2 New Introductions to Orthodoxy
- I am currently reading "Light from the Christian East" by James Payton, a
non-Orthodox Christian, based on an online recommendations. I am reading it
following a perusal of the preview chapter from Fr. John Anthony McGuckin's The
Orthodox Church: An Introduction to the History, Doctrine, and Spiritual
, of which there is an 80-page preview from the publisher
Fr. John's work is crisp, eirenic, charitable in his descriptions and tone
as he explains aspects of the Orthodox Church. It is highly detailed. The
hardcover version is also priced for libraries at $150, but a paperback
version is expected out early next year.
I am enjoying "Light from the Christian East" for what it is - a
non-Orthodox Christian's attempt to accurately and charitably introduce and
explain the Orthodox Church to Western Christians with special emphasis (so
far) on trying to show how Eastern and Western Christians are not free of
certain paradigms (assumptions about the world) that color their
understanding of Scripture, terminology, church history, asceticism,
patristic texts, etc. - even the way they introduce Christianity.
I have actually found myself nodding at important resonances he describes in
my own journey to Orthodoxy and my experiences in the Faith. He has also
enunciated well the differences in paradigms and, more importantly, what has
resulted from them - what we think Christianity 'should look like', do and
say can very much be determined by what our cultures have acculturated us to
expect. I look forward to the rest of the book, and to returning to the
earlier chapters to pull out some of the (what I think are) gems.
Of course, "Light from the Christian East" is also written in a more
'evangelical' and ecumenical style, he really walks you through every point
making sure to preemptively address any unease or dissenting point a
non-Orthodox reader might raise. He does so almost to the point of
ecumenically polite nausea - but the points he is addressing ahead of time
are, in fact, exactly the points I hear my mother and other devout
Protestants raising in the middle of what then becomes a derailed
explanation of the faith.
Is "Light from the Christian East" the ideal book to give a catechumen?
Probably not. Is it an ideal book to give to a thoughtful Western Christian
curious about the Orthodox Church? Yes. I feel confident that such a
paradigm jolt will lead such a person to continue on to other works by
Orthodox authors writing with a more Orthodox tone - or better yet, to
visiting an Orthodox church and learning how to worship, pray and adore
rather than explain and cogitate.
Due to release date and price, I haven't yet read Fr. McGuckin's book.
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