Monday, October 27, 2008

Book Review: Thinking Through Faith

Thinking Through Faith:
New Perspectives From Orthodox Christian Scholars

Edited by Aristotle Papanikolaou and Elizabeth H. Prodromou

Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2008

Reviewed by Fr. William C. Mills

Thinking Through Faith is a volume that is long overdue. When perusing through recent Orthodox Christian publications from various Orthodox presses one finds much on Scripture, Church History, Patristics, and Liturgy, but very little on how these theological subjects are related to each other and even less on how they impact our culture and society. If we as Orthodox Christian scholars are going to have an impact in our respective parishes, seminaries, and institutions, and the academy, we have to start thinking about brining the best that we have to offer to a wider audience. Thankfully the tide is shifting and Orthodox Christian scholars are active in the various scholarly guilds, most notably is the recent Orthodox presence at the Society of Biblical Literature last year as well as the ongoing presence in the American Academy of Religion. Hopefully other scholarly guilds will also include sections if not seminars or round-table discussions and debates with Orthodox Christian scholars and theologians.
The present volume is a collection of essays by Orthodox theologians, some established and others who are just beginning their scholarly career. The individual essays are as diverse as their authors, there are entries on how to read the lives of the saints, the nature of pastoral care in the early Church, and the notion of the communal aspect of liturgy and prayer. I found most of the essays to be thought provoking and inspiring, some were worth a second read, especially John Fotopoulos’ essay on the Kingdom of God in the writings of the Apostle Paul, Valerie Karras’ Orthodox theologies of women in ordained ministry, and Anton Vrame’s essay on four types of Orthopraxy among Orthodox Christians in America. It was also very nice to see that all but one contributor are lay theologians who are working and writing in various schools, colleges, and seminaries, many in non-Orthodox settings. This gives me hope because it shows us that Orthodox theologians are indeed working and writing in a religious pluralistic setting and will have to engage and dialogue with non-Orthodox students and faculty.
Individual readers will find essays that are more or less engaging. Some essays I found lacking, especially in terms of an important question that one of my friends, a longtime author and scholar always asks of his students when they write papers, “where do we go from here?” In other words, I was looking for and even expecting some creativity when it comes to how we, as Orthodox scholars, both clergy and laity, are to incarnate and really think about the practical and pastoral application on these specific topics included in the book. Hopefully, as we await further volumes on such topics we will find more creativity and ideas on how our Orthodox theology, rich and full, can engage our Western society and culture.

Posted on Oct. 27, 2008
Fr. Bill Mills
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