The Eastern Orthodox on Divorce and Remarriage

How do the Eastern Orthodox handle divorce and remarriage? It seems that the trajectory of Pope Francis is to move toward the practice of the Patriarch of Constantinople – to say that divorce and remarriage is objectively wrong, but allowable on a case by case basis.

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I’m rather amazed that neither side is currently examining (and boldly appealing to) the Eastern practice. It’s likely only a matter of time, so I thought I’d try to put some things together in the timeline.

Deacon Daniel Gordon Dozier (Eastern Catholic) helped me find some primary sources on this matter.

  • Patriarch Alexius I of Constantinople (Patriarch from 1025-1043) no longer upheld the practice of suspending priests who blessed second marriages after divorce. Patriarch Alexius, however, only allowed second marriages to the innocent party in a separation. That is, if the husband abandoned a wife, she (but not him) could have a second church wedding while that offending husband still lived. And vice versa.
  • Archbishop Cyril Vasil, S.J. observes that in 1086 (after the schism with Rome), the Byzantine Empire made the Orthodox Church the “only institution with legal competence for the celebration of matrimony…As a consequence the Eastern Church had to conform its practices to State and civil legislation (a regretful consequence of caesaropapism). Then once civil legislation began to allow divorce and successive remarriages, the Eastern Church was obligated to recognize these practices.”
  • It seems to me as the Eastern Church fell away from union with Rome, it inevitably followed the secular practice of the Empire.

It’s notable that the initial changes in practice happened in Constantinople while Rome and Constantinople were in formal union (even if only for a few decades). It was the successor of Alexius I, Michael Cerularius who formally established schism between Rome and Constantinople in 1054. The practice was officially changed in 1086. So the entire process seems to have taken about 50 years in Constantinople.

Question: What do you think? Will the Eastern Orthodox practice become part of this debate on divorce and remarriage at Rome? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

With whom would you eat dinner with from the Bible? (excepting Jesus and Mary)

So you’re praying one afternoon and Christ appears to you and says that you will be allowed to have dinner that night with one person from the Bible. He or she will be able to speak your language and discuss whatever you desire.

Who would you pick? Jesus and Mary are excepted and your pick must be human (ie, no angels).

Options include:

  • Adam
  • Eve
  • Moses
  • Ruth
  • David
  • Solomon
  • Esther
  • Isaiah
  • Malachi
  • Joseph
  • John the Baptist
  • Peter
  • Paul
  • John
  • Mary Magdalene
  • or anyone you choose.

Your choice could even be a villain, if you like, such as Pharaoh, Jezebel, or even Judas. But your choice must be from the Bible.

Question: Who would you choose and why? What would you ask them? I’ll reveal my answer after several people have left comments below. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

I am not worthy to untie his shoe-latchet, according to Origen

I continue to read and study Origen and I was recently impressed with his spiritual interpretation of the words of Saint John the Baptist regarding Christ:

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“I baptize with water, but in the midst of you stands one whom you know not, even He who comes after me, the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to unloose.” (Jn 1:26)

According to Origen, John the Baptist is here confessing his amazement over the incarnation of the Divine Logos. Origen interprets:

…he goes on: The latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to unloose. By which he conveys, as in a riddle, that he is not fit to solve and to explain the argument about Christ’s assuming a human body, an argument tied up and hidden (like a shoe-tie) to those who do not understand it—so as to say anything worthy of such an advent, compressed, as it was, into so short a space. (Origen, Commentary on John, Book 6, Ch. 15)

If you’d like to take my online class on Origen and see my full online Church History Certificate syllabus, please click here and explore Module 4.

Origen holds that John the Baptist indicates that he can cannot untie the mysterious knot that the Logos can possess a physical body by which to fill a shoe or sandal.

How wonderful and mysterious that the eternal Son of God became man? He came not only to wear a simple shoe on his incarnate foot, but also to receive the cleansing baptism of water in the Jordan River upon his anointed body. And even more to die on a cross and rise again.

John the Baptist is stunned. It is as if John the Baptist might say: “Look guys. I’m the last prophet of the Old Testament and I’m not worthy to untie the mystery of His incarnation. I’ll leave that the next seven Ecumenical Councils to untie over time.

If you’d like to take my online classes on the Ecumenical Councils and their theology and see my full online Church History Certificate syllabus, please click here and explore Module 6 “Christology Controversy“.

While Origen is not a saint and not a doctor of the Church (and has some theological oddities), his exegesis is fascinating and helpful. Even in something in small as the shoe-latchet saying of John, he has something beautiful to draw out. As we say in Texas: That’ll preach.

Godspeed,
Taylor Marshall

120: Your Virtue of Fortitude with Aquinas (Virtues Part 4) [Podcast]

Dr. Taylor Marshall continues his series on the 4 Cardinal Virtues (click here for Part 1) this episode with the virtue of Fortitude as it relates to Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, Thomas Aquinas and the life of Christ in the Temple and on the Cross. He closes with a Tip of the Week and practical advise on how to grow in Fortitude/Courage and how to ask Jesus Christ to gain and grow in this important virtue for our times.

Virtue of Fortitude

120 Your Virtue of Fortitude [Podcast]

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  • Proverb of the week: None this week
  • Featured Segment: The Virtue of Fortitude
  • Latin Word of the Week: Fortitudo
  • Tip of the Week: Estate Planning and End of Life
  • Announcements:

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How to Make S.M.A.R.T. Unbreakable New Year’s Goals for God and Yourself

Did you know that 25% of people give up on their New Year’s Resolution within the first seven days of January? A majority will not see their resolutions past February 1!

God made humans to be goal-oriented. Our ultimate goal is Heaven, but there are sub-goals along the way. Today I’ll share how I attain goals using the “S.M.A.R.T.” (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, time-bound) system of goal making. When I learned this system, it literally changed my life. I will also share how making these kind of goals for the New Year can lead to a breakthrough in any category with which you struggle: spiritual, marital, familial, economic, health, etc.

How to Make S.M.A.R.T. Goals for the New Year

Please watch the video below as explain how you can make goals for the New Year and make this next year the most productive of your life:

Are you having trouble seeing the video? Please click here to watch it.

Do you have family and friends who need help with goals for the New Year? Please share this article on Facebook by clicking here.

Question: What’s your goal this year? What could you change this New Year with a system of written-down goals? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Do we have spirit, soul, and body or just soul and body?

I was at a coffee shop yesterday and I got pulled into a conversation with a stranger about metaphysical nature of the soul.

This man emphasized that we are not simply a soul and body, but that we are spirit, soul, and body.

So what is the Catholic to say?

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This the bipartite vs. tripartite debate on human anthropology. The majority position in the Catholic Church is that we have a physical element (body headed by the brain) and a metaphysical element (soul headed by the spirit). The spirit is the highest intellectual faculty of the soul.

The locus classicus on this topic is Hebrews 4:12

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Tripartite advocates point here showing that “soul and spirit” are distinguished and thus separate. The problem here is that if soul and spirit are different entities then our body is also twofold with different entities, namely joins and marrow.

Soul Vocab in Scripture

Let’s review the terminology in Hebrew and Greek:

Hebrew

  • Basar: flesh or body. In Genesis, this comes from dirt, mud, or grime. It is the lowest basest element of man.
  • Nephesh: soul or life force. In Genesis this is the life of a living thing. It can be said that animals and perhaps plants have nephesh or a living force within them.
  • Ruach: spirit or breath. In Genesis, God breathes this into Adam and it is what makes human unique from all other animals. It is something we share with God – the intellectual and voluntary faculty that makes us rational animals or human.

Greek

  • Sarx: flesh. In Greek it is the body but also includes the animal passions of the body for nutrition and sex. Saint Paul typically uses sarx to include the effects of original sin in all humans. Hence sarx has a somewhat pejorative meaning in the New Testament as in the sinful “law of the flesh.”
  • Soma: body. This is a physical body and doesn’t necessarily include the passionate elements of sarx above, but it can. Used 129 times in NT.
  • Psyche: soul or life force. The Greeks explicitly stated that all living things have a “soul” or psyche, including plants, animals, and humans. Some speculated whether each star and planet had a psyche since they also had an interior principle of motion similar to life. Used 105 times.
  • Nous: mind. In Greek this refers to the highest intellectual faculty of the human.
  • Pneuma: spirit or breath. This is a spiritual or supernatural element in man. Used 385 times, but about 80 times for the human spirit, as opposed to the Holy Spirit.

The Church Father Origen (who spoke Greek) speculated that “nous” referred to the human mind, but “pneuma” referred to the human mind redeemed and filled with grace. I rather like Origen’s suggestion. It makes a lot of sense to me.

Early Gnostics (drawing from Paul in 1 Corinthians, esp. chs. 2 and 15) spoke of three kinds of people:

  1. sarkic or fleshly people. He relates this to Jews and unsaved people who have not the ability to see Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior. They live according to sight and according to the flesh. For Paul, the Jewish preoccupation with circumcision is an example of them living “by the flesh.”
  2. pscyhic or soulish people. Common people in the mainstream church who have not been initiated into the deeper knowledge of the Gnostic teachers.
  3. pneumatic or spiritual people. Those who have acquired the secret teachings passed along by visions or by secret traditions allegedly derived from the Paul or the Apostles.

Church Fathers on Bipartite vs. Tripartite

The Eastern Orthodox Church tends toward a tripartite anthropology and this likely derives from the distinctions of Saint Paul, but especially from the writings of Origen and, through his influence, the writings of the three Cappadocian Fathers Saint Basil, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, and Saint Gregory Nazianzus. If you are interested in learning more about Origen and these three sainted teachers and their theology, please watch the NSTI video lessons on them in our Historical Theology Modules.

In the West, the Pelagian heretics wrongly taught that the soul and body were corrupted by sin, but that the human spirit remained unaffected by sin and remained righteous and good. Consequently, Saint Augustine and others blew a hole in the Pelagian tripartite anthropology showing that the moral state of the soul was the same as the moral state of the human spirit. The strict tripartite arrangement was associated with Pelagianism and was thus held suspect in the Latin West.

What and How Can We Speak of “Spirit and Soul”?

When speak of the soul by the Hebrews (nephesh) and by the Greeks (psyche), they spoke chiefly of life and motion. Oak trees, weeds, crabs, fish, squirrels, and gorillas possess this “life force” or “soul.” The Jews by divine revelation and the Greeks through philosophy were speaking of the same thing.

Even more, both understand that within the human person, there was something beyond the life force. Beyond our motion across earth. Beyond our pursuit for food and sex. It was something that set us apart. Something that made us religious and reflective. It is what made us homo liturgicus. It was the rational spirit they sparks within us the questions of “Why am I alive? What is the purpose of life? Who made us? What are we supposed to be doing? Where are we headed? What happens after all this?”

In the Latin West, we call this the “rational soul” or the “intellectus.” Those terms work, but I rather like the poetic distinction between the “soul” and the “spirit” in Scripture. As Saint Paul said, Adam had for us a soul. But Christ became for us a “life giving spirit.” Here Paul doesn’t mean that Christ was a docetic or solely spiritual phantasm. Rather, he is capturing that Christ becomes for us the means by which we find the answers to the spiritual questions that I’ve listed above.

And as Origen (though not a saint and somewhat dangerous) observed, his suggestion that “mind/intellect” and “spirit” are simply two ways of referring to the same thing but from different points of view – with the spirit being the way to refer to the illuminated and redeemed mind.

It seems that the presence of the divine Holy Spirit in our soul transforms our intellect into a spiritual intellect or into a spirit. My guess is that the liturgical response “and with your spirit” is an acknowledgment of this reality in the communal life of the Church. When we respond that way, we aren’t just saying “and also with you,” but we are acknowledging the transformative power of the Holy Spirit within the celebrant.

Our Winners for the Tenth Region of the Night Book

Thank you to everyone who took part in our Tenth Region of the Night Book Launch Party.

My new best-selling Catholic historical fiction novel about early Catholic saints, Tenth Region of the Night, is now on sale (a few dollars cheaper) for the next few days, if you’d like to get a copy.

Here are the winners of our contests:

Take an Epic #Selfie with the Book
(Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card AND a free signed copy of Tenth Region)

Winner: Mari Webber with this photo from Germany with depictions of two characters from the books: Saint George and Saint Nicholas

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Thanks for the awesome photo, Mari and thanks for our “smoking St Nicholas.”

Just Get the Book Contest (Prize: $100 Amazon Gift Card)

Winner: Armando Javier Arteaga.

I hope you enjoyed the novel Armando!

Christmas Contest (Prize: an iPad Mini mailed to your house! AND a free signed copy of Tenth Region)

David W. Warner

Review the Novel at Amazon.com (Prize: $100 Amazon Gift Card AND a free signed copy of Tenth Region)

John M. Sengenberger II for his review on amazon.com:

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To read more reviews of the novel, click here.

Write a Blog Post about Sword and Serpent
(Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card)

Winner: Catherine T. Mohs with her excellent review of the book that you can read on her blog at: The Tenth Region of the Night: Sword and Serpent Book II Review.

Thanks Catherine!

Facebook The Book (Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card)

Winners: Alan and Julie McCabe

Thanks for sharing on Facebook!

Thank you to the hundreds that participated. I wish I could send a prize to you all. Thank you so much for supporting the book. It means so much to me.

Godspeed,
Taylor Marshall

Catholic Webinar: Was Christ Born on Dec 25? Yes!

Has the Catholic Church been factually incorrect by celebrating the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ on December 25? Did we borrow the date from pagans? Doesn’t the Bible say that Christ was born in Spring?

These are common questions during December and I want to help you know the actual history behind the December 25 date for Christ’s birthday and why it is very likely the day of His birth. Join us for this free live Webinar: God’s Birthday – Was Jesus Christ really born on Dec 25?

Last time we had over 1,000 live participants. Please sign up and reserve your spot by clicking here or the button below:

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In this Webinar you will:
  1. Discover why the Early Church Fathers believed that Christ was born on Dec 25
  2. Understand how modern research about the priestly cycle of St John the Baptist’s father helps us calculate a Dec 25 birthday for Christ
  3. Receive answers to the most common objection against Christ being born in late December
  4. RECEIVE A FREE BOOK OUTLINING THE ARGUMENTS AND HISTORICAL FACTS PROVIDED IN THIS WEBINAR.

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Please register by clicking here and don’t miss this informative online event.

Top 10 Christmas Gifts for Men (Dr Marshalls 2016 Edition)

It’s time for the 2016 Manly Christmas Gift Guide!

For the 7th year in a row, I am featuring the Top Ten Manly Christmas Gifts for Men – stuff that men want but don’t ask for.

Manly Christmas Gifts

* If you received this post by email, you’ll want to click “Always Display Images” in your email client so that you can see the manly gift images.

Every year you’ve come to expect it, and every year I get ready for angry liberals complaining about my advocacy for pocket knives, guns, scotch, pipes, and leather.

After doing this list for 7 years, I now get stopped by wives who say, “Thanks for your annual Men’s Christmas Gift Guide. My husband loved the thermos and knife that you recommended.” Recently, a Catholic dad related to me, “My wife followed your Christmas manly gift guide. Thanks for recommending the scotch decanter. I love it.” 2 year ago we even caused Amazon to sell out of pocket Douay Rheims Bibles.

Like last year I have an improved list with more information on knives and how a lady can choose the right knife for the men in her life.

Men, it’s not bad taste to forward this post to your wife’s email account.

When your man gets back to work after Christmas and someone asks, “So what did you get for Christmas?” let him say something more than “Oh you know, a couple of new shirts and a tie.”

Top Ten Manly Christmas Gifts for Men (drumroll…)

Below is a guide for Manly Christmas Gifts: your husband, brother, or grandpa. Seriously, you can’t wrong with the following ten gifts. They’re all winners. So here we go:

Catholic Webinar: History and Theology of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Did you know that devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe goes back to a small statue in Spain that was once owned by the Church Father and Pope Saint Gregory the Great?

Please join us for this week’s Catholic Webinar:

6 Historical and Theological Facts about Our Lady of Guadalupe

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Here’s what you’ll learn:

  1. How the devotion to an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe began with Saint Luke.
  2. How the original image was acquired by St Gregory the Great.
  3. Christopher Columbus’ devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
  4. About the Apparition of Our Lady to St Juan Diego.
  5. How Our Lady of Guadalupe can help you in our secular society!
  6. How she can help you bring family and friends back to the Catholic Church:

The Webinar is free but you must register to claim your spot and have access to the Webinar. You can do so by clicking here:

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We hosted 980 live attendees in last week’s Webinar on Catholic Advent. We are hoping to have over 1,000 attendees in this week’s Guadalupe Webinar. Join us for the global Catholic seminar about Our Lady!

You can leave a comment by clicking here.