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11 June 2007

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Margaret

Dear Stavros,

Thank you for taking the time to reply to my comment, and for including in your reply such a rich array of links for me to investigate. I am frequently challenged in my philosophy class by my tutor who maintains that I proceed from a basis that God exists. Perhaps I do proceed from that starting point, if only because it is necessary for me to believe in the essential goodness of humanity which goodness must (I think) derive from somewhere other than self interest. I find it difficult to fit my faith, if that is what it is, into any church setting particularly because I find it impossibly arrogant to say that I’ve found the truth in the church I have chosen. Similarly, I find it difficult to say “I believe …” when it implies that I know I am right, whereas “I think …” contains an understanding that I may be wrong and am willing to listen.

However, I have very much enjoyed watching the video of Bishop Kallistos that you linked to on the Orthodox Wiki site. Gosh, he speaks slowly and weighs his words in a way that I have yet learnt to do and despair of ever doing. Part of the way through the interview, talking about his own journey of faith, he says of his study of Orthodoxy prior to his conversion that he thought “This is what I’ve believed but never heard so well expressed”. I think I can say that too about the extract from another interview with Bishop Kallistos that you have included in your reply, and about his comments in the video interview on being “saved”. I found his comments on men and women in relation to the priesthood fascinating – a challenge to examine whether Jesus’s maleness was essential, or rather his humanity. How nice that in the creed in Greek the distinction is made between “man”, one of the human species, and “man”, the male – a distinction that is sadly lost in English. I’ve now bought the first Markides book, The Mountain of Silence, and look forward to reading it. I think Bishop Kallistos and Richard Holloway would have a lot of common ground.

I told my Greek Orthodox friend and work colleague about your site a while ago – I thought another reader was the best birthday present to your blog! I love hearing about their Orthodox community here, led by another English convert…

With best wishes and thanks,

Margaret

Peter

" They had their faces to the sun. Their lips tightly sealed, but their looks very menacing. They did not utter shouts, like the enemy did to stir themselves. Slowly their long spears were lowered to chest level. The Lacedomians , without fear, begun lunging toward the mass of frightened persian hordes".

In memoriam to Jason Iadjinidis.

Without demur one can attest that anthropology is our historical fundamental. Religions may come and go with the ages and patrons of each century, to suit peoples, races and sects. No matter how hard we try to justify our religious beliefs, they always rest on one's faith.
The genetic composition of the people may also undergo metamorphoses, a change which most assuredely will be reflected in their societal mores and religious fads, or tenets.

These metamorphoses's and changes are begining to manifest themselves already. A mosque is about to be built in Athens. A mosque ? Yes, a mosque. Something outrageous and vile such as the building of a mosque in an ortohdox sacred ground could not have been contemplated thirty years ago. Those postulating such a heresy, would have been exiled, or certified as mad. They had the truth in themselves, they knew the truth.

Thirty years later, another "truth" seems to have overriden the previous one. Who is right, and who is wrong ? And upon whose measurement and instruments are we basing the criteria for the "new truth".

I am afraid that religious beliefs, nor the churches , are capable of facing the challenges that are lashing our nation. On a personal level, yes it might do wonders to weather the stormy pendulum of history, but not at national, or global level.

I find an incredible source of spiritual nourishment when I meet with my bishops and priest, or when in church with other faithful. I always wonder if my nourishment is derived from the fact that personages imparting the faith are of my own kin and kindred ?

Bishops and priests speak to me about Greece, my heart rings with hellenism, I totally ignore the universalist message that filters through at various passages of sermons or talks. The "universal" message to my psyche is confined and restricted to my people and kinship peoples. "Universalism" begins and ends with orthodoxy within our defined frontiers, or the defined frontiers of orthodoxy. Beyond that realm, other beliefs, faiths and peoples pullulate the landscape, totally alien and irreconciliable with our eternal soul.

Would my reaction be the same, would my faith be the same if suddenly I heard a xenos bishop , not looking like a greek, speaking and imparting the message ?.

I don't want to consider it, lest I am left bereft of my erstwhile faith and beliefs.

We can read volumes of excellent writers about for and against the matter under discussion, but what are these readings going to prove, other than enrich our vocabulary, and increase the knowledge about how this thinker or philosopher reasoned and panned his thoughts and come to the conclusion that there are as many truths as there are gifted writers and spellbinders ? It will definitely help and aid those in the search of that something "missing", or prod the doubtful into this or that direction. The contents or message of the gospels can not be scientifically proven. God's existence in an anthromorphic sense can not be proven. In a symbolic sense and in a presence of faith, yes.

I marvel at the faith of the lacedemonians at the moment of "truth". They had a "truth". What happened to that truth ?

It was superseded because the essence was metamorphosed, and a message from the east came to supplant it.

The truth has been in endless pursuit since the days of Aristotle and prior to him.
The secret is , once one has the truth to preserve and conserve it amongst his own kind. Failing to do that, our future generations would be for ever searching for truths.

Margaret

Thought some of you (Hermes?) may be interested to read this obituary of Richard Rorty in the Times today which neatly summarises his work, his thoughts on philosophy and religion, giving up the search for truth, and the way forward for America. All apposite for Stavros's post.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article1917517.ece

I wonder what comment he would have posted in reply to Peter ...

Hermes

Thanks Margaret. I did hear about his death. He was an American giant and one of the few with an open mind. Although I did not agree with some of his political views he was highly intelligent and humane. He was from the line of thinkers like Dewey whose book "How We Think" hardly ever leaves my room.

Along with Dreyfus, Wrathal etc he was also instrumental in making Heidegger understood to the Anglo-American mind. Most people are unaware but there is a distinction and a person with perceptual and intellectual sensitivity can notice. He was also instrumental in helping to introduce Castoriadis to an American audience. By the way a friend of mine will be launching the first intellectual biography of Castoriadis in English later this year. I think the article on Rorty is a little unfair and understandably lacks depth. Rorty had the intellectual openess (and courage) to notice there were many links between Dilthey and Dewey to Heidegger.

I saw Putin visited the home of who I think is one of the greatest people of the last 100 years, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, yesterday.

Stavros, I am curious as to why you have not profiled him as not only is he an indomitable spirit but also a devout Orthodox Christian who paid for his free thinking with several decades in the Gulags.

Of course the "Dalai Lama" crowd pays little attention to him compared to Mandela because he is not black and dared to tell the truth about the role of a certain people in the destruction of Tsarist Russia.

Solzhenitsyn was very critical of both the former Soviet regime and the West.

Solzhenitsyn: "I highly appreciate your visit. There are millions of issues that require your attention and I cannot imagine how you have managed to find time to visit me."

Putin: "I would like to thank you for your work for the benefit of Russia. Even today you continue working. You have always stood by your views, throughout your entire lifetime."

Here is an interview from last year.

http://english.mn.ru/english/issue.php?2006-16-1

Hermes

By the way this is his famous Harvard speech where he was expected to nice things and completely laid it on the West. Still rings true after all these years.

http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/alexandersolzhenitsynharvard.htm

Please god send more people like this man to help us!

Margaret

Hermes,

My reading list is getting longer and Amazon richer!

Stavros

Margaret,

I'm gratified by your comments. I'm always happy when I can lead someone to something useful and I am just as happy when they do the same for me. I will check out Richard Rorty, although as Hermes can attest, my knowledge of philosophy is thin.

Hermes,

You are absolutely right to call me on the carpet for not bringing up Solzhenitsyn sooner. I will rectify that soon since he and I share similar views. Thanks for the link to the Harvard speech which will be included in a future post. Please let me know when the Castoriadis bio is out.

Sylvain

He was somewhat perplexed by Bishop Kallistos (whom I really admire, by the way)'s words on salvation and the Church. If we can be saved outside the Church, that is, if Christ acts "in implicit ways," then why do we join the Church at all, are we baptized, do we partake of the Eucharist? Does it make the Church relative and unnecessary?

Sylvain

Hermes,

Thank you for posting this speech by Solzhenitsin. It is a revelation to me! His words are indeed wonderful to hear. It is unfortunate that they remain unheard in the world today.

Stavros

Sylvain,

Part of the problem in quoting an excerpt is that you lose its context. His Eminence is not saying the Church is irrelevant, only that it is possible for those of other faiths to live a Christ-like life even though they may not nominally be Christians. Obviously, Christ's Church is there to facilitate the process for those who believe. It is a hospital for sinners. Consider however that there may be some in this world who do not have access to this type of healthcare for a variety of reasons. Please forgive my humble attempts to explain what he says so eloquently. I recommend reading the whole book, you will not be disappointed.

GreekAmericanNYC

Solzhenitsyn is an impressive orator, but his real strength is that he offers something for everyone, in a style vague enough to allow us to read into his words whatever we want.

So I can see why he's a favorite of the anti-American crowd, but it's not surprising that Christian evangelicals, anti-Communist conservatives, and even anti-consumerist leftists would embrace him as well.

Sylvain

Stavros,

Thank you for your kind reply. Indeed quotations can be misleading, if the Regensburg speech by Pope Benedict XVI would suffice to prove it. A good friend of mine often repeats to me how he finds Christianity unjust because of its "exclusivism" and appropriation of truth and salvation. I hope that His Eminence's words will help argue my point!

Hermes

If we breed children like this who seek truth regardless of the discomfort it may produce there is hope.

http://technorati.com/videos/youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Dpn4RBqTABZw

Stavros

GANYC,

I have to disagree. I don't think he is vague at all. In fact, he is outspoken and quite blunt.

Perhaps his universal appeal is that his critiques are based on universal values that are shared by many people.

There is a great deal of knee jerk anti-Americanism both in our country and throughout the world. I think Solzhenitsyn respects American ideals/accomplishments, however, he is not afraid to criticize those things in American society that he dislikes.

It's our job as Americans to consider what well meaning critics (that would exclude Hermo) say about our country. We don't have to agree with it.

Hermes

On the issue of slavery here are some interesting thoughts:

Was Paul a man of his time?: Contemporaries on the treatment of slaves (NT 2.11)
Posted by Phil Harland. Categories / Series: Ancient philosophies , Paul of Tarsus , New Testament course series

Yes he was. When studying Paul’s letters, it is important to consider Paul’s views on important social and cultural institutions of Greco-Roman society. One of these institutions was slavery.

Slavery was an important part of the economy in the Roman empire, and the lives of most slaves were by no means easy. You can read about some of this online in Keith Bradley’s Resisting Slavery in Ancient Rome and John Madden’s Slavery in the Roman Empire: Numbers and Origins. Slaves were also integrated within social and family life, as slaves were considered to belong to the “household” as broadly understood in antiquity. They were objects owned by their masters and subject to the orders of their masters, but belonged to the “family” at the lowest rung in the ladder.

Slaves were also subject to punishment for failing to obey their masters, and this could sometimes be quite brutal, as the quotations from Galen and Seneca below indicate. It seems that Paul, like other contemporaries, assumed the continued existence of slavery and did not show any signs of calling for its abolishment or even for the manumission (setting free) of slaves. When Paul wrote a letter of recommendation on behalf of Onesimus, who was most likely a runaway slave, he did not ask Onesimus’ master, Philemon, to free (manumit) the slave. Nor did Paul call for the end of slavery. Elsewhere Paul advised that slaves (and others) should remain as they are in light of the present distress and coming end (1 Cor 7:21-24).

Paul, like virtually all of his contemporaries, could not imagine a society that did not have a system of slavery. Nonetheless, it may be that Paul, like some contemporary philosophers, did advocate that masters like Philemon at least treat their slaves in a more controlled manner, or even as a “brother”, as Paul puts it (at least if the slave belonged to the Jesus movement). In writing his letter, Paul seems to be concerned that Onesimus the slave not receive severe punishment from his master for whatever wrongdoing or disobedience his master perceived.

So Paul’s concerns may have something in common with the sentiments of upper-class authors such as Galen and Seneca. Galen, a physician and philosopher who lived in Pergamum (Asia Minor) in the second century, had this to say about punishing slaves:

“If a man adheres to the practice of never striking any of his slaves with his hand, he will be less likely to succumb [to a fit of anger] later on. . . my father trained me to behave in this way myself. . . . There are other people who don’t just hit their slaves, but kick them and gouge out their eyes. . . . The story is told that the Emperor Hadrian struck one of his attendants in the eye with a pen. When he realised that [the slave] had become blind in one eye as a result of this stroke, he called him to him and offered to let him ask him for any gift to make up for what he had suffered. When the victim remained silent, Hadrian again asked him to make a request of whatever he wanted. He declined to accept anything else, but asked for his eye back — for what gift could provide compensation for the loss of an eye?” (Galen, The Diseases of the Mind, 4; translation from T. Wiedemann, Greek and Roman Slavery [London: Croom Helm, 1981] 180-81).

Seneca, a first-century philosopher, stressed that one needed to control one’s passions or impulses in order to live a wise life (the philosophical life). In the context of discussing the control of anger, he used the treatment of slaves as an example:

“Why do I have to punish my slave with a whipping or imprisonment if he gives me a cheeky answer or disrespectful look or mutters something which I can’t quite hear? Is my status so special that offending my ears should be a crime? There are many people who have forgiven defeated enemies — am I not to forgive someone for being lazy or careless or talkative? If he’s a child, his age should excuse him, if female, her sex, if he doesn’t belong to me, his independence, and if he does belong to my household, the ties of family” (Seneca, Dialogue 5: On Anger, 3.24; translation from Wiedemann, Greek and Roman Slavery, 179-80).

Both Paul and Seneca seem to be concerned with modifying perceptions of status in some cases and with alleviating the negative treatments that could flow from status-distinctions, but neither had in mind an end to slavery.

More can be found here:

http://www.philipharland.com/Blog/2006/11/08/was-paul-a-man-of-his-time-contemporaries-on-the-treatment-of-slaves/

GreekAmericanNYC

I'm not averse to criticism (if it's valid and well-reasoned; unfortunately, much of the current rabble-rousing anti-Americanism is not), and I liked Solzhenitsyn's speech.

In my earlier comment, I was merely pointing out how Solzhenitsyn is effective as an influencer, because he gives a broad range of people something to latch onto.

That style contrasts with certain absolutist/righteous blowhards, who while they may have a point here and there, alienate everyone who doesn't agree with everything they say.

It's a lesson one blowhard in particular may wish to learn.

dimitri the greek greek

Maybe salvation is for everyone in Christ, even gays? Ya think Greek families would really embrace "diversity"? Most are xenophobes. I hide myself as a devout (gay) Greek Orthodox and this blog http://jn1034.blogspot.com helps me cope without anyone knowing. That's how we (gay)Greeks survive. And to hear a papa speak about Moslems, Jews, Hindus as good people with respect and hope in Christ, but the Church condemns (gay) Greeks. Ti klamata!

Margaret

How about this, Dimitri?

“For the Christian, [the] task of working out a vision of God takes the more human and concrete form of framing a personal vision of Christ, who is our own ideal alter ego, our true Self that we are to become, our religious ideal actualised in human form. But he also, as Western Christians have always known, is tragic. The image that most reminds us of him is the Cross.”

“The fact that gay people will always be a minority in the human community places them permanently in a precarious position. They are always likely to be on the edge, prone to persecution and misunderstanding. This may be why so many gay people, in spite of the attacks of Christians, are so drawn to Jesus and his invitation to the heavy laden to come to him and find rest for their souls. It is humbling that so many of them choose to remain in the Church, in spite of its ambivalent attitude to them. It would be fitting if the Church acknowledged its debt to them, sought forgiveness from them, stopped arguing about them, started listening to them and left time to heal the wounds it has inflicted on them. Homosexuals are classic people of the edge, perpetual minorities, permanently marginalised by the majority in the Church and in society. This is why many of them are drawn to Jesus, the man on the edge; and there can be little doubt that he would be drawn to them.”

The first quote is from Don Cupitt’s “The Sea of Faith”. The second is from Richard Holloway’s book “Dancing on the edge: Faith in a Post-Christian Age”. Richard Holloway makes the thought-provoking point that theological and legal validation usually follow from social change; they hardly ever precede it. On that basis, given the increasing acceptance and legal recognition of their minority rights that homosexuals find in society, especially in Western democracies, there is hope that Christian churches will follow. We all crave acceptance for ourselves as we are whatever our sexual orientation.

Those of a less “liberal” disposition, tempted to reject these ideas in favour of a more orthodox position, might be challenged by having a look at Fowler’s theory of Stages of Faith (or Kohlberg’s theories on the development of morality on which they are based) which posits a loving acceptance of people and their differences - as a result of an acceptance of ambivalence and ambiguity as an essential part of life - as indicative of a deeper understanding and experience of faith than a conventional morality :).

Stavros

Dimitraki,

There is no doubt that the Orthodox Church teaches salvation for ALL sinners, regardless of who they are. The Church does not reject gays anymore than it rejects heterosexuals. It does not condone the sin, whatever it may be, yet it accepts the sinner in order to help them attain a God-pleasing life.

As an Orthodox Christian, I am in no position to be your judge. I have substantial sins of my own to account for, however, neither of us should attempt to justify or overlook our sins because the world tells us something different.

Greek families are loving and close. That is of course, a generalization. I can honestly say that I have never encountered a Greek family that did not love its children, no matter what sins they committed. We may be tribal in some respects and xenophobes to boot. We are also filoxeni, we open our doors and our hearts to strangers.

I don't know what kind of psychic scars you carry vis a vis your Greek family, perhaps they were not accepting of the lifestyle you espouse. Personally, I find it difficult to believe that they don't still love you.

John 3:16

According to John 3:16, this is the proof that you are saved. This is what we Christians believe. We do not go through life wondering if our good works will save us from hell. Remember, in another verse, Jesus says that our works are as dirty rags (Isaiah 64:6). Only thru faith in Jesus Christ, can you be saved. All the hail mary's, kissing the icons etc, won't get you into heavan, as per the bible...

Hermes

As a Greek I prefer to revert to our own geniuses for guidance:

Plato, in the Laws, in Book One he writes about how opposite-sex sex acts cause pleasure by nature, while same-sex sexuality is “unnatural” (636c). In Book Eight, the Athenian speaker considers how to have legislation banning homosexual acts, masturbation, and illegitimate procreative sex widely accepted. He then states that this law is according to nature (838-839d).

The Politics and N.E. Book 8. Aristotle emphasizes the importance of the family (oikos) in relation to the state. He believed that without family ties, one could never be fully incorporated into the community. He also emphasizes the importance of family to the individual. "Among other animals, the community extends only this far [to the creation of children], but for the human being, living together is not only for the sake of reproduction, but also for various aspects of their lives. Immediately, the work is divided, and there is one task for men and another for women. So they assist one another, putting their individual talents into the common good. On account of these things, there seems to be both usefulness and pleasure in this sort of friendship. This friendship also exists in accordance with virtue, if they are both good. For there is a virtue of each, and they are pleased by this . . . . It seems that children are a bond, wherefore marriages without children dissolve more quickly. For children are a common good for both and what is common holds them both together.


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