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Modern Culture

“While every godly expression of our talents, and every lawful calling, can become an occasion to glorify God, the cultural mandate of Genesis 1 offers a particularly rich incentive for those working to preserve, beautify, and improve human culture…God’s creation extends beyond the biophysical sphere to include a vast array of cultural possibilities that God folded into human nature. Thus, in the “cultural mandate” of Genesis 1: 28, God charges humankind to be “fruitful and multiply,” to “fill the earth and subdue it.” According to a widespread interpretation of this mandate (or is it a blessing?), God’s good creation includes not only earth and its creatures, but also an array of cultural gifts, such as marriage, family, art, language, commerce, and (even in an ideal world) government. The fall into sin has corrupted these gifts but hasn’t unlicensed them. The same goes for the cultural initiatives we discover in Genesis 4, that is, urban development, tent-making, musicianship, and metal-working. All of these unfold the built-in potential of God’s creation. All reflect the ingenuity of God’s human creatures—itself a superb example of likeness to God.” (Cornelius Plantinga, Robin Phillips)

“…the moral state of a person is judged not by his material status and not by how externally useful he is, but by the internal state of his soul and heart. Thus, a work of art is artistic not when it is "effective" or "original" in its aesthetic form, but when it is true to its concealed and spiritual subject matter. Culture is created from within. It is the creation of the soul and spirit. This means that only a soul strengthened in a Christian manner can create Christian culture.” (Ivan Ilyin)

“Many saints were not educated, and they retreated from the surrounding culture, usually as monastics. However, the greatest Fathers, to whom we owe the precise exposition of our doctrine and way of life, lived in the world and shepherded parishes. They employed their education for the benefit of the faithful and responded to the culture around them.” (Dr. Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou)

“This idea that is now popular that interviewing someone or otherwise talking with them publicly “platforms” them, that it means endorsing everything they say and do — this is just irrational nonsense devoid of any critical thinking. It is cancel culture. Also, guilt by association is still a logical fallacy. Cancel culture is a cancer. It’s not Christianity. It’s demonic. It’s time for us to repent of that and to drive it out of our hearts so that we do not become as the world, which is so afraid of the truth that it screams and shrieks at the slightest disagreement even being mentioned in its hearing. I remember when cancel culture was a thing associated mainly with anti-Christian, secular people. But now that evil has taken over the hearts even of many Christians.” (Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick)

“That our culture is governed by a cult of youth is a mark of its foolishness and a prime example of its denial of reality. Modernity’s championing of technology often provokes the young into imagining that they know more than the generations that went before. Knowing how to program a tv-remote or manipulate the in’s and out’s of computer programs does not constitute wisdom. Often, it constitutes nothing more than a testimony to wasted time.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“Because this is a fallen world, deeply, ontologically rooted in the habit of sin, culture was also understood as profoundly ambiguous. On the one hand, it is the manifestation of the godlike creative capacities of human beings, owing to the fact that they are endowed with the divine image. On the other hand, owing to the fall, culture can express the most destructive proclivities of human beings.” (Vigen Guroian)

“Reverence for material things is in itself a healthy and natural movement of the heart and mind. “How magnified are Thy works, O Lord! In wisdom hast Thou made them all; the earth is filled with Thy creation” (Ps 103:26). Trouble begins when we “exchange of the truth of God for the lie” (Rom 1:25). Men start to believe that creation holds supreme value and deserves our highest reverence and devotion. Here we find the source of idolatry, that dead-end into which the devil constantly invites us. We see precisely what is wrong with the secular culture around us: a supreme devotion to and worship of material things to the exclusion of all else.” (Dynamis 6/15/2022)

“Christian popular culture is as prone to celebrate success as are its secular counterparts. We easily adore the “saints” of cultural competence: the talented, the beautiful, the rich, the lucky….A great emptiness in modern culture is the lack of models. You cannot construct the psyche of a culture out of thin air, much less from the constantly changing ephemera of academic and journalistic make-believe. Children need stable structures rather than ideologies and Tik-Tok wisdom. However, it is also true that transcendent models are difficult to come by (much less transcendent models that have truth and reality behind them).” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“ In our culture today, we admire people who seem to have all the money, power, and physical beauty to get whatever they want. We easily accept the lie that the good life is one in which other people praise us and we have as large a share of material resources as possible. Such a perspective, however, stands in stark contradiction to the path that our Lord calls us to follow. It is easy to forget that the Scriptures are full of warnings about the temptations faced by those who receive the praise of others.” (Fr. Philip LeMasters)

“… as our lives have collectively become more prosperous, our expectations have risen, resulting in more things to be unhappy about. Our comforts provide an endless array of new things to disappoint and frustrate us. When progress occurs on a ¬culture-wide level, not only do our expectations go up, but the baseline for normality rises to such an extent that it becomes easy to begin overlooking how blessed we are in terms of commonplace realities.” (Gregg Easterbrook, Robin Phillips)

“The reduction of the world and its “history,” are the tools of those who lack the imagination and patience to find the truth. Those who prosaically analyze history and the present as the simple march of freedom…miss most of human history, its complexities and the mystery that still awaits discovery. The same reductionist model being applied to the present serves the forces of our own misery and the suicide of our culture. Any society that manages to believe the story that giving birth and nurturing children is less than the most challenging, fulfilling and noble activity of human beings does not deserve to survive. It is the society of the anti-Christ. The suffering of marriage, of children, of the day-to-day tedium of existence is the poetry of the world. It rhymes with the heart-beat of every creature on the planet. Death and life and death and life are the rich contours where salvation is wrought. The entertainment culture and its demand for infinite freedom is not the home of creativity. It is anti-creative: consumers consuming consumers.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“In our comfort-oriented culture, it has become second nature to avoid those who are suffering or lonely, or whose lives are messy and filled with pain. People are desperately hungry for acceptance, understanding, belonging, and empathy, and when these are not available, our society offers all the equipment they need for numbing themselves…We may also use technologies as an insurance policy against boredom so we never have to be alone with ourselves. By providing a constant stream of stimuli, our technologies can help numb us to the uncertainty, confusion, and vulnerability that lie at the heart of human experience.” (Robin Phillips)

“The emphasis in our culture is on feeling important or presenting an appealing image of oneself. Social media encourage us to present an enhanced image of ourselves in order to be admired, to gain social acceptance, to make our lives appear more interesting and ourselves more accomplished, more intelligent, more beautiful, and more exciting.” (Dr. Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou)

“Greed and avarice are terrible passions. In monasticism, one of the three life-long promises is not to possess anything. In other words, the rejection of and severance from all earthly possessions so as to be able to acquire possession of heaven. Outside monasticism, this is put into practice by developing a healthy relationship to material goods and money. Our aim should not be how to become rich on earth by piling up riches, but how to cover our necessary earthly needs. And it’s certainly true that people can live respectable lives with only a few, simple things. What makes it difficult to understand this truth is the manic consumerism of modern culture, which, instead of simplifying our lives makes them ever more complicated.” (Protopresbyter Nikolaos Patsalos)

“Despite valiant and ongoing resistance from many quarters—including within industry— success for a large part of our culture is now judged by efficient production and mass consumption. We often value repetitive, machine-like performance as critical to bottom-line success. In the seductive industrialist mentality, people become “workers” or “human resources” who are first seen as interchangeable cogs, then treated as machines—and are now often replaced by machines.” (Makoto Fujimura)

“None of us can entirely separate ourselves from who we are. Our culture, education, family, nation, and religious background affect the way we view the world. We all accept as true many common presumptions of our era and culture. They are so deeply ingrained that we do not recognize them as cultural presumptions that may in fact not be true.” (Dr. Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou)

“There is a model of what it means to be human that is simply wrong, regardless of its elements of truth. That model envisions us primarily as free-agents, gathering information and making decisions. It emphasizes the importance of choice and the care with which decisions must be made. It lectures long on responsibility and the need to admit that we are the primary cause of our own failings. It praises hard work and admires those with creative insights. Success comes to those who master these virtues and we encourage everyone to take them as their models. This model of human agency is written deep in the mythology of American culture, and, with its global influence, has become increasingly popular elsewhere. Many elements of contemporary Christian thought assume this model of agency to be true and have interwoven it into the notion of salvation itself. The scandalous popularity of the novel teachers of prosperity and personal-success-schemes have raised this model of humanity into something like cult status. But even those who are scandalized by such distortions of the gospel often subscribe to many of its ideas. Those ideas are part of the “common sense” of our culture.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“Our culture often sells us faulty, fantastical maps of “the good life” that paint alluring pictures that draw us toward them. All too often we stake the expedition of our lives on them, setting sail toward them with every sheet hoisted. And we do so without thinking about it because these maps work on our imagination, not our intellect. It’s not until we’re shipwrecked that we realize we trusted faulty maps.” (James Smith)

“Contemporary culture, with its emphasis on material reality, has dulled our spiritual senses. We have gained a wealth of scientific knowledge and insight that has produced wonders of technology. At the same time, however, we have left behind other aspects of the created world in which we live and have isolated ourselves from the invisible realm in which God and the angelic hosts dwell.” (Fr. Stephen De Young)

“Just as Christ and the saints embody and confirm the biblical truth about human beings as having been created in the image of God, so human culture may be an expression of that divine image extended into the world. God intends the humanization of the world but also its divinization…Though our secular society believes in the unseen forces of “dark matter,” “black holes,” and the “solar wind,” it denies the invisible spiritual forces that Scripture and Holy Tradition assume. But if we are faithful to the Word of Life, we will live in a three-dimensional world, a world that includes angelic and demonic powers as well as earthly rulers and authorities.” (Vigen Guroian, Fr. Basil)

“The term culture wars, which has become stock parlance in our day, can mislead and obscure the real drama unfolding. Culture wars is a hopelessly inadequate description of the choices that contemporary society is making for the future of humankind…growing indifference to the incarnation and rejection of it can only mean decadence and demise of the culture.” (Vigen Guroian) “…modern man has continued to travel ever further away from the eternal truth of Christianity. We have lost our ability to contemplate these truths, we have habituated ourselves to live without them. And so, we have degenerated intellectually and morally, plunging ever closer to a complete culture crisis, unheard-of in the history of mankind.” (Ivan Ilyin) “Without faith, without deep faith, without a faith that is willing to grow and expand, we sell out to self-serving truths and cultural lies.” (Father John Zeyack) “A related cultural fault line is hyperspecialization, where a person or firm focuses on increasingly narrow segments of a production process, discipline, artistic genre, or market. One result is an increasing prominence in our culture of the “expert.” The expert knows one part, not the whole, and often not even the wider field in which they work. They consciously reduce their scope of concern to go deeper in their discipline. But increased clarity on a narrow point usually comes at the price of blindness to context and to one’s working assumptions. It often brings isolation from—and sometimes alienation from or hostility to—those with differing expertise.” (Makoto Fujimura) “Virtue is a very natural thing. It is acquired slowly, frequently without great intention, through repeated practices and habits. Those who worry about the collapse of civilization have become too lofty in their thoughts. It is the collapse of the parish that matters just now…The origin of the word, “parish,” says a lot. It is derived ultimately from paroikia (“near the house”).” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“CULTURE is an inner, organic phenomenon—it grabs the most profound depths of the human soul and it comprises paths of living, even mystical, viability. In this way it is different from civilization, which can be assimilated externally and superficially, and doesn't require the fullness of spiritual participation…a people can have an ancient and subtle spiritual culture, but in questions of external civilization (clothing, living spaces, infrastructure, industry, etc.) it can appear to be quite backward or primitive. The opposite is also true. A people can stand on the absolute high point of technology and civilization, while in the areas of spiritual culture (morality, science, art, politics, and economy) they can be undergoing a period of degradation.” (Ivan Ilyin)

“… modern culture defines the happy life as a life that is “going well”—­full of experiential pleasure—­while to the ancients, the happy life meant the life that is lived well, with character, courage, humility, love, and justice.” (Nicholas Wolterstorff)

“Because we live in a culture where mystery has lost its value, where to hide something is often thought of as merely repressive, we don’t understand this idea of “the sacred.” (Eric Metaxas)

“As long as we as a culture adhere to a reductionist worldview that sees everything in terms of efficiency, rationality, and utilitarianism alone, and one that credentials our children instead of educates them, we are going to continue to see the current spike in anxiety, depression, and cynicism. “Man was not meant to live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4). We need to understand this Scripture (which we have likely heard so many times we that we have ceased to understand it) from a fresh perspective and really take to heart what it means. Feeding the body and starving the soul just doesn’t work.” (Sacramental Living Blog)

“…culture is not created by the rational mind, nor by the force of will. It is created by a unified, prolonged, and inspired tension of a people's entire essence, seeking a beautiful form for profound content. This includes the unconscious powers of the soul and instinct first of all. But instinct is capable of holding and creative a form, of gestating profound ideas, of becoming inspired, of loving and preserving culture, only as much as it communes with spirituality through love and faith.” (Ivan Ilyin)

“Most people in our culture have had their minds and their character formed and shaped by the practices of the modern consumer state. The role of human beings is understood to be production and consumption. There is an accompanying extreme value placed on the illusion of free-choice and a good life defined by self-fulfillment (meaning being pleased with myself for the choices I have made). In our world we are taught to ask, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” and mean by it, “What do I want to do when I grow up?” But the more proper question for a Christian is, “What kind of person do I want to be when I grow up?” and, “How is that possible?” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“Every society offers up “ideals” to its members. Ancient cultures called people to live “for God (or the gods), for family and tribe or nation. Modern societies turned away from the authorities of religion and tradition, and replaced them with the authorities of reason and individual freedom.” (Pastor Timothy Keller)

“...having “healthy” pride in ourselves and restoring our self-esteem apart from God’s grace is the way many modern-day secular self-help books and contemporary psychologists teach us to acquire good mental health.” (Father David L. Fontes, PsyD)

“First, he [Paul] admonishes us to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). This apostolic rule is contrary to our modern heresy of self-fulfillment. The indulgent cult of self-actualization ignores the faith and healing found in the Body of Christ, and instead promotes independence and doing our own thing.” (Dynamis 9/16/2015)

“Modern society holds back no barriers discussing guilt. Barnes and Nobel lists no less than

1,143 titles dealing with guilt…guilt, shame or dissatisfaction occurs when an individual compares their behavior to their internal standards and finds that it either violates or falls short of those standards…The scriptures teach that we are created in God's image and called to be like Him. Further, "...God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. (Gen. 1:31). The things we do may be wrong or even evil but our actions cannot negate the existential truth that we are made in God's image and thus good remains.” (Father George Morelli)

“A symbol has an ontological connection with what it symbolizes not just an arbitrary connection assigned by human culture...There is a great tendency in our modern society to reduce symbols to mere signs. This stems from a secular view of the world which views the universe not as the Spirit filled creation but as a cold, external and empty void, devoid of human meaning and independent of and indifferent to human existence.” (Archpriest Lawrence Cross)

“Modern education, by contrast, offers only intellectual attainment, omitting God as the reliable source of true wisdom. At best, education does a creditable job of accumulating reserves of human knowledge, enlarging intellects, and sharpening perception within a defined framework. At worst, it merely provides access to professional fields and produces leaders who lack the wisdom to address life’s abiding problems.” (OCPM 6/3/2016)

“… modern culture defines the happy life as a life that is “going well”—full of experiential pleasure—while to the ancients, the happy life meant the life that is lived well, with character, courage, humility, love, and justice.” (Nicholas Wolterstorff)

“The great difficulty is to get modern audiences to realize that you are preaching Christianity solely and simply because you happen to think it true; they always suppose you are preaching it because you like it or think it good for society or something of that sort.” (C. S. Lewis)

“We thus might even dare to think that the account of Adam in the Garden is so simplistic that it might become confusing to our ‘modern advanced intellectual prowess.’ We, too, might be beguiled: “as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so [our] minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (II Cor. 11: 3).” (Archimandrite Sergius)

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