He who places his hope on thee, O Virgin all-glorious, will prosper in all he does.

Inscription on Byzantine coin during reign of Romanus III



Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sex

Throw a bunch of theologians into a room and the discussion will revolve around sex, sooner or later.

Andrea Elizabeth tackled it from another angle.

Russian Paper Tiger

Russian military potency appeared unstoppable during its Georgian invasion and occupation only because the Georgian military was so puny. Russia has been preoccupied with its high-status nuclear arsenal and has neglected its more fundamental military capabilities. Now that the wind is escaping from Russia's oil-price windfall, its ability to enhance those capabilities will be diminished.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Anti-Plato Has My Back

The guys over at Energetic Procession have my theological back. Not my back, specifically, but the Orthodox back in their valiant defense of the Church. I'm especially thrilled with the latest contribution.

Teleology

Over at Fr. Stephen's blog, I suggested that a scientific view of humanity would incorporate the notion of teleology, rather than causality. Here's part of what I said:

Just for clarification, you may want to differentiate between causation, which pertains to non-human entities and objects, and teleology, which encompasses humans’ purposeful behavior. The element of purpose is missing from all natural phenomena, except man. Purposeful behavior–action–is the fundamental datum of social sciences, and any social science paradigm that ignores human action in an attempt to unthinkingly ape the natural sciences is completely devoid of meaning.

The notion of teleology, however, is more commonly used in connection with God's actions and purposes. For the Orthodox, divine teleology isn't open to question.

That the notion of human teleology isn't widely employed attests to the captivity of our scientific method to a more materialistic perspective that discards introspective evidence.

Since man is created in the image and likeness of God, the idea of human teleology isn't much of a stretch. The stretch emerges, however, in the intersection of divine and human teleology.

Man investigates creation and uses hypotheses to succeed materially. How far can man exercise his teleology before he exalts himself above God?

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Osteen Question

Fr. Joseph Huneycutt and I are disagreeing about Joel Osteen over at Orthodixie. You may care to traipse over there to see what's going on. I don't want to reiterate the arguments here, but I want to emphasize that I'm a fan of Fr. Joseph and his blog. I have disagreements with just about everyone about lots of things, and I don't take these things personally.

What do I like about Osteen?
He's pleasant.
He wants people to succeed in life.
He's positive.
He urges people to rely on God.
He urges the adoption of good habits including politeness, civility, patience, understanding, charity, and so on.


What don't I like about Osteen?
He's not Orthodox.
His sweet sermons begin to grate on me after ten minutes.
I'm uncertain about whether there's any systematic theological content.
I'm uncertain what role the New Testament plays in his ministry, other than mentioning Christ, utilizing an immersion baptismal rite, and so on. One year's Easter message talked about the "can-do" Resurrection, which I'm still puzzling over.

I've watched a few sermons, and I know a few people who like him. You know, one thing I've admired about Protestantism is its high standard of personal holiness. Osteen seems to inspire people to act well and to rely on God.

It reminds me of the old joke about would happen to an unattended umbrella in Methodist and RC churches on a rainy day--the owner would get back his umbrella in the Methodist church. I came across this joke again--at Arturo's blog I think--and I'm grateful for the reminder. At the risk of overstretching an analogy, let me say that Osteen leaves me with the impression that he would exhort his followers not to glom umbrellas. You can say what you want about the pedestrian nature of bourgeois virtues, but I'm all for them.

If my impression is correct, then I'm not interested in seeing Osteen unfairly dumped on.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Third Romism Rolls On, Maybe

Does your blood boil? Mine does. The pro-Western, pro-democracy, pro-market underdog, Georgia, gets kicked around by the Russian bully...again.

Well, here's another view.

What is the motivation behind Georgia's urge to join NATO? To get away from the traditional Russian interference in Georgia's affairs. Present-day Georgia contains two regions that want to break away from Georgia. NATO membership would hinder Russia's support for the two break-away regions.

Let's get real about NATO. It's a military alliance, not a democracy-spreading miracle. Its primary purpose is to oppose Russian expansionism. That's the attraction that membership provides for former Soviet satellites and republics. Russian membership in NATO would not only alienate the former Warsaw Pact members, but also render it ineffective--similar to including the entire world in a military alliance. Why shouldn't Russia be upset at the prospect of new NATO members outside Eastern Europe encircling from the South?

Let's go a step further. Vladimir Putin is very aware that his bountiful oil revenue is a cyclical phenomenon. He's arguably an expert on energy; he did his dissertation on the subject. That's quite a contrast to the hysterical and self-absorbed Western media that can't handle an economic explanation that takes longer than five seconds. Putin is rolling in dough right now, but that bounty is about to dry up with the global economic slowdown. Now is the opportunity to send the right message and set up the right bargaining chips on the Georgia issue as well as the larger NATO issue involving both Georgia and Ukraine. He's seizing the opportunity with gusto, and he's truly screwing with Georgia by cutting the country in half. Never say that Putin doesn't have a sense of humor.

Now, I haven't even begun to talk about the parallels operating in Georgia and Kosovo. Other folks have talked about that aspect at length, and everyone I've read is correct--Georgia is a continuation of the Kosovo principle.

Yeah, my blood boils...but...don't you think that someone should get nominated for 2008 Moron Of The Year for giving Russia this golden opportunity?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Popular Preacher's Perks

Joel Osteen's wife has been sued for assaulting a flight attendant, and the trial judge encountered problems in seating jurors. A significant problem was the number of potential jurors whom had been helped by Rev. Osteen's ministry and wouldn't be impartial.

This is one of the perks awaiting the next St. John Chrysostom!

It may not be much, but let's face it. In a world in which parishioners would rather keep up with the latest MP3 player than pay their priests decently, every little bit helps.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Gap Pap

Gabriel hosted a lively discussion about Orthodoxy's "filling the gaps". As usual, I averred another view. Orthodoxy is about an alternative, not filling gaps.

When provoked, I can get positively long-winded.