when community falls, so must fall all the things that only community life can engender and protect: the care of the old, the care and education of children, family life, neighborly work, the handing down of memory, the care of the earth, respect for nature, and the lives of wild creatures. All of these things have been damaged by the rule of industrialism, but of all the damaged things probably the most precious and most damaged is sexual love. For sexual love is the heart of community life. Sexual love is the force that in our bodily life connects us most intimately to the Creation…it brings us into the dance that holds the community together and joins it to its place…

…to make sex the preferred bait of commerce may seem merely the obvious thing to do, once greed is granted its now conventional priority as a motive. But this could happen only after a probably instinctive sense of the sanctity and dignity of the body – the sense of it being ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ – has been destroyed….Sexual energy cannot be made publicly available for commercial use – that is, prostituted – without destroying all of its communal or cultural forms: forms of courtship, marriage, family life, household economy, and so on. The devaluation of sexuality, like the devaluation of a monetary currency, destroys its correspondence to other values…


Berry describes two kinds of human economies, one “that exists to protect the “right” of profit” and the other that “exists for the protection of gifts…and this is the economy of community.” He then goes on to correlate this with two kinds of sexuality:

The sexuality of community life, whatever its inevitable vagaries, is centered on marriage, which joins two living souls as closely as, in this world, they can be joined. This joining of two who know, love, and trust one another brings them in the same breath into the freedom of sexual consent and into the fullest earthly realization of the image of God. From their joining, other living souls come into being, and with them great responsibilities that are unending, fearful, and joyful. The marriage of two lovers joins them to one another, to forebears, to descendents, to the community, to Heaven and earth. It is the fundamental connection without which nothing holds, and trust is its necessity.

Our present sexual conduct, on the other hand, having “liberated” itself from the several trusts of community life, is public, like our present economy. It has forsaken trust, for it rests on the easy giving and breaking of promises. And having forsaken trust, it has predictably become political. In private life, as in public, we are attempting to correct bad behavior and low motives by law and litigation. “losing kindness,” as Lao-tzu said, “they turn to justness.”


The parallel here is intriguing to me, because while conservatives are quick to note the horrific muck that “progressives” have dragged and continue to drag our sexuality through, they often fail to see how our economics are being dragged through the same muck, primarily by conservatives. Or let me say it another way: Typically conservatives will claim that you ought not to and indeed cannot legislate economic morality. Try it and they will begin to cry out about socialism and lost freedoms etc. BUT, at the same time they are often pushing for the legislation of sexual morality and when they do, the liberal voice will be heard crying out about religious fascism and loss of freedoms etc. BUT, at the same time the liberals are often pushing for the legislation of economic morality.

I’ll let Berry have the last word (as scalding as I have read from him):

Because of our determination to separate sex from the practice of love in marriage and in family and community life, our public sexual morality is confused., sentimental, bitter, complexly destructive, and hypocritical. It begins with the idea of “sexual liberation”: whatever people desire is “natural” and all right, men and women are not different but merely equal, and all desires are equal. If a man wants to sit down while a pregnant woman is standing or walk through a heavy door and let it slam in a woman’s face, that is all right. Divorce on an epidemic scale is all right.; child abandonment by one parent or the other is all right; it is regrettable but still pretty much all right if a divorced parent neglects or refuses to pay child support; promiscuity is all right; adultery is all right; Promiscuity among teenagers is pretty much all right, for “that’s the way it is”; abortion as birth control is all right; the prostitution of sex in advertising and public entertainment is all right. But then, far down this road of freedom, we decide that a few lines ought to be drawn. Child molestation, we wish to say, is not all right, nor is sexual violence, nor is sexual harassment, nor is pregnancy among unmarried teenagers. We are also against venereal diseases, the diseases of promiscuity, though we tend to think that they are the government’s responsibility, not ours.

In this cult of liberated sexuality, “free” of courtesy, ceremony, responsibility, and restraint, dependent on litigation and expert advice, there is much that is human, sad to say, but there is no sense or sanity. Trying to draw the line where we are trying to draw it, between carelessness and brutality, is like insisting that falling is flying – until you hit the ground – and then trying to outlaw hitting the ground. The pretentious, fantastical, and solemn idiocy of the public sexual code could not be better exemplified than by the now-ubiquitous phrase “sexual partner,” which denies all that is implied by the names of “husband” or “wife” or even “lover.” It denies anyone’s responsibility for the consequences of sex. With one’s “sexual partner,” it is now understood, one must practice “safe sex” – that is, one must protect oneself, not one’s partner or the children that may come of the “partnership.”

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:45 AM [+]
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1 comments



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