Once upon a time there was a man who was alive.

Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States
St. Cuthbert and Disciples in a Boat


Orange Revolution

Le Sabot Post-Moderne has good commentary on the situation in Ukraine (tip to Al for this one), along with Tulip Girl, Fistful of Euros, The Periscope, Foreign Notes, and Europhobia.

For my part, I wish the success of democracy and the proper rule of law in Ukraine, against statism and corruption. May God grant justice and freedom to the people of Ukraine, and a speedy resolution to the present troubles!

Collect for Thanksgiving

O most merciful Father, who hast blessed the labours of the husbandman in the returns of the fruits of the earth; We give thee humble and hearty thanks for this thy bounty; beseeching thee to continue thy loving-kindness to us, that our land may still yield her increase, to thy glory and our comfort; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



If the 21st century becomes a Singer century, we will also see legal infanticide of born children who are ill or who have ill older siblings in need of their body parts. Question: What about parents conceiving and giving birth to a child specifically to kill him, take his organs, and transplant them into their ill older children? Mr. Singer: "It's difficult to warm to parents who can take such a detached view, [but] they're not doing something really wrong in itself."

Is there anything wrong with a society in which children are bred for spare parts on a massive scale?


When we had lunch a month after our initial interview and I read back his answers to him, he said he would be "concerned about a society where the role of some women was to breed children for that purpose," but he stood by his statements. He also reaffirmed that it would be ethically OK to kill 1-year-olds with physical or mental disabilities, although ideally the question of infanticide would be "raised as soon as possible after birth."

The remainder here: "Blue-state philosopher." Perhaps its silly and naive of me to be shocked in some way by reading Mr. Singer's "ethics," but I had to re-read a couple lines just to make sure. This is where Western philosophy and ethics has led to. Hoorah for us. Hoorah for progress.

Icons and Heresy

Doug has recently blogged on the subject of icons and their proper veneration. I can echo his sentiments, as one slowly coming into Orthodoxy. I think I loved looking at icons from my first real contact with them, at the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art in Laurel, MS, a few years ago. They had a traveling exhibit of some nineteenth and twentieth century Russian icons, over a hundred in total I think. The atmosphere of the gallery felt downright hallowed. I know, the proper place of icons is not in museums, but it was hard to help. I slowly went over the whole exhibit, relishing the whole thing. Later that evening, driving to the coast with my church youth group, the experience was still heavy in my mind and heart. Couldn't get over what I had seen.

Anyway, my reminiscences done, my appreciation and acceptance of icons has increased since then, though I hardly find them terribly accessible, and am still grappling with the whole question of veneration and such. However, I think that the Fathers at Nicea II were perfectly right in defending and emphasising icons (I'm sure they'll be glad I've given my approval. . .). My conviction is only furthered by reading iconoclastic arguments (these flared up particularly after the release of the Passion film). To sum them up, as I saw expressed not long ago by one Reformed iconoclast, the idea is that God's true- and only really- means of revelation is language. Yes, langauge alone. It follows of course that icons are not allowable. It would seem that such things as Baptism and Holy Communion would be in question as well, but this author did not seem to think so.

The errors of such a view would seem obvious, one would think. I John 1:1-4 comes immediately to mind:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life- the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us- that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

St. John has no Platonist theology of pure spirit in mind! The revelation to which he speaks is not confined to language and word (as understood only as words on a page or in someone's mouth), though it is that, but also embraces the whole of man, because Christ has become man in fullness. The error of iconoclasm is that it must ultimately, if taken to final conclusion, deny the fullness of the Incarnation. St. John must have been in error in supposing to see the word of life- hear it perhaps, but no further. The iconoclast- if he carries his ideas without modification- must find issue with the Incarnation, and the fact of God's revelation through matter, through flesh. He must find object with the Cross being the great material instrument of the world's salvation, through real flesh and blood broken and spilled. He must also address material things like Baptism and Eucharist. The last particularly presents Christ to be touched and eaten, in truth, in pretaste of the ultimate and final reality: a reality in which we shall see Christ our God, see Him with our two eyes and touch Him.

Now, one may reject icons and not fall into Doceitism or Gnosticism or some other ism. However, to do so one would have to either ignore or seriously modify the tenents undergirding iconoclasm. God has not only revealed Himself in language; He has revealed Himself in the flesh, and is working the santification and restoration of all flesh, and all creation. Icons publish the reality of Christ-made-flesh, particularly in showing forth Christ Himself, but also in showing the Saints, transfigured in this Savior become human.


Ancestral Sin and Genetics

Today over lunch a friend and I discussed the problem of sinful behavior and where it arises in us. I made the point that to call a certain sinful action "genetic" can in fact be a statement in great concordance with Christian theology. For example- and today it is the most controversial example- the allegation that certain persons are born with a predisposition to homosexuality. We hear talk of a "gay gene" and such, and then hear further talk of how such a gene's existence (assuming it does exist) is "proof" that such behaviour is "natural" and should be accepted. This idea- of genetic predisposition (or environmental or social or what have you)- is sometimes met with hostility from Christians, for the understandable reason that it seems to absolve persons from responsbility; or, as with the "gay gene," remove any sense of sin from the behavior at all: because we all know that anything "natural" must be "good."

Yet this genetic predisposition is not only not in total variance with proper theology, it fits rather handily with it, if properly understood and approached. The Scriptures teach, and the Church has always understood, that human nature, while inherently good when it was created, and remaining good in essence, is now corrupted, fallen through sin. This is the concept of original sin, or, as the Eastern Fathers would have us phrase it, ancestral sin. To quote St. Symeon the New Theologian:

"In this is expressed the very mystery of our Faith, that human nature is sinful from very conception. God did not create man sinful, but pure and holy. But since the first-created Adam lost his garment of sanctity, not from any other sin but from pride alone, and became corruptible and mortal, all people also who come from the seed of Adam are participants of the ancestral sin from their very conception and birth. He who has been born in this way, even though he has not yet performed any sin, is already sinful through this ancestral sin" (Homily 37.3).
I might take this opportunity to note that, whatever may be said by some, the Eastern Fathers are hardly any less harsh in their understanding of "original sin" and man's condition outside of Christ than other theologies. There is no room in St. Symeon for Pelagianism. Ancestral sin is as damning a thing as any Western conception, and begs for a Savior just as earnestly. St. Symeon explains further elsewhere: "If now man has become corrupt and mortal in nature, he cannot by the power of free will alone become incorruptible and immortal. And from the time of the banishment of Adam from Paradise, that is, from the time he became corruptible and mortal by reason of his transgression, even up to this present day, not a single man has ever been incorrupt and immortal" (Homily 38.2).

So then, humanity is in a definite state of corruption- corruption that exists as both "moral" and "physical": for the two are intwined and cannot be separated. Our predisposition to sin is not merely a matter of "mind" or a moral faculty abstracted from genetics and the body; sin and death have wound themselves into all of humanity. Thus it is entirely possible that even our genetic makeup can lead us, as it were into particularly sins. Our "genetics" do in fact lead us into sin. And not only is our nature corrupted, but with us our environment, which can act as a further instrument against us.

Does this mean that we are hopelessly locked into our behaviors? Or worse, because they come intrinsically for us, are we excused in glorifying them, and embracing them as natural? No- because the story, as it were, does not end here. Against the corruption of humanity and his wavering will, morality broken by fallen genetics, the grace of Christ Incarnate stands, as offering freedom from these sin-induced bindings. But first it must be said that just because a certain behavior comes "natural" to us, that it is good. When we realize that we are in a fallen state and that our true humanity and true realization of our nature- and what is truly natural- lies in Christ, we cannot consider all of our impulses "natural," and certainly not good. Some people must struggle with temptations to violence, or to steal, or to lie. These things come "naturally" to them- but they are not good! And, they are not truly natural, for our true nature is recovered and shown forth in Christ. If our nature has become corrupt, we cannot simply assume any impulse is "good" because it is an impulse.

Christ put on our condition, as St. Maximus explains: "Rather, He became the 'sin that I caused'; in other words, he assumed the corruption of human nature that was a consequence of the mutability of my free choice. For our sake He became a human being naturally liable to passions, and used the 'sin' that I caused to destroy the 'sin' that I commit" (Ad Thal. 42). Christ, in taking on humanity, worked the destruction of sin, and re-created humanity, free from death and sin. This grace extends to all of humanity, and is the means by which men may become free from sin. So we are not hopelessly bound to our condition, because Jesus has broken those chains, and opened humanity into true life. He has restored free will in His own will. For He does not absolve personal responsibility, but rather His grace provides the real grounds for it. Repentance is enabled by Him. Our personal volition (which is not totally destroyed to begin with, though fatally weakened and incapable outside of Christ) is enabled through Him.

Thus, however our genetics are shaped up, and to whatever depths the freedom of our wills have fallen, the Incarnation and Redemption of Christ offers the counter-balance, the ultimate antidote to determinism. Where Adam has fallen, Christ is risen.


One and the Same God and Son

"For we do not part the human being from the Godhead; no, we affirm and teach one and the same God and Son, at first not man but alone and pre-eternal, unmixed with body and all that belongs to the body, but finally human being too, assumed for our salvation, the same passible in flesh, impassible in Godhead, bounded in body, boundless in spirit, earthly and heavenly, visible and known spiritually, finite and infinite: so that by the same, whole man and God, the whole human being fallen under sin might be fashioned anew."

St. Gregory the Theologian, Letter 101

Nothing Whatever Is More Profitable

"Nothing whatever is more profitable for the soul which has chosen to study God's law day and night than searching the divine Scriptures. The meaning of the Holy Spirit's grace is hidden within them. It fills a man's spiritual perception with every pleasure, lifts it entirely from earthly things and the lowliness of what is visible, and makes it both angelic in form and a sharer in the angel's very life."

St. Symeon the New Theologian, Discourse XII


Cultural Revolution

Andrew Sandlin has posted an insightful article at Reformed Catholicism: A Cultural Revolution. I agree with his conclusions: our nation is shifting to the right. In the South particularly, conservatism is on the rise. Among my class mates there is a marked tendency towards the Republican Party- even when parents and older relatives are hold out "Dixie Democrats." Speaking of which, on my campus the mood has been pretty upbeat this week- most of the student body is pro-Bush, and a good many of my professors are conservative, though certainly not all. There have been some pockets of extreme despondency, but only pockets.