Reformation (plus one)

  1. I have the old textbooks to prove it
  2. Better lucky than good
  3. Does Islam need a Locke more than a Luther?
  4. Dishonor and destruction


On this 500th Reformation Day (as I write, not as you read), these words of Abbot Tryphon summarize the change of thinking I underwent moving from the Reformed (Calvinistic) orbit to the Orthodox Christian tradition.

Reformed theology focuses on forensic justification, whereas the mystical theology of the Orthodox Church focuses on restoration to God through healing of the darkened soul alienated from Him. These are two very different models, but not really equal, because one can have faith in Christ’s sacrifice, but still not be healed and restored.

Our restorative healing is not about some terrible legal “remedy” which requires that God’s righteous wrath, aimed at our depravity, be “satisfied” by the substitutionary death of His Son. Rather, it is about the cleansing of the nous that has been darkened, and thus restoring us to health and wholeness. The nous in communion with God is all about our real self, and is the true seat of our personhood ….

I should add something to that, though.

In my Evangelical Protestant High School, we studied a lot of Bible and a bit of systematic theology. I still have some of the texts, kept largely as a landmark to document what has been lost almost completely in Evangelical discourse, and even to a great extent in much of Calvinism.

Those texts distinguished facets of “salvation” in a way that I still think is somewhat helpful: salvation was divisible conceptually into justification, sanctification and glorification.

Nowadays, it seems to me that “sanctification” has been lost, with Evangelicals treating justification as the antidote to God’s anger problem (to put it pretty bluntly) and as all that’s needed to eventually “get to heaven” (glorification). Sanctification has dropped off the map.

I see the Orthodox “cleansing of the nous” (“nous” is similar to what Evangelicals tend to call “heart”) as a healing (analogous to “sanctification” but with more of a penitential feel, less of a sanctimonious “church lady” feel). As in healing from bodily disease, the nous itself contributes to its own healing, but the nous invariably needs assistance.


True, but then again who hasn’t benefitted from lucky breaks?


[T]here are people today, especially in the West, who think that “a Muslim Martin Luther” is desperately needed. Yet as good-willed as they may be, they are wrong. Because while Luther’s main legacy was the breakup of the Catholic Church’s monopoly over Western Christianity, Islam has no such monopoly that needs to be challenged. There is simply is no “Muslim Pope,” or a central organization like the Catholic hierarchy, whose suffocating authority needs to be broken. Quite the contrary, the Muslim world—at least the Sunni Muslim world, which constitutes its overwhelming majority—has no central authority at all, especially since the abolition of the Caliphate in 1924 by Republican Turkey. The ensuing chaos in itself seems be a part of “the problem.”

In fact, if the Muslim world of today resembles any period in Christian history, it is not the pre-Reformation but rather the post-Reformation era. The latter was a time when not just Catholics and Protestants but also different varieties of the latter were at each other’s throats, self-righteously claiming to be the true believers while condemning others as heretics. It was a time of religious wars and the suppression of theological minorities. It would be a big exaggeration to say that the whole Muslim world is now going through such bloody sectarian strife, but some parts of it—such as Iraq, Syria, and Yemen—undoubtedly are.

That is why those who hope to see a more tolerant, free, and open Muslim world should seek the equivalent not of the Protestant Reformation but of the next great paradigm in Western history: the Enlightenment. The contemporary Muslim world needs not a Martin Luther but a John Locke ….

(Mustafa Akyol)


Winston Churchill’s famous response to the Munich Accords: “You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war.” …

The memory of Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial might reassure Republicans: Clinton did commit a felony (perjury), he did face an impeachment trial, his did party stick by him, and in the end he rode it out and finished his presidency with record highs of popularity. Then again, the lingering effects of that whole drama probably cost Democrats the presidency in 2000.

The situation today is completely different. Clinton had a genius for triangulation, and happened to ride a massive stock market wave that lifted all economic boats and his approval ratings in the process. Trump’s genius — and it is genius, of a kind — is not for triangulation, but for polarization, which has unquestionably proved useful at some things, but is the opposite of what’s needed to make the public’s mushy middle give you a pass on potentially impeachable misdeeds …

The Republican Party might be able to ride out Trump’s self-destructive unpopularity if it tried as hard as possible to separate Trump’s brand from its own. Instead it is doing almost everything to join them together.

The party had to choose between dishonor and destruction. It chose dishonor, and with every passing day it looks increasingly likely it will get destruction.

(Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry)

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.