Q. What is the dilemma between secular humanism and religion?
A. The dilemma our modern societies have created is deeply rooted in the delusion that humankind can shape its own destiny without the will of God. Hence, everything is interpreted by what is currently in vogue or of what is perceived as being correct at the time, rather that what is of God and what is not.
As an Orthodox Christian I sincerely pray, "They will be done on earth as it is in Heaven". In other words, without God's commands, as underlying principles for spiritual growth, we cannot succeed and would only go in secular humanistic circles – with perhaps some religious touch we may fancy at times.
Q. Why Holy Tradition?
A. I believe, Holy Tradition (as opposed to traditions) is more than a simple repetition of what has developed and been added over the centuries. It is the sum and retainer of all Orthodox truth and expression, both visible and invisible, both known and yet to be revealed by the Holy Spirit. Thus, we always are “open to the workings of the Holy Spirit” and not to an institutionalized body, as some may think, entrenched in the extremes of pharisaic traditionalism.
Why Christian Ethics and Morals?
This question must be viewed on both philosophical (logical) as well as religious (theological) grounds. First, we must realize which fruit each sin will produce. Christ says a rotten tree cannot produce truly good fruits. It will be cast out into the fire. Certain lifestyles and deeds therefore will produce consequences that are harmful to one's soul and body and ultimately to society, as every sin is unhealthy and perverted. Secondly, while such things as abortion, fornication, theft, deceit, abuse, homosexuality always existed, it does not logically warrant that we ought to legitimize them. Were a society to follow such logic, the next step would be to legitimize pedophilia and incest, for example.
Q. Is Christianity not judgmental?
A. Unfortunately, our modern-day English language does not distinguish between the two meanings of judging and henceforth causes confusion in theological discussions without sufficient knowledge of New Testament language. Foremost, it is not my position to judge a person (in the sense of condemning). That is reserved to Christ alone. We all are sinners and each one of us struggles with his or her own set of problems. The worst we can do is trying to legitimize what is false – the best we can do is to truly repent (turn around) in placing our stubborn pride under spiritual direction.
However, I may and must judge (in the sense of distinguishing between right and wrong) any lifestyle, situation, law or political decision that contradicts the Holy Gospel and the Orthodox Faith. Both, the New Testament and the Church Fathers are full of comments and even directives as to use clear judgment against that which is contrary to the Christian Gospel. For example, gambling is prohibited for Orthodox Christians by Canon Law (less by Holy Scriptures), and thus the Church condemns its participation or promotion.
Q. Who is the Anti-Christ?
A. There are many Christians who believe that antichrist is a person who will appear. There is no proof of such claims. Hence some "visions" or "apparitions" are cited from time to time, which again are in the subjective eye of the beholder and his or her followers.
There is no teaching in the Orthodox Church asserting that this antichrist is actually a person. The antichrist is rather a theological term or historic phenomenon that has been experienced in various forms throughout history. During the 30-year war in central Europe, many people believed that the antichrist was now to come. Similar beliefs appeared at the onset of the First World War, during the Nazi reign, the Russian revolution, among others.
With the word "anti christ" is connected all that which is "against" or "opposite" (=anti) Christ – the summary of all antichristian historic adversities and their personifications experienced throughout all centuries. They merely exemplify what has been personified for so long in art and literature as "The Antichrist". Not only that, also the increasing secularization of modern day society, a mass exodus from the churches and open deviation from the Gospel truth, exemplify that the antichrist is indeed among us.
Without being too focused on apocalyptic interpretation in the big picture of world events, we can see the signs of the devil and his last fight for humanity clearly before us: Secular humanistic illusion and materialistic greed leading to moral self-destruction of Western society – amidst fanaticism and horror regimes under pseudo-religious disguise elsewhere. The old fox will not give up until Christ shall return to heal and restore the earth (Second coming of Christ).
How do we walk with God?
God is forgiving and always loving. He gives many second chances, but we must do our part in wanting to change and leave the past behind. We call this repentance (μετανοια), which means going beyond your current mind-set, i.e. turning around. Living in God’s kingdom (the church) and not in the secular, atheistic or merely humanistic realm, is the willingness to live by His will, not ours; to seek His divine will, to become humble, to forgive and walk each day refreshed and anew in God’s light. Thus, a person will be able to attain balance, clarity, stability and blessedness (inner contentment), thus overcoming virtually all problems while at the same time acquiring the true purpose of life.
Q. What are demons?
A. There are different ways to define of what demons are. The Orthodox belief is that demons are fallen angels starting with Lucifer who was cast down from heaven before creation (cf. Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:12-19). That means that they continue to exist even after the creation of the earth. It is the place to where Adam and Eve had been expelled after their fall (Genesis 3:1-16). Hence, we humans share the same environment as the devil (Lucifer) and his demons. Satan is also called the "prince of the world" (cf. John 14:28-31). A quick look at world history up to the present times, including its destructive elements of nuclear weaponry, would confirm that indeed satan is its ruler.
I am not saying that one has to take the biblical accounts all too literal, but they give us answers about the origin of evil and ultimately the need for salvation.
Q. What is our spiritual aim and struggle?
A. Though we physically live in this world, we nevertheless are not of this world. We live in the Kingdom of God, called the Church (Greek ecclesia = “called out” and kyriaki = “belonging to the Lord”). From this background it is understandable (though regrettably) that the demons will be after us the more we commit ourselves to God's Kingdom and leave their polluted world alone. Demons will try with all their trickery to lure us back into their world, often using our human weakness (due to our imperfect nature) to attack us. This does not necessarily have to be violent, but typically happens by enticing us to relativistic and humanistic promises. In turn, we respond depending on how strong we are to fight back with the spiritual weapons we have acquired and whether we recognize the trick played on us. So, the first step is to pinpoint who the real enemy is (vigilance), then naming it and finally defeating him though various spiritual means.
It is not a struggle in the physical world, but that of the mind, from which most sin and evil originate. By giving in, the physical world and our bodies with its various capacities become merely the slave of the mind, which then dictates it to act. Hence, in being watchful we speak of freedom in Christ, since we have freed our mind from evil and its enslaving influences. Ultimately, our entire being – including the physical – becomes truly independent and free.
Q. Is Orthodoxy the Mystical Church?
A. I certainly agree that core Orthodoxy is mystical. However, I do not make a distinction between the historical or temporal church and an eschatological church. I think that the mystical church is the true Church, as it does not know jurisdictional and manmade boundaries. However, the mystical Church can only exist within the parameters of the historic church body and its structure. Otherwise it would become like floating free spirits that splinter into thousands of sects, each proclaiming their own "truth". - What is miraculous in Orthodoxy is the fact that – despite jurisdictional quarrels – all branches maintain the same faith.
Q. Why Icons?
A. Holy Icons in the tradition of the Orthodox Church have a very deep Christocentric content. They express the truth that God became man, so we may become deified by grace (Theosis). For this reason, Icons are a great treasure towards the path of salvation, while their view calms and soothes the soul. The educational value of Icons is immense: It is well known that a picture is worth a thousand words. Icons allude to the imitation of the life of Christ, the Theotokos and the saints, while theologically speaking they are showered by the light of the resurrection of Christ. Orthodox Icons do not focus on the physical depiction of persons or events, but to otherworldly reality. Icons have thus become windows to heaven, which in turn are cherished, venerable and sacred objects. Spiritual transformation, granted through the grace of God, is the purpose and the divine essence of life for all faithful.