“The Disappearing Deaconess: How the Hierarchical Ordering of Church Offices Doomed the Female Diaconate”

Brian Patrick Mitchell

March 10, 2017

Arguments for reviving the order of deaconess in the Orthodox Church have emphasized historical precedent for the existence and ordained status of deaconesses in the Church’s first millennium, on the assumption that since the Church once had deaconesses, it can have them again. This assumption, however, fails to take into consideration evolutionary changes in Orthodox ecclesiology that account for the female diaconate’s disappearance and therefore discount both historical precedent and putative need as justifications for its revival. This study will demonstrate how an increasingly hierarchical ecclesiology doomed the order of deaconess by forcing it into conflict with Christian beliefs about the natural and economical order of the man and the woman. Read more . . . 

“Byzantine Empire — or Republic?”

Brian Patrick Mitchell

The American Conservative, August 7, 2015

The textbooks say the Byzantine Empire was a theocratic autocracy uniting church and state under an all-powerful emperor believed by the Byzantines to be God’s viceroy and vicar.

Nonsense, says Anthony Kaldellis, professor of classics at Ohio State University. The Byzantine Empire was a continuation of the Roman Empire and even of the Roman Republic. Its political ideology was fundamentally secular and grounded in the ancient Roman republican belief that government exists to serve the common good. Its people no longer had a legal role in the election of leaders or legislators, but they often played an extralegal role in the making and unmaking of emperors, whose legitimacy depended on popularity and not on a claim of divine right or constitutional correctness. Emperors therefore ruled pragmatically and not fanatically, often disappointing the Church to please the people.

This is fresh air for Orthodox Christians, who have had to bear the accusation of Byzantine theocracy longer than Western Christians have had to bear the accusations of the Crusades and the Inquisition. But Kaldellis’s The Byzantine Republic also provides useful criticism of modern Western political thinking, as well as portentous, if inadvertent, insight into progressive democratic thinking and where it will take us. Read more . . .

“Gay Christians? The Grave Danger Coming Out Poses to Christian Churches”

Brian Patrick Mitchell

Touchstone, January/February 2015

Conflict makes people uncomfortable, so in mixed company, people watch what they say. Instead of speaking their minds on controversial issues, they trim their opinions to fit those around them—sometimes out of charity, sometimes out of prudence, but often out of cowardice.

Gays count on cowardice when they “come out.” They know that announcing themselves as gay will silence most objections to gayness. The person who comes out dares others to disagree with him on the matter, challenging them to either accept him as gay or make him their enemy.

Not surprisingly, the closer one is to someone who comes out, the harder it is to maintain one’s disapproval of homosexuality. Pew Research reports that people who know a lot of gays are twice as likely to support gay marriage as people who know none. Even for many professed Christians, family blood is ultimately thicker than the water of Holy Baptism.

Coming out therefore poses a special danger to Christianity, but not in the way many might think. The greater danger is not from gays openly living the gay lifestyle while still claiming to be Christians. Most such gays will migrate to churches accepting of the gay lifestyle and thus leave other churches undisturbed. The greater danger is from Christians who profess to be both “gay” and chaste—Christians who openly identify themselves as “gay” on account of their attraction to members of their own sex, yet who accept their church’s condemnation of homosexual relations as sinful. Read more . . .

“What Is Ethical Conservatism?”

Brian Patrick Mitchell

The American Conservative, July 3, 2014

The modern age is an age of anarchy, an era of habitual rebellion against old ways and existing order in the name of liberty, equality, enlightenment, and progress. It began as a rebellion against religious hierarchy, burgeoned into a rebellion against political monarchy, and finally boiled over in a rebellion against social patriarchy, leaving in its wake a new civilization endlessly at war with civilization itself.

Raised to rebel, the modern, anarchistic, progressive personality is always impatient with the world as it is and ever insistent that it change to suit him. Believing himself innocent, he blames others for the suffering he sees, indicting Society, Civilization, the Church, the State, the Establishment, the System, the Corporations, or the Man for crimes against the People and the Planet. Consistent with the age’s Luciferian culture of grievance justifying rebellion, the progressive lives passionately and impulsively as the hero of his own personal revolution, in which anything that stands in his way—that limits his autonomy, inhibits his self-expression, frustrates his ambitions, convicts his conscience, offends his sensibilities, or denies him satisfaction—can be condemned as unfair, unjust, intolerant, and therefore intolerable. Read more . . .

 “Debt and Sovereignty: The Lost Lessons”

Brian Patrick Mitchell

Humanitas, 2011

In an earlier article entitled “The Moral Hazard of Modern Banking,” I, in effect, warned: Beware of bankers. Bankers think they’re smarter than other people and often use their smarts to get the better of others in less than honest ways. While some readers thought I was too hard on bankers, I did not deliver a blanket condemnation of usury. In fact, I noted that a blanket condemnation of usury in the Christian West was misguided, that debt is not always bad, and that we owe most of our modern material blessings to the system of debt we call capitalism. The problem is that, in the pursuit of happiness and the fight against communism, we lost sight of capitalism’s dark side, the inherent danger of debt.

That danger is only now dawning on us once again. It is a danger to each of us individually inasmuch as we all labor under the burden of mortgages and consumer debt. It is also a danger to us collectively as a nation and even as a civilization. Every week we hear new warnings about the threat to the nation’s credit ratings. The national debt is roughly 100 percent of our gross national product, and the people who lend to the federal government are beginning to worry that they will not get their money back. Yet without continuous borrowing, the nation cannot possibly sustain its accustomed lifestyle. Something has got to give. Read more . . .

“The Problem with Hierarchy: Ordered Relations in God and Man”

Brian Patrick Mitchell

St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, 2010

 For nearly two millennia, Christians grew up in families headed by fathers, attended churches headed by priests, and lived in countries ruled by kings. Experience taught them most of what they needed to know about fatherhood, priesthood, and kingship. They understood each intuitively and needed little rational justification for the honor and obedience they owed to each.

Today, however, more and more people are growing up in families without fathers, in countries without kings, and in no church at all. They know fathers, priests, and kings only through images in the major media, images often distorted by a popular prejudice against authority figures, a prejudice expressive of the modern world’s worship of individual autonomy, social equality, political democracy, and moral relativism. Read more . . .

“The Moral Hazards of Modern Banking”

Brian Patrick Mitchell

Humanitas, 2009

 In his Essay on Duties, Marcus Tullius Cicero tells a story about Cato the Elder, a wealthy man renowned as a landowner, who lived a century before Cicero. One day Cato was asked, what is the most profitable aspect of property ownership? Cato answered, “Raising livestock with great success.” He was then asked about the second most profitable aspect of ownership. “Raising livestock with some success,” he answered. And what about the third most profitable aspect? “Raising livestock with little success.” And the fourth? “Raising crops.” Then his questioner asked, “What about money-lending?” Cato replied, “What about murder?”

It’s a telling little story, revealing the West’s traditional disdain for money-lending, but also its embarrassed dependence upon the same. Cato, you see, made his fortune through money-lending. His favorite business was investing in ship bottoms. Bottomry, as it’s called, was very risky, so to reduce his risk Cato sought out many partners and invested his profits in land, preferring land offering natural resources like minerals, timber, fish ponds, and pasturage—assets that could not be “ruined by Jupiter,” as crops and ships could be. Read more . . . 


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