Be the Bee #76 | Is Orthodoxy Anti Intellectual? (featuring Sister Vassa Larin)

Be the Bee #76 | Is Orthodoxy Anti Intellectual? (featuring Sister Vassa Larin)


Hey everybody this is Steve and our minds
have a part to play in our life in Christ. We received a great question from David, a
high schooler from Michigan, who asks whetherOrthodoxy is anti-intellectual. He’s wondering whether his love of books and rational theology somehow contradicts the
mysticism of the Church. To answer that, I’m turning to my friend Sister
Vassa. Maybe you’ve heard of her. Of course you’ve heard of me! Sister Vassa is both a nun and a scholar,
so she has great experience on both sides of the question. So what do you think Sister Vassa? That s a great question David. I’ve often wondered that myself. We should remember that we approach God as persons. God is a living being in Three Persons, as Steve has mentioned on his show. So we approach God as persons: not just with emotion, not just with our minds, not just
with the ritual of our bodies, but as complete human persons, with everything that makes us up: body, mind, and soul. That’s a great point. And it’s something we can see it in
the incredible variety of saints that the Church has been blessed with. Some have been simple and uneducated, like the humble priest St Nicholas Planas, or the
fool for Christ St Ksenia of St Petersburgh. Their lack of education or worldly sophistication
didn t make them any less holy; holiness is, first and foremost, about our relationship with God. Yet the Church has been blessed with
some incredibly brilliant saints, some of whom were the most intellectually accomplished people of their time. For instance, there’s St Catherine of Alexandria,
who debated the most educated pagan philosophers and defeated them, convincing them that Christ
is the Lord. And there’s St Basil the Great, who studied
in Athens and received an incredible classical education. He made important strides
in philosophy with his writings explaining the difference between person and nature. Not to mention his friend St Gregory the Theologian, and his brother St Gregory of Nyssa, and his
sister St Makrina. And did you notice I have a different mug now? Collect them all! And of course there’s St Maximos the Confessor, one of the most brilliant minds in Church history, whose writings continue to… Would you stop that Sister Vassa! And the list goes on. Yet it’s important to note that our more brilliant saints were not holy because of their intelligence and education. That was simply a gift; and as with any gift, it is meant to be offered
back to God. Despite all that, Orthodoxy is still sometimes described
as anti-intellectual. Why do you think that is, Sister Vassa? I think some of it may be a misunderstanding of an important controversy in Church history. In the 14th century, there was a disagreement, known as the Hesychast Controversy. Oh yeah! Hesychasm comes from the Greek word for silence or stillness, hesychia, and is sometimes used to describe the way we should approach prayer, especially the Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. People sometimes present the controversy as a conflict between the head and heart, between
rational theology and experiential prayer, but more fundamentally it was a disagreement
over the nature of grace. Whether grace is this created thing or actually
the uncreated life and energies of God. Because if grace is a created thing, then we can’t
ever really experience God or be united to Him. Because’s there’s always a created middle-man between us. Right. That’s why it s important to note that
St Gregory Palamas, who was the great champion of the Church in the Hesychastic Controversy,
was a brilliant man. And he did use his education and intellect to help articulate the truth
of Orthodoxy. By the way, we do have an episode of “Coffee With Sister Vassa” about St Gregory Palamas. But we can’t forget that he did spend years in
a cave outside Thessaloniki, immersed in a life of prayer and fasting. So he didn’t just think or read about God, like Steve is doing back there in case you didn’t notice. He took steps to actually get to know Him. We did an episode on that! Don’t mind him, watch my episode on that. St Gregory Palamas is a great example of a saint with a brilliant mind, who wrote some of the most incredible theology in all of Church history. We’ll always need theologians like that, people who can help teach and explain the beliefs of the Church, beliefs that have consequences in our relationship with God and the way we
live our lives. Yet St Gregor’ s thoughts were always grounded
in his relationship with Christ, in prayer and fasting and alms-giving and studying the
Scripture and attending the services. It’s like the great Egyptian ascetic Evagrius once said, “If you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you are a theologian.” So, if we’re capable of reading and studying theology,
that’s great. But we should make sure that it’s part of a greater, wholesome life in Christ. So our study isn’t simply an academic pursuit but rather is a part, and a help, in our journey
to know Christ. So let’s Be the Bee, and approach Christ with our entire person: body, mind, and soul. Be
the Bee, and Live Orthodoxy. Remember to like and subscribe, and share, and please remember to subscribe to Coffee with Sister Vassa. I’ll see you all next week. I’ll take the stairs.

31 Replies to “Be the Bee #76 | Is Orthodoxy Anti Intellectual? (featuring Sister Vassa Larin)”

  1. Hello Steve and Sister Vassa,

    Thank you for all you do. This was a very valuable episode! Always know that your work is greatly needed and appreciated.

  2. Steve are you running a business or a channel for the Church, trying to sell mugs. You should be ashamed of yourself for using the Lords name and the Church to turn a profit

  3. This is David, the one who asked the question at first. Sister Vassa & Steve, thanks for making this video. I really enjoyed it. Keep up the good work you two!

  4. To Steven Christoforou

    I am sorry for the way I wrote the comment, but the way it was presented in the video, it seemed as a sales pitch.

  5. I loved this episode, thank you so much for your service 😀
    I just had a quick enquiry. This does explain that christianity doesn't just stem off of thought but that intellect is involved. However what about those that say things like "God's very existence" is just a matter of blind faith and "anti-intellectual" in the sense that it's perceived as blind faith and not off of any intellect ?

  6. Hello, Steve!
    I’m not sure what is the best way to contact you, so I just decided to leave a comment here.
    My name is Elena, I’m from Moscow, Russia. I want to thank you for this podcast you make! I think, I’m kinda conservative person, so it was a very unusual way of sermon for me for the first time. But then I got really fascinated by your videos and your way to explain some really tricky theological questions. And, the most important thing, it fells that you are really sincere in everything you talking about!
    I have a couple of questions for you.
     First, I’m interested if you use the book “Alphabet of the Faith” by Christos Yannaras? I’ve just finished to read it today and I felt like you use quotes from this book (I mean not literally quotes but notional ones) when you talk about basics of the Faith? I noticed it while watching the episode about the original sin, especially. 
    And second question is about the situation with Orthodoxy in States. In particular, do young people play important role in parish life? I saw your video about summer camps and it looks impressive. Do you experience shortage of young men at all?
    Thanks again for all this you are doing,
    Every good thing,
    Elena.

  7. Really enjoyed this episode.  So happy you and Sister Vassa put this together.  Two great Orthodox souls.  🙂  Thanks Steve and Sister Vassa.  Joyous Feast Day Steve!

  8. I appreciate this. Is it appropriate to mention the "nous"? Perhaps helping westerners to understand noetic theology, the "eye" rather than the "heart" in the western sense?

  9. To Steve and Vassa,
    Please hear these words, in the name of Jesus Christ:
    There is no god that exists in three persons.
    No such god exists.

    The Almighty God is ONE, and his name ONE.
    God was manifest in the flesh.
    The name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is Jesus Christ.

    If indeed you are scholars, and have read the scripture (Holy Bible, KJV), then you will have to confess that what I have written here is God's word.

    And, if you will repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which will cause you to speak with other tongues and prophesy as the scripture declares, THEN you will be Christians, and THEN, God will reveal the scriptures to you.
    Until then, to you the scriptures are a sealed book.

    Jesus Christ is not part of a trinity of persons.
    Jesus Christ has no Orthodox church, and in his church, there are no nuns.

    This is a message from a man of God, speaking the word of God, to you.

    You are welcome to contact me if I may be of service to you in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
    If you choose to continue rather in the antichrist religion you are serving presently, your blood be upon you.
    You have been sent God's word this day.
    Amen.

  10. Steve, watched your interview with Sister Vassa.  Wonderful, though you do speak rather fast.  Love your channel, and have learned so much despite being Orthodox for the past almost 30 years.  Before that, I was Roman Catholic.  I am actually with the OCA, but attend a Greek Orthodox Church not that far from my home.  Keep up the great work, Steve.

  11. My philosophy is Love and Knowledge, and Identifying with All and with None. Is there a similar concept in the Church? I once heard an Orthodox monastic say "all of humanity dwells in me, and when I pray, all of humanity prays"… Is there an Orthodox quote emphasizing the importance of both Knowledge and Love? Thanks Steve!

  12. I'm also worried about what the Church thinks about Modern Boasian Anthropology. I'm an student of Anthropology, and I believe that all cultures and societies are equal have truth and beauty, and we should work to preserve all of our cultural traditions that are good, and transform for the better, doing all in intercultural dialogue and appreciation (in accordance to what St. Justin Martyr said, whatsoever things are rightly said among men, etc.). Is this compatible with Orthodoxy? Also what prayers can you suggest that relate to this very topic? I haven't found any as of now. Thanks!

  13. I may not have been able to go to church tonight for Easter but I'm watching all of these orthodox videos. Thanks Steve! I'll be celebrating Christ's resurrection still and will be praying! God bless!

  14. oh man, the music… did not fit the piece and was totally distracting. Unless it's just my headphones, it was way too loud, even if it did have a more appropriate vibe.

  15. It's not anti-intellectual.
    The bible has timeless wisdoms like..

    A Coveting person is never contempt.
    Love is altruistic.
    A web of lies will snare yourself.

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