Bone cancer in children, what’s that about?


 The atheism of Stephen Fry and Richard Dawkins



Introduction

Suffering is everywhere around us in the world, but how can we make sense of it from an Orthodox perspective? Rationalizing our own personal suffering is relatively easy when compared to trying to make sense of the suffering of a family member, or the suffering caused by wars and natural disasters.

Stephen Fry, in his 2015 interview with RTE, raised the issue of the suffering of children, in particular, with the rhetorical question: ‘bone cancer in children, what’s that about?’ The popular evolutionist Richard Dawkins, in his attacks on religion, regularly highlights the problem of suffering.

Both Fry and Dawkins seem to base their objections to religion on their knowledge of Roman Catholicism and Islam. Neither of these religions has a readily acceptable answer to the problem of suffering. The logic on which Roman Catholic theology is modeled might have satisfied people in earlier centuries, but a logical approach to the problem of suffering is unsustainable today. Islam, on the other hand, accepts everything that happens, good or bad, as God’s will – replacing logic with fate. John Calvin, the sixteenth century Protestant Reformer, managed to join these two together. Basing his theology on a warped understanding of the writings of Saint Paul, Calvin believed that some are pre-destined to go to hell and some to heaven; there is nothing anyone can do on earth to influence this decision.[1]

The Atheism of Stephen Fry

The RTE interview offers a window into Fry’s complex and articulate views on God. Unlike Dawkins, Fry does not deny the existence of God, per se, and does not in principle object to the idea of God, as long as it is one he can sympathize with:


Now, if I died and it was Pluto, Hades, and if it was the 12 Greek gods then I would have more truck with it, because the Greeks didn’t pretend to not be human in their appetites, in their capriciousness, and in their unreasonableness… they didn’t present themselves as being all-seeing, all-wise, all-kind, all-beneficent, because the god that created this universe, if it was created by god, is quite clearly a maniac…[2]



Fry’s position calls to mind the Nobel Prize winning physicist Wolfgang Pauli’s humorous quote about fellow physicist Paul Dirac: ‘There is no God and Dirac is his Prophet.’ Pauli’s quote exposes the problem with the atheistic position of Dirac. It’s impossible to prove that God doesn’t exist, so atheists construct a god of their own imagination and ‘prove’ that it does not exist. Dirac’s ‘god’ therefore is called ‘no god’ whereas Fry’s is ‘maniacal god’. Fry’s attempt to make sense of God from a personal perspective is not itself unreasonable; Albert Einstein described the tendency of human nature to try and explain the world using the soul as the point of reference:



Human nature always has tried to form for itself a simple and synoptic image of the surrounding world. In doing this it tries to construct a picture will give some sort of tangible expression to what the human mind sees in nature. That is what the poet does, and the painter, and speculative philosopher and the natural philosopher, each in his own way. Within this picture he places the center of gravity of his own soul, so that he will find it that rest and equilibrium which he cannot find within the narrow circle of his restless personal reactions to everyday life. [3]



Fry’s views on God are different to those of most New Atheists: ‘Atheism is not just about not believing there is a God, but on the assumption there is one, what kind of God is he?’ Fry takes the whole business very personally. He doesn’t rule out the existence of a God per se – he just doesn’t like what he perceives God to be. 

Stephen Fry is probably better described as a theomach – someone who fights against God. Fry’s ‘Christian’ God is nasty, inconsistent and cruel; this God, in his opinion, cannot be real. Fry’s God is heavily based, no doubt, on his experiences of the Anglican Church and its double standards on homosexuality. This might explain why the Greek Gods, in whose myths homosexual relationships are common, are more acceptable to Fry. The depravity and capriciousness of the Greek Gods might, on a superficial level, be more consistent with what we see in the world today, but their lives cannot be models for our society. For example, the sexual abuse of adolescent boys was socially acceptable in Ancient Greece due, to a large extent, to belief in these myths.

Fry’s long battle with mental illness and his attempts at suicide are well documented, but he has done important work in raising the issue of mental illness and combating the stigma that comes with it. It would be crass to try and connect Fry’s religious views with his depression, because mental illness affects Christians, atheists and agnostics alike. However, Fry’s attempts, which he narrates below, to deal with his illness by taking Class A drugs, portray what Einstein might refer to as a ‘restless personal reaction to everyday life’:

 Just imagine for a moment that you do have a condition in which your moods can change without your ability to change them back, in big ways. You become hugely manic or you become terribly depressed, and you don’t know you have a disease. You just feel either ridiculously energized or appallingly low and suicidal.” There are two things such a person can reach for to control their mood, he said: uppers and downers (in his case, alcohol and cocaine… But of course it’s a false control because each down is a bigger crash and that results in a bigger up.[4]

The Atheism of Richard Dawkins  

Richard Dawkins’ atheism is more typical of the New Atheist. According to Dawkins, the universe exists due to a combination of random chance and natural selection. He uses the ‘suffering argument’ as another nail in God’s coffin. Dawkins seems to believe that his intelligence that proves that God does not exist. His argument runs as follows: He is clever and does not believe in God; therefore, only stupid people believe in God. Dawkins’ attempt to disprove God by science is doomed to fail, because as the Nobel Prize wining Physicist Max Planck points out: ‘Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve’.[5]

In 2012, Dawkins appeared on Radio 4’s Today Programme to discuss a survey commissioned by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. The survey found that 35% of Christians surveyed didn’t know the title of the first book of the New Testament. According to Dawkins this ‘astonishing number’ indicated that the 35% were ‘not really Christian at all’. Dawkins' argument fell rather flat when pressed during the interview by Rev. Giles Fraser a liberal Anglican clergyman. The exchange made for ‘car crash’ radio:
 


Giles Fraser: Richard, if I said to you what is the full title of ‘The Origin Of Species’, I’m sure you could tell me that.
Richard Dawkins: Yes I could.
Giles Fraser: Go on then.
Richard Dawkins: On The Origin Of Species.. Uh…with, Oh God…On The Origin Of Species, um…There is a subtitle…er, um, with respect to the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.
Giles Fraser: You’re the high pope of Darwinism… If you asked people who believed in evolution that question and you came back and said 2% got it right, it would be terribly easy for me to go ‘they don’t believe it after all’. It’s just not fair to ask people these questions. They self-identify as Christians and I think you should respect that.



Dawkins fell into the trap which he set, and it is one into which he keeps falling. Dawkins' atheism is based on the fact that his is the only intelligent argument. If people disagree with him, then they are either stupid or wrong (probably both). Unfortunately, keeping this argument going requires a memory beyond normal mortals, and certainly beyond Richard Dawkins.

Dawkins’ moral relativism has also come under fire from figures within a New Atheist movement that is bitterly divided as a result of conflict between feminist members and the middle-aged, male dominated leadership. In 2011, Dawkins found himself in hot water over his dispute with fellow atheist Rebecca Watson who had complained of being propositioned by a man. Islam is one of Dawkins’ favourite targets, but his response to Watson shows a level of crassness and a lack of compassion unusual even for atheists:


Dear Muslima

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with...And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.

Richard



Because atheists believe that our morals and behaviour are conditioned by society, and that there is no absolute good or evil, moral relativism is the only possible solution for them. Because of this relativism, the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), that Dawkins referred to above, presents a problem for atheists. Orthodox Christians unequivocally condemn this procedure in each and every circumstance as a violation of a woman’s body, an attempt to subjugate her physically, emotionally and psychologically.

Atheists however, find themselves in a cleft stick because FGM is not a purely Muslim problem, or a religious one, but a procedure carried out in a number of countries and societies for purely cultural reasons.[6] If our morals are conditioned by our society, what right do we have, in the West, to dictate what other societies do with their young women? Attempts to impose Western cultural values on other societies could be construed as a modern, cultural, imperialism.

Dawkins' moral relativism is also apparent in the battle he has waged with feminists over the issue of ‘date rape’. As usual, it is Dawkins’ certainty that he is right, and that others are wrong that raises hackles. In this tweet, Dawkins tries to have his cake and eat it: ‘Raping a drunk woman is appalling. So is jailing a man when the sole prosecution evidence is "I was too drunk to remember what happened”.’[7] Dawkins takes this attitude towards paedophilia too:



Just as we don't look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism, I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild paedophilia, and can't find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today.[8]



This moral relativism is reflected in Dawkins childish tweet, since deleted: ‘Good idea to beam erotic videos to theocracies? NOT violent, woman-hating porn but loving, gentle, woman-respecting eroticism.’[9] Quite how sending pornography to religious countries would want them to take up atheism, or give women greater rights, Dawkins does not explain. Once again, and rightly so, the feminist movement was outraged. There is nothing ‘woman-respecting’ about pornography; it is a multi-billion dollar industry run largely by men, for men, in which women are merely objects to be brutalized. Supporters of the sex industry ‘ignore the economic conditions of the sexual exchange, the social and economic power of the produces and consumers, and the poverty, economic exploitation, and sexual abuse that may underlie the lives of those involved in the sex industry’.[10] Quite how supporting this industry would help liberate Iranian or Saudi women is unclear.  

The Problem with Atheism 

Returning to Fry’s question, we can pose another: ‘bone cancer in the elderly, what’s that about?’ This doesn’t have the same shocking tone to it, because the death of elderly people is somehow not shocking. Why is this? Why are children’s cancer charities heavily supported by the public, and charities for the elderly much less so? Surely the lives of the elderly are not worth less than those of the young? The death of children is distressing because of what we perceive as a loss of potential: a life wasted. However, the death due to bone cancer of an elderly patient is no less painful, and often devoid of the care and love that is lavished (rightly so) on the younger patient.

Both Dawkins and Fry employ a logic favored by many of the New Atheists. Fry’s ‘bone cancer’ jibe is a classic example. Finding something they perceive to be ‘wrong’ in the world, atheists then extrapolate this to say that this proves that God doesn’t exist. However, as C.S. Lewis points out, the problem of justice and injustice is not a simple one:



My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: A fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too—for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist—in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless—I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality—namely my idea of justice—was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple.



Despite the fact that is impossible to ‘prove’ that God doesn’t exist, this extrapolation plainly doesn’t work if we apply it to the New Atheists themselves. Fry, for example, was an enthusiastic supporter of New Labour, appearing in adverts for Tony Blair’s 1997 election campaign. Fry has now distanced himself from the New Labour experiment, but hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were killed, and are still being killed, as a consequence of New Labour’s illegal war in Iraq. Does this make Fry, to use his description of God, ‘maniacal’? Of course not! Neither does it prove that Fry does not exist. However, our actions can have far reaching and unforeseen consequences. We might re-phrase his question and ask: ‘Children burnt to death in illegal wars, what’s that about?'

 Fry’s campaign for more concerted action on mental illness is a force for good in the world, but both Fry and Dawkins are guilty of extrapolating their personal experiences into an attack on religious belief and a generic God. Fry has obviously been troubled by the Church of England’s fascination with gender politics and homosexuality; for him, this proves that God is unloving and unjust, because he feels that he has been treated unjustly. In his autobiography, Dawkins describes how he was sexually abused by a schoolteacher, in an attack that would today result in a lengthy prison sentence. Dawkins, commendably, does not bear his abuser any malice, but his attitude towards the incident is characteristic: ‘I don’t think he did any of us any lasting damage, but some years later he killed himself.’[11] This again, is the extrapolation concept. Because Dawkins was not adversely affected by the incident, it can’t have been that bad. What about other victims of abuse? Actions are good or evil, not because of their consequences for individuals, but because of the actions themselves.

Atheists are fond of extrapolating the non-existence of God from both natural disasters and personal experience because it is impossible to prove that God doesn’t exist from going backwards in time. Consider a child asking how a house is made: ‘What are walls made from?’ ‘They’re made from bricks and mortar.’ ‘What is mortar made from?’ ‘It’s made from cement, sand and water.’ ‘Where does sand come from?’ ‘It’s dug out from the earth.’ ‘Where did the earth come from?’ etc. The phenomenon we have just described is called infinite regression.

At the end of an infinite regression, we always end up at an infinite. If atheists regress from the natural world backwards, through the fossil record to the big bang, then they still come up with the problem: Where did the energy come from? For Christians, the ultimate beginning is God; for atheists, the ultimate beginning is the universe itself. John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, explains:



The New Atheists object to God as a final explanation, yet they themselves have no explanation for the existence of the mass/energy of which the universe is formed. Their materialism comes to a stop at that point: the existence of mass/energy that they must regard essentially as brute fact, and thus their ultimate explanation. Logically, chains of cause and effect either go back eternally in an infinite regression, or there is a point where we stop at an ultimate reality. Explanation in science (or anywhere else), if it is to avoid an infinite regress, always leads to certain things that are regarded as ultimate. [12]



The atheist movement can be as dogmatic as mainstream religion. New Atheism is essentially faith based, and everything is geared to trying to prove that God does not exist. To do this, it has adopted certain dogmas which can never be challenged, no matter what the scientific evidence suggests. Atheists poured scorn on Prof. João Magueijo of Imperial College London for promoting the Variable Speed of Light theory, and campaigned to block him receiving the funding he needed. Recently, a scientist was dismissed from an American University for discovering soft tissue in dinosaur fossils. This is neither good science nor even good atheism.



The Orthodox Teaching on Suffering



a) The Fallen World 

The mania that Fry perceives in this world leads to old, but familiar questions: Why does God allow suffering? If God is good, why did he create poisonous snakes? Why do children die of cancer? The universe is ordered extremely precisely on the level of chemistry and physics, and we can see glimpses of perfection in nature. However, the world today is not perfect, because through the fall we inherited corruption and death as Saint Paul teaches:'For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, that is, the redemption of our body' (Rom. 8: 17-23)



Saint Paul personifies creation by saying that it ‘groans’ and ‘travails’, but as Saint Cyril of Alexandria comments, creation will be transformed when we ourselves are transformed by the Holy Spirit:



For when the sons of God, who have lived a righteous life, have been transformed into glory from dishonor and from what is corruptible into what is incorruptible, then the creation too will be transformed into something better…Paul says that the creation is subject in hope, for one day the saints and the elect will be saved, and the yoke which had been imposed on it by God will be removed…In the meantime, the creation groans and in some sense labors and grieves, and if it had any awareness of our works, probably it would burst out crying.[13]



We can see this transformation of nature in the lives of the saints who were honoured by wild animals: Saint Gerasimus' lion is just one example. Even today, we can see that nature can be transformed by love; the story of Christian the Lion became a YouTube sensation.[14] The final transformation of creation will occur at the coming of the Son of God, when the heavens and the earth will be renewed (cf. 2 Pet. 3:13). At this time, according to the Prophet Esaias, ‘the wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent's food (Is.65: 24-25). 

Death and suffering are part of our fallen nature, the death and suffering of millions of people around the world is exacerbated by the fact that a tiny percentage of the world’s populations possesses a huge percentage of its wealth. One doesn’t have to be a socialist to see that this is going to increase the suffering of the worlds’ poorest. 

b) Christian Suffering



And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom 8: 17-20).



Death and suffering is part of the human condition. A charity recently published an advert with the slogan ‘no child is born to die’, but all children are born to die because we are all mortals. The death of one child is a tragedy. A thousand deaths of children are a thousand tragedies whether they occur across a county in one year, or in a single natural disaster. The Church has never shied away from the problem of natural disasters; in the calendar of the Orthodox Church, there are seven commemorations of deliverance from earthquakes. This kontakion from the service of October 26 commemorates the earthquake in Constantinople in 740:



Deliver us all from earthquakes, O Lord, and from wounds unbearable on account of our sins, and spare Thy people whom Thou has purchased with Thy Blood, O Master; and deliver not Thy city to destruction by terrible earthquakes, for we know none other God besides Thee. And to hose who chant do Thou respond: I am with you, and no one shall prevail against you.[15]


The problem of suffering has troubled Christians for many years, but it is probably more acute today because of their relative comfort that most of us enjoy in the world. Today, we assume that suffering is avoidable, that death is only for old people. By failing to engage with the problem of suffering and death, we fail to engage with the consequences of eternal life. Without a belief in eternal life, the suffering of mankind is incomprehensible.
In the depths of suffering it is difficult, even impossible for us to see the Providence of God in what is happening. We can see this despair in the life of Fr. George Calciu who spent twenty years being tortured by the Communist authorities in Romania for his refusal to abandon his Christian faith. As a young medical student, He survived imprisonment in the underground torture chambers of Pitesti Prison, in which atheists tried by physical, emotional and psychological torture to try and make Christians renounce their faith:  
It was then, in my cell, that the best among us died. He was so sick and weak that death itself was more present for us than the wet wall, or even more real than the hand of the guard which would hit us or would open and lock the door. His death was more real than our daily bread and water. The tubercular cough of Constantine [Costache] Oprisan, the abundant and fetid matter expelled from a lung almost completely eaten away by bacteria turned our stomachs in spite of the immense love all three of us had for him. However, he, Costache, the dying man was our axis and support, our justification for being there, the angel defeating the devil for us. The moment he died, our universe lost its meaning; the world collapsed groaning. A cataclysm had been produced, and we remained three people in a desert of despair. There were no guiding arrows. The one who guided us had died; we were surrounded by a hostile world of six square meters oozing death and hopelessness from every atom of matter. [16]
After spending 16 years in prison Fr. George was imprisoned again in 1979 after his ordination to the priesthood. As a preparation for his arrest, Fr. George had learned the Divine Liturgy by heart. By this time, Fr. George was an internationally renowned dissident, so the Communist authorities imprisoned him with two murderers, in the hope that they would kill him. However, on seeing his love and humility, the two men announced to Fr. George that he would be safe with them and he received their permission to celebrate the Liturgy in their cell. Although he had nothing else but a piece of bread, Fr. George began to serve the Liturgy:



I started to do the prayers, reciting all the prayers in a low voice. The guards would come and look in at us. I forgot where I was , but sometimes you know the priest has to turn around and say ‘Peace be unto you’. When I turned to them, they were kneeling! They were praying with me! I was so happy. From then on, we were really brothers. All three of us. One them killed his mother; the other killed two boys. Really, it was for them faith and love. [17]


Fr. George, along with the martyrs and confessors of the Church, shows us how the love of God can conquer suffering. In the Gospel and the hymns of the Church we can see that suffering for God is blessed and that suffering strengthens love. However, the main issue we are concerned with is not personal suffering for the Orthodox Faith, but the suffering of the world in general which seems so pointless and heartless. 

c) God’s Providence 

Saint Maximus the Confessor defines Providence as ‘the care that comes from God for the things that are'. God’s providence and care stems from His infinite wisdom. Saint Maximus continues:


The wisdom of God the Father and His understanding is the Lord Jesus Christ, who through His wisdom keeps all the species together and through the understanding of His mind embraces all single beings subsumed under them, since He is their creator and surrounds them with His providence, bringing through Himself all that is separated unto unity, calming all, dissolving war among beings, and – as the Apostle says – uniting all in peace and friendship and harmony both in heaven and on earth.[18]

It is not at all easy to understand the Wisdom and Providence of God because as God says through the Prophet Esaias: ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways’ (Is. 55:8). Saint Dionysius the Areopagite explains:



Given the fact of Providence, how can there be evil? But evil as such has no being nor is it inherent in the things that have being. However nothing possessed of being lies outside the working of Providence, and evil has no share of being except in an admixture with the Good. So if no being is without some share in the Good and if evil is a deficiency of the Good and if no being is completely devoid of the Good, the Providence of God must then be in all beings and nothing can be lacking it. Providence even makes good use of evil effect to turn these or others to good use individually and collectively. It provides for each particular being. Therefore we should ignore the popular notion that Providence itself will lead us to virtue even against our will. Providence does not destroy nature.[19]


Taking our argument a step forward, let’s assume that God responds by saving all children from dying in earthquakes. How could He justify this to the parents of a child who died from bone cancer, in a fire, or in a car accident. The problem is not how we die, or how many we die with, but death itself. The problem is not Providence, but our failure to understand Providence as Saint Maximus the Confessor teaches:



It should not follow that, since the meaning of particular providence happens to be infinite and unknowable to us, we should make our ignorance a ground for denying the all-wise care for the things that are, but we should receive and hymn all the works of providence simply and without examination, as divinely fitting and suitable, and believe that what happens, happens well even if the reason is beyond our grasp.[20]


We cannot begin to understand the providence of God, unless we ourselves are illumined by the Energies of God. This is not a cop-out, but a consequence of our Orthodox theology in which God is immutable and unknowable in His Essence, but knowable and communicable through His uncreated Energies. In Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism, the Grace of God is thought to be created. If something is created, it must have had a beginning, and it must in someway be understandable. In contrast, the theology of the Orthodox Church is mystical because God is unknowable in His Essence as Fr. John Romanides explains:



But when we Orthodox Christians talk about God, we say that God always existed and always will exist. But what does that mean? Does it tell us or reveal to us what God is or what God is not? Does it reveal God’s being to us? Of course not, because this expression is apophatic. It means that God is not like things in the created order that change from one state to another, that were created at one time, are in existence for a season, and then cease to exist. God always existed. He existed before the world, and He will also exist after this world ends. He is immutable. This means that God is by nature everlasting and immortal. But this expression tell us what God is not. It does not tell us what He is. [21]


We cannot achieve a union with God through knowledge because God is immutable and unknowable in his Essence. Partaking of the uncreated Energies grants us the wisdom by Grace that God possess through nature. It is only by living the ascetical, mystical life of the Church that we receive true knowledge; through it we begin to recognize our weaknesses, our desires and to see ourselves as we really are. All this is done through the power of the Holy Spirit. Through living the life of the Church, and partaking of the uncreated Energies of God, we can achieve true knowledge as Saint Isaac the Syrian teaches:


When knowledge rises up above the earth and the care for earthly things and begins to examine its own interior and hidden thoughts, scorning that from which the evil of the passion springs and rising up to follow the way of faith in concern for the life to come …and in seeking out the hidden mysteries – then faith takes knowledge in itself and absorbs it, returning and giving birth to it from the beginning, so as to become itself ‘from the beginning’ so as to become itself wholly spirit. Then it can take wing and fly to the realms of the incorporeal spirits and fathom the depth of the fathomless ocean, ponder on the divine and wondrous things that govern the nature of spiritual and physical begins and penetrating the spiritual mysteries that can be grasped by a simple and supple mind. [22]
Conclusion



We, as Orthodox Christians, perpetuate suffering in the world because we fail to live according to the Gospel Commandments as Saint Paul says: ‘For the name of God is blasphemed among the Nations through you’ (Rom. 2:24). The suffering of the world, is down to us on a personal level, and the selfishness of mankind on a wider level. We cannot change the whole universe by wondering what would happen if God did this, or chose to do that. To change the world around us, we first need to change ourselves. Only then can we begin to understand God’s Providence. We shall conclude with the words of Saint Isaac the Syrian:



What is a merciful heart? It is a heart burning with love towards the whole of creation: towards men, birds, animals, demons, and every creature. His eyes overflow with tears at the thought and sight of them. From the great and powerful sorrow that constrains his heart and from his great patience, his heart contracts, and he cannot bear to hear or see the least harm done to or misfortune suffered by creation. Therefore he also prays with tears incessantly for irrational beasts, for opponents of the truth, and for those who do him harm, that they may be preserved and receive mercy. [23]


[1] Few Protestant Churches teach pure Calvinism today, but most subscribe to some form of it. The ‘once saved, always saved’ doctrine is perhaps the most common. In other words, once a person accepts that Jesus is Lord, this is the moment that they are saved, and any future deeds or sins they commit after this point will not cause them to lose this salvation.
[2] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/stephen-fry-explains-what-he-would-say-if-he-was-confronted-by-god-10015360.html
[3] M. Planck, Where is Science Going? (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1932) pp. 8-9
[4] http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2015/nov/04/stephen-fry-on-his-cocaine-habit-i-used-to-call-it-rather-creepily-pudding
[5] Where is Science Going? p.217
[6] FGM is tolerated by some Non-Chalcedonian Churches. The Churches  reject the  Fourth Oecumenical Council so cannot properly be referred to as 'Orthodox'.
[7] https://twitter.com/richarddawkins/status/510673802184126465
[8] http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/magazine/article3858647.ece
[9] 31/01/2015 10:12
[10] G. Dines, B. Jensen, A. Russo, Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality (New York: Routledge,1998) p.17-18
[11] R. Dawkins, An Appetite for Wonder (London: Transworld Publishers, 2013) p.99
[12] J.C. Lennox, God’s Undertaker (Oxford: Lion Books, 2009 p.186
[13] T.C. Oden, G. Bray (Ed.) Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Vol. VI Romans (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1998) pp.223-224
[14] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btuxO-C2IzE
[15] Holy Transfiguration Monastery (trans.) The Great Horologion (Brookline: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1997) p.291
[16] G. Calciu, Christ is Calling You! (Platina: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood,1997) p.193
[17] Christ is Calling You! p.109
[18] L.Thunberg, Man and the Cosmos (Crestwood: SVS Press, 1985) p.91
[19] C. Luibheid (trans.), Pseudo-Dionysius the Complete Works (London: SPCK, 1987) p.95
[20] A. Louth, Maximus the Confessor (London: Routledge, 1996) p.147
[21] J. S. Romanides, Patristic Theology (Thessaloniki: Uncut Mountain Press, 2008) pp. 191-192
[22] J. Popovich, Man and the God-Man (Alhambra: Sebastian Press, 2009) p.90
[23] Man and the God-Man p.102

Comments

  1. Very interesting, thought provoking and much needed article turning the spotlight on to the problems with the atheist movement without resorting to the hysteria you often get in the exchanges between those of a religious persuasion and those who are not religious. Chris Hunter

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Anglican Women Bishops: A view from the Orthodox Church

A Miraculous Deliverance From Certain Death

The Transgender Agenda