Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
the Nanty Glo in My Mind'

Mere Christianity; making space enough
to give a place for our Savior, Christ

Jon Kennedy    

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Truths of older people: Forget the health food. I need all the preservatives I can get..


Always remember to forget the troubles that pass your way; but never forget the blessings that come each day.

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Jon Kennedy's recent book, The Everything Guide to C.S. Lewis and Narnia, from Adams Media, F&W Publications, is available for purchase in support of the Liberty Museum in Nanty Glo and can be ordered here. It is also available on Amazon.




I received one reply in response to last week's post. It was from a longtime close friend and fellow parishioner at St. Stephen's church.

Hi Jon,

My take on faith is not to over think it too much. Back in my Evangelical days it was always great for me to argue various unanswerable questions. The sovereignty of God versus the will of man being one of the most addressed. There were many other issues to task my mind with and it was fun but it never resolved anything. After switching to Orthodoxy almost 15 years ago, opening up a whole new dimension for me, all of these "issues" faded away and I have hardly even thought about them in recent years.

In Orthodox thinking there are certain things you can say what they are not, but not what they are. I love that mystery. I don't have to resolve every issue on a rational basis. Although I will say that Orthodoxy has answered many questions I had about things in the Bible that just didn't add up before but make sense now. The bottom line for me is that my Christian faith has served me well. Until some one comes up with a better story I'm sticking with my faith. If nothing else, I believe that I have become a more loving and kind person over the years and that makes it worthwhile alone to follow Christ.

Carl Essex

Eastern Orthodox theologians describe our approach to doctrine as "mystical" in comparison with the "rational" theology of Roman Catholicism (especially in the hesychast controversy described in the Catholic Encyclodedia here), and many Protestants—especially those who trace their origin to Luther and Calvin (16th century)—consider Catholic theology far too mystical compared with their more reason-based approach, at least as they understand "reason." The sacramental approach to worship and faith is outside the bounds of "reason" as Calvinists understand it, and many other Protestants like Baptists and traditional Methodists share that skepticism, but sacraments are central to Catholic and Orthodox faith and worship and important (if somewhat less so) to Lutherans and traditional Anglicans.

Just as I described the Hindu hymn quoted here a few posts back as "nonsense" for saying there was "neither existence nor nonexistence then," my Edwardsian (Calvinist) friend considers my insistence that "freewill" is a perfectly good word to describe what Eve exercised in the Genesis account of her choosing to disobey God (Genesis 3) and what Mary did in the Gospel account of her choosing to co-operate with His plan of salvation for the human race (Luke 1:38)—my friend calls this use of "freewill" nonsense on the same level as a four- or even five-sided triangle. But I find no theologians before the Reformation who had a problem with this use of "freewill," so I suspect the Reformers were grasping for straws they could use as darts to throw at those who didn't accept their Renaissance theology.

Carl is right about our Orthodox emphasis on the mysteries, and as a longtime Presbyterian minister before my conversion 17 years ago I also greatly appreciate his description of the role debates about "issues" played in our former faith communities. And I, like him, do not miss those issues, though as a journalist I still like to discuss the faith and various ways of understanding it. And it's also true that we Orthodox experience God in ways that are not always based in thinking or studying. But ours is also the Christian communion of the early-church councils and the often hotly debated and carefully structured creeds (documents some less formal communions would rather call "statements of faith"). These documents proved effective in turning back heresies (false teachings) that threatened the peace of the church and the world that had been reached by Christianity in their time, and they continue to be the bedrock of the faith of millions. So we say "both/and" to reasoned examinations of the faith and mystical experiences and direct communion with the Creator of the universe.

I will take up the topic of the words and general language that sometimes unites and sometimes divides Christians—words like "freewill" and two recently coined spin offs from that one, "synergism" and "monergism" —again next time. And though we seem to be majoring in differences in the current survey of Christian teachings, the real purpose here is to show and appreciate how much common ground we share.

But now I'll close this final Jonal before Christmas by returning to a metaphor we opened to begin this thread over a month ago. I was amazed about Jonathan Edwards's equating space, in its infinite and eternal sense, with God himself (space is God; God is space, Edwards said). In Orthodoxy our attention is often brought back during this Feast of Christ's Nativity to icons and hymns saying that in conceiving the Savior Christ in her womb, "Mary has become 'more spacious than the heavens,'" because the heavens, all space, cannot encompass the eternal Creator, but Mary's womb can and did. This is a great mystery of the incarnation, of God becoming a created man yet still fully God, tasked with bringing salvation to all the sheep who've gone astray,

Very Merry Christmas.

— Webmaster Jon Kennedy