Held at Holy Trinity Seminary (Russian Orthodox Church Abroad) March 7 - 9 2019, scholarly and pastoral perspectives were shared with the goal of articulating the application of Orthodox Tradition and apologetics to current needs, in the face of current social trends regarding sex, body, and human nature. Included in these videos are talks by:
Bishop Irenei of Richmond and Western Europe (ROCOR), holds masters and doctoral degrees in Patristic Studies and Church History from the University of Oxford.
Dr. Mark J. Cherry is the Dr. Patricia A. Hayes Professor in Applied Ethics and Professor of Philosophy at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.
Dr. Bruce Seraphim Foltz is Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Rdr. Alfred Kentigern Paul Siewers, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English at Bucknell University and currently the William E. Simon Research Fellow in Religion and Public Life in the James Madison Program at Princeton.
Dr. Mary Ford is Associate Professor of New Testament at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in South Canaan, PA, where she has taught for almost 30 years.
Dr. Edith Mary Humphrey is the William F. Orr Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
Dr. Timothy Patitsas has been Assistant Professor of Orthodox Christian Ethics at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts since 2005.
Archpriest David Pratt, Ph.D., is the Orthodox Christian Chaplaincy Director and Associate Teaching Professor in the Philosophy Department at Georgetown University.
Dr. David Ford is Professor of Church History at St. Tikhon’s Seminary.
Kh. Frederica Mathewes-Green is a wide-ranging author who has published 10 books and over 700 essays, in such diverse publications as the Washington Post, Christianity Today, Smithsonian, and the Wall Street Journal.
Archpriest Chad Hatfield is the President of St. Vladimir’s Seminary.
Archpriest Peter Heers, D.Th., is the Headmaster of Three Hierarchs Academy in Florence, Arizona.
Archpriest John E. Parker III is Dean of St. Tikhon Orthodox Theological Seminary.
Dr. David Bradshaw is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Kentucky.
Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative and author of The Benedict Option.
Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster, Ph.D., is Dean and Professor of Moral Theology at Holy Trinity Seminary (ROCOR) in Jordanville, New York.
Fr. Johannes Jacobse, a native of Holland, edits the websites Orthodoxy Today and Another City, and is founder and president of the American Orthodox Institute.
Session 4: The Relevance and Application of Orthodox teachings of Purity and Chastity to 21st-Century America: Culture, Families, Parishes:
“Schmemann and Secularism”
March 12, 2019 Length: 25:36
Dr. David Ford: As we always say at St. Tikhon’s, starting each class, “Welcome back!” In this conference, we’ve been blessed to have as speakers many powerful warriors for Christ and his holy truth, many in the field of education, and in this session we have four more such illustrious spiritual warriors in the tremendously important field of education. The session is entitled “The Relevance and Application of Orthodox Teachings of Purity and Chastity to 20th/21st Century America: Culture, Families, and Parishes.” Our first speaker is Fr. Chad Hatfield, president of St. Vladimir’s Seminary. He’s had 17 years of experience in seminary administration: four years in Alaska at St. Herman’s Seminary and for the past 13 years at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. Please welcome Fr. Chad.
Very Rev. Fr. Chad Hatfield: Your Grace, fathers, and brothers and sisters in Christ, glory to Jesus Christ! [Glory forever!]
I think we’ve done a terrific job with this conference already in addressing the situation as we now see it as Orthodox Christians, and we recognize that you and I are living in very, very challenging and difficult times. It was pointed out yesterday, however, that we’ve done an awful lot about showing the darkness of our times. We are still struggling with how we can find some answers as to how we can survive the storm. I have to make a bit of a public confession. When I accepted to speak here, I had a whole different mindset of what I wanted to say. Something happened two weeks ago, and I simply jettisoned all of that, and I have some more work to do, but I think it’s work in an area that I think is very timely, and I think that it’s really going to be quite necessary. I’ll be explaining that.
What happened two weeks ago is I was reading a 360-page manuscript. I’m on planes a lot, and so I get to read a lot. It was quite a remarkable manuscript. It has been edited by a young priest in the Anglican Church in North America, Fr. [Porter Taylor], and it’s a Festschrift honoring Fr. Alexander Schmemann. Two things really struck me as I was on the plane reading the manuscript, and that’s what caused me to change the direction of what I want to say today. I was struck by how powerful Fr. Schmemann continues to be and even outside of the Orthodox world, because so many of the contributors to this Festschrift were not Orthodox. I was also struck by how many times the word “secularism” appears in all of their reflections regarding Fr. Alexander Schmemann.
It really clicked in my mind that there are a lot of people today who are addressing the work and memory of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, but I’m deeply concerned that they’re not reflecting Schmemann; they’re reflecting Schmemann in their image, and in many ways I think that there are those who I think are trying to hijack Fr. Schmemann and to turn him into something which he simply was not. It’s very difficult in 2018, 36 years after his falling asleep in the Lord to suddenly be remaking Schmemann, but there’s a reason why these people want to do that, so I thought, “You know what? We must just hear Schmemann himself, because he is, in so many ways, as contemporary today as he was when he was doing his own writings.” There are so many things I want to say, but I really just want us to hear Schmemann. Then I’m going to switch a little bit to where we get to what Fr. David was saying, “Where do we go from here?” and again a recognition that the challenges are enormous.
I didn’t have Fr. Schmemann as my own professor, but I certainly claim him as a teacher, someone who’s influenced me in so many ways, through his teachings and through his writings, but someone that was close to him I was able to be close to in her final years, and that’s Matushka Juliana Schmemann. She was very open and shared so many things. One of the things that she shared was how, when Fr. Alexander was writing, he struggled so to get it absolutely right and precise. You know he was an incredible linguist. He was really a Renaissance man. If you looked through his library, it wasn’t just theological; it was a whole breadth of things. He taught Russian literature, poetry, all of these things. But the major portion of his thought was the rise of secularism and where it will lead us as a culture. So that’s why we need to return and look and listen to what he was saying, because he’s really become prophetic.
I’m going to quote, actually, from the foreword in his book, The Eucharist, at one point, because it helps me to make a point to you today. Mat. Juliana said that of all of his writings, this was the most difficult for him, because he knew the importance of worship and Eucharist, and he had to get it just right. This book actually was just finished posthumously, after his death. I can tell you, as a priest, I often return to that foreword to find my own direction again, as someone who stands in a central place in worship. Having sort of laid out that foundation on Schmemann and secularism, let’s hear from him. By the way, I sell books as a side job. [Laughter] You heard yesterday from Edith Humphrey, whom many of us admire for many reasons, but For the Life of the World has just been republished in the classic series, and it has a foreword written by Edith Humphries, so if you don’t have this edition, please buy it today in the seminary bookstore, and that’ll make all of us happy. [Laughter]
So Schmemann, in addressing the question of secularism, connected it of course to worship. He spoke of worship in a secular age. Remember the time of which he is writing. He wrote:
To put together in order to relate to them to one another, the terms “worship” and “secular age,” seems to presuppose that we have a clear understanding of both of them, that we know the realities they denote and that we thus operate on solid and thoroughly explored grounds. But is this really the case?
He asks the question because he’s convinced that in spite of today’s generalized preoccupation with semantics—and we did a lot of that yesterday, saying that it’s important for us to maintain our vocabulary, to define the terms and define the words that we’re using—he said:
There’s a great deal of confusion about the exact meaning of the very terms we use in this discussion. Not only among Christians in general, but even among the Orthodox themselves there exists in fact no consensus, no commonly accepted frame of reference concerning either worship or secularism, and thus the problem of their interrelation. Therefore (Schmemann says) we have to solve the problem, we have to clarify it, and we have to do this if possible within a consistent Orthodox perspective.
He says in his opinion the Orthodox, when discussing the problems stemming from our present situations—he loves to put things in brackets—our present situations… The other term that he loves a lot is “fuss and bother.” [Laughter] But the situations: he says:
We Orthodox accept them much too easily in their Western formulations. They do not seem to realize that the Orthodox Tradition provides, above all, a possibility and thus a necessity of reformulating these very problems, of placing them in a context whose absence or deformation in the Western religious mind may have been the root of so many of our modern impasses, and, as I see it, nowhere is this task more urgently needed than in the range of problems related to secularism and proper to our so-called age of secularism.
In other words, the secular age in which you and I are living. I want to pause here for just a moment. We have friends who are with us at this conference from the Episcopalian Diocese of Albany, and they can tell you a great deal of such things as faulty conscience clauses and persecutions for holding firm. I’ll let them tell their own story, but someone who was once close to their monastic community [was] Bishop Robert Terwilliger, who I think in many ways may have been the greatest, most brilliant mind to sit in the Episcopalian house of bishops in the last century. In 1979, as a young priest with a lot of hair, I was sitting next to him at a conference. He was a member of the International Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue at that time, and he was making a prediction. He was sitting in one of those oriental chairs with a great big fan around it. Those of you who remember Bishop Terwilliger, you remember he had a very nasal voice. So it made quite the picture, but he made a prediction.
He said that there will be in a very recent time a realignment of Christendom, and that traditional Christians across denominational lines will have to regroup and find themselves, because there is a coming storm that will hit Christianity hard, and that anemic Christianity will collapse, and it will be a smaller, stronger group of traditional Christians across denominational lines. Someone raised their hand and said, “But surely this doesn’t mean the Orthodox?” I will never forget his response. He said, “Of course it will involve the Orthodox, because watch their people.” He’s watching as an outsider. He said so many of them are no longer being formed, because the culture which they relied on to hold them together is no longer there, and that their people are actually being formed [by] what we would actually call today Oprah-ism. The culture itself is forming their theological view.
We heard yesterday some quotes from some statistics. Our people are not well-formed in their own theological mind. So Terwilliger was right. So we can’t, as Orthodox Christians, sort of sit in judgment on anybody. Our own house is in crisis, and we have to put that house in order.
Now, secularism has been analyzed, described, and defined in these recent years in a great variety of ways, but Schmemann says to the best of his knowledge none of these descriptions has stressed a point which he considered to be essential and which reveals indeed better than anything else the true nature of secularism, and, he says, thus gives the discussion of secularism its proper orientation. So if you’re taking any notes, this is the nugget; this is it. Schmemann defines secularism as, above all, a negation of worship. It’s a remarkable definition, and he goes on to develop this. So when you and I at this conference are looking for how do we respond to this tsunami which is about to hit us so very hard, Schmemann is reminding us to return to the Eucharist, to return to our worship, and to be true and authentic to who we are. As I said, I’m going to draw something out of this foreword to The Eucharist to underscore this a little bit later.
But he says that—he stresses that—it’s not some kind of transcendence and therefore some kind of religion. He says that if secularism in theological terms is a heresy, it is primarily a heresy about man, not God. Again, that’s remarkable. He says:
It is the negation of man as a worshiping being, as homo adorans, the one for whom worship is the essential act which both posits his humanity and fulfills it. It is the rejection as ontologically and epistemologically decisive, of the words which always, everywhere, and for all, were true epiphany of man’s relation to God, to the world, and to himself. It is meet and right to sing of thee, to bless thee, to praise thee, to give thanks to thee, and to worship thee in every place of thy dominion.
So his definition of secularism certainly needs to be explained, but that’s why I refer you back to Schmemann. We have only a short period of time here to throw this out, but go buy the book. [Laughter] It’s good lenten reading. (I never give it up.)
One of the things that I think we glean from Schmemann is this reality: you and I live in a secularized world which claims that secularism is atheistic, the absence of God; but I think that we’ve certainly learned a lesson, that secularism has become a competing religion. I’m going to also recommend that you explore something. The book is a little raunchy, so I give you that in advance. It is a book that is very popular in Europe at the moment. It’s novel. The title is Submission, and it’s about the first Islamic president of France. It’s a remarkable read, as I said… a little off in some sections, but the main point for you and for me is this: it is the rise of Islam which is the major concern religiously in the world at this moment, because secularism is already showing it cannot withstand man’s natural attraction for worship and for drawing near to God. And it is Islam which is actually taking that scene in Europe.
Secularism is a competing religion. It is not able to withstand Islam. And the other thing that is very clear in that book, Submission, which is: anemic Christianity will collapse as well. So it’s important for us to find our way.
One of the other things that is important here with Schmemann is the recognition that we have been losing the generations in our household. We have thought that Caesar and our genetic makeup would transmit the Orthodox faith. In fact, that is a fallacy; it is not true. And we are one percent of the population here in the U.S. What kind of culture surrounds our children in the next generations? It’s not an Orthodox-based one, and if it is Christian, it’s a Protestant one. We have to fight all the harder, and that’s why I believe we are going to hear from Rod Dreher and the Benedict Option. We are going to be looking at ways in which we are going to survive this coming tsunami.
We have to admit that we have lost the generations, and we’ve lost the generations because we have failed to catechize and to teach, not only our young people but our adults. I have said for years, as I look at Orthodox parishes, we try to teach theology to our kids and let the adults play games. It needs to be flipped around, and we need to seriously get our people’s attention, or we’re simply going to lose the fight.
I’m going to slip for a little bit. (How much time do I have, David? [About seven minutes.] Seven minutes! Oh, we’re doing good. Great.) I’m going to switch for a little bit, because I’m going to actually again show exactly how prophetic Schmemann has been regarding secularism. He’s writing in his period, and this is what we’re facing today.
And if, in fact, we are to raise a prophetic voice as did John the Forerunner, we know there is a price to pay. We’re recognizing today, more than ever, that if we do find our way and begin to speak with a prophetic voice, we just simply have to look at our own Christian hagiography which overflows with the stories of saints and martyrs who dared to speak and challenge the accepted status quo when it stands in violation of God’s law and brings destruction to souls. It’s as simple as that. All of this may seem, again, as from a distant past. No! This is what’s happening in our time. Just watch the news! Be-headings of righteous believers is almost a daily occurrence. Violence against Christians is on the rise. We know that the 20th century produced more martyrs than any other in Christian history, and this was especially true for the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries, but we have a very subtle kind of persecution that we are enduring now, and the question is: For how long will it remain subtle?
Closer to home, we recognize that the prophetic voice is struggling to be heard in the so-called “free world” of Western Europe and North America. In our time, we have clearly moved from being post-Christian to being aggressively anti-Christian. Basic social values and moral teaching is being eroded at a rapid pace. We’ve established that fact. Social media plays an active role where there is little accountability and much influence on a younger generation that is filled with so-called “nones and dones.”
Now I’m going to try and sell a book. [Laughter] Rodney Stark, in his book, The Triumph of Faith: Why the World is More Religious Than Ever, totally debunks that Pew survey of a few years ago that introduced us to the terms of “nones” and “dones,” but Rodney Stark reminds us that, in fact, the people are searching, as Schmemann says they are searching: for actual worship, but they’ve written off Christianity and they can’t find Orthodox Christianity. It’s really quite remarkable. Read Rodney Stark.
So we recognize that an anemic Christian voice has also contributed to the rapid pace of decline. As noted in their book, Resident Aliens, which was published in 1989, Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon wrote that “an accommodationist church has little to offer the world.” Churches have failed to teach and preach the faithful who now seem to have their worldview formed from the entertainment industry rather than from theology and from teachings of Christ and his Church. St. John Chrysostom lamented that the people were not in church but in the Hippodrome. Well, just think about it for a moment: Where are the cathedrals of our age and our secular culture? They’re the sports stadiums. Our people certainly don’t mind standing in long lines for hours for the games. So what is the difference?
I want to quote from another person who is a keen observer of the rise of secularism, and that’s Professor Robert George at Princeton. He’s written:
Attacks on the family and particularly on the institution of marriage on which the family is built are common in the academy. The line here is that the family, at least as traditionally constituted and understood, is a patriarchal and exploitative institution that oppresses women and imposes on people forms of sexual restraints that are psychologically damaging and that inhibit the free expression of their personality. As has been clear in recent decades, there is a profound threat to the family, one against which we must fight with all our energy and will. It is difficult to think of any items on the domestic agenda that is more critical today than the defense of marriage as a union of husband and wife and the effort to renew and rebuild the marriage culture.
What has also become clear is that the threat to the family and to the sanctity of human life are necessarily threats to religious freedom and to religion itself. At least where the religions in question stand up and speak out for conjugal marriage and the rights of the child in the womb, from the point of those seeking to redefine marriage and to protect and advance what they regard as the right to abortion, the taming of religion and the stigmatization and marginalization of religions that refuse to be tamed is a moral imperative.
Now that’s where I want to again have a little pause and introduce you to that term, “the taming of religion,” because our society will be tolerating us as long as we fall into the wreckage of being tamed. I’m going to skip over a few things here, because there is one quote that you just simply have to hear. I was present at the Erasmus Lecture in 2014 when Archbishop Chaput, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia, was speaking. He sort of stunned the room, because of course this was after the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, and he said, “Game’s up. We’ve lost.” I’ve thought about that a lot, and the person I want to now bring into this conversation is in fact Justice Samuel Alito who, in writing his dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges, I think also was a prophet in his own right when he saw that the Supreme Court’s decision as a way to eventually silence, or in other words, tame, those of us who cling to traditional Christian theology, faith, and practice. This is the quote from Justice Alito.
Those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their home, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.
This is my addition. I would add that many of their churches and their pastors will label them as such. Therefore a pathway to the future is needed, as we are now clearly past the tipping-point. That’s where I think Rod Dreher is going to lead us this afternoon.
So the realignment of Christendom has begun, and we recognize that we have to find answers if we are to preserve the generations, recover those who were lost, and to come out on the other side, like Noah after the flood. I’ll stop there. [Applause] I actually didn’t get to this quote from Schmemann, but I’m going to take one thirty-seconds to wrap that part up, because it’s just simply too good. Schmemann at one point was being very critical of the religious leaders, and he was including Orthodox as well, theologians and other professional religious. He said:
We descended into a time in which we run around busily, defending the world from God with this or that right, however perverse. All of this in the name of peace, unity, and brotherhood. Yet in fact the peace, unity, and brotherhood that they invoke are not the peace, unity, and brotherhood that has been brought to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. We’ve been guilty of that even in our own Orthodox churches. We get caught up in everything except that which is in fact our business and our vocation.