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The Word Guild 2008 Canadian Christian Writing Awards winner Do they really pray to icons? Why do they use incense? What do they believe? To many people, the Orthodox Christian tradition (or Eastern Orthodoxy) seems unfamiliar and mysterious. Yet this tradition is arguably the most faithful representative of early Christianity in existence today and numbers roughly 250 mil The Word Guild 2008 Canadian Christian Writing Awards winner Do they really pray to icons? Why do they use incense? What do they believe? To many people, the Orthodox Christian tradition (or Eastern Orthodoxy) seems unfamiliar and mysterious. Yet this tradition is arguably the most faithful representative of early Christianity in existence today and numbers roughly 250 million adherents worldwide. What's more, a steady stream of evangelical Christians has been entering the Orthodox Church in recent decades. Isn't it time we gained a deeper understanding of Orthodoxy? In Light from the Christian East, James Payton gives us just that. With a sympathetic eye and even hand, he ushers readers into the world of Orthodox Christianity--its history, theology and religious practices. In doing so, he clears away the confusion and misunderstandings that often prevent non-Orthodox Christians from fully appreciating the riches of this ancient tradition. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in Orthodox Christianity.


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The Word Guild 2008 Canadian Christian Writing Awards winner Do they really pray to icons? Why do they use incense? What do they believe? To many people, the Orthodox Christian tradition (or Eastern Orthodoxy) seems unfamiliar and mysterious. Yet this tradition is arguably the most faithful representative of early Christianity in existence today and numbers roughly 250 mil The Word Guild 2008 Canadian Christian Writing Awards winner Do they really pray to icons? Why do they use incense? What do they believe? To many people, the Orthodox Christian tradition (or Eastern Orthodoxy) seems unfamiliar and mysterious. Yet this tradition is arguably the most faithful representative of early Christianity in existence today and numbers roughly 250 million adherents worldwide. What's more, a steady stream of evangelical Christians has been entering the Orthodox Church in recent decades. Isn't it time we gained a deeper understanding of Orthodoxy? In Light from the Christian East, James Payton gives us just that. With a sympathetic eye and even hand, he ushers readers into the world of Orthodox Christianity--its history, theology and religious practices. In doing so, he clears away the confusion and misunderstandings that often prevent non-Orthodox Christians from fully appreciating the riches of this ancient tradition. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in Orthodox Christianity.

30 review for Light from the Christian East: An Introduction to the Orthodox Tradition

  1. 5 out of 5

    Charles Haywood

    I have always been keenly interested in comparative theology. However, as a recent adherent to Eastern Orthodoxy, I approach analysis, as opposed to knowledge, of Orthodox theology as presumptively above my pay grade. This book combines both. Written by James Payton, a Protestant academic, Light from the Christian East is a fairly accessible text meant primarily to introduce Western Christians to Orthodoxy, and to challenge them to understand and appreciate the Christian faith better through a g I have always been keenly interested in comparative theology. However, as a recent adherent to Eastern Orthodoxy, I approach analysis, as opposed to knowledge, of Orthodox theology as presumptively above my pay grade. This book combines both. Written by James Payton, a Protestant academic, Light from the Christian East is a fairly accessible text meant primarily to introduce Western Christians to Orthodoxy, and to challenge them to understand and appreciate the Christian faith better through a grasp of Orthodoxy. Payton wrote this book to encourage what might be called dialogue. As he concludes, “I pray that this volume will enable some Western Christians to open themselves anew to the Christian faith through the insights of their Orthodox brothers and sisters.” Nothing wrong with this, of course, but let’s not use the term dialogue, because for very good reasons, “dialogue” has lately acquired an odious reputation. What it almost always means in a Christian context is that some group of Modernist heretics uses a pleasant- and reasonable-sounding request for “dialogue” as a wedge to begin formal rejection of some long-settled part of Christian faith, in order they may more fully abase themselves before modern sensibilities and thereby ensure their social respectability in the eyes of the acolytes of Baal. In this oft-repeated scheme, a faithful Christian’s refusal to engage in “dialogue,” that is, his refusal to agree that any given doctrine can be changed, is used as conclusive evidence that doctrine should, in fact, be changed. And if he does agree to “dialogue,” but then after hearing what his interlocutors have to say, refuses to agree the faith should be changed, this means “discussion,” meaning threats and insults, must continue until he does agree to change the faith. The beatings will continue until morale improves. Heads I win; tails you lose. This transparent malice seems like it should never work, but it works all the time. It has destroyed all the mainline Protestant churches, and is well on its way to destroying Roman Catholicism. I expect it succeeds because many of those of whom “dialogue” is demanded, the leaders of churches, are in fact in agreement with the heretics, and looking for a climb-down. They are weak men and women who, whenever some meaningless modern epithet such as “sexist” or “homophobic” is thrown at them, run for the hills, rather than doing what they should do, which is punch those who demand “dialogue” in the face. And, of course, when the target doctrine is, sooner or later, changed, “dialogue” on that topic, if it might reverse the change rather than extend it, is suddenly deemed unthinkable—retrograde and evil. The new, cretinous morality is imposed as absolute and unchangeable. You can be sure, for example, that those who rule the Episcopal church now aren’t interested in about whether female “priests” should be defrocked, or, to take a much more important set of doctrines, changed earlier, whether divorce and artificial birth control should be again forbidden. No, the arrow of “dialogue”only points one way. Fortunately, this is not Payton’s type of dialogue. Nor does it appear likely that the Eastern Orthodox churches have any interest in such dialogue (although all believers have to be on guard against the roaring lion who pushes it). Payton is himself a Protestant in the Reformed tradition, a professor (now retired) at Redeemer University in Canada. His career revolved around the Christian East, its history and theology, both ancient (Byzantine) and modern (Eastern Europe), with a common denominator being Orthodoxy. Payton also studied the Church Fathers, writing, among other books, a condensation of Against Heresies, the classic work by the second-century theologian Irenaeus. Thus, he’s well-qualified to write a book of broad comparative theology. Nonetheless, this is a tricky business, for on many matters there is wide divergence among Western Christians, and it is impressive that Payton can avoid the extremes of lumping disparate ideas excessively together and getting lost in the details. Still, there is necessarily some simplification—he does not cover the Oriental Orthodox, for example, such as the Copts. This book is a gateway, not the final word. Light from the Christian East is written for the educated Western Christian layman who has little familiarity with Orthodoxy. Anyone not well-versed in Christian basics would be largely at sea reading this book. Payton does provide a base of necessary knowledge, beginning with a good historical overview of Christianity’s beginnings, as embedded in the cultures in which it arose. In the eastern part of the Roman Empire, this meant that Christian thought often revolved around interaction with Greek philosophy, especially Platonism (though Payton is at pains throughout the book to reject the claim that Orthodoxy is tainted by Greek thought). In the Western part of the Empire, theologians such as Tertullian, who famously said “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?,” ignored Greek thought in favor of the Roman emphasis on law. There was still only one Church, of course—this was a matter of emphasis, not of doctrinal belief. Payton sketches how this division became wider after the fall of the western Roman Empire. The eastern Empire continued to flourish, but communication with the West faltered, as did the internal sophistication of the West, and it was therefore under the eastern Emperors that much of the first millennium of Christian theological development occurred. Broadly speaking, eastern Christian theology de-emphasized reason—not entirely, but never demonstrating the western need for precisely delineating the rationales of every single belief, rather simply relying on the wonder and awe of revealed truth in many instances. Theologians in the East were not those who trained for years or decades to build an internally-coherent written structure in the Augustinian mold; they were rather those who were best able to, in this life, commune with God, and write down the fruits of that communion. In this vein, Payton contrasts Saint Thomas Aquinas, western systematizer, and Saint John of Damascus, who wrote the “great textbook of Orthodox theology,” The Orthodox Faith, which Payton says is disorganized and elliptical, yet just as great when examined and understood. Humility and silence were the watchwords, not intellectual fireworks. (It is at least in part from this tendency that the Orthodox requirement that bishops be monks arose.) And Payton sketches the conflicts arising from the Crusades, the evangelization of Eastern Europe, as well as the fall of Constantinople, and brings the history of Orthodoxy to the present day. Next Payton corrects common Western errors about Orthodoxy. It is not, as some Protestants believe, basically the same as Roman Catholicism. Yes, certain formalities and many key doctrinal points overlap, but the perspectives from within the thought of each are often very different. In fact, Orthodox thinkers often lump Protestantism and Roman Catholicism together, in an inversion most Western Christians find strange, as legalistic and sharing core premises rejected or deprecated by Orthodoxy. Nor is Orthodoxy ossified; quite the contrary—often it is more vibrant than many versions of Western Christianity. That doctrinal change is (or seems) functionally impossible under Orthodoxy, and therefore Orthodoxy is doctrinally unified, unlike fragmented Western Christianity, is not to the contrary. Nor is Orthodoxy tainted by pagan Greek thought; it wrestled, and always has, with Greek thought. But as shown in the writings of the Cappadocian fathers, the intellectual cousins of Saint Augustine (Saint Basil, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, and Saint Gregory Nazianzen), Orthodoxy has always rejected the pagan aspects of that thought. The analogy used by Saint Gregory of Nyssa was that, as the Israelites plundered the Egyptians to beautify God’s tabernacle, so did they use Greek thought to spread the Good News. Those who went too far, such as Origen, were condemned; these men were aware of the danger. (This is a general principle—men of ancient times usually saw problems we flatter ourselves only we can see, and often with more insight. One present-day example of this is modern atheists who think they are coming up with new arguments, rather than simplistic arguments that were soundly beaten well nearly two thousand years before.) Not to mention that Western Christianity itself relies on Platonism, and even more Aristotelianism, so claims of Greek influence by Western Christians are really the pot calling the kettle black. Before turning to specific matters, Payton goes to some length to explain that small-o orthodoxy in the East is much less about doctrinal precision than in the West. True teaching is certainly necessary, but the style of life and worship, giving proper glory to God is equally important to Christian truth, and to salvation. That is the starting point of Orthodox theology, not reason. Knowing God, not rationalizing about Him, is the main matter; one who is drawn to theology must first become “saturated with wonder.” Thus, Orthodox theologians rarely center on, or are even drawn from, academics, unlike in the West. Orthodoxy has always opposed excessive scholasticism. Rather, Orthodoxy is focused on meditation and contemplation. And to the extent some element of doctrine is not fully worked out, doing so is simply not a major goal, or a goal at all; the Orthodox accept that some matters are mysteries, and there is no reason to obsess about it—another approach that helps prevent schism. “Orthodoxy expects not clarification but adoration, not teaching but praising.” I was raised orthodox Roman Catholic, but I attended a Reformed (Calvinist) elementary school. In my nature, a legalistic approach to religion always appealed to me. I like having certainty and all the answers (in fact, as you can see, my political writings do provide all the answers—you’re welcome). Roman Catholicism offers an answer to every possible question; it provides certainty. But at what cost? Examining Orthodoxy comparatively gives the answer—at the cost of awe and wonder as a core basis of the faith. True, Western Christians sometimes focus on the awe and wonder. Mystics do, and, famously, this is what started C. S. Lewis down the path to conversion, the occasional glimpses of unsought wonder and awe, close to ruptures in reality, what he called joy, that he got reading Scandinavian epics. Maybe this is what some Evangelicals, or even more Pentecostals, experience. Sadly, whatever awe and wonder Catholicism offered in the past has been lost since the Catholic Church embraced the serpent of Modernism. John Paul II failed to take the necessary actions to expel poisons from the Church, and Benedict XVI buried his talent in the ground and still hides his face in shame at his own weakness, as he should. And so the odious Jorge Bergoglio was elevated, to not only erase any vestiges of awe and wonder, but also to demand “dialogue,” which will result inevitably in the practical destruction of the Roman Church if he is not taken out. Bergoglio, like some type of Bizarro Samson, is pulling down his own Church, not the temple of his enemies. That may not seem like my problem anymore, but it is, because the Roman Church is critically important to the West, given Orthodoxy’s limited reach here. However, we are drifting into politics, and away from theology, so let us return to the book. Payton then turns to one of the foundational questions of Christianity—how do we talk about God? This is not a question of credal belief; it is rather tied to what we can say about God. As David Bentley Hart has said at book length, we can show clearly that God is the ground of being, but that does not tell us what we can actually know about His being. Western Christianity tends to approach this question through positive (cataphatic) theology—what can we say directly about God? Orthodox theology tends to approach it through negative (apophatic) theology—what can we say about God by saying what He is not? Orthodoxy believes we can say some things about God, but this this approach is inherently limited, since God is ineffable and incomprehensible, and metaphor is necessarily limited. Eastern Orthodoxy thus rejects univocity, the belief that God in his essence shares any characteristic in common with created beings. Univocity is the rock on which, some argue, Western Christianity foundered, by laying the groundwork for viewing God as demiurge, and therefore making possible the Enlightenment and its consequent evils. Apophatic theology, on the other hand, while not inherently incompatible with cataphatic theology, usually leads practitioners to contemplation, sometimes to complete mysticism, but certainly away from bean counting and hair splitting. The favoring of apophatic theology also lies at the root of the core Orthodox distinction between God’s essence, which man can never approach or grasp in this life or the next, and His energies, God’s actions that are still God but which man can approach, on rare occasion, in this life, and to which he will be fully exposed in the next. (Payton in this context also discusses the complex thinking of East and West on the topic of grace, which the Orthodox view as a manifestation of the uncreated energies of God, and thus God Himself.) Given that God’s essence will remain forever outside our grasp, Payton narrates how Orthodoxy believes that God has nonetheless assigned each created thing, from rocks to men, a logos, “what each created nature ultimately is and is more fully to become in God’s creative intention.” The purpose or goal of each logos is its skopos; and ultimately, “the skopos of each created nature is communion in the divine energies; that is, each created nature is increasingly to dwell in and be transformed through communion with God.” In Eastern Orthodoxy, nature and grace are not distinct; there is no such category as “supernatural.” Humanity is the highest expression of God’s creation, but all nature participates in the divine energies. (From this, although Payton does not conclude it, it seems to me we can logically conclude that our pets likely participate in the next life.) Narrowing his focus, Payton turns to humanity. Mankind is uniquely privileged . . . [Review completes as first comment.]

  2. 5 out of 5

    Debbi

    I was delighted at James Payton’s respectful and thoroughly researched take on the Orthodox Faith in Light from the Christian East: Introducing the Orthodox Tradition. This is the kind of book one can recommended to a non-Orthodox friend who’s looking to gain a better understanding of a the Eastern Christian tradition without having to feel like it’s being shoved down their throat. Conversion stories, while very helpful and informative, often force the reader to take a position. This book is inf I was delighted at James Payton’s respectful and thoroughly researched take on the Orthodox Faith in Light from the Christian East: Introducing the Orthodox Tradition. This is the kind of book one can recommended to a non-Orthodox friend who’s looking to gain a better understanding of a the Eastern Christian tradition without having to feel like it’s being shoved down their throat. Conversion stories, while very helpful and informative, often force the reader to take a position. This book is informing you on the Eastern Orthodox church and its beliefs rather than trying to preach Orthodoxy. Prof. Payton does spend some time each chapter encouraging Western readers to think about what can be gained in their own faith tradition by learning about Orthodoxy. “There is much in the Eastern Orthodox understanding of the relationship of the Creator and his creation that can enrich our Western Christian perspectives about God and his relationship to the creation of which we are part and in which we live.” pg.99 Payton is not Orthodox himself, but his respectful handling of the faith is refreshing in a day of internet polemics regarding East/West discussions. Here you will not find someone who has not just read a book about Orthodoxy or has gone to a service or two. Payton is a professor of Byzantine & Church History and, in his acknowledgments, it is evidenced that he has visited many different Orthodox churches and made friends and discussed much with many different Orthodox priests and theologians. Even though he is looking from the outside in he knows his stuff and he is deeply respectful to our faith. Light from the Christian East would make an excellent companion book to either Metropolitan KALLISTOS’ (Timothy Ware) The Orthodox Church or Fr. Anthony Coniaris’ Introducing the Orthodox Church. However, it brings to the table a different perspective. Prof. Payton delves much more into the mind and perspective of the Orthodox Christian. He explains why we view God, Creation, theology, sin, the fall of man, and salvation the way we do. Rather than a list of what we believe or our history, he goes deeper and tries to understand the Eastern Orthodox mindset. My one minor reservation with the book is the author’s desire for Western Christians to use this knowledge to deepen their own faith walk (it is the only time he gets a bit preachy). I’m not sure that he meant it this way, but I would worry that people would fall into an attitude of “a-la-carte” Christianity, picking and choosing what they want or not. I would have preferred if the author had just shared the Orthodox faith and encouraged Western Christians to appreciate our differences. If you looking for a book to better understanding of Eastern Christianity but don’t want polemics or to be preached at about what is wrong with Western Christianity, I think A Light from the Christian East would be a very good jumping off point.

  3. 4 out of 5

    David

    This is a superb introduction to the Orthodox Church because it clearly and succinctly compares and contrasts Orthodox theology and practice with Catholic and Protestant traditions in an impartial and thoroughly-cited manner. This would make an excellent first read for any Catholic or Protestant unfamiliar with Orthodoxy, and it would also be useful to Orthodox seeking to understand how they can communicate effectively with Western Christians. The first chapter briefly reviews the history of Chr This is a superb introduction to the Orthodox Church because it clearly and succinctly compares and contrasts Orthodox theology and practice with Catholic and Protestant traditions in an impartial and thoroughly-cited manner. This would make an excellent first read for any Catholic or Protestant unfamiliar with Orthodoxy, and it would also be useful to Orthodox seeking to understand how they can communicate effectively with Western Christians. The first chapter briefly reviews the history of Christianity with the purpose of illustrating the cultural and historic origins of the divisions between Byzantine and Roman Christianity. For example: "In both cases, the Hellenistic and Roman cultures into which Christianity had been introduced had shaped the way in which Christian claims were presented and whicj claims were emphasized by those who called others to faith in Christ." (p. 25). Chapter 2 ("Western Reactions") addresses the various inaccurate assumptions made by Western Christians about the Orthodox Church: "Basically the Same as Roman Catholicism", "An Ossified Relic of the Christian Past", and "Assimilated to Pagan Greek Thought". Chapter 3 ("Orthodoxy's Approach to Doctrine") notes, "...churches in the West have polished and refined their doctrinal emphases, becoming distinctive over increasingly arcane points of doctrine and interpretation. ... In the Christian East, that has not been the pattern of the history of the church;" (p. 68). Chapter 4 ("Talking About God") discusses three distinctive differences in how Eastern Orthodox and Western Christians perceive God. The Orthodox make much heavier use of apophatic theology. They affirm the divine "energies" (or "actions") to be, "...nothing less or other than God" (p. 81). Finally, the Orthodox affirm that, "...the divine energies are God himself acting not at a safe distance, but in the closest possible immanence with us." (p. 83). The distinctively Orthodox view of the divine energies remains the crucial theme in Chapter 5 ("The Creator and the Creation"), the chapters on salvation (7 & 8), and Chapter 9 ("What is Grace?"). This Orthodox understanding of God's nature forms the foundational rift between Latin Christendom and the Orthodox, as the Catholic Encyclopedia notes: "Latin theology on the whole was too deeply impregnated with the Aristotelean Scholastic system to tolerate a theory that opposed its very foundation. That all created beings are composed of actus and potentia, that God alone is actus purus, simple as He is infinite — this is the root of all Scholastic natural theology." ("Hesychasm"). Chapter 5 ("Creator and Creation") expands on the differences between the Eastern and Western God. "God cannot beven be 'placed' with created beings in a shared category of 'being.' Indeed, even using the same term 'being' violates truth, for God and all the rest of what exists cannot be reduced to elements in a common quantification. Divine being is beyond all categories of 'existence'; there was no 'category' of 'being' in 'eternity past' into which God 'fit.'... There is no 'chain of being' which somehow includes both God and his creation. The Creator is totally other than his creation." (p. 89) This stands in stark contrast to the "natural theology" of Aquinas which apprehends God as the "Unmoved Mover" through precisely the "chain of being" which Orthodoxy rejects. Chapter 6 ("Humanity as Created and Fallen") describes the differences between the Western and the Orthodox view of Adam and original sin. The Orthodox affirm that Adam was never cursed by God, as Irenaeus wrote: "God pronounced no curse upon Adam" (Against Heresies as in Payton, p. 110). Orthodoxy affirms that while Adam's sin gave death dominion over mankind (Rom 5:15, 17), "According to Orthodoxy, the human race does not share in or inherit the guilt of Adam's sin, although it unquestionably suffers the effects of that sin. ... Orthodoxy teaches that God does not hold us guilty of someone else's sin." (p. 111). Chapter 7 ("The Accomplishment of Salvation") shows how fundamentally different is the Orthodox understanding of the work of Christ: "In Western Christianity, Christ is seen as the one who suffers the punishment human beings deserve for their sin: Christ is seen as victim. By contrast, in Eastern Christian thought, Christ is the victor: he defeats those enemies and frees humanity from their bondage. In the Eastern Christian tradition, there are four main elements to this answer." (p. 122). These four elements are the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ which together form the "recapitulation" of Adam in Christ for, "all those who are 'in Christ.'" (p. 123). This is expressed by the Orthodox affirmation that the sacrifice of the Cross would be ineffective without the Resurrection: "In Western Christianity, the basic understanding of salvation is that the work was finished in Christ's suffering and death on the cross. ... Orthodoxy sees humanity's problem as its bondage to sin, death, and the devil. Salvation in its fullness is not completed until life is restored to Christ and those 'in him': Christ's resurrection is a necessity to break the bonds of death." (p. 128 - 129). Thus, the Orthodox describe Christ's death as a ransom paid to the Father but also as a ransom to Satan acting like bait to catch and destroy Satan's power over men. Chapter 8 ("The Application of Salvation") addresses the contrast between Western and Orthodox faith concerning the means by which salvation is applied to the individual soul. Roman Catholics and Protestants both struggle with the question of how the soul is justified in the court of divine justice. The debate has centered on the "ordo salutis", or the sequence of justification, sanctification, and glorification. In contrast, "...Eastern Christianity orients its concerns regarding the application of salvation on the process of that application, not on the particular steps in that process. ... 'He [the Son of God] became man so that man might become god.' [St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word] This pithy declaration has commended itself to subsequent generations in Eastern Christendom and encapsulates the Orthodox understanding to this day." (p. 142). "What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it." (Deuteronomy 12:32). Reflecting on all the significant differences between the Orthodox and the Western Christians prompts us to consider: has the West added to the Gospel or diminished something from it? I think that it has.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    I knew very little of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and I knew very little of early Church history. This book shed light on much the practice and history of ancient Christianity. It challenged my assumptions, especially about sacraments and worship.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nate

    This was one of the best introductions for Protestants to engage with the Orthodox tradition. It presented the core of Eastern Christian theology in a way that Westerners could clearly understand. It made me really appreciate what Orthodoxy has to offer Christianity on the whole.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michael Clevenger

    Great read. Coupled with Metropolitan Kallistos Ware's The Orthodox Church; great primers on the OC and Patristic Fathers. Great read. Coupled with Metropolitan Kallistos Ware's The Orthodox Church; great primers on the OC and Patristic Fathers.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Aurore

    Ce livre permet de découvrir la foi orthodoxe et d'en être enrichi. L'auteur expose différents aspects du christianisme orthodoxe et en parallèle présente la position des "chrétiens de l'ouest" (protestants et catholique romains), ce qui amène à se questionner sur sa propre foi qui est d'une certaine façon similaire à celle des orthodoxes et en même temps tellement éloignée sur certains aspects. Ce livre appelle à l'humilité. Le but du livre n'est pas de persuader le lecteur de devenir chrétien Ce livre permet de découvrir la foi orthodoxe et d'en être enrichi. L'auteur expose différents aspects du christianisme orthodoxe et en parallèle présente la position des "chrétiens de l'ouest" (protestants et catholique romains), ce qui amène à se questionner sur sa propre foi qui est d'une certaine façon similaire à celle des orthodoxes et en même temps tellement éloignée sur certains aspects. Ce livre appelle à l'humilité. Le but du livre n'est pas de persuader le lecteur de devenir chrétien orthodoxe mais de montrer que nous pouvons beaucoup apprendre de leur foi. J'ai été pour ma part particulièrement interpellé par leur vision du salut accomplis par Christ (Christ vainqueur et la "deification" qui en découle) ainsi que sur l'eucharistie.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    The book structure causes some unneeded problems. Each chapter is set up to automatically contrast western Christianity with eastern as if one of them (usually western) MUST be wrong or faltering and the other MUST have the chapter topic all correct. I have no argument with healthy criticism of either western or eastern but it seems artificial to structure your book this way. That said, this is a very good introduction to eastern religious thought for the western Christian. While I disagree with The book structure causes some unneeded problems. Each chapter is set up to automatically contrast western Christianity with eastern as if one of them (usually western) MUST be wrong or faltering and the other MUST have the chapter topic all correct. I have no argument with healthy criticism of either western or eastern but it seems artificial to structure your book this way. That said, this is a very good introduction to eastern religious thought for the western Christian. While I disagree with some of the author’s conclusions, he provides an overall very approachable argument and invitation for deeper conversation.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    Over the past two decades, the Orthodox Church has intrigued many evangelical Christians in the United States. James R. Payton's LIGHT FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST is one of the latest books that seek to introduce Eastern Christianity to evangelicals. This is not an introduction to the Orthodox Church for general audiences. Unless you are a big fan of evangelical doctrinal debates, the best all-around presentation of Orthodoxy is Bishop Kallistos Ware's THE ORTHODOX CHURCH. If you are an evangelical b Over the past two decades, the Orthodox Church has intrigued many evangelical Christians in the United States. James R. Payton's LIGHT FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST is one of the latest books that seek to introduce Eastern Christianity to evangelicals. This is not an introduction to the Orthodox Church for general audiences. Unless you are a big fan of evangelical doctrinal debates, the best all-around presentation of Orthodoxy is Bishop Kallistos Ware's THE ORTHODOX CHURCH. If you are an evangelical but prefer something less academic and more personal, Peter Guillquist's BECOMING ORTHODOX is for you. Payton's work is more like Daniel B. Clendenin's EASTERN ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY in targeting an audience of evangelicals trained in theology and apologetics. Payton's book is divided into chapters each dealing with one particular issue of theology that is viewed differently in Orthodoxy than in general Protestantism. These include the relationship between the Creator and Creation, humanity as created and fallen, the accomplishment of salvation and its application, the nature of grace, and Orthodoxy's entire approach to doctrine. Payton does a good job of citing both Orthodox theologians and the main Protestant reformers in opposing the two perspectives. Payton makes a good case for the use of icons, using the same Scripture-based arguments as St John of Damascus. As an Orthodox Christian, what I found unsatisfactory about Prof Payton's book is his belief that the Orthodox Church should be seen as a rich set of ideas that can be integrated into one's own denomination, when in fact the Orthodox Church teaches that it is *the* Church of Christ and all are called to it. I wish that Curnow had explained why he has chosen not to convert to Orthodoxy. It's puzzling that he has so many good things to say about the Church and its traditions, but he himself remains non-Orthodox.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    This book was recommended to me by my Orthodox godparents. Being a recent convert from Catholicism, with a large background in Western Christianity, I found this book excellent. The author belongs to the Protestant tradition, but he is also a Church historian, very well read in both Western and Eastern traditions. I don’t think I have ever read any book as good as this one presenting Orthodoxy from a Western point of view. It is extremely balanced and sympathetic – actually, all along I wondered This book was recommended to me by my Orthodox godparents. Being a recent convert from Catholicism, with a large background in Western Christianity, I found this book excellent. The author belongs to the Protestant tradition, but he is also a Church historian, very well read in both Western and Eastern traditions. I don’t think I have ever read any book as good as this one presenting Orthodoxy from a Western point of view. It is extremely balanced and sympathetic – actually, all along I wondered how long it would take for the author to make the plunge and become Orthodox, as many other great Church historians, Jaroslav Pelikan being one of the latest ones. He tackles all the major Christian themes, sums up the Western position, and then highlights what’s common and different from an Orthodox point of view. His main point is that Western Christianity can learn so much from Eastern Christianity and have a broader and deeper understanding of Christianity. The tone of the book is perfect, in the sense that there is no trace of polemic whatsoever, at least that was my feeling. This is very appreciable. My Orthodox godfather, Philosophy and Religion teacher, has used it to introduce his students to Orthodfoxy. This is not an easy read, this is for study. But if you want to have a view of the whole of Christianity, this is for you. As I read along, I posted a few excerpts – scroll down to see the relevant posts. original post: http://wordsandpeace.wordpress.com/20... Emma @ Words And Peace

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Wuertz

    This book best deals with the East West contrast than some of the other books I have read. However, it is really academic in the approach. It isn't really user friendly in my opinion. There are a lot of good arguments and dealing with common conflicts between East and West, but overall I don't think this is a book you can just hand off to anyone asking questions about Orthodoxy. Particularly anyone without a college education. It is just too heady. It is no wonder why, about halfway in I found o This book best deals with the East West contrast than some of the other books I have read. However, it is really academic in the approach. It isn't really user friendly in my opinion. There are a lot of good arguments and dealing with common conflicts between East and West, but overall I don't think this is a book you can just hand off to anyone asking questions about Orthodoxy. Particularly anyone without a college education. It is just too heady. It is no wonder why, about halfway in I found out an Orthodox friend of ours actually had Payton as a professor in college prior to his conversion (the friend's conversion, not Payton's) and the manuscript for this book was basically the class. I think it would be helpful to take the ideas and simplify them first or use them in conversation. A lot of it was just a bit over my head. I skipped thru about a third of the book because I was really having a hard time keeping at it. Feel like when I went on my food industry book binge and at the end I just couldn't read another book on the subject, no matter how well written because it was all stuff I'd heard a billion different ways. I think, for me, the top three chapters I got the most out of were "Western Reactions," which takes common Western arguments against Orthodoxy and deals with them; "Orthodoxy's Approach to Doctrine" which contrasts Western and Eastern approaches to theology; and "Icons" which deals with the arguments against icons.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lego Ergo Sum

    Excellent read! This is my third book in the past couple of months on Orthodoxy and I would say that it does the best job so far on making this beautiful and colorful branch of the Church (probably really the root and trunk) accessible to those of us raised in the West, whether Catholic or Protestant. I highly recommend it. I will be buying a couple of paper copies of it to pass out to (Protestant) friends here in Orthodox Georgia to help people get beyond stereotypes. I am looking forward to jo Excellent read! This is my third book in the past couple of months on Orthodoxy and I would say that it does the best job so far on making this beautiful and colorful branch of the Church (probably really the root and trunk) accessible to those of us raised in the West, whether Catholic or Protestant. I highly recommend it. I will be buying a couple of paper copies of it to pass out to (Protestant) friends here in Orthodox Georgia to help people get beyond stereotypes. I am looking forward to joining the Divine Liturgy when the opportunity presents itself while I am here in Georgia.

  13. 5 out of 5

    G Walker

    Payton does a very good job at making the Eastern tradition accessible to the West. This is a great introduction to Orthodoxy... vastly better than Clendenin. A nice supplement to Letham. It may strike one as deep at first, but once one gets their bearings, a second time through shows that what he wrote is actually fairly accessible. A very valuable tool for a truly "catholic" understanding of the church (in tradition, theology and practice). Good stuff. Payton does a very good job at making the Eastern tradition accessible to the West. This is a great introduction to Orthodoxy... vastly better than Clendenin. A nice supplement to Letham. It may strike one as deep at first, but once one gets their bearings, a second time through shows that what he wrote is actually fairly accessible. A very valuable tool for a truly "catholic" understanding of the church (in tradition, theology and practice). Good stuff.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Williams

    James Payton is a Reformed Christian who examines the doctrine and beliefs of the Orthodox Church. This is a well-written and good book to read. I would highly, highly recommend this to Christian who wants to understand who those strange "Orthodox" are. Whether your a Protestant or Catholic who just wants to learn about the Orthodox or a person who is contemplating becoming orthodox, I would recommend you to read this book. James Payton is a Reformed Christian who examines the doctrine and beliefs of the Orthodox Church. This is a well-written and good book to read. I would highly, highly recommend this to Christian who wants to understand who those strange "Orthodox" are. Whether your a Protestant or Catholic who just wants to learn about the Orthodox or a person who is contemplating becoming orthodox, I would recommend you to read this book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay Billington

    This is an awesome introduction to Orthodox faith for a Western Catholic or Protestant. It includes many insights concerning what Western Christianity has to learn from its Eastern brothers and sisters.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    great intro into Orthodoxy for Protestants who know a lot about their faith and where they came from. it's a bit dense in parts, so not for the casual reader, but has a depth of information not found in many other western-friendly books on EO. great intro into Orthodoxy for Protestants who know a lot about their faith and where they came from. it's a bit dense in parts, so not for the casual reader, but has a depth of information not found in many other western-friendly books on EO.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    This book was written by a Protestant theologian as an introduction to the Eastern Orthodox tradition of Christianity. The book includes chapters on all of the major aspects of the tradition. It provides a good introduction to the differences between Eastern and Western Christianity.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ted

    I think this is a really fine book for comparing Christianity East and West. If you are very familiar with Orthodoxy, you probably aren't going to learn anything new, but it should help you understand the differences and similarities between Orthodoxy and Western Christianities. I think this is a really fine book for comparing Christianity East and West. If you are very familiar with Orthodoxy, you probably aren't going to learn anything new, but it should help you understand the differences and similarities between Orthodoxy and Western Christianities.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mike Collier

    I found this book very informational but difficult to read. I do not have sufficient vocabulary or theological knowledge to understand it all. The last half was more straight forward and therefore easier than the first half.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Taylor Brown

    Written by a Protestant primarily FOR Protestants who may be curious about why Orthodox Christianity might be worthy of appreciation, even from without.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    A good general introduction. It only suffers from not being long enough. Evidently Bishop Timothy Ware's introduction, which this books seems to draw heavily from, is more complete. A good general introduction. It only suffers from not being long enough. Evidently Bishop Timothy Ware's introduction, which this books seems to draw heavily from, is more complete.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Johns

    A superb read that takes time to study and digest. The book is written by a western Christian who is objective and doesn't take opportunity to be an apologist for either side. A superb read that takes time to study and digest. The book is written by a western Christian who is objective and doesn't take opportunity to be an apologist for either side.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Robert Martin

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ben Swakopf

  25. 4 out of 5

    Zachary

  26. 4 out of 5

    Calvin

  27. 4 out of 5

    Beth Forbes

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jeffery

  29. 4 out of 5

    Allen

  30. 4 out of 5

    Paige Buursma

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