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  •  not exactly on topic but (none)
    When people seriously ask me about Orthodoxy, I usually a) tell them to call a priest and b) tell them to buy Lossky's Mystical Theology.  What would your advice be?
    •  I think Lossky is a bit deep for an introduction (none)
      unless the interested reader regularly reads philosophy and theology texts.  I like Kallistos Ware's The Orthodox Way as an introduction because it's concise, gives a good feeling for the spiritual, organic, existential approach of Eastern Christianity, and isn't filled with a lot of historical information (which I of course love, but a lot of other people don't <g>), although it uses patristic quotes at the end of each chapter to give a feel for the historical and spiritual roots of our faith.  I used this book in my "Theological Foundations" course at a Jesuit university, along with C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity.  It was interesting to see how some students preferred Lewis' rational, straightforward approach with almost no presuppositions taken, while others preferred Ware's more experiential and spiritual approach.  Different strokes, I guess. <g>

      Also, I still like Ware's The Orthodox Church for a good overview of Orthodoxy in general.  The Way deals only with some basic theological concepts, while the Church covers history, ecclesiastical organization, liturgical and sacramental practices, etc.  I think the Way is a good starter book to see if someone might really be interested in Orthodoxy, since the spiritual theology it presents is at the heart of the Church.  If the person does show interest, then one can start giving the reader material with more history and specific information, and then move to authors like Lossky, who are deeper.  I would only suggest a theologian like Zizioulas for someone who is already well-read and knowledgeable generally in philsophy and theology -- he really is heavy reading (I say that with affection, since he was on my dissertation committee <g>).

      I have bought but not yet had a chance to read the books on Orthodoxy by Daniel Clendenin, who I believe is not Orthodox but, from what I've heard, does a good job presenting Orthodoxy to non-Orthodox readers.  Schmemann writes about sacramental theology in a very accessible manner, I think.

      For Orthodoxy in America, John Erickson (dean of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary) has written an excellent, compact textbook, Orthodox Christians in America, for a series for Oxford University Press.  It's meant to be a high-school textbook, but I used it in my university course on Orthodoxy and gave it as gifts to family and friends.  It's well-written and is quite informative, with rare archival photographs and excerpts from difficult-to-find primary documents.  The book traces the Orthodox presence in this country from the Russian monk-missionaries in Alaska (it does briefly mention the abortive Greek colony of New Smyrna in Florida, and other unsuccessful early efforts) to the present day, including the breakup of the Russian Metropolia following the Bolshevik Revolution and the establishment of SCOBA.

      Personally, I found it interesting to see how the Orthodox Church in Alaska, because it had acculturated itself linguistically and otherwise to the native Alaskan tribes, was persecuted by the American government after the Russians sold Alaska.  I'm sure it didn't help matters that the first American Secretary of Education in Alaska was a Presbyterian minister.  The U.S. government did the same boarding school shenanigans in Alaska that they did in the lower 48, including not allowing the students to use their native tongue(s) or be served liturgically by Orthodox clergy.  That's why we were on the receiving end of the apology to the Alaskan people by a group of Western Christian churches a few years.

      I do not suffer fools gladly

      by GreekGirl on Thu Dec 02, 2004 at 01:33:56 PM PST

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      •  yeah, I'm proud of our good record in Alaska (none)
        As an atheist becoming convinced virtually 'against my will,' as C S Lewis would have it in Pilgrim's Regress, I looked very critically into the history of the Orthodox Church, and was shocked to find so little to complain about.  Isn't it telling that the Russian missionaries wound up treating the Alaskan natives so much better than the Westerners did the other Native Americans?  More power to the Russians.  As it happens, a friend of mine in Toronto is Métis and also an Orthodox monk, and he had a lot to say to me on this subject too.

        I am certainly no theologian, and the text that pushed me toward Orthodoxy initially was Kalomiros's controversial The River of Fire.  I understand the case against Kalomiros, but I'll always have an affection for him because of the impact that essay had on me.

        The sort of people who ask me about Orthodoxy tend to be the sort who can handle Lossky.  I suspect that means that I need to get communicating more with average people.  I'll look into the Erickson for Christmas presents this year.  Thanks!

        •  Since your friends can handle Lossky . . . (none)
          you might also want to give them Christos Yannaras' Freedom of Morality (on Orthodox ethics) and Panayiotes Nellas' Deification in Christ (on theological anthropology and soteriology).  They're both part of the Modern Greek Theologians series that St. Vlad's has, along with Zizioulas' Being as Communion and a couple of others.

          I'm not familiar with Kalomiros or his work, but, whatever brings you to encounter the Ineffable One ...

          I do not suffer fools gladly

          by GreekGirl on Thu Dec 02, 2004 at 06:43:24 PM PST

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