I was sick at heart to learn this week of the death in a car accident at age 37 of Fr. Matthew Baker, an exceptionally brilliant American Orthodox theologian. Although at the time of his death he was a doctoral candidate at Fordham University, his many writings easily gave the impression (if one didn’t know that he hadn’t finished his doctorate yet) that he was a tenured professor somewhere. He leaves behind a wife and six children.

I have no desire to repeat pieties here. In the face of such loss (to his wife and children first and foremost, but also to the Christian community at large, not only to Orthodox) only silence seems appropriate. Maybe prayer if you can manage it, but don’t feel bad if you can’t. One blogger has written (see the link below) that the news made him want to scream. I do too.

The world is full of tragic losses, I know. This one strikes home to me personally because I have an interest in the same subjects as Fr. Matthew did. He had the promise of being one of the greats. If you don’t study modern Orthodox theology (I know, some would see that phrase as an oxymoron — or, alternatively, you might laugh and ask why anyone would study Orthodox theology in the first place), you might not know why his work is so important. In essence, he raised basic, central questions about whether and how Orthodoxy would respond in a creative, faithful way to the modern world. He did so by becoming the foremost authority on the central theologian before him who also asked such questions, Georges Florovsky (1893-1979).

The best response I can think of to all this?  For those of us who think, like Fr. Matthew did, that Orthodoxy must respond to, engage with, the modern world, to do so — with greater urgency and commitment. If we have the stomach for it.

Please read the following blog post, written by a seminary classmate of Fr. Matthew: