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Eastern Orthodoxy Through Western Eyes [Paperback]

By Donald Fairbairn (Author)
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Item description for Eastern Orthodoxy Through Western Eyes by Donald Fairbairn...

In the last decade, Eastern Orthodoxy has moved from being virtually unknown to Western Christians to being a significant presence on the religious scene in North America and Great Britain. In light of Orthodoxy's growing presence, this book will introduce Western Christians to the Eastern Orthodox vision of the Christian life by examining Orthodox theology and worship. The three parts of the book deal with: tradition as the source of the Orthodox vision; union with God as the heart of the Orthodox vision; and distortions of the Orthodox vision. This book also alerts readers to the cultural and historical factors which influence the way any person or group understands the Christian faith. Throughout, the differences between Eastern and Western cultural mindsets are pointed out as these shape different conceptions of Scripture and the Christian life.

Publishers Description
In light of orthodoxy's growing presence on the religious scene in Britain and North America, this book introduces the eastern orthodox vision to western Christians by examining orthodox theology and worship. The three parts of the book deal with tradition as the source of the orthodox vision; union with God as the heart of that vision; and distortions of the vision. The book also alerts the reader to the cultural and historical factors that influence the way any person or group understands their faith.

From Publishers Weekly
Eastern Orthodox Christians in the United States number more than three million, a membership higher than that of some mainline Protestant denominations. Yet the doctrine and practice of the world's second-largest group of Christians has lacked American interpreters with a popular touch. Readers who like their Orthodoxy with a strong Reformed Protestant flavor will enjoy this careful West-meets-East primer. An Erskine University professor, Fairbairn has the advantage of having spent significant time in the former Soviet Union. He sensitively fleshes out Orthodox doctrine in counterpoint with traditional Reformed Protestant theology. While using the expatriate Russian Orthodox writers of the 20th century as his main resources, he is comfortable traveling more than a millennium backwards in time to probe the roots of Orthodox theology. Although he expends considerable effort parsing the role of icons, Church tradition, and the meaning of theosis (human transformation into the divine likeness), Fairbairn argues it is most crucial to grasp the nuances of the place of Scripture in the Eastern churches. "It is the unfinished task of Christians and of the entire Church to develop the mind of Christ, to move closer to a fully biblical expression of faith and practice," he states. Although Fairbairn is critical of what he terms the distortions of popular and nationalistic Orthodoxy, he sympathetically and carefully aims to present Eastern church history and doctrine in such a way that his Western Protestant and Roman Catholic readers can better understand their own faith. (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Eastern Orthodoxy Through Western Eyes by Donald Fairbairn has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Commonweal - 04/11/2003 page 28
  • Publishers Weekly - 10/21/2002 page 70

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Westminster John Knox Press
Pages   216
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.14" Width: 6.06" Height: 0.65"
Weight:   0.74 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 31, 2002
Publisher   Westminster John Knox Press
Edition  New  
ISBN  0664224970  
ISBN13  9780664224974  

Availability  54 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 22, 2016 11:17.
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More About Donald Fairbairn

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Donald Fairbairn is Professor of Historical Theology and Associate Dean of Theology at Erskine Theological Seminary in Due West, South Carolina.

Donald Fairbairn currently resides in Due West, in the state of South Carolina. Donald Fairbairn has an academic affiliation as follows - Erskine Theological Seminary, South Carolina.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Orthodoxy

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Reviews - What do customers think about Eastern Orthodoxy Through Western Eyes?

Helpful but not perfect  Nov 30, 2007
Don Fairbairn's book goes very deep into some issues that are rather esoteric and sometimes boring, but of course the detail is sometimes (depending on your interest) very helpful. All in all his book is not a comparative theological treatise as much as it is a book that tries to explain the depths of Eastern Orthodox theology. As such it represents more the views of a few Orthodox theologians and does not address the thinking of the common Orthodox believer. It does not address major conflicts from a protestant perspective, only offering understanding of the Orthodox perspective. It is more suited to theologians than the average reader.
Good Academic Comparison  Aug 21, 2007
In Eastern Orthodoxy through Western Eyes, Donald Fairbairn gives us a relatively easy to understand look at Orthodoxy, both at its best, and also when it is distorted in certain, common ways. His outsiders view is certainly useful to those who are interested in things Orthodox.

Overall, I liked Fairbairn's book. It was informative, and was willing to do some very fair comparative work between Eastern and Western approaches (while admitting the entire time that such is, in fact, an over simplification to a great degree). However, I fear that his intended audience and the level of theological understanding required to read the book may be somewhat at odds. The book appears (though in all fairness does not claim) to be a lay person's introduction to Orthodox theology. This, however, is not the case at all. One must already be somewhat informed about Western theology's terminology and approach for this book to make much sense, as Fairbairn does not shy away from using theological jargon rather freely throughout. So, if you are not already familiar with theological vocabulary, this is probably a book left set aside for now. That said, if you are familiar with theological terminology, then this is a great book for understanding, from a fair comparative standpoint, the major differences between Eastern and Western theological thought and spirituality.

In short, if you're looking for a good (though largely academic) comparison between Eastern and Western theology and an evaluation of what each can learn from the other, then this is a good choice. If you're looking for an exposition of Eastern Orthodoxy that a Western, theologically-uninformed layman can understand, you should look elsewhere.
The Title Reveals the Problem  Mar 22, 2006
The author does a fair job of expounding general Orthodox thought in the first sections of the book, but unfortunately his understanding of the Eastern paradigm is significantly colored by his "western eyes." This is seen most clearly in his conclusion chapter, when a blatant adherance to Sola Scriptura renders him unable to get an objective hold on what we as Orthodox Christians actually believe about the nature of Tradition. According to the author, the Orthodox Church is merely the manifestation in time of a Greek mind's reading of Scripture, whereas the Catholic and Protestant Churches are the manifestation in time of a Latin mind's reading of Scripture. This historical reductionism is itself a product of the modern western mind, and this is what I mean by the title of this review. His thesis works well for him, because it allows us to all be on the same team, but unfortunately his thesis fails at the bar of history. Orthodox Christianity and Evangelical Protestantism are simply not compatible. Please do not buy this book. I would lay down my life to ensure that it does not color you understanding of Orthodoxy. If you want to understand Orthodoxy, start going to the Liturgy and start reading Orthodox patristic texts. It will all come together, I promise. Peace be with all who read this.
Good for both  Feb 10, 2006
As has been alluded to already by other reviewers, the author does give the impression of "how can we help these poor lost souls?" when referring to the people of Orthodox persuasion. But he does state up front that it is not his personal conviction so it is expected. I sometimes wonder why Christians seem to spend a disproportionate amount of their time attempting to convert each other rather than focussing on winning new converts but, of course, the assumption is that the other guy cannot possibly be a "real" christian. I happen to share the author's reformed protestant background but I am, with the help of this book among others and the help of some fine Orthodox friends, beginning to understand their position and their strengths.

Despite that underlying presupposition, I found the book quite helpful in understanding and admiring the Orthodox position. I like how the author identified some key paradigms in thinking that differ between east and west and then building on those to identify the effects of those differences. More often than not, the differences are in matters of emphasis - for instance, is truth an abstract concept found by the individual or is it the person of Jesus and his work in the community of his people? Mr. Fairbairn has done a great service in identifying and expounding on these key differences that have developed over the centuries since Constantine. I think this book is helpful for anyone of either persuasion to find understanding and challenge in their own Christian life as well.
Essential reading on the Eastern Orthodox church  Apr 4, 2005
An excellent and objective book that is worth its weight in gold for anyone interested in the Eastern Orthodox church.

Contents include:

Introduction - Double Vision
Part I - The Source of the Orthodox Vision: Tradition
Part II - The Heart of the Orthodox Vision: Union with God
Part III - The Orthodox Vision and Its Distortions
Conclusion - Single Vision?

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