Interviewing Ikons: Helen Rhee

Dr. Helen Rhee is an Associate Professor of Religous Studies at Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA.  She earned her B.A in History at UC Berkeley and her M.Div. and Ph.D. at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. She previously served as pastor of Hana Church (Buena Park, CA) for a number of years.  Dr. Rhee specializes in early Christian history, especially the second and third century Christian literature, focusing on the diverging Christian self- identities in relation to Greco-Roman culture and society. Her first book, Early Christian Literature: Christ and Culture in the Second and Third Centuries (Routledge, 2005), explores the very issue. She is also the author of Loving the Poor, Saving the Rich: Wealth, Poverty, and Early Christian Formation (Baker Academic, 2012), where she examines and analyzes early Christian attitudes toward and practices involving wealth and poverty and how these contributed to shaping Christian identities within larger Greco-Roman and Jewish contexts. Dr. Rhee received the Bruce and Adaline Bare Teacher of the Year Award in Humanities, 2010.

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Images of God in World News

imageThe Latin phrase Imago Dei, or “image of God”, stems from Genesis 1.27, where Scripture states that humans were created in God’s likeness. All Christian discussions about humanity should always be centered around the concept of Imago Dei. It is a theological foundation of early Christianity.[1] St. Gregory Palamas states that “although we cast away our divine likeness, we did not lose our divine image.”[2] However, it is more popular see others as “sinners” rather than “images of God”. This view is evident not only in the pulpit, but also in political and social discussions. Although Westboro Baptist Church is an extreme example of this type of theological thought, it is a representation that politics and theology cannot be separated. Any attempts to separate religious views from political ones and vice-versa are futile. You cannot serve two masters: you will end up prioritizing one view over the other. For example, in a 2011 article about illegal immigration on Russell Moore’s blog, one person commented:

I do have compassion for the illegals but I will not condone their actions. Are we not taught to love all sinners but not the sin? Since when is breaking the law of the land, when the law is not in contrary to God’s law, not a sin? So again, when someone had committed a crime, do we just look the way [sic] because the crime committed did not affect us personally? What kind of lesson are we teaching our children? Remember, our God is a JUST God. [3]

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Interviewing Ikons: Christian Smith

Christian Smith is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame. Smith’s research focuses primarily on religion in modernity, adolescents, American evangelicalism, and culture. Smith received his MA and PhD from Harvard University in 1990 and his BA from Gordon College in 1983. Smith was a Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for 12 years before his move to Notre Dame. He is the author of 14 books, including The Bible Made Impossible, How to Go From Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in 95 Difficult Steps, Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood. He also coined the term “moralistic therapeutic deism” to describe the prevalent religious beliefs held by American teenagers. I am thankful to Dr. Smith for taking the time to answer my questions.

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Early Church | St. Gregory of Nyssa: Why was God Born Among Men?

imageWhen it comes to Early Church texts about the Incarnation of Christ, many will rightly go to St. Athanasius’ On the Incarnation. However, many forget St. Gregory of Nyssa’s often overlooked work entitled The Great Catechism. So why did God become man? A few common replies state that Christ came to save humanity from the devil, to take on the wrath of God, and/or take us to heaven. Are we limited to these interpretations? How did the early church understand the Incarnation?

One of the major questions about the Incarnation is how can Christ be both God and man. According to St. Gregory, the realm of the Incarnation belongs to mystery, because “we have yet no exact knowledge of the method of the union, so in that other inquiry of the union of Deity with manhood… we are not capable of detecting how the Divine and the human elements are mixed up together.”[1] However, the issue of mortal birth and death seem to pose another problem: How can God be born and die? St. Gregory asserts that we must look farther:

But what went before that Birth and what came after that Death escapes the mark of our common humanity. If we look to either term of our human life, we understand both from what we take our beginning, and in what we end. Man commenced his existence in a weakness and in a weakness completes it. But in the instance of the Incarnation, neither did the birth begin with a weakness, nor in a weakness did the death terminate; for neither did sensual pleasure go before the birth, nor did corruption follow upon the death. [2]

Drawing upon the texts of Scripture that point to Christ’s pre-Incarnate status, the Virgin Birth, and the Resurrection, we see that Christ’s “birth and death were independent of the conditions of human weakness”.[3] This lack of “human weakness” does not mean St. Gregory denies the humanity of Christ. He states earlier that “God was born in the nature of man.”[4] There is a tension, here, with the “union of Deity with humanity” that brings up this question: Then why did the God humiliate himself by becoming human? [5]

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Living Theology: The Image of God in All of Us

thepoorinspirit:

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So God created humankind in his image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.
(Genesis 1.27, NRSV)

Every day, we see quite a number of faces. Whether it’s at work, school, home, or pictures on social media, the internet, or in frames at our houses, we see faces that were made in the image of God. Our responses to these faces tell a lot about us and what we believe about humanity and God. How is this so? What does it mean that we were made in the image of God?

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While people debate the death penalty, illegal immigration, poverty and welfare, fair wages, and battles in the Middle East, we must not forgot that we are not talking about statistics, but people made in the image of God.

Interviewing Ikons: Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is an Orthodox Priest under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church in America. He serves as the Rector of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is the author of numerous published articles and the book, Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe. He is also the author of the popular podcast, Glory to God, on Ancient Faith Radio. Fr. Stephen has a B.A. in Classical Languages from Furman University (1977), a M.Div. from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary (1980), and a M.A. in Theology from Duke University (1991). On his blog, Glory to God for All Things, Fr. Stephen discusses Orthodox theology and its relationship to culture and the spiritual life. I am thankful to him for taking the time to answer my questions.

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The Holy Ghost That Haunts American Churches

thepoorinspirit:

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July 4th is the day that Americans celebrate the declaration of independence from British Colonial Rule in 1776. The weekends before and after this holiday also mark when many churches praise the American Empire while participating in God’s Kingdom. In the halls of these churches that sing of the red, white, and blue lifted up on high during the Star Spangled Banner, a ghost sits among the congregation, seemingly forgotten. This ghost is the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit is not celebrating, it is grieving.

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From last year, now with footnotes!