Posted on: January 25th, 2024 Chrysostom as a “Single-Speed Guy”?

For about three-and-a-half decades now I have had a dear friend and theological soulmate named Nathan. He & I have literally been conversing for 35 years on philosophy, theology, the Bible, culture, and more.

One of the many many common “foundations” we share is Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age, which came out in 2007 and wh we have both read. In that book one of Taylor’s nifty intellectual nuggets is his language of “one-speed” (or “single speed”) and “two-speed.” In brief, “single speed” Christians or thinkers hold (or assume) that all Christians are called to live a life of radical, uncompromising holiness, whereas “two speed” advocates think that some Christians (namely monks and nuns) are called to a higher (in some sense) standard, that they are obliged to live a life that is in some sense more radical, less enmeshed in the messiness of the world, more wholly and singularly devoted to God strictly speaking, in contrast to, say, all the ways that the Reformers taught that God is mediated to us in the everyday life of the world (vocation, sex/marriage, & children, for example).

Now, am I one speed or two speed? Not sure. (As Nathan has recently suggested, I think, some folks in our Anglican patrimony—for example Jeremy Taylor and George Herbert—could perhaps be considered “one-and-a-half speed”.) Suffice to say that I am currently “pushing back” on (what I perceive to be) Nathan’s simple two-speed posture.

OK, that leads me to the following quotation (featured in Michel Foucault’s mind-blowing Confessions of the Flesh: Volume IV of the History of Sexuality) from St. John Chrysostom:

For ought the man who lives in the world to have any advantage over the monk, save only the living with a wife? In this point he has allowance, but in others none, but it is his duty to do all things equally with the monk.[1]

Wanting to resist any oversimplification, I am nevertheless led to ask: “Does this not make it seem like Chrystostom is a “one speed guy”?

[1] Foucault, Hist of Sex IV, 194b. Chrysostom, 7th Homily on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 7; Against the Opponents of the Monastic Life, III, 14.v.

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Posted on: January 25th, 2024 Freedom & the Law of the LORD (Ps 139)

For the last several years I have had a growing love and appreciation for Psalm 139, a psalm dedicated to the extolment of God’s law. If I had to articulate one reason for this growing attraction, I’d say that it (the Psalm) compels me to admit that aligning my will, my imagination, my life with the “things of God” is the path to true fulfillment, to the satisfaction of my desires.

Over the last couple of mornings, as I’ve meditated on Psalm 139, the longest Psalm in the Old Testament (I pray the Psalms according to the 30-day cycle in the Book of Common Prayer), I’ve noticed a deep connection between God’s law (do keep in mind that the Hebrew noun for law is torah, תורה) on the one hand and freedom on the other.

Now, the BCP Psalter does not use the word “freedom”; it uses the term “liberty.”

Two verse in particular:

  • Ps 119:32—”I will run the way of your commandments / for you have set my heart at liberty.”
  • Ps 119:45—”I will walk at liberty / because I study your commandments.”

Now, freedom or liberty are what you might call “abstract concepts.” They are not “physical things”; they are not characterized or constituted by matter or materiality, and the thing about the ancient Hebrew is (as thinkers such as Owen Barfield and Mark Vernon have been convincing/reminding me) that it is not very abstract. So when I went to my Bible software (and its built-in lexicons) to look at the Hebrew noun (and cognate forms) for this word that gets translated “liberty,” I was both surprised and not surprised to find that it means “wide” or “broad” (as the two pics below indicate).

In other words, following God’s law infuses our lives with liberality (which is the older and better, more original meaning of the word “liberal”). It makes us free. It enlarges our hearts and minds. It makes us great-souled (megapsychikos).

Is there much (or at least something) that is “lost in translation” between the Hebrew, and the English used in the BCP? No doubt that there is. But is a happy loss, a happy (if messy) (mis)translation.

For liberality, freedom, liberty, is nothing if it is not wide, broad, and spacious.

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Posted on: January 4th, 2024 Against Mainline Protestantism

For at least a quarter of a century, the phrase “mainline Protestantism” has given given me the heebyjeebies.

When I hear that phrase, I come close to throwing up in my mouth a little bit.

The last thing in the world I want is to be a minister in a “mainline Protestant denomination.” The very existence of “denominations” is from the pit of Hell.

I want more than anything to be a minister, a priest, a presbyter, in the Catholic tradition.

Now, I love the Reformers. Well, I don’t always love them … but I do insist that they have a role. They bear witness to something important, even if the Reformation was a necessary evil, a mixed bag, full of destructive and demonic impulses and instincts which, after the fact, have polluted western culture and can never be healed or remedied.

Calvin’s idea of our mystical union with Christ and his pneumatic Eucharistic theology are needed and are both biblical and beautiful. Luther’s Christian existentialist psychology reminds us that without Christ—and Christ alone—we are truly fucked, and is, properly understood, balm to the weary and afflicted soul.

And the Anglican Reformers, especially Cranmer & Hooker! They are the gold standard of Christian theology and spirituality, even if they are largely, even mainly, “Reformational.”

So, I’m down with being a certain kind of alternative Protestant. OK, yes.

The best term for this is the term “Anglican.”

But mainline Protestant? No thanks.

If you were to ask me: “Matt, you have to choose between being a ‘white evangelical’ and a ‘mainline Protestant,'” I’d run away in horror.

In short, I’m not a mainline Protestant. I refuse to be that.

I’m a Catholic Christian, a Reformed Catholic.

I’m Anglican, baby.

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