Once Delivered to the Saints
- Once Delivered to the Saints: An Orthodox Apology for the New Millenium
by Father Michael Azkoul
If you don't like theology and you hate philosophy and you don't like your
feathers ruffled, don't read this book! But if the contrary should be true in your
case and you are ready for a challenge, this is the book for you. Fr. Azkoul has
given us a small "summa" with his Once Delivered to the Saints. This book
requires a certain level of application and perseverance; it might be a rather
tedious read for some, but it will be worth the effort.
What is this book about anyway? Fr. Azkoul seeks to demonstrate where,
when and how Christianity went astray in the West and why it continues
adrift. Investigating the historical, philosophical and religious roots of
Christianity, the result is an historical but blunt apologetic for Orthodoxy for
the new millenium.
Fr. Azkoul boldly sums up his thesis in the book's conclusion: "The idea of a
"doctrinal minimum," an evolving standard of Faith, an amalgamation of the
divine Mystery with human theories has no support in the Fathers or the divine
Scriptures. Salvific Faith is the Faith of the one Church. There is no Church
without the Faith, no Faith without "the Church of the living God, the pillar and
ground of Truth" (I Tim. 3:15). Only the Orthodox may claim to have kept the
Apostolic Faith without addition or subtraction."
Quoting with approval the late Metropolitan Philaret of the Russian Church
Abroad, Fr. Azkoul appraises the present ecumenical movement: "It is the
belief in the renewal of the whole of mankind within the new and universal
Church that lends to ecumenism the nature of a chiliastic heresy, which
becomes more and more evident in the ecumenistic attempts to unite
everyone, disregarding truth and error, and in their tendency to create not only
a new Church, but a new world". The entire book is designed to lead the
reader slowly, inexorably and irresistibly to an appreciation of the conclusions
Augustine's ideas on grace, being, the Trinity; Anselm's teaching about
salvation (soteriology), the West's acceptance of the idea of the "development
of doctrine," the Filioque, eschatology (end times), etc., make this book a very
useful book of theology and Christian philosophy. This reviewer does not know
of another Orthodox book of theology as complete as this one. Someone may
ask how Azkoul's book compares with Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Fr.
Pomazansky? In our opinion, the latter book can be understood easily enough
by high school students, whereas Once Delivered to the Saints is written for
a more mature audience: teachers, priests, ecumenists. It is appropriate for
the seminary classroom. Pomazansky's book defends Augustine, calling him
"blessed," but Azkoul's work traces most of the West's woes to "the bishop of
We do not agree with Fr. Azkoul's appraisal of the toll-houses and we are not
sure of the need to have spent so much time on Jacob Boehme (pp. 106-110),
but surely his treatment of philosophy will be helpful to all. There are a
number of Latin quotations and many Greek words and phrases used
throughout the book, so some acquaintance with these languages would be
useful to the reader. This reviewer noticed a fair number of errors missed by
the proofreaders, but there are not that many for a book of this size and depth.
Hopefully, they will be corrected in a second printing. We owe a debt of
gratitude to the publishers for taking on such a serious tome. Our hat is off to
Fr. Azkoul for laying down the gauntlet to the Church today. Young scholars
will have to deal with this book as they firm up their own theological positions
and we can hope that this book will receive their diligent study.
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(Reviewed by M.G., February 6, 2001)