What about university?

Dreher’s chapter about education in The Benedict Option also addresses university. Here, the idea essentially revolves around young men and women living out the chapter on the church as village. That in order to keep from devolving into the party culture, sex culture, porn culture, drinking culture, hedonism, relativism, and general social disorder that characterises the ‘freedom’ of young people at secular universities, young Christians need to create and seek out intentional community.

He does not call for only sending them to Christian universities, in part because some of these are being challenged in various ways, such as (to use a famous Canadian example) Trinity Western University whose code of conduct includes not engaging in extra-marital or homosexual sex acts. The bar on heterosexual activity doesn’t get you in trouble, but the bar on homosexual activity gets you branded bigot these days (this is not the point of this post, so please stay out of that debate in the comments).

Anyway, this portion of the chapter was, I think, done well. Throughout the book, one of my issues has been the randomness of the anecdotes, most of wish only point to symptoms of the problem, or the fact that the interviews with people simply give their views on life and strategy, rather than showing their success. These even counts for his interviews of monks at Norcia.

However, in this section as well as a few parts of the chapter on community, Dreher actually gives concrete examples of Benedict Option successes. He tells of various groups of young Christians at different universities, some Protestant, some Roman Catholic, and how they banded together to form communities that supported them throughout their time at university and helped their faith grow strong. He even tells of how one such group’s existence contributed to the church’s mission of making new disciples. So for this I am glad.

As a person who works in the university, I want the Christians to come to university to be able to come to secular institutions and get their degrees with a robust faith and even spiritual growth at the other end. There is no reason why the university should erode or destroy your faith. Sure, it will challenge it. I certainly had my share of challenges as a Christian in undergrad, but having the critical thinking skills and resilience to resist should be part of the young person’s journey through university.

I admit that I had good community as an undergrad, and this probably helped, besides my own determination to come to grips with arguments and ideas that challenged what I believed. I belonged to a supportive church community, was active in IVCF, and had a great group of Christian friends who were willing to talk matters of faith and of import.

Speaking about secular universities, the university should resist the urge to become secularist. Rather, universities should be pluralist, creating an atmosphere where the conservative Christian and the atheist and the Hindu and the Muslim and the liberal Christian can co-exist, make friendships, and have respectful, lively debate on topics that really matter. That was my experience as an undergrad 12 years ago, and I hope it is still the case. (I currently hold a research post, so I can’t say for sure, but it looks like my current place of employment would fit this model.)


Theosis and the Palamite Distinction: Questions & Concerns

Important thoughts on Palamism (which occasionally appears on this blog).

Eclectic Orthodoxy

by Fr Aidan Kimel

That there exists in God a real distinction between his essence and his energies, theologians assure us, is an irreformable dogma of the Orthodox Church. If so, it is a curious dogma, originating in a question that most ordinary believers today would find arcane and probably irrelevant to their lives: Is the light experienced by those who practice the hesychastic method created or uncreated? In this short article I raise four questions that urgently need to be addressed by Orthodox theologians and scholars.

1) How is dogma established in the Orthodox Church?

The distinction between the divine essence and the divine energies was asserted in the 14th century by a series of local synods, the two most important being the 1341 and 1351 Synods of Constantinople. Their Tomes were subsequently received as expressing authentic Orthodox doctrine; but precisely what level of authority do they enjoy? The…

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John Behr on the Trinity

Some brief, lucid thoughts on the Trinity from Fr John Behr.

Eclectic Orthodoxy

The Trinity: Scripture and the Greek Fathers

by the Very Rev. John Behr

Some 30 years ago, Karl Rahner claimed that most Christians are “mere monotheists,” that if the doctrine of the Trinity proved to be false, the bulk of popular Christian literature, and the mindset it reflects, would not have to be changed. Unfortunately, this is largely still true.

Defining the doctrine of the Trinity as a mystery which cannot be fathomed by unaided human reason invites a position such as Melanchthon’s: “We adore the mysteries of the Godhead. That is better than to investigate them.” But the danger of not reflecting carefully on what has been revealed, as it has been revealed, is that we remain blinded by our own false gods and idols, however theologically constructed.

So how can Christians believe in and worship the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and yet claim that there…

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Saint of the Week: Benedict of Nursia – The Rule & Its Legacy

A re-post for the Feast of St Benedict.

the pocket scroll

If you do a Google Blog search for ‘Benedict of Nursia’, you will get approx. 33,800 hits. A search of Everything gets you 221,000. St. Benedict is one of the most popular saints of western Christianity, unlike the other Italian notables covered by Pope St. Gregory’s Dialogues — so popular even in his own century that, rather than receiving a mere chapter in a Dialogue, he received an entire Dialogue devoted to his life.

Nonetheless, I have a feeling that Benedict’s popularity comes not just from his holiness of life and his miracles but mostly from his Rule, composed for the monks of Monte Cassino and the other monasteries under his care and used by the Carolingian Church as the monastic rule when they sought to regularise and standardise monasticism, a movement that went beyond the Frankish Empire and as far afield as Jarrow.

This Rule is, I…

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“Beat on that thick cloud of unknowing with the sharp arrow of longing and never stop loving”

Some challenging but beautiful thoughts from the Cloud of Unknowing

Eclectic Orthodoxy

Lift up your heart to God with a gentle stirring of love. Focus on nothing but him. Don’t let anything else run through your mind and will. Here’s how. Forget what you know. Forget everything God made and everybody who exists and everything that’s going on in the world, until your thoughts and emotions aren’t focused on or reaching toward anything, not in a general way and not in any particular way. Let them be. For the moment, don’t care about anything.

This is the work of the soul that most pleases God. All saints and angels rejoice in it, and they’re always willing to help you when you’re spending time in contemplation. They rush to your side, their powers ready. But contemplation infuriates the devil and his company. That’s why they try to stop you in any way they can. You can’t know how much. This spiritual exercise even…

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“The story of Life imparted its voice into the apostolic group”

As the Easter season continues, some Late Antique Syriac poetry for you.

Eclectic Orthodoxy

The disciples saw that the Slaughtered One was not there in the tomb
and they believed that He had risen,
and they became confirmed in the things revealed.
They saw the covering of borrowed garments placed aside by Him,
and they had perceived that He had clothed himself in glory and manly power.
They saw the resurrection and they became confirmed on account of its effects;
and they clothed themselves in power
so that they might become mouth-pieces for His proclamation.
They saw that the region of death had been trodden under foot
at the Resurrection of the dead.
Then they returned to become witnesses in the world about the resurrection.
They saw that birthpangs had struck Sheol and it gave birth to Life
and they accepted upon themselves to become advocates of the Truth to the new world.
They returned from the tomb with confidence to their companions

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Lisa Deam pointed me to this recent post of hers about Gregory the Great, germane to my recent work here on the pocket scroll.

The Contemplative Writer

You may have heard that St. Gregory the Great (c. 540 – 604) defined contemplation as “resting in God.” Indeed, this quote is posted on the home page of The Contemplative Writer! This snippet is a condensed version of what St. Gregory really said, and I thought we should take a look at the full statement. It’s a wonderfully nuanced description of just what “resting in God” really means:

But the contemplative life is: to retain indeed with all one’s mind the love of God and neighbor, but to rest from all exterior action, and cleave only to the desire of the Maker, that the mind may now take no pleasure in doing anything, but having spurned all cares, may be aglow to see the face of its Creator; so that it already knows how to bear with sorrow the burden of the corruptible flesh, and with all its desires…

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