“If the mystical experience is a personal working out of the content of the common faith, theology is an expression, for the profit of all, of that which can be experienced by everyone. Outside the truth kept by the whole Church personal experience would be deprived of all certainty, of all objectivity. It would be a mingling of truth and falsehood, of reality and of illusion: ‘mysticism’ in the bad sense of the word. On the other hand, the teaching of the Church would have no hold on souls if it did not in some degree express an inner experience of truth, granted in different measure to each one of the faithful. There is, therefore, no Christian mysticism without theology; but, above all, there is no theology without mysticism.” – Vladimir Lossky
Today, while helping my parents clean their garage, I stumbled upon an old box of art. Upon closer inspection I soon realized it was actually an old box of my art–lovingly preserved by my dear mother for the sake of posterity. I thought it would be fun to share an assortment of these sketches, paintings, and pastels produced when I was in high school. So, welcome to memory lane . . . it’s kind of like being forced to watch home videos only much easier to escape. Feel free to click the ‘x’ in the upper right-hand corner if you fear nostalgia.
Years ago I came up with a catchy tune but could never put words to it. One day I met a girl, the most beautiful girl I had ever encountered. When she smiled her eyes glowed and my heart stopped. Only minutes after meeting her I was completely in love. She was not only beautiful but the most kind, intelligent, and sincere woman I had ever met. Two weeks passed, and to my great dismay, it was time for her to get on a plane and return to England. We embraced and shared out first kiss; I didn’t want to let her go. My heart was broken, because I knew she was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I picked up my guitar and began to play the catchy tune I had written; but, unlike before, words began to pour out of my heart. This is a simple love song written by a twenty year old boy hopelessly in love. After all these years, it still speaks to how I feel about my darling wife . . .
I’m overjoyed to announce that I’ve had offers from the University of London and the University of Birmingham to study philosophy of religion and ethics! This is a tremendous opportunity and I’m very thankful to everyone who encouraged and prayed for me while I applied. The big task I have ahead of me now is figuring out how to cover the cost of tuition. Thanks be to God, I was awarded a scholarship in the amount of $1,000; but, the remaining tuition and cost of living is quite expensive. Due to my desire to be responsible and avoid accruing a massive amount of debt (via more student loans) I’m asking those of you who know me and understand my passion for studying and writing on these issues to consider giving me a helping hand.
For just $20.00 you can help me raise the money for tuition and empower me to use the gifts God has given me to teach, publish, and speak on matters pertaining to faith and culture and to minister to those who struggle with doubt or are antagonistic to the Church . . . Plus, you get a really cool t-shirt.
If you are able and willing to help me I would greatly appreciate it. Please click on the link below to find out how you can donate $20.00 and get a t-shirt:
Thank you all and God bless!!
Originally posted on The Christian Watershed:
This article is not about how the U.S. should handle the massive influx of children illegally crossing the boarder. I do not pretend to understand all of the variables involved in this complex issue and it is not my intention to argue in favor of any particular form of legislation or promote any one solution. In fact, I’m not interested in politics at all (at least within the context of what I’m about to say). This article is about our attitude toward thousands of impoverished at-risk youth living in conditions so bad they’re willing to risk their lives just to make it to our boarder. More specifically, it’s about Christians who allegedly love God yet make disparaging, heartless, and down right selfish comments about illegal immigrants. It’s about those who claim to know the Lord but, through their actions (or lack thereof) and attitudes…
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Here’s a satire I recently published on The Christian Watershed …
Originally posted on The Christian Watershed:
As many of you are well aware, the existence of genuine love or altruism is often leveled against the naturalistic worldview as evidence of its implausibility. But those who buy into such pathetic argumentation simply don’t understand the richness of the Darwinian perspective. You may be surprised to learn that the New Atheists, especially Richard Dawkins, are actually romantics at heart. I dare say that the conception of altruism explicated so eloquently in his acclaimed work The God Delusion would move even the hardest of hearts to start composing Shakespearean sonnets!
“The most obvious way in which genes ensure their own ‘selfish’ survival relative to other genes is by programming individual organism to be selfish. There are indeed many circumstances in which survival of…
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“It is impossible for the infinite to exist on the same level of being as finite things, and no argument will ever be capable of demonstrating that being and what is beyond being are the same, nor that the measured and immeasurable can be put in the same class, nor that the absolute can be ranked with that which exists in relation to other things, nor that that which has nothing predicated of it and that which is constituted by predication belong together. For all created things are defined, in their essence and in their way of developing, by their own logoi and by the logoi of the beings that provide their external context. Through these logoi they find their defining limits. We are speechless before the sublime teaching about the Logos, for He cannot be expressed in words or conceived in thought.” – St. Maximus the Confessor
Growing up in a devout Christian family I heard the stories of the great biblical heroes numerous times and could recite most of them by heart. It wasn’t until I was twelve, however, that I dedicated time to personally studying Sacred Scripture. Naturally, I was immediately drawn to the more exotic, and often overlooked, books; the “black sheep” of the canon. The first to grab my attention was Ecclesiastes, in which, to my great dismay, I read the following passage for the first time:
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.”
What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them.
I had never read anything so dismal, despairing, and disturbing in my life. Don’t get me wrong, it was not as if this passage introduced me to concepts entirely foreign to my experience. To the contrary, I found the words of the Teacher disturbing precisely because they resonated with intuitions buried in the far reaches of my soul. They conjured impressions of reality I had held since my childhood but never wanted to face. They rekindled the sense of dread and futility engendered by the swamp; feelings which seemed incongruent with the cheerful Christian worldview so tenderly nurtured by my parents.
“I don’t understand this,” I thought, “Perhaps it’ll make more sense as I continue reading . . .” I pressed on through several more chapters hoping for better results but to no avail. In fact, things got worse: “Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals,” proclaims the Teacher, “the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.” This was the last straw! I slammed my bible shut and stormed downstairs to my father who sat unawares in the den. “What’s his problem?” I exclaimed in frustration, “why is this even in the Bible?”
Somewhat taken aback by my outburst, my father responded: “Josh . . . what are you talking about?” Realizing he hadn’t the faintest clue what I was ranting about, I took a deep breath and proceeded to voice my dissatisfaction with the Teacher. He listened patiently for several minutes and when, at last, I finished my diatribe he asked, “Have you finished reading it?” Sheepishly I responded, “Well . . . no.” “Read the whole thing,” he said, “then you’ll understand.”
This was not the answer I was looking for. Begrudgingly I walked back upstairs, picked up my Bible, and pressed forward. After reading the book all the way through . . . I still didn’t understand. The Teacher left too many questions unanswered. The resolution at the end, to “fear God and obey His commandments,” offered no consolation. I needed things to be black and white—clear and simple. The Teacher’s ideas were too discordant; too nebulous; too real. I wasn’t prepared to accept an existence devoid of meaning—yet, this is the world presented by the Teacher; a cold, fleeting, impersonal, purposeless, unjust, world, full of uncertainty.
As most of us do, however, I set these troubling thoughts aside and retreated back into the world of fantasy. I played video games, read Star War’s novels, and watched endless hours of T.V. But, one can only drown the nihilism out for so long . . .
An Encounter With Death
The one thing we can be absolutely sure of in this life is that everything living will die. Death surrounds us–it haunts us every second of every day–relentlessly pursuing us into the grave. At the very moment of our conception we begin our slow decent into dissolution and, in spite of all our efforts, there is nothing we can do to stop this from taking place. We have tried and shall continue to try—but to no avail. There is no escape from our temporality; from our profound limitedness.
Nevertheless, to dwell upon our finitude and impermanence – which death so robustly exemplifies – leads us quickly into the abyss of despair. And, despair, true despair, is incredibly unpopular in the West. This is one of the reasons we desensitize ourselves, by means of video games, movies, and other such contrivances, from the reality of death. We do this by transforming it into entertainment; by inoculating ourselves from the absurdity and pointlessness it engenders. We, as a society, are enamored by the mere “shadow” of death – to borrow from Plato’s famous analogy of the cave – which seems less frightening and, at times, even pleasurable. We dare not turn our gaze and face the reality which would be too much to bear. Our obsession with the mere idea of death allows us to transform it into something enjoyable or thrilling (e.g., Mortal Combat) or even sexually arousing (e.g.,Twilight). Hence, as a matter of profound irony, death has become the ideal distraction from death. That is, until the real thing is unwillingly thrust upon us.
I entertained mere phantasms of death until it slowly took my friend Travis . . .
Originally posted on The Christian Watershed:
What is Don Juanism? It is, perhaps, most easily expressed by this simple Latin phrase made famous by the film Dead Poets Society: “carpe diem!” or “seize the day!” Loosely defined, it describes a certain disposition or attitude toward life which is explained by the French existentialist Albert Camus in his influential book The Myth of Sisyphus.
According to Camus, Don Juanism is not a system or a formula but a general outline suggesting a way in which the “absurd man” might proceed in a world devoid of intrinsic meaning or value. Who is the “absurd man” you ask? The man who acknowledges the world is meaningless—and, that there is no hope of a life after death—yet, seeks to ascribe or, at least, search for meaning anyway. The absurd man, when faced with the dilemma of nihilism, may choose (following the manner of that famous…
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Originally posted on The Christian Watershed:
Why did God become man? Was this simply a reaction to Adam and Eve’s fall into sin? Is the Incarnation merely contingent upon this event? Or is there more to this story?
When I was a Protestant I often focused exclusively on one aspect of the Incarnation–namely its leading to the death of Christ and the atonement for sins. While this is obviously of central importance (Christ most certainly did come to lay down his life for the world) it can lead to some misconceived and even detrimental notions. One of them being that the Incarnation was simply an “accident”; namely, that it was not absolutely essential for the redemption of creation. For many Protestants (not all) the Incarnation is viewed as merely a reaction to a particular event – the Fall of man into sin – rather than part of the cosmic destiny of creation itself.
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