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about me

I have been happily married for twenty-five years, and am the father of four wonderful children. I am an Episcopal Priest. My studies have been not only at Anglican, but also Eastern Orthodox and Southern Baptist seminaries.

By nature I am conservative, by which I mean that I have a deep respect for tradition and the wisdom that can be gained from those who came before us. With that respect for tradition comes a corresponding caution regarding change – a caution that arises from an observation that, historically, radical change, though sometimes good and necessary, has often brought about problems worse than what previously existed. I believe that right and wrong are matters of fact, not matters of feeling. I believe that without God there can be no good. I believe that enforced equality is a poor substitute for real justice. I believe that just because something is new does not necessarily mean it is superior, and that just because something is old does not mean the it is inferior. I also believe that relativism, secularism, and pragmatism are the enemies of truth and goodness.

I profess the Christian Faith. That mysterious relationship that exists, by the gracious act of God, between God and humanity. God became man in the person of Jesus Christ not to institute a new philosophy or even a code of conduct, but primarily to restore us to new life in the fellowship of the Holy Trinity. Because of the limitations to the human mind there must always be an element of mystery in how we approach speaking of God. It must be acknowledged that the realities that are manifested in the life of the Church can not be fully be defined by the language, formulas, or definitions of the Faith. The Faith does not belong to us; we belong to it, we subscribe to it, we submit ourselves to it, because it is from God. We are not free to change it or to alter it; it is we who must changed or transformed.

I am convicted that the tendency among even well intentioned Christian people in the West to stray from the Apostolic Faith is a result, in part, of the little regard for, and general lack of familiarity with, the Early Church Fathers and their interpretation of Holy Scripture. What often passes as teaching in many churches today is little more than naïve Biblicism, self-help psychology, and party politics. The teaching in these kinds of churches has become so insipid because it has been displaced from the more vigorous river of the Church’s Tradition, and no longer draws on the clear, deep, theological wellsprings of the Fathers. The Church Fathers are witnesses to the living Tradition of the Church from the Apostolic times, and because of that their commentaries on Scripture can be looked to and relied upon as a trustworthy guide to the interpretation of Scripture.

I believe that each human being exists as a result of the creative act of God. Each has never been before and will never be repeated. Each one who is, or will be conceived is unique and irreplaceable. Each was created in the image and likeness of God. This means that there is a dignity which is due to each human person. There are many human needs which find no place in the “free market.” The image and likeness of God that is marked on each human person makes it unthinkable that we should, through selfishness, idleness or apathy, allow fundamental human needs to remain unmet, or to allow those burdened by such needs to perish.

We are our brother’s keeper.

37 Comments leave one →
  1. 22 September 2010 4:39 pm

    Hi, nice to meet you !

  2. 30 September 2010 1:58 pm

    Choose the future you prefer. The status quo, where existing religious traditions, mired in their own contradictions, corruption, hypocrisy and hocus-pocus, offer little but pretensions and divisiveness, and where existing political process can only feebly respond to the growing chaos of more war, terrorism, economic turmoil, environmental degradation, injustice, spin and whitewash, natural disaster, plague and pandemic; or learn to comprehend that human nature, prisoner to its evolutionary root, exists within fixed limits of understanding, and by taking new personal and moral responsibility, in a single change of mind, heart  and conduct, by faith, transcend those limits and blow the status quo strait to oblivion. 

  3. 21 June 2011 10:25 am

    You know, it seems to me Dover Beach is the best Christian blog, and among the very best spiritual blogs of any sort, that I have yet come across. Your themes and your take on them are more than refreshing, they are inspiring. Thank you so much for what you are doing. I wish you the audience you deserve. And please forgive me for gushing. It’s hard not to.

    • 22 June 2011 5:55 pm

      Thank you. I think that you may be giving me more credit than my little blog deserves, but your generosity is appreciated.

  4. In Tempore permalink
    7 July 2011 9:08 am

    I thoroughly concur about the onset of naive Biblicism. I also think it’s true that “because of the limitations to the human mind there must always be an element of mystery in how we approach speaking of God”. I would go further: an element of mystery is essentially the same as total mystery, like adding an integer to infinity. No matter how much we know (religious or secular), we are always in the (intellectual) dark.

    This being the case, how can one subscribe to any dogma, Christian or otherwise? Isn’t Jesus’ ideology a transcendence of ideology?

    The Church Fathers may be “relied upon as a trustworthy guide to the interpretation of Scripture” and that interpretation is religion can’t ever provide a literal answer. The truth lies within.

    • 8 July 2011 4:29 pm

      In my understanding good theology is apophatic, but not nihilistic. Knowledge is possible.

      We cannot define God in conceptual language, but we can experience Him. It is basic to the Judeo-Christian understanding of the world that we are made in the image of God. Although our concepts are limited by our existence inside a particular space and time, there is open to us the possibility of supratemporal experience.

      When I say that the Church Fathers may be relied upon as a trustworthy guide to the interpretation of Scripture, I am saying that I, and many millions of others over the course of the past two millennia, have found in them a trustworthy guide to sharing in that experience.

  5. In Tempore permalink
    10 July 2011 11:59 am

    Indeed, God is a supratemporal experience, and as such is, by definition, also outside of language and reason, period. This being the case, the best theology – and scripture –can hope for is to play a poetic role in our understanding, using words and argument to allude to what is ultimately real. Thus interpretation is always interpretation, some better than others. My point is: one should never rely on such interpretation as doing so tends to make it intellectually real and once it’s “actually” real it is no longer supratemporal and therefore no longer a truly divine experience. This is also the case with scriptural revelation. A miracle loses its effect the moment we presume it to be literally true. Hence the enduring ability of monotheistic religions to compromise their own cause.

  6. 11 July 2011 7:26 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. You must not have read much of this blog though. If you had, you would know that I am not a literalist.

  7. In Tempore permalink
    15 July 2011 10:33 pm

    You are obviously a learned, sincere man. However, saying you’re not a literalist hardly addresses my points. Moreover, you are a literalist to the extent that you believe aspects of Jesus’ life are literally true. Naive Biblicism is not a selective proposition: you can’t choose which bits of scripture you believe to be “real”. You offer these instructive quotes about the ineffability of God, but haven’t thought through their implications. Anyone who professes to be Christian contradicts such insights. To say anything is literally true is an act of faithlessness.

    • 16 July 2011 1:39 pm

      You wrote to me saying, “You offer these instructive quotes about the ineffability of God, but haven’t thought through their implications. Anyone who professes to be Christian contradicts such insights.” – Forgive me for pointing out that you are the one who has not thought through what you are saying. Nearly all of the quotations that I have offered concerning the incomprehensibility of God are from the Church Fathers, – every one of them a Christian. By posting quotes such as those you mention, I have been trying to draw attention to an older and better understanding of the Christian faith that is unfamiliar to a great many whose only experience is with American style fundamentalist/evangelical/literalist religion.

      There are different types of knowing. There is a theoretical or technical knowledge that is concerned with objective data. This kind of knowledge confers a certain power and control: power and control over matter, and even power and control over people. It can be taught and learned in all its particulars by any one possessing the intellectual acuity. it is the same kind of knowledge found in surgical techniques, business strategies, military tactics, or legal procedures, – Paul referred to this as the kind of knowledge that “puffs up.” This is the type of religious knowledge that fundamentalists think they have. Knowledge of this kind enables us to externally manipulate things or people, to change them, to exert an influence on them from the outside.

      The other type of knowledge is personal and intuitive, it arises from within, is subjective and is more difficult to transmit. It can really be gained only through experience, and one can be guided to that experience through the witness that others bear of their own experience. It sometimes is easier to portray through poetry, stories, or parables. At its purest it is transcendent, in that it passes through even the hidden levels of the imagination and affective life to the heart of the person known. This is the kind of knowledge the Christian faith is most concerned with. To know another, to know God is to experience him precisely as person. Such knowledge of the Lord is a saving knowledge. It is possible only through love. And it can be spread only through love, not through argument. If you insist that the first kind of knowledge is the only kind to be had, then there is little that I will be able to say to you that will help you understand. This second kind of knowledge is not a flag to be waved, nor a club to use against those who do not understand. As Saint Ambrose said, “It doesn’t suit God to save his people by arguments”

      God is Incomprehensible in His essence, but there is a sense in which He can be known and that knowledge of Him is an absolute necessity for our salvation. In his Catechetical Lectures St. Cyril of Jerusalem says that, “We explain not what God is, but candidly confess that we have not exact knowledge concerning Him. For in what concerns God, to confess our ignorance is the best knowledge”

  8. In Tempore permalink
    17 July 2011 1:20 pm

    I agree with the Church Fathers, and you, when it comes to ineffability and puffed up knowledge about material existence. I am focussed on the implications of such a view.

    If St. Cyril is correct, and I believe he is, is it not a contradiction to define yourself as a Christian, insofar as it infers you believe something to be literally meaningful? The act of labelling yourself “something”, even if it is true, actively compromises your message of incomprehensiblity.

    As you suggest, there is no point arguing about what matters, as it is beyond conception and expression. Athanasius of Alexandria said that “God revealed himself through a body that we might receive an idea of the invisible Father.” While this may well be true, believing it is, and choosing to defend the invisible, is ultimately a vain attempt to contain God’s love in the story of Jesus. It is limiting in a way that Jesus never was.

    • Linda Nietman permalink
      14 December 2011 11:39 pm

      But, as I understand it, that is the whole point. God, being God, knows that understanding God is far beyond the powers of us mortals. That is where Jesus comes in. He helps us understand, not everything about God – for to do that we would need to be God ourselves, but to understand that which is necessary for us as humans to have a relationship with God and to live life as God intends for us to do, loving and helping our fellow humans in joy and peace. Do we really need to know more about God, or do we need to know God?

  9. 23 July 2011 2:59 pm

    This humble buddhist offers gassho for your insightfully wonderful, greco-hebrew verbosity in so eloquently expressing the intellectual capacity of christianity. I will read on. Thanks again.

  10. Yolanda Diaz permalink
    12 October 2011 6:12 pm

    What is your name, please? I have not been able to find it on the site.

  11. 16 March 2012 12:24 am

    Enjoying your blog…keep up the good work!

  12. Darin B permalink
    1 June 2012 4:44 am

    Great blog. Thank you and good luck.

  13. Ritualist Robert permalink
    2 August 2012 3:33 am

    Dear Θεόφιλος,

    Thanks for writing this blog. I discovered it a few days ago and already it’s one of my favourites. As a cradle Anglican I am interested in your journey to and from Orthodoxy. I am attracted by it too, but it is, I think, too culturally foreign, even in its fairly pro-western Antiochian form. Are you back in Anglican orders?

  14. 3 August 2012 10:33 am

    Thank you for taking the time to leave a positive comment. Yes I am again a parish priest in an Episcopal Church.

  15. 6 September 2012 1:37 am

    Θεόφιλος ,
    I am not a Christian, but I am a scholar and I very much appreciate what you are doing on your blog.

  16. Jon Mark permalink
    29 September 2012 3:59 pm

    Glad to find your site. Don’t know how I missed it. I look forward to the journey with you.

    Peace be with you.

  17. Robert Diehl permalink
    19 December 2012 5:12 pm

    Robert Farrer Capon was also an Episcopal priest, but a liberal, not a conservative. I attended Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia many years ago, but left after one year when I read Albert Schweitzer’s book THE QUEST OF THE HISTORICAL JESUS. The early Christians were Gnostics — altogether different from your Episcopalian faith. I believe everyone is holy. My faith in a nutshell:
    AWARENESS OF GOD IN THE PRESENT MOMENT IS THE ONLY REALITY.
    FEEL MY PRESENCE.
    YOU AND I ARE ONE.
    THERE IS NO OTHER REALITY.
    WE ARE ETERNAL.
    SEARCH NO FURTHER.

  18. 21 January 2013 8:25 pm

    Very much enjoying reading your blog
    Blessings from New Zealand!

  19. Pikavippi permalink
    7 February 2013 9:23 am

    Nice paragraph and pleasant arguments commented at this place, I am genuinely enjoying the blog.

  20. Elisabeth Grace permalink
    10 April 2013 4:02 am

    Superbly true and gratefully so!

  21. 20 April 2013 10:57 pm

    Good day, Θεόφιλος
    I came across your blog and like it very much; especially your emphaisis on the writings and thoughts of the patristic fathers. I very much enjoyed your four part series of posts on the nous, almost unknown in the West. I invite you to my modest blog at http://firstthoughtsof god.wordpress.com. I would really appreciated any feedback you might have.

    Dallas Wolf
    Holly Pond, AL USA

  22. 21 April 2013 3:50 am

    Blew the link to my blog: http://firstthoughtsofgod.wordpress.com.
    The point of my blog is to re-unite the praxis of renewal Christians (Pentecostals/Charismatics) with their ancient complementary doxis.

    Love that you have the Jesus Prayer in your header. Be still; be watchful; pray continuously.

  23. 25 July 2013 11:57 am

    I suspect you have probably read Bishop Ryle’s “Principles for Churchmen.” One quote from that book which I particularly like speaks volumes to today’s church even though written over 100 years ago:

    “A Church which is a mere boneless body, like a jelly-fish, a colourless, bloodless, creedless Pantheon, in which every one is right and nobody is wrong who is in earnest, and in which it does not matter a jot what is preached and taught, so long as the preachers are sincere,—such a Church is an unpractical absurdity, and the baseless fabric of a dream. The Church which abandons all “limits,” and will not proclaim to mankind what it believes, or would have its members believe, may do very well for Cloudland or Utopia; but it will never do for a world where there are tears and crosses, troubles and sorrows, sickness and death.”

    Grace and Peace!

    Todd D. Nystrom a.k.a. “Todd the Hiker”
    Ohio, USA

  24. John Williams permalink
    2 August 2013 2:02 pm

    I enjoy your blog very much! It’s good to find another Bonhoeffer enthusiast.
    God bless you,

    John Williams
    East Tennessee

  25. joann permalink
    22 June 2014 6:12 pm

    I love your blog, Thank you!!!! Have you seen the blog Finding Freedom in Christianity by Coptic priest, Fr.Antony Paul?

    http://canamorthodox.wordpress.com/

    It is also very good. Check it out.

    • 23 June 2014 11:26 am

      Thank you.
      No, I haven’t seen the blog that you mentioned, but I’ll look for it.
      God bless.

  26. 30 July 2014 11:37 pm

    Shalom…..I ran across your blog just a few days ago, and I am grateful to have found you… lots to reflect on… so thanx, as part of my search for truth, I too have been and am on a journey, so reading some of your stories especially… why I didn’t stay being an eastern orthodox,, that wasn’t your title, but anyhow ,I found it to be quite absorbing, I am not university trained , so I just bumble along. as best I can.. what really interests me is the great mystery. I ran across orthodoxy quite by chance..or was it !!!!..?? a friend of mine is orthodox and she started to lend me books, the first one being Mountain of silence… from that moment on I was hooked into the amazing life of father maximos….. it is interesting even to myself why an x hippy child , whos travelled all over the world, meeting the daili lama in dharamalsala, played around with Buddhism but in the end, I found it too impersonal.. then I would find eastern orthodoxy here in a small town on Vancouver Island ,,but I did, however on my first visit to an EOC I wasn’t exactly how shall I say ,,well I wasn`t pulled in, I felt frustrated that I couldn’t sing along, and of course every thing was very different. fast forward I want to join a church. but am confused. yes it could be the evil one for sure, however I MYSELF AM NOT CONSERVATIVE BUT mY VIEWS ON LIFE HAve RADICALLY SHIFTED, I know I need structure and accountability to god… ops caps where on… the episcopal church holds some appeal, so this will be my next stop, do they study the early church, I see the importance of understanding this continuity, but human beings being what they are I too have some concerns which I have been unable to resolve.
    I know one things for sure the born again style is not for me. as soon as I started reading the desert fathers and the church fathers past and present and the profound depth, I can never go back to a Baptist or should I say a church with no liturgy and the sacraments. our local Anglican church may work even though no body seems to be under eighty, and I am only 58 years young ha ha.. no offence meant we sorely need the wise ones of any age…well I will keep on with my search , thanx for your wonderful blogs god bless kaz..I grew up in England with atheist parents who mock anything to do with god, so better late than never… kaz (karenjeffreys

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