Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Homily in Preparation for the Celebration of Christmas by St. John Chrysostom (+407)

From December 20th (when we observe the Forefeast of the Nativity) to the 25th Midnight Service, the Church treats these days like another Holy Week. St. John Chrysostom gave a homily for this time which is with reading at least every year. He summarizes the attitude of a repentant Christian most effectively and is a benefit to the reader every time... Here is the homily:

A feast is approaching which is the most solemn and awe-inspiring of all feasts. If one were to call it the metropolis of all feasts, one wouldn't be wrong. What is it? The birth of Christ according to the flesh.

In this feast the Epiphany, holy Pascha, the Ascension and Pentecost have their beginning and their purpose. For if Christ hadn't been born according to the flesh, He wouldn't have been baptized, which is Epiphany. He wouldn't have been crucified, which is Pascha. He wouldn't have sent the Spirit, which is Pentecost. So from this event, as from some spring, different rivers flow - these feasts of ours are born. But not only on this account would it be right to give precedence to this day, but also because what happened on it is much more awe-inspiring than all other days. I say this because the fact that Christ died after becoming human was the consequence of that: even if He didn't commit sin, still He assumed a mortal body. And that too was an amazing fact: that, although God, He was willing to become human and to condescend to take so much on Himself that not even the imagination can embrace. It's this that is most awe-inspiring, and completely perplexing. Even Paul said in amazement: "Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our piety" (1 Tim. 3:16). How great? "God was manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16). And again he says elsewhere: "For surely it's not with angels that God is concerned, but with the descendants of Abraham. Therefore He had to be made like His brethren in every respect" (Heb. 2:16-17).

On this account especially I embrace and love this day, and put my ardent love on show to make you share in my affection for it. On this account I beg and entreat all of you to be present with much zeal and enthusiasm, each having vacated your own house, so that we may see our Master lying in the manger, dressed in swaddling-clothes - that awe-inspiring and miraculous sight. What kind of defense could we have, what kind of excuse, when He came down from heaven for our sake while we can't even leave the house to go to Him? Or when the Magi, who were barbarians and foreigners, hurried from Persia to see him lying in the manger? But you, a Christian, can't be bothered to travel even a short distance in order to enjoy this blessed sight? For if we're present in faith we'll certainly see Him lying in the manger: this table fulfills the role of the manger.

Indeed, here lies the Body of the Lord, not wrapped in swaddling-clothes as formerly, but attired completely with the Holy Spirit. Those who are initiated know what I'm saying. The Magi merely worshiped Him, whereas you, if you approach to communicate with a clear conscience, we permit to consume Him and go back home. Approach, then, bringing gifts - not gifts like the Magi brought but ones that are much more solemn. They brought gold; you must bring temperance and virtue. They brought incense; you must bring pure prayers which are spiritual incense. They brought myrrh; you must bring humility and a humble heart and love. If you approach with these gifts, with great confidence you'll enjoy this holy table. For my part, I'm saying this now because I know quite well that on that day many of you will come forward and fall on this spiritual sacrifice. So that we don't do this to the detriment or condemnation of our soul but for our salvation, I'm calling you to witness beforehand, and I'm begging you to approach the holy mysteries after you've cleansed yourselves in every respect.

Please don't let anybody say to me: "I'm full of shame, I have a conscience crammed with sins, I'm carrying a very heavy burden." If you're sober, and pray and keep vigil, the appointed period of five days is sufficient to trim away your many sins. Don't look at how short the time is, but consider the point that the Master is loving. The Ninevites were able to beat off God's considerable anger in three days, and the time-constraint was no hindrance, but their readiness of spirit captured the Master's generosity and was able to effect everything (cf. Jon. 3). The prostitute, too, coming to Christ in a brief critical moment washed away all her offenses (cf. Lk. 7). When the Jews made the accusation that Christ had admitted her and had given her so much confidence, he silenced them, and freed her from all evils, and, having approved her enthusiasm, he sent her away. What's the message? That she came with an ardent mind and a burning soul and a fervent faith, and she touched those holy and sacred feet, when she had let down her hair, let tears flood from her eyes, and poured out the perfume.

The objects by which she bewitched people, she used to prepare the drugs of repentance. The objects by which she excited the gaze of the licentious, she used to weep tears. The locks of hair by which she tripped up many people so they fell into sin, she used to wipe Christ's feet. The perfume by which she enticed, she used to anoint His feet. And you too therefore must placate God in turn by using the objects by which you provoked Him. Did you provoke Him by stealing money? Win Him over by giving away what you stole to those who've been unjustly treated, and give other things in addition; say in the words of Zacchaeus: "I give back four times everything I've stolen" (cf. Lk. 19:8). Have you provoked Him with your tongue and your abuse, by insulting many people? Propitiate him in turn with your tongue, by sending up pure prayers, by blessing those who abuse you, by praising those who speak badly of you, by thanking those who wrong you. These actions don't require days or the passing of many years, but only right purpose, and they can be accomplished in one day. Keep aloof from wickedness, embrace virtue, desist from evil; promise to commit these sins no longer, and this will be sufficient for your defense. I testify and guarantee that, if each of us that has sinned keeps aloof from their former evil ways and promises God truthfully that they won't touch them any more, God will require nothing else for a substantial defense. I say this because he is generous and merciful, and just as a woman in labor longs to give birth, so He too longs to dispense His mercy - it's our sins that interfere with this.

Let's pull down the wall, then, and right from that time begin the feast, renouncing all activities for these five days. "Farewell to the law courts, farewell to the council chambers - a plague on daily business, with its contracts and transactions. I want to save my soul." "What does it profit a person if they gain the whole world and lose their own soul?" (Matt. 16:26). The Magi came away from Persia; you must come away from daily business and travel towards Jesus. The distance isn't great, if we're willing. The point is that you don't have to cross the sea, or traverse mountain peaks, but if you sit at home, exhibiting piety and much compunction, you can see the wall being completely broken down, you can remove the obstacle, you can cut the length of the journey. "For I am a God at hand," it says, "and not a God far off" (Jer. 23:23), and "The Lord is near to all who call on Him in truth" (Ps. 145:18).

But as it is, many of the faithful have arrived at such a degree of silliness and neglect that, although they are full of countless evils, and because they take no thought whatsoever for themselves, they approach this table on feast days in a random and frivolous fashion. They don't know that the time of communion doesn't consist of a feast and a celebration, but of a clear conscience and a life full of reproach. Just as the ordinary person who has nothing on their conscience ought to approach communion every day, so it's unsafe for the person who is overpowered by sin and does not repent to approach even on a feast day. For approaching once a year isn't going to free us from reproach, if we approach unworthily; but it's precisely this that damns us all the more, namely that when we approach on that one occasion we're not even then approaching with a clear conscience.

That's why I beg all of you not to touch the divine mysteries in a negligent manner because you have to celebrate the feast. If, however, you're ever going to partake of this holy offering, you must purify yourselves for many days beforehand through repentance and prayer and almsgiving and devotion to spiritual matters, and not "return like a dog to its own vomit" (Prov. 26:11). Isn't it absurd to take so much care over bodily concerns, so that many days before the feast approaches you get your best clothes out of their chests and get them ready, and you buy shoes, and enjoy a more lavish table, and over and above that you take thought for many provisions from all quarters, and in every respect you clean yourself up and make yourself look good? On the other hand, you take no account of your soul, which is neglected, dirty, squalid, wasted from hunger and still unclean. Isn't it absurd that while you take your clean body to church, you overlook your soul, which is naked and disgraced? Yet whereas your fellow servant sees your body and no harm results no matter how it's dressed, the Master sees your soul and will put in place a most serious punishment for its neglect.

Don't you know that this table is full of spiritual fire, and just as springs gush forth the force of water, so too does the table contain a certain mysterious flame? So don't approach it if you're carrying stubble, wood or dry grass, in case you cause a bigger blaze and you burn your soul as it takes communion. But bring precious stones, gold, silver, in order to make the material more pure, in order to go back home having derived a great deal of profit. If you've got something wicked in you, get rid of it, banish it from your soul. Is it the case that someone has an enemy, and is suffering grievous wrongs at their hands? Let them bring the enmity to an end, let them restrain their inflamed and swollen attitude, so that internally they experience no tumult or disturbance. I say this because in communicating you are going to welcome a king. But if it's a king coming into your soul there must be abundant tranquility, abundant silence and a deep peace for your thoughts. But your suffering grievous wrongs, and you can't stop being angry? Why, then, do you visit much greater wrongs and difficulties on yourself? Whatever the person does, your enemy won't inflict on you the kind of harm you inflict on yourself by not being reconciled with them but rather trampling God's laws under your feet. Did your enemy insult you? Is it on this account, tell me, that you then insult God? Refusing to be reconciled with the one who hurt you isn't so much a sign of taking revenge on them as of insulting God, who laid down these laws.

So don't look at your fellow servant, nor at the magnitude of the wrongs they have done, but when you have put God and the fear of God into your mind, consider the following point. The excessive wrenching that you feel internally when, after countless evil acts, you force yourself to be reconciled with the one who hurt you, will be commensurate with the increased esteem which you will enjoy in the eyes of God, who ordered this course of action. And just as here on earth you will welcome God with great honor, so too will He receive you in heaven with great glory, as he pays you back ten-thousandfold for your obedience. May all of us attain this through the grace and love for mankind of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, honor, power and worship, for ever and ever.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Need for the Otherworld

A Call for Return to the Traditional Worldview
No one takes New Atheists Seriously nor are Anti-Christian Scholars that Clever.

Here, I explain exactly what St. Paul means when he writes to the Romans: "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse..." (Romans 1:20). This article is best read following this article: The Created Order: Understanding Αρχέ and Tέλος

This post is primarily to arm those resisting others who cast off any mythological or historic thinking under the guise of modern "enlightenment" which really is no enlightenment and has effectively been a veil blindin
g modern man to that which can improve him. If someone uses a myth or folk tale to makes a profound point on the human condition (which is exactly what humans have done for millenia) and another is inclined to disagree on some sort of tenant of religious scientism (see this) by using the argument "those are just fairy tales" or "that is just a myth", then the latter man has not made an argument but put forward a genetic logical fallacy. The same is true for those who would respond with "well, we know better than them" assuming that living in today's technological age means we understand the world better and uses an ad hominem against all of human history. These men have their foundational worldview built on materialism and need to understand that they dismiss the stories of their ancestors to their own peril. This new, "enlightened," and materialist thinking which sought to sell our ancestors treasures for the acquisition of a scientific utopia led to the twentieth century, the bloodiest century in recorded human history. As we enter the twenty-first century, these evil people still have not learned their lesson.

Materialists need to know the error of their ways. Libertarians and classic liberals are just as materialist as communists and fascists. This is the key unlocking the key to the dysfunctional, death-worshiping, despairing societies we live in today: materialism. It led to the fall of the Church in the West, it led to the fall of God-ordained kings in the West, it led to the fall of families in the West, now with utter destruction all around, this materialism can effectively destroy the soul's value of every one of us, through massive and powerful socio-political force. We Christians must effectively explain to others why no one should give heed to their evil teachings (and "Christians" have done a horrendous and miserable job of this and explaining themselves so far). We must resist not only for ourselves but on behalf of those who do not know better, protecting them from the materialists' ground force of "useful idiots". Christians must fight for a better, truthful, and good worldview rooted in Logos, despite any nay-sayers.

Today, there is a pseudo-science which is really scientism, and these adherents are the loudest claimants to "scientific truth". Our politicians are very susceptible to this camp of religious materialist ideologues. From my own experience, I can assure you I have met many brilliant scientists and they claim that they and many in their ranks are nearly always men of faith and look on disdain at these politically motivated ideologues. This is a huge important aspect of science to understand. There are those who are not scientists and do not claim to be scientists, there are those who are not scientists but claim to be scientists (oftentimes materialists), and there are those who are scientists and thus also state they are scientists. Many times, the non-scientists who claim to be scientists get the media attention, which makes sense because they are trying to force their materialist ideology. One must understand who falls into which camp. Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and the like would fall into the category of claiming to be scientists but really are not. Their education does not matter to much in this regard, rather how they have spent their lives and especially how they do their research. That will tell you with whom you are dealing.

These are the claims I make which will be elaborated through the rest of this article: Myth is just as real and true as science. Myth is more valuable than science. Man only suffers more as he ignores, forgets, lazily neglects, and especially outright rejecting the Otherworld.


What serious scholars consider a myth, on the surface, can largely be agreed with by religious people. Only the ideologues of materialists would dispute the standard definitions because their sole purpose it to ridicule myths and replace them with their own ideology.

A look at the Merriam-Webster definition shows this dichotomy:
1   a :  a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon; creation myths
     b :  parable, allegory; Moral responsibility is the motif of Plato's myths.
2   a :  a popular belief or tradition that has grown up around something or someone; especially :  one embodying the ideals and institutions of a society or segment of society
     - seduced by the American myth of individualism — Orde Coombs
     - the utopian myth of a perfect society
     b :  an unfounded or false notion; the myth of racial superiority
3 : a person or thing having only an imaginary or unverifiable existence; the Superman myth; The unicorn is a myth.
4  : the whole body of myths; a student of Greek myth

Image result for Theseus and the Minotaur, renaissance

The word "myth" is relatively a quite new word. It's first usage was in 1830, during the so-called "enlightenment". Before then, they were just the stories of one's people. We can see two type of definitions here: (1) the respectable, where story, tradition, and society are key (2) the ridiculous, where it is a dismissive falsehood. The former is used by decent scholars and can be useful for the Christian while the latter has carelessly been adopted into our vernacular by evil men wishing to tear down societal stability, often materialists.

Society has been fooled by these totalitarian materialists or cultural. They have been able to make "myth" synonymous with false because Western society accepted the previous lie that they told the world; i.e. "matter is all there is" or "only the visible universe exists", which led to "there is no overarching order to the cosmos" or "everything has no inherent meaning". "Nothing is ordered, nothing is meaningful, Everything is happenstance."

We find the following in the Encyclopedia Britannica:
"Myth, a symbolic narrative..."
"As with all religious symbolism, there is no attempt to justify mythic narratives or even to render them plausible."
"In the study of religion, however, it is important to distinguish between myths and stories that are merely untrue."
"Myth has existed in every society. Indeed, it would seem to be a basic constituent of human culture."
"Other government officials and Christian missionaries of the 19th and 20th centuries [but really since Roman times] made... efforts to understand the mythologies of nations or tribes so as to facilitate communication. Such studies were more than a means to an end, whether efficient administration or conversion. They amounted to the discovery that myths present a model or charter for human behaviour and that the world of myth provides guidance for crucial elements in human existence—war and peace, life and death, truth and falsehood, good and evil."
From these quotes, a Christian can find a plane of dialogue with any respectable non-Christian. Oftentimes, scholars call Christianity a myth. In this context, it's understandable why the non-Christian would give such a label and is helpful, because they at least recognize that there is value is Christianity. Cultural Marxists will use take that position by scholars and then twist it into their definition giving the appearance that serious men think Christianity is wholly false. See the game they play? They only take what they want out of respectable men's research for furthering their totalitarian ideology.

So what do we have here? If Christianity is to be considered a myth, how would we want it defined in being generous to the attempts of scholars to understand it and hopefully improve the world by it? What is Christianity in the context of "mythology"? St. Basil gives us the proper relationship the Christian should have with the myths of our past. He gives us the following advice (From Address to Young Men on the Right Use of Greek Literature):
"Now this is my counsel, that you should not unqualifiedly give over your minds to these men, as a ship is surrendered to the rudder, to follow whither they list, but that, while receiving whatever of value they have to offer, you yet recognize what it is wise to ignore."
"To be sure, we shall become more intimately acquainted with these precepts in the sacred writings, but it is incumbent upon us, for the present, to trace, as it were, the silhouette of virtue in the pagan authors. For those who carefully gather the useful from each book are wont, like mighty rivers, to gain accessions on every hand. For the precept of the poet which bids us add little to little must be taken as applying not so much to the accumulation of riches, as of the various branches of learning."
Image result for st. basil the great, on reading greek books

In general, mythology is liberating. Materialism would imprison man in a wall of five senses and limited rationality. A world only of facts divorced from their truth. Mythology is the world outside those prison walls. By our ability to even think outside materialist categories suggests that there is more to human existence than the materialist worldview purports.

Christianity is the true myth. In part, because unlike other myths we claim a historicity to a degree that other myths would not. Christ existed in time and place. Another reason is that Christ is not like the mythic heroes since He takes the story structures and raises them to another level that would astound even ancient man relating their own fantastic myths. As Jonathan Pageau explains Christ's decent into Hades, he mentions that this story is not like the stories of the decent into the Underworld because Christ does not simply visit there. He conquers it! Pageau says, "...we find an example of what Christ’s story does to all stories, what He does to all things. That He all at once transcends, He even obliterates the pattern, yet simultaneously He universalizes it, connects it, grounds it, illuminates it."

Pageau also says, "Encountering Christ in stories is a work of our entire being... In order to encounter God in stories, we must first renew our intelligence but we must also slowly let go of our passions, our pride. And as we do, the story of Christ opens itself up to us and we will see more of Him in it... Christ is bigger than what you think and He’s bigger than you’ll always think. He’ll always be bigger than everything. [The more we think this], the more Christ will appear to us from Old Testament stories. And even the light of Christ will shine through the world stories in the capacity that each of those stories has to manifest that light... One is always surprised to encounter a seed of truth in the strangest place though sometimes deep down and surrounded by weeds it might be. Behind all the veils, behind all the coverings, we are sometimes surprised to encounter this divine spark.”

Myths gives us a glimpse at a truth we do not fully comprehend because man's consciousness has not been able to abstractly explain the reality, but can recognize manifestations of it. Therefore, we have stories. They are not pulled out of a hat like a magician pulls a bunny out of his hat. Such stories would be forgotten. The enduring myths give us a glimpse of high truths about man's existence and are built using those patterns of truth which are cross-cultural. The endurance, the multi-cultural themes, the affect on the course of men's lives is testament to their value and their truth.


Now we need to define some terms. We say myths are true, but they talk about impossible beasts and ridiculous intervention of gods into human affairs. Therefore, we must mean a truth in which these are not the concern of the myth. That is, these peculiarities are not factually true, but the message behind the myth is true of human life. In human history, this was primarily and traditionally accomplished through the structure of a story. We now look at the elements of traditional stories and then analyze what a story should be for us, the listeners or readers within these defined terms.

1. Truth
Truth is a person. Truth is Jesus Christ. How? Because Jesus Christ is the Logos. He is the source, the energizer, and the goal for meaning in all Creation, especially in man. Jesus Christ became man to bring man to God; therefore, Truth is for raising humanity above earthly concerns for furtherance in the spiritual life. This makes spiritual life rest on the foundation of a properly used material life. This makes material good by pointing man to his God.

Image result for christ pantocrator, sinai

Because God is transcendent and immaterial, Truth is also transcendent and immaterial. However, in Jesus Christ, the source of truth is united to our humanity, but this aspect was still immaterial since He walked the earth appearing to man's observation only as a lowly carpenter and another rabbi with His divinity hidden (krypsis). The immaterial realities not only transcend the material but hold it together (logoi). Through the Logos are principles of the truth distributed into Creation. Then, Creation ascends by searching out and articulating principles of the truth as man reaches for Truth. All these principles of truth come ascend higher and higher and unite to each other in Christ. In pagan cultures of the past, we should view their attempts at truth as we did above. The best of man, communicated in a societies myths, would aim for truth. This was fulfilled with the incarnation of the Logos because Truth, Himself, became a true man.

Materialists do not like to believe in a transcendent truth, but they do not have religion nor science on their side. Religion and science are in agreement on this. For example, the scientists have the story of Sir Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree. He then gets hit on the head by an apple falling from the tree. Sir Isaac then formulated the theory of gravity. A theory (like all theories) which transcended his own humanity. This illustrates the truth of man discovering gravity. So, man knows and has always known that truth is immaterial and yet is greater than us, whether that is gravitational theory, quantum theory, or theoria of God.

2. Fact
"Facts are characters, they’re places, they’re objects." This is the simplest definition given to us by Jonathan Pageau and is what "fact" really boils down too. So in the example of Sir Isaac Newton above, the facts would be Sir Isaac, under an apple tree, and the specific apple which had hit him on the head. The facts from the story of David and Goliath would include frightened Israelites, haughty Philistines, Saul who was King of Israel, as short and young David from Bethlehem, a towering and strong Goliath from Gath, all together at Sokoh in Judah, a sling belonging to David, some pebbles acquired for the sling, then later in the story we have Goliath's sword, Goliath's severed head, emboldened Israelites, and frightened Philistines, etc. etc. Facts in a story are chosen from an indefinite and innumerable number of facts to make it unique. A fact is a technical description that can be reproduced by scientific means.

Among materialists, secular and Christian alike, truth is virtually synonymous with Fact. Accuracy and correctness are seen as "true". We have it exactly backwards and totally opposite today. Really, this is the worldview of an inverted hierarchy. We discuss this more below. Facts are truly the basest part of our stories, yet skeptics dismiss Christianity based on facts and Christians tirelessly defend the facts of the Bible. This is two sides of the same coin, and both are wrong, because the coin is a currency of materialism.

Facts are not as important as materialists make them out to be, for historical man. They are only the visual elements, therefore, it is impossible for facts to be 100% consistent given the huge variety of human experience in time and place. This is to say that facts can be expanded and condensed in a story. A story can remain exactly the same with facts varying from telling to telling. One culture may pass a story onto another and a central fact in this story may be a sword. However, the other culture may not have swords so the fact expands into a weapon when telling the story in this new environment. Later on, "weapon" may turn into lance, since it is the chief weapon of that culture. The skeptic cannot give less credibility to the story since some versions the weapon is a sword, in others, it is a lance. There is perfectly good reason for this, and yet nothing is lost, because a story is not about it's facts, but the truth it conveys.

Image result for sword

3. Events
Simply put, events are the interactions of facts. A string events is an essential element of a story. Events, especially in the Bible, are the vehicle which communicates transcendent, cosmic, social and personal truth. The biblical events are not for forensic analysis or described like a geographic survey. This would be inappropriate because the events had no objective to make this kind of analysis possible. The events of the earliest times in human history, the time of oral traditions, like Genesis, are lost. All that remains is the stories about those events, making the truth communicated almost of sole importance not the historical use found therein.

4. Meaning
Pageau describes the relationship between fact / events and their meaning to a mountain. The base is fact and meaning, and from there, one gets a closeup look at the elements which make up the mountain. However, at the top, you stand on top of all that is below that summit and supporting it and also get a view of the great wide world for many miles around the mountain. The facts and the events support the meaning which gives one a view to something larger than the story itself.

Image result for mt. rainier

Although the more historically true and relevant way to speak of meaning is in terms of heaven and earth. Earth has always been equated to facts, events, that is concrete realities. Heaven has been equated to theory, the abstract, that is meaning. This understanding is cross-cultural and very ancient. The other element is man being the mediator between the two. Meaning also undertook a materialist transformation with postmodernism. Meaning became arbitrary. This is a wrong approach. Meaning points to the truth and reveals it. Since the Lord Himself is the source of all meaning, it cannot be arbitrary, only that which points to Him, following the facts and events at hand.

Just because these meanings are not grasped by some, does not mean they are valueless. These anti-Christian pseudo-scholars are like disease ridden savages who are given medicine in capsules to heal their diseases and so they wear the medicine around their necks. When the medicine does not work, they toss it out as worthless. They need to ingest it! This is an exact corelation for how the new atheists and post-modernists, and leftist utopians behave. Meaning helps one navigate reality in a right manner. The history of humanity is testament to this. Therefore, meaning cannot be imaginary because reality and imagination are different, in fact opposites. To make meaning arbitrary is only possible when one blurs their sense of what is real and what is imaginary.

Above, it was said after the story of Sir Isaac and his apple that "man knows and has always known that truth is immaterial and yet is greater than us". This is exactly what scientists do. They hypothesize a transcendent theory to explain observable happenings. Then they run factual experiments as evidence for their theory. This is the scientist mediating between heaven and earth, the ordered meaning behind chaotic facts and events. This is exactly mathematics too. Mathematics is not physical, observable by our senses, nor tangible in anyway. Yet, many would argue that mathematics is more real than anything physical, observable, or tangible. Facts are the visible part of our existence, while their meaning for human consciousness is the invisible part of our existence. Scientists are increasingly have to reckon with a more significant role that the invisible has over the visible. Discoveries are being made that shows a materialist explanation for many phenomenon is just not adequate. Rupert Sheldrake is a pioneer in this (see here). The materialist resistance to this is only alienating the most brilliant scientists and creating a common ground for them with the religious communities.

Image result for science experiment
As we mentioned, man has the unique role of mediating between heaven and earth, or for the scientist the abstract and the tangible, it is the same thing. This means that man cannot really separate himself from his experiences and rationality. The theory nor the observations can exist without man. He cannot become objective, he is crucial. Scientists have definitely tried this, and had fascinating accomplishments by going down this road. But the road is reaching a dead end. It is a short road that can only go so far. Quantum physics has clearly shown that man's participation is an element that is impossible to separate from the fabric of reality (see this).

Those whose lives lack meaning, get addicted to drugs. Clinical psychologists have noticed this. In this materialist age, it is undeniable that we have a drug epidemic. We are not "enlightened" in comparison to our ancestors as a result of our technology and age of "Enlightenment". If so, there would be less war, there would be happier and stable families, there would be not be people trying to escape reality through artificial entertainment, there would be less depression, addictions, and suicide, there would be greater social trust. All these things have only grown worse over the twentieth century. Materialism and Scientism has not made man's life better but wrecked havoc on it. This lynch-pin connecting these two is the materialists and postmodernists abolition the meaning behind all aspects of human experience.

One cannot say "a mountain has no meaning" or "a tree has know meaning" because that would take away the very concept of mountain and tree that we possess in our human existence. A mountain is tall and something I need to go around, or ascend to get a better view. A tree is a natural shelter and sometimes a place of nourishment. These are meanings from facts. They are meanings which men share in common with each other.

5. Symbols
We must rid ourselves of the idea that symbolism is simply an association of ideas by figuration to which we have no attachment. This is secularism and materialism. In the Church, symbolism is a real, authentic, genuine way of entering into the symbolized. Symbol etymologically means "gathering together." For the ancient man, gathering together is the union of fact and meaning. Symbols are a meaning of facts that give a higher meaning and nature of reality.

Symbolism is a way our consciousness is written, basic structures that inform human experiences and makes it possible to engage with the world. This is because man mediates between heaven and earth or fact and meaning using the language of symbolism. Symbolism is a language. The symbols in our stories are not the morals of a story, they are not only to enlighten our subjective and social activity in the world, but they describe the happenings in Creation, how it works, and how we live in it. Symbolic language is a means of revelation. Words themselves communicate revelation from God, but symbols also do this in ways that spoken language may not sufficiently be up to the task. That is, symbolic language can speak things which our spoken language has not yet advanced to accurately communicate. Symbols will never hide meaning, rather always make truths unhidden. Since symbols reveal, this makes any "horizontal" or "lateral" symbolism not really symbolism. An example of this is Elijah's raven being a secret society, or visions of God coming from magic mushrooms. This reveals nothing and is typically absurd. Since symbols reveal, theses explanations would automatically be false due to the fallacy of "horizontal symbolism".

Symbols are memorable and capture our attention because they are like a framework of consciousness. They take certain forms that are intuitive in a basic part of our humanity. As a basic part of our humanity, how we function is built off this. However, we can work to destroy that foundation causing a total collapse of our lives. We do participate and must participate in the symbol, making it real for us. By recognizing or doing the symbol we make it real in our lives. Taking the symbol and to not participate in the reality makes us liars. When one lives a lie, then the problems only grow, fester, and can devour us by not taking our problems, naming them, and fixing them. This all alludes again to the Logos, to which symbolic language ultimately leads. The symbolic structures from which our lives grow guide us into a true way of life. In this life, one is honest with oneself. Problems are exposed to the light of truth and the solution is revealed. This causes further growth until we commune with the Logos of God, Jesus Christ.

To understand symbols and how they explain the world, one must transform the materialist inclination to divorce fact from meaning and see the unity between them. Like meaning, symbols are not arbitrary but are something beyond our own opinions and imaginings. The symbolic language is part of the universal human experience. But symbols are also very immediate. A tree, water, ladder, winds, etc... that are in a story themselves have a meaning contributing more to the story than simply what one might notice on the surface level of a materialist reading.

6. Patterns
In myth, when we say "pattern" we mean a pattern of meaning, that is a meaning found many places. The abstract definition of a general pattern might be a "model for imitation" or "designed and used to create" or "a reliable, discernible, and coherent configuration or incidence". Patterns would be a meaning that is "frequent and widespread". Taken from here.  Patterns are universal, not found in the individual elements nor the by the accumulated elements alone. Patterns are not arbitrary, arbitrary patterns of meaning do not become cross-cultural nor stand up to the test of time, they vanish. True patterns and universal patterns remain.

At this point, we need to stress the importance of hierarchy. The entire universe has order to it or else human existence would not be. This order is hierarchical. You can not divorce hierarchy from Creation. The difference between them is like the difference between life and living. Man cannot escape hierarchy, those who think they escaped the confines of hierarchy have only fool themselves because they use it to deny things of true value. They will say "science is greater than religion", or "doubt is a higher level of thinking than faith", or "What I observe is more real than what I cannot observe." All these statements use hierarchy. Science is placed closer to the top of the hierarchy than religion, doubt is atop faith, and the material is placed above the immaterial. The very act of placing value on anything is a hierarchical behavior. See how intertwined it is with our existence? We cannot escape it. To try to escape it only plunges one towards or into the realm of chaos and in such a state where chaos will consume such a naive individual. Their hierarchy is there, but upside-down as Pageau tells us, they place facts above their meaning, when reality has fact supporting and leading man to meaning. Instead of climbing the mountain, they throw mud in the air and exclaim this is the whole world! Hierarchies are coherent, they are not arbitrary. Even before Jesus Christ, man had an idea of God as the Supreme Good One, not a flying spaghetti monster. The useful axiom holds true to those who bring up such an absurdity: "If you seek to understand an accusation, look at the accuser, not the accused." Since they refuse God to be of most value in their world, they put anything at the top of their hierarchy, money, sex, drugs, and anything else. So why not a flying spaghetti monster? It is just as relevant and meaningful as any god the atheist would choose.

Now patterns work in the lower parts of the hierarchy to accomplish the purpose or goals of the higher parts. Like the military, Pageau also explains, "the men are at the bottom and gets specific orders, specific tasks. But as you go up the military hierarchy, the corporals, the generals are less and less in terms of quantity. There are more men and less leaders. And then they also have a more global vision of strategy and each level contains the explicit actions of the lower levels within them…” The generals work to win the war, and the privates work digging the trenches. And those trenches are needed to win the war.

Structural patterns move you up (notice the use of hierarchy) towards more universal and encompassing realities. One way of describing man's ascent of the hierarchy (that is of created order in our universe) is an ascent of consciousness. As we ascend the spiritual realm, to purification, then illumination, then deification, patterns make the greater and alien experiences of our humanity somewhat recognizable via the patterns that got us to that point and will guide us as we continue. Also, humans are organized in the same way, so patterns are a way to communicate the experience to others. Whether that be for guiding an initiate in the spiritual ascent to the Lord, or the verification of experience with a spiritual equal. The method of communicating patterns is symbolic language.

Patterns can be within patterns, for example, the Prophet Moses. St. Gregory of Nyssa gives us a precious work on this called The Life of Moses. As Jonathan Pageau says in the beginning of his talk on this great theological treatise, "St. Gregory goes about 'tracing in outline like a pattern of beauty the life of the great Moses.' In giving us the life of Moses as a pattern for our own journey, St-Gregory is simultaneously using Moses as a guide to show us Christ, who lies at the summit of Moses’ journey and is the ultimate pattern... In between those two patterns, that is between the pattern for our own spiritual journey and the all encompassing pattern not made with hands, there exists many other patterns which are laid out by St. Gregory, patterns within patterns within patterns, creating a flexible but nonetheless solid mesh of connections which constitute a map of the world... [i.e.] a map of meaning, to paraphrase Dr. Jordan Peterson, a map of how humans exist in the world, encounter the world and most importantly for us a Christians, a map of our movement on the ladder of divine ascent.  And the pattern is already there, in the Bible, our traditions, our stories.  Gregory is just pointing to it, pulling it out."

ISBN-10: 0060754648

Patterns are invisible since meaning is invisible. They are meanings which are written in the human consciousness. This invisible aspect of the world is how the world is held together. Again, patterns are meanings which are universal. They are universal because of their wide importance across place and time. The source of meaning is the Logos of God and by the radiating of His divine energies into the world are meaning generated for our participation which ultimately is for reaching Christ, Himself.

The most obvious example in mythology regarding pattern would be what is called katabasis. This is a god or demigod, or even a man's decent into the Underworld. He goes there to save a friend, or his father and bring them back to the land of the living. There may be an obstacle of some sort which is removed to continue his decent. Well, the Church has this pattern also, Christ's decent into the Hades. This is often used to prove Christianity is untrue. But such a leap is utterly ridiculous and preposterous. Christianity would would only be disproven by not having katabasis. But like all patterns when they encounter the true God, Jesus Christ, the pattern simple is not repeated. Christ did not take a trip for one person in the Underworld. No! Rather, He went down and conquered it, shackled Death, and broke all the locks thereby freeing all men from Death's tyranny. Christ "all at once transcends, He even obliterates the pattern, yet simultaneously He universalizes it, connects it, grounds it, illuminates it. The pattern of the decent and the return from Hades is both transcended and fulfilled at the same time and that’s transfiguration." Other popular patterns would be an ascent up a mountain, or journeying between chaos and order with chaos symbolized by water.

For the Orthodox Christian, Pageau has told me the tool we use to recognize and correctly identify our use of symbolism is by our Tradition. By realizing the expressions of our tradition all tell the same stories using the same symbols, we come to understand our Faith more deeply. Paying attention to the liturgical services is of importance, that is the hymns, which psalm is chosen for which occasion, which epistle is partnered with which Gospel on a given feast, the icons and architecture for biblical events... etc.

7. Stories
Dr. Jordan Peterson explains, "When you understand the structure of stories then a whole array of mythology makes overwhelming sense and is so useful. Because what you see is many of the things that are standard occurrences in your life, everyone's life, are portrayed universally in mythology and is very helpful... it de-isolates you... The stories that we tell and that we live in are ways that we fundamentally deal with the complexities of the world... The world is complex and often gets complex beyond our human ability to handle it. So when things naturally or by incompetence falls apart around us, we can't ignore the problems because they only get worse and worse. Instead we have to deal with it. Stories help set the course for following the wisdom of past human experience when chaos enters the our ordered existence."

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Professor Peterson realizes the psychological indispensability of stories we have received from our ancestors. While he seeks to tie this to biology and Darwinism particularly (which is interesting) and realizes that the deposit from our past human experience should be used to better ourselves, he is makes a fundamental theological error for the Christian regarding death and is at a loss at what potential humanity possesses to unite with our Creator through His divine energies.

So from what we have said to this point, we can describe stories as a place where the symbolic patterns of the universal human experience reveals truth through the use of facts, events, and the meanings associated with them. Mythology, again a recent word, is simply a study of man's stories and his understanding of the world. Man had stories, which communicated the truths of human consciousness. But man now has materialism and a society with little to no meaning in people's lives. So myth and the materialist are separated not only by history but also their view on humanity itself. From the track record of materialism, which has led to the worst, the bloodiest, and most evil century on this planet, the 20th century, we should view the mythological worldview, and of far superior value to man.

Stories of facts and events are not remembered nor worth remembering. A story is told for the meaning and especially a pattern of meaning. A story is remembered by the symbols of fact and meaning, but especially the truths it reveals. A story is primarily true if the symbols, meaning, and patterns speak to the human experience. If the facts and events are historically accurate that is fine, but it they are completely fictional, that changes nothing, it is still fine because the value of a story is in the symbols and patterns it utilizes. The Pageau brothers, Jonathan and Matthieu say, a story's symbolic interpretation is having certain patterns that are universal and if one uses these patterns to interpret the story, it reveals the nature of the story, it will make it obvious, it will make it clear. A theory reveals the nature of reality when it works, when it’s right. It has to be correct, if it is wrong, it does not work at all. An interpretation when wrong mislead one in a deviant way of life, but one has to be honest and not fool himself.

In another place, Jonathan describes stories by saying, "The stories of the Old Testament never attain to Christ. That is, if you look at Christ and His own story, they always exceed those stories. But because of that fact, Christ also becomes that place where all the stories come together. And we can get an intimation of Logos from all types of stories, I believe, when we approach them with humility. And the patterns which reveal themselves to us in those stories, can be like mini epiphanies."

With Orthodox Christianity being the fulfillment of all world myths, one should realize that for all the argumentation that exist by all the supposedly intelligent people, that they all will fail. But the materialist may not see it if he is blinded only to argumentation and facts because his life is meaningless, by choice. There is little hope for him unless he can gently be persuaded that the stories we tell in the Church are fulfillment of his life. To reach this relationship with others, a lot more listening than talking is required, but most of all prayer. However, such men have pathetic walls and barricades they put up. The Christian should know these and not be intimidated by them because they truly are weak arguments, despite their acclaimed and supposed love for rationality. Now we look at these defense mechanisms and utterly pulverize them to move our discussions in a more meaningful direction.


1. Ideology is a pathogen against rationality
Ideology is a pathogen against rationality. Jordan Peterson psychoanalyzes this for us. When someone is "ideologically possessed... you can predict absolutely everything they are going to say. Once you know the algorithmic substructure of their political ideology, which is usually predicated on about five or six axioms, you can use the axioms to automatically generate speech content. You don't even have to hear the person, you can just predict what they are going to say. So that alleviates any responsibility whatsoever that they have for thinking. It also allows them to believe they have full control and full knowledge about the entire world and also the capacity to distinguish without a moment's thought between those who are on the side of the good and those who are not. And that's where the danger really comes." He then quotes Solzhenitsyn who said that Shakespeare's horrific evil imaginings stop at about a dozen corpses. But they did not have ideology. Ideology gives evil continual justification and steadfast motivation.

Peterson continues to explain that the Tower of Babel symbolizes ideology. He says "This is one way to think about it. The larger you build a system, the more there is a proclivity to worship it as if it's everything. That's the story of ideology, let's say. You want to build a comprehensive utopian system, that supplants anything transcendent. You want to build it as large as possible so it encompasses everyone. Well what happens as it grows? It encompasses more and more people but people within it become more and more different from one another. And so, essentially, they start speaking different languages. And so, the entire project of raising the massive edifice to supplant everything disperses into chaos and comes to a halt."

Continuing, Peterson looks at Milton, "Here's another story. This is a story John Milton wrote, John Milton wrote Paradise Lost... He did the first, what you might think of the first psychoanalysis of malevolence and evil... God's highest angel Satan, or Lucifer, the bringer of light and spirit of rationality fomented a rebellion against God in heaven and was cast into hell as a consequence. So there is this idea that there is this tension between the political and ideological and rational constructions of the rational mind and a transcendent mythology which guides human organization. And Satan, as God's highest angel in God's heavenly kingdom, is a personification of the rational mind to produce totalitarian systems and then to fall in love with them. So to produce a system that encompasses everything, like the Tower of Babel, so that nothing outside the system is allowed to exist. Well Milton's intuition (because he had been collecting the stories of Satan which had accumulated for centuries from far before Christianity was constituted) turned this into a great poetic drama. His hypothesis was that the element of the psyche let's say, the spirit which characterized the rational mind would, by it's proclivity to produce totalizing systems, cast itself into hell."

In another place, Peterson explains, "Ideology is a parasite on religious substructures... Ideologies work because they are a parasite on top of a religious substructure. A religious narrative has a particular set of characteristics, it is very balanced. For example, there is this feminist idea of the patriarchy. Well, the religious idea of society has an evil patriarchy notion built into it... In a religious story, in a properly setup archetypal religious story, there's the natural world, the chaotic world with a positive and a negative element. There's a social world. There's a wise king and a tyrannical king. And there's an individual world, and that's the adversary and the hero. There's always a positive and a negative at each level. And it stops it from being an oversimplification, because it says to you 'of course society is a bloody tyrannical patriarchy; but it's also a wise father that has taught you to speak every word you know.' You don't get to say only [a] part of the story without having gratitude for [the other part] of the story. And it's true at every level of representation. A balanced story always has that balance between positive and negative correct."

So here is what we can gather from this. Ideology prevents one from engaging in a path towards God. The world is here for our ascent to the life in God. Ideology uses the world and the people in it for selfish reason, to think we can control our surroundings without God. To be a Christian means one must be freed from ideology. This requires a certain humility and openness to correction. This is a cross and the Christian life. By freeing ourselves from ideology, when we encounter something threatening, it requires us living truthfully and oriented toward God to get through such a time. When speaking with an ideologue, it may be better to point out they are possessed by ideology when all they do is throw axioms at you or statements that do not mean anything. Even Bible verses can be used in such a way and many times are.

2. Knowledge of Rhetoric and History
Whether one likes it or not, rhetoric is an important part of dialogue. Like many things, the ancient man understood this but 20th century man decided to follow the path of barbarism and exerting will rather than the path of civilization and rationality. Rhetoric is important. By getting a handle on rhetoric your message is made presentable and attractive. With rhetoric, people will take you seriously. Without rhetoric, you can be speaking pure truth, but you will lose effect over your listeners. "The Five Canons of Rhetoric serve as a guide to creating persuasive messages and arguments. These are invention (the process of developing arguments); style (determining how to present the arguments); arrangement (organizing the arguments for extreme effect); delivery (the gestures, pronunciation, tone and pace used when presenting the persuasive arguments); and memory (the process of learning and memorizing the speech and persuasive messages.)" Many of these must be determined with what works for you and what works on the audience. Nevertheless, here are some pointers...

Despite the atheists' or agnostics' devotion to logic and reason, they quite often engage in logical fallacy. This is quite common. Christians have had recent success taking them to task on this. They create strawman fallacies for Christian belief almost always (from the Orthodox perspective this is not entirely their fault though due to the numerous heresies that exist in Western Christianity). The skeptics have an inaccurate view of the Christian Faith, which must always be pointed out. Often time the response to one of their arguments is "this is not the original teaching of the Church, but rather the imaginings of a relatively recent person). Such mischaracterization is common and grows from their inaccurate view of Christian Faith. Such a view very well could be the Christianity to which they were exposed as a child, which they would understandably reject because their are very large communities who claim the name but do not know the Faith at all! The most common way God is mischaracterized is to anthropomorphize God. To speak of God as a ultra-human, or constrain Him to time by saying He cannot know the future (since it does not exist) is all an mischaracterization because it makes God like man.

Non sequiter is another popular logical heresy against the Christian Faith. Some of the arguments just do not follow. A common example might be Jesus cannot be God because God could not die. This is quite common but it does not follow! What is death? The separation of the soul from the body. Why could not the body and soul that God took be separated and then He put them together again? He is more powerful than such difficulties. Another is that the Crusades were violent, therefore Christianity cannot be true. From the Orthodox perspective especially this does not follow and is absurd. Orthodox Christians were victims of the Crusades and were often killed by Crusaders. Yet some historically ignorant parrot is going to copy some pseudo-intellectual's absurd accusation back to a Christian whose families and communities were affected by such atrocities? These ideologues are more similar to the Crusaders than they realize because they often (granted though, not always) support brutal totalitarian philosophies which continue to kill Christians, especially Orthodox Christians. So these arguments do not follow. This is the place to start with confronted with a challenging accusation. One should ask, does this really follow or is this really the Church's teaching?

Again, hierarchy cannot be escaped. Sometimes skeptics will mischaracterize Christianity as backwards and primitive since they believe in hierarchy and modern man is about an egalitarian agenda. Well, they are using hierarchy right then and there. Modern man is greater than primitive man and equality is better than hierarchy. They are using it against itself. They cannot have it both ways. One cannot escape hierarchy, it is impossible. This is the most embedded pattern of human consciousness. This mode of existence came with man at his creation. Secular or evolutionary psychologists cannot even deny the world is arranged by man (if not by natural laws) in hierarchy.

There is nothing new under the Sun. Many of these arguments are quite old, and it should not be hard to learn 90% of them. The reason they persist is they have been directed at Western Christians, and sometimes accurately. If not accurately, Western Christians have done such an abysmal job teaching their Faith to their adherents that they are soundly defeated when in argument and is why many Western Christians and uncatechized Orthodox Christians leave the Faith when entering university or the public schools. Naturally this will happen when the sheep are thrown into the devil's catechetical program without any Christian catechism beforehand. The modern world has continued or resuscitated many heresies of the past which the Church had condemned. An Orthodox Christian must know history. This is so important, because it will allow him to recognize the heresies in the world around him and therefore the arguments the Church used to defeat the heresy. A popular heresy today is Gnosticism (see this).

3. Moral High Ground
If one is devious, and in some places this may be necessary, you must take advantage of the moral high ground and get there first. A place where this might be necessary is a public challenge, when chances are you are not going to convince the opponent of anything, but the audience needs to understand the reality of this world (that is the Truth of the Christian Faith, and the evils of materialism). This may not seem right, but I have found that it is. Here is why... the moral high ground will certainly be used against you. No doubt about it. It is a certainty when dealing with atheists or agnostics, I can guarantee it. When that happens, you will feel more wrong about not preventing it than getting there first.

But achieving the moral high ground is a dangerous thing. Circumstance may force one to reach it, but you must be very careful and calm about it. The best way to do this is know the opponent, know him thoroughly. Find the outrageous beliefs they hold (should not be difficult), justify the context of the outrageous belief, and take it to its logical end (do not use fallacies). Many of these atheists are sympathizers of Marxism and Communism, so bringing up the mountains of dead bodies they accumulated in the 20th century should be an easy way. They will try to distance themselves as a reaction, "we would do it right" or "that was not real communism". They must say this, but they are lying or closing their eyes to the inhumane atrocities of which their beliefs have direct guilt. "It certainly was real communism, and if you think you are smart or good enough to do it right, then you have the exact thinking of those massacring monsters." Another way is that every crisis is either manufactured or used to push an agenda. Today's right and left both do this. So one can easily accuse them of using the graves of innocents for their political ideology.

If this is a religious debate, the moral high ground may be a less important tool to utilize. However, if it does occur, not only must is be overcome but firmly overturned, with you on top. For example, some Protestants may look at Orthodoxy and only see the historic countries become Islamic or Communist. Well then, they see the True Faith as one that wields political power, which was a constant blindness of people in the New Testament as Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God. Or they call Orthodox Christians "pharisees" for their funny dresses. Well then, they obviously only look at externals while Orthodoxy is evaluating internal problems. Clearly, they themselves have fallen into the very sin for which Christ rebuked the religious leaders. But again, unless one is calm and tempered, it will fail.


These arguments, that are given to Christians, should be so simple to dispel. However, Western Christians have generally done such a poor job explaining themselves and do not know their faith or the errors of their faith. This could be the reason why these bad arguments have been effective against the Christians for over 100 years. These are truly poor arguments and should easily be dismantled in a way that causes some genuine thinking in these argument's espousers for a change. They only parrot what they think seemingly clever intellectuals have told them. These scholars who hold these ridiculous ideas get university positions, publish some uncreative garbage, challenge unassuming and unprepared students. They have huge egos and lack in love of humanity. They put on airs and present themselves as clever, but they are not.

1. Determinism: Reconciling God with Free Will
Many modern atheists and agnostics believe free will is an illusion, which stems from their belief in materialism. They wonder how one can reconcile both free will and an omniscient God Who knows the end from the beginning, who knows your future and created you compelled to realize your free will. In some sense, is what we talked about above. Understood in the most malevolent way, this argument does not follow. Just because God knows, does not follow that he forces or creates you to do what he knows.

It also speaks to what the Church teaches. Does the Church teach God knows everything about you and therefore you have no choice to follow or not follow the good path He has revealed to man. Of course not! Those who are thinking along these lines take a non-sequitur then force Christian teaching, or rather mischaracterize it to fit in a construction of logical fallacy. So that needs to quickly and soundly be addressed due to its absurdity.

Also, we can argue that are determined, if we define determination in the Orthodox sense which bears no similarity to the skeptic and Protestant sense of the word (which is where the skeptics get their understanding). In the Orthodox sense, we receive energy from God which is always at work to move us into a shared life with him. This is what our humanity was determined to do, in each and everyone. However, the freedom of choice is in us to override such a calling. There are two points that support this Orthodox understanding. One, the teaching of the Church regarding synergy. Two, the reality of man, to which science also speaks.

Heresiarch John Calvin

At this point, one needs to approach this from the origin of God creating creature as an expression of love in His image and likeness to love also. If a listener is still thinking from the standpoint that we are biologically wired to not have free will, they need to start getting up to date on the last 150 years of science. Because there is no evidence that we are wired to not have choice and the science actually suggests otherwise. In a purely philosophical sense, there is not practicality (which says a lot about the reality or lack thereof) of determinism. Serious scientists gave up on the philosophy well over 100 years ago. All studies show that we go through life making choices. The best scientific studies that support determinism is wiring your brain, asking you to make a choice and those who wired up your brain know your choice fractions of a second before you do. This really does not support determinism at all since a choice is still being made. But let's be over-generous with such thinkers. Let us say that we are determined, even let them define it. For the Orthodox Christian, we are called to self-denial, the way of the Cross. The determinists are welcome to be slaves to their biology, but the Church teaches us to take whatever we would do, and if it is for evil or towards evil, do the opposite. He even gives us grace which is energy that acts organically in us to choose the opposite. So there is no way the determinist can win. There is free will and we are expected to use it for good.

Even more important is that the question of determinism totally misses the idea of synergy and its fundamental role in the Christian's relationship with God. The idea of God and man is a union of life and love. That's just how it is, and is why such concepts are universally the greatest conceptions for man. For such a mingling to take place the Orthodox Church describes the relationship as one of synergy, which is man and God combining their energies towards fulfillment. A common synonym is cooperation. Man and God work together. This is an effort of love, not power (to think thus just shows one's infection with post-modern thinking).

2. Absence of evidence and extraordinary evidence (watchmaker)
This position basically says there is no evidence for a Creator. Science can explain everything without God. Just because it is ordered, like a watch does not mean there is a Creator because we can see watchmakers making watches. We cannot see God making universes. Therefore, there is not rational reason to see God behind the creation of the Universe.

This argument is actually the best and surest argument for Christian truth. It has become a token argument of the skeptics but they, again, simply do not understand traditional Christian teaching, especially Orthodox teaching. An Orthodox Christian would look at this and should immediately think, they speak on something with no knowledge, they do not have all the information, yet pretend they do. This is intellectually dishonest or lazy.

For the Orthodox Christian, there is a simple way to answer this criticism. Man has observed God creating the Universe and continuing to sustain it. The saints, when in a state of theosis or glorification or deification are privileged to noetically see great events of God. Should God will it, the saints may observe the Crucifixion, the funerals of Mary, the Theotokos, or of St. John the Forerunner. Whatever God wills for their benefit. The Prophet Moses observed the Creation of the Cosmos and recorded it for us as best he could in Genesis. It may be possible that St. Basil the Great also observed the acts of Creation. Also, God's creation of the Universe is not a singular event at the beginning of time. This is ongoing. While in a state of illumination, the saints see the light-bearing energy of God permeate all Creation to continually create, sustain, and participate in the life of God in the way which was predetermined for it. All saints observe this "invisible" side of creation.

In my experience, nearly all genuine scientists, who do not blindly follow a materialist worldview, are religious people. Those who truly study and are curious on how the Universe operates from the vast expanses across space to the sub-atomic level, all have a sense of wonderment and cannot help but notice a divine hand at work. Speaking with a good number of physicists who know many other scientists themselves, they tell me this and do not take seriously this materialist and atheist worldview. The Universe is to incredible to think it was always acting arbitrarily without an invisible guidance underlying it.

3. Question of Evil
Some have no belief in evil and such a position is historically irresponsible. This is one reason why no one takes the "new atheists" seriously, in serious scholarship and normal society. If you know the horrors of the twentieth century, you can not come away without a belief in evil. Materialist ideologues are the exact people that will doom twenty-first century society to repeat the worst time in our history if they do not learn or repent of their contribution to the engine of human slaughter.

This is not the “biggest problem with the Abrahamic faiths.” This is the biggest problem of modernity making sense of the Abrahamic faiths. This was not considered a serious question until recently. When you have a petty God that is no more than a muscular tyrant in the sky, it is easy to think he creates or does not care about evil, thus rendering Him unbenevolent instead of omni-benevolent. The problem here is evil has no ontological reality. It is only a corruption of something good that God has made. Evil does not create, and is not created. Evil is only corruption which occurs from misused freedom. The myth that we know better than God about the evil in the world only shows one’s pride and unloving character. God told Job that he nor his friends can understand why things happen. Man cannot even understand the easy things, let alone the hard questions. If man were to reject such audacity and let go of his pride and love God no matter what happens and realizing it is for his own good, then there would be no evil in the world. Evil is direct creation of man and the demons, it’s not from God.

It boils down to this. We are created to naturally have a relationship with God. Not only does man have this but all Creation has a natural orientation towards a communion with the Creator. This is how God made it, this is at the core of our being, it cannot be escaped. Satan and his devils rejected this and will not repent and instead will want to see everything destroyed or under their power making all things evil. However, the only way they can accomplish this, outside their own selves is through man, since man is the intersection between the physical and the spiritual. Therefore, Satan has made it his business to achieve his ends through man and makes the evil an attractive option in his eyes by turning our senses into an end in themselves rather than to glory in God. He makes pleasure and end in itself rather than an occasion to glorify God’s great goodness. Our own ego and selfishness is idolized by base emotions and feelings be directed towards our own happiness and other’s misery. By these means does Satan and man, together, bring evil into the world. As a result others suffer, not only humans but all Creation, because man does not fulfill his destiny to bring the life and divine power of God into the world (cf. St. Nikolai Velimirovich, The Orthodox Doctrine of Causality).

Materialists, again, impudently mischaracterize God under the guise of generosity by allowing Satan as a scapegoat. “He would have known that Satan would have caused billions of souls to go to hell.” One, no humans know how many souls are in hell. Two, God’s permitting of Satan’s actions are continually in the context that Satan would destroy the entire planet were God not constraining him. So that we have as little evil as we do speaks of the great love of God. Materialist atheists are also incredibly ungrateful. Yes, the world is a dangerous, nasty place, but given that, there is also so much beauty and life. One can increase the goodness or increase the badness (which would include always complaining about it). They have no gratitude and we should look on their pitiful life with compassion.

The Church continually teaches that God allows what evil happens to us to be something that can make our lives healthier, stronger, and/or better. He has these opportunities for us to strengthen the bond of love between us. If you did not let your children leave a plastic bubble for their entire childhood, then when it came time to be an adult, they would die! The child needs the burns, the bumps, and bruises to grow stronger and smarter. So yes, there is suffering and evil. That's how it is, there is nothing we can do about it except not contribute more of it through our own actions. Outside oneself, we cannot know why there is evil and suffering and complaining about it like a toddler does not help. Rather than whine against God, it should spurn one to selflessly help our fellow man.

4. Riddle of the Great Rock
We have often heard this, and it is pathetic and such a waste of intellectual energy. This riddle is not clever; it is inane. God’s omnipotence is an energy that affects creation. God has all power in his Creation. God is not the great body-builder in the sky. God is spirit. Of course, he cannot create a rock so big he can’t pick it up. This is not even a paradox. God is love. He gains nothing and we gain nothing by Him creating or not creating a rock so big he cannot pick it up. This is all fantasy and imagination. The scenario can only exist in one’s head, thereby thinking the very thought is greater than God and showing themselves lacking in love and goodness.

But on a more sophisticated note, this riddle creates topological divorce from reality born out of the imagination. This riddle is only possible in the imagination because it violates the topology of reality. How? You have the Universe and the God who rules it. To introduce a rock as a third aspect of this paradigm changes the relationship between these two topological realities. There cannot be a third aspect because there is only two with one dependent on the other. A third independent topological reality in itself serves no purpose and with no purpose would not be created by God. It is difficult to treat this topic seriously since it is so inane, but there is my attempt.

5. Horus and other mythological similarities.
With the popular internet video "Zeitgeist", the simplistic explanation that the Christian's Jesus Christ was just a creation from pagan gods of the past went mainstream among many of these new atheists. The thing to understand about this video, not just from Christians, is that the research is SO poorly done. It's embarrassing, considering how popular the video became. For the numerous specific claims in this video, just do your own research. Seriously, you can find innumerable articles in less than five minutes on why this makes a joke of any serious mythological claims.

Now sure there are apparent similarities between the story of Christ and Horus, certainly. But this speaks to what was mentioned above with the explanation of patterns and stories. Yes, there are similarities, but the discussion is around Christ and is born out of a conversation about Christ. This discussion of Christ and Horus would not have been popular or even made out of interest in Horus, the interest is in Christ. This is because Christ is the foundation of Christian societies and has transformed them to a widespread interpersonal but also deeply personal way of living. What the Church says about Christ is not the same as the claims about many of the pagan gods. Our claims are even greater and transcendent because the Incarnation changes absolutely everything about the world, bringing it back to a glorious original reality that is hard to even imagine. Our saints are already living this life of glory with God and to not make such fantastic claims would make our message less true. 

6. Question of Necessity
In an attempt to make God manageable and reducible to some thing or proposition that can be rejected, the skeptics will make mischaracterize God, making Him subordinate to the notion of necessity. This, of course, is not God, but a product of their imagination, having no basis in reality. 

God does not need anything. He does not need our praise, our glory, He does not even need us at all nor anything in creation. Rather, God is so abounding in love that He freely creates a whole other reality separate from Himself with the desire to share His love and goodness. Love was already perfect in the communion of Three Persons in Trinity but God the Father’s love is superabundant and overflows from Himself. So He gives to the Son and Holy Spirit the creation of Heaven and Earth where Creation through a multitude of other free agents (men) can share in love towards Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is why we were created: to share in the life, communion, and love of the Trinity, we unite in the most intimate and ecstatic way to the Godhead.

A Christian should find this line of thinking helpful against a number of arguments. Anytime one says "God needs..." or "this forces God to..." or "God had to..." then they place necessity superior to God. God would then cease to be God in such a case.

7. Question of Objectivity
For God to see Himself from behind is another ridiculous anthropomorphizing situation. This would make objectivity God. Objectivity does not even exist when it comes to understanding God. We cannot take an objective view of God and how God interacts with man. We can only know this based off our experience living the life in God. There is this assumption that objectivity is the purest way to know something and subjective experiences are somehow secondary or not as useful compared to an objective approach. Objectivity, when it comes to God is impossible. This is for two main reasons. One, God is everywhere. We cannot escape from God. His divine energy works in absolutely everything that exists. Two, God has created every man with the spiritual organs to enter into a relationship with God and come to know Him. By His formation of every human being at conception, He gives everything needed for us to contact His Truth, Goodness, and power. God made man’s subjective experiences to be completely reliable, honest, and trustworthy if we make a connection with Him. Therefore, we do not escape or transcend our diseased humanity which is plagued with problems. We should not try to be objective or experience the assumed benefits from our separation or dissolution of “self”. Instead, we heal it and with God’s help set it in order so that we may lovingly commune with Him, Who made us for that purpose. Most Westerners do not think this way, but it is our instruction from God.


This post has deconstructed the prison of the materialist and the worst ideas mankind has had to encounter and has properly defined how to approach myth. So now, we can move to the point of this post: our need for the Otherworld. What is the Otherworld?

The word itself refers to Celtic mythology. "Otherworld" has become a calque to describe similar realities in other culture's mythologies. Taken together, the "Otherworld" is the abode of supernatural beings and/or spiritual beings. The Otherworld is also the place of the dead souls of humans. Oftentimes, to travel between this world and the Otherworld one must traverse a body of water. It can often be a bright place, such as Paradise, Avalon, or the Elysian Fields (Fortunate Isles). But it can also include a darker and suffering element, such as Hades or Hel (from which we get Hell).

An important aspect of Christian evangelism of which few take note is this: When the Christian Faith won these lands to the True God, Jesus Christ, they did not do away with the culture's notion of the Otherworld. They kept it, often even kept the name. What did occur, is they explained what really occurred there. Before, there may have been glimpses or speculation. Now, with the light of Christ, there is the full understanding of the Truth. The Otherworld, for the Christian, became where the demons and angels are found and is where man can visit when transcending this corruptible life. As the myths explain, these spirits come and visit our world. To this, the Church said "Yes, and it happens much more than we realize and often unseen by us."

To get an idea of how far we have fallen, look at this:
The first thought materialist man will have is childish, or superstitious. The Christian concept, and therefore a reality in man's life, that an angel and a demon counsel him toward good or evil has become ridiculed in an "enlightened" society. However, looking at ancient Christian artwork and Orthodox icons, you always find the demons on the left of the portrayed and and angels on the right of the portrayed. Until we get to the point where such a view of one's behavior truly follows such spiritual influence, Paradise will not be attained, godliness will not be attained, and the choir of the saints, we will not join. We receive our guardian angels, some say at birth, others say at baptism. Regardless, they are there. Saints and children often see them. Materialists have blinded themselves and now such blindness has born much fruit, and it is a poisonous fruit.

St. Paul explained this to the Ephesians when he said, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." (Ephesians 6:12 KJV). The spiritual life is a personal battle. Personal spirits who are evil seek to rule our hearts and desires. However, we build a personal relationship with God and have a guardian angel who is our help towards this lofty calling.

Sometimes legends about the Tuatha De Danann, and similar legends about the Otherworld, were taken literally and most seriously by some early Irish-Christian saints. Professor J. Loth records a very interesting episode, how St. Malo and his teacher Brendan actually set out on an ocean voyage to find the Heaven-world of the pagan Celts:--'Saint Malo, when a youth, embarks with his teacher Brendan in a boat, in search of that mysterious country; after some days, the waves drive him back rebuffed and discouraged upon the seashore. An angel opens his eyes: the land of eternal peace and of eternal youth is that which Christianity promises to its elect.' (J. Loth, L'Émigration bretonne en Armorique (Paris, 1883), pp. 139-40.).

So Christianity even raises the otherworld to a greater importance on our life now. It is the ultimate place we achieve as a result of our obedience or disobedience to Christ's commandments and it is a place whose residents personally pushes us towards good or evil. There is only a very thin veil between this world and the Otherworld and a strong commitment to good or evil will reveal it. The Orthodox Church teaches there is no Christianity without the spiritual world. Materialism is not compatible in any way with a life in Jesus Christ. However, materialism is the new foundation of Western culture. Materialism infects every single one of us. This is a cross we must start bearing together, denying ourselves from a materialist lens of the world and replace it with the lens of True Faith.

Western man has forgotten so much of what it means to be human and to transcend the suffering of the world, to become heroic, to think himself as like God in potential. Instead, materialism has brought man to wallow in misery at the world's suffering, become villans and victims, and think himself as like his monkey ancestors (supposedly). The stories are timeless and for scores of generations, if not hundreds have taken man from struggling to survive to an inventor of civilization. The stories made it possible. But what about now? Man has changed and thinks there is no "truth" in stories. But they are wrong. It is a truth of meaning that opens up doors of possibility for us. Materialism is a prison while stories and myth are the wide, open spaces of nature. To learn the symbolic language of our culture and to find the patterns that exist to guide us on life's journey is an exciting adventure, but today we choose to settle for less. Why?

My sincere desire is that man will grow and become constantly aware of the nearness of the Otherworld and the stories man has told and Christianity received then perfected have more value than we are told by the damnable materialists. The materialists are not satisfied to damn our souls by neglect of the spiritual world but they must also turn this present world into a greater hell than past ages. How else can we explain the oceans of blood shed in the 20th century?

Earlier, we mentioned the horrors that materialism brought upon the world in the twentieth century. The materialist rejected the Otherworld. They only wanted a life that was limited to five senses. So, the mysterious and invisible was abandoned. And societies were created for the brutal slaughter of human life. And now we are a crossroads. We have seen a century or more of horrific failures by materialists in their ideological pursuit of a utopia. How much longer do we want to try this? Are we humble enough to realize that our past Christian ancestors might have actually known what they were talking about. In every respect, one can see the dead end to which materialism leads, if we have not already reached it. Examples were given above. Turning back would not be anti-progress, rather the experience we have learned along the way can yield exciting things politically, socially, technologically, scientifically, and personally.

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