Item description for Light from the Christian East: An Introduction to the Orthodox Tradition by James R. Payton...
Overview James R. Payton, Jr. introduces us to Eastern Orthodox history, theology and practice. For all readers interested in ancient ecumenical Christian theology and spirituality, and is especially open and sympathetic to what evangelicals can learn from orthodoxy.
Publishers Description 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? InLight 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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Studio: IVP Academic
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.92" Width: 6.34" Height: 0.7" Weight: 0.85 lbs.
Release Date Feb 28, 2012
Publisher IVP-InterVarsity Press
ISBN 0830825940 ISBN13 9780830825943
Availability 0 units.
More About James R. Payton
James R. Payton Jr. (Ph.D., University of Waterloo, Canada) is a professor of history at Redeemer University College, Ancaster, Ontario, Canada. He has studied, taught and been in dialogue with Eastern Orthodoxy for many years and is the author of a number of articles on Orthodoxy and Protestant-Orthodox relations. Another area of interest for Payton is the Reformation on which he has written many articles and book reviews. Some of his works cover subjects such as John Calvin, Martin Bucer and the influence of the Reformation in Ukraine. He is very involved in ministry to Eastern Europe, serving from 1998-2006 as executive secretary of Christians Associated for Relationships with Eastern Europe, and since 2006 as president.
Reviews - What do customers think about Light from the Christian East: An Introduction to the Orthodox Tradition?
A Worthy and Necessary Presentation May 28, 2010
In explaining the differences between the Christian East and West, different people take different approaches. One may begin by explaining doctrinal differences between the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox (the filioque, Papal Supremacy and Infallibility, the Orthodox theology of Uncreated Grace, etc...) or one may take an historical approach. For the common faithful, however, the answer often given is simply that Western denominations and Orthodoxy have a "different feel." The mindset, or phronema, of Orthodoxy is just different and therefore hard for a non-Orthodox to understand. One priest put it to me this way: Some say that the difference between Protestants and Catholics lies in the fact that they ask the same questions but get different answers. They go on to say that the difference between the Orthodox and the West, then, is that they simply ask different questions. However - this priest went on to say - it gets even more confusing. In some cases, the Orthodox ask the same questions, but their words mean completely different things...
In trying to get to this difference, that "different feel" so often noticed but rarely given definition, James Payton, Jr. has written an excellent - I would say even astoundingly good - book in an attempt to explain Orthodoxy to the Western Christian. This explanation is often so difficult, both because it is simply hard to put into words and because, once put into words, the different mindsets of East and West make conveying the meaning of those words like speaking a different language, that the success with which Payton accomplished this task makes this book not only a good read but, I would say, a necessary companion to Metropolitan Kallistos Ware's "The Orthodox Church." This is true of both the Western convert to Orthodoxy and Orthodox individuals in general as, in explaining Eastern theology, Payton clarifies much of what the West believes, as well.
While reading the text, I was pleasantly surprised by how thorough Payton was. No less than 5 times (and I think more), I was reading and began to think, "This is all good, but I really think he needs to include something about..." and literally the next sentence or section would address my very concern. Clearly, Payton understands Orthodoxy about as best a non-Orthodox individual could... In fact, I found certain explanations of his - for instance, his explanation of the Orthodox theology of icons - to far surpass many similar such attempts made by Orthodox authors. With a few minor exceptions, I found Payton's explanation of Orthodox theology to be spot on.
This being said, there certainly is some room for improvement. First, though Payton says in the Epilogue that he knows he did not cover every topic and never intended to, a couple chapters could have been included. For instance, I would have liked to see something concerning the Orthodox theology of Heaven and Hell (explaining that Hell is the love of God experienced as pain and suffering for those who did not purify themselves of the passions...) or, connected to this, the Orthodox focus on God as love rather than the preoccupation of some in the West to focus on a God of judgment. Second, some examples of what he wrote about, such as scenes from the Lives of the Saints, would have been helpful in making something very abstract - such as the theology of the Uncreated Light - more tangible. And third (and this is a larger issue), Payton's stance as an "outsider" to Orthodoxy, while helpful in his ability to express things in a way clear to the Western mind, also hindered him from reaching the essence of the difference between East and West. Payton understandably wanted to create a "fair" presentation, neither elevating Orthodoxy too high nor denigrating the West. In all fairness to him, even if he were Orthodox, trying to explain these things without unintentionally offending a non-Orthodox reader with something that appeared to be bitter triumphalism would be difficult.
And yet, looking at Orthodox as just another - albeit very well done - version of Christianity with its own particular vision and character is to miss the heart or Orthodoxy's self understanding: it is the unerring, undivided, perfect Body of Christ. This Body of Christ, while imperfectly ministered to by man, is nonetheless the Vessel of the Holy Spirit, the Pillar of Truth, and the most perfect Hospital for ill man. When Christ Ascended, He yet remained with us in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, undivided and unconquerable. When one does not view the Church as such, Orthodoxy becomes just another "tradition" of Christianity which can simply be "tried out" or from which one can simply implement the desirable aspects into his own tradition. This misses the basis for Orthodoxy's self-understanding. If one does not recognize this about how Orthodox views itself, it is akin to training for months or years for a marathon and then staying home the day of the race: you may have made yourself look like a runner, you may have a great understanding of what runners go through, but you gave yourself no chance to win the prize.
Again, I understand Payton's unwillingness to venture into such theology, first because he is not Orthodox himself and second because, without great delicacy, this could turn many off to the riches of Orthodoxy. However, I recommend that, if one wants to go deeper than Payton and get more to the essence of the differences, you can read these two articles, both available online: Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky's "Way Apart: What is the Difference Between Orthodox and Western Confessions?" and Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos' "The Difference Between Orthodox Spirituality and Other Traditions." Type either into Google to find them.
Despite these shortcomings, however, I still cannot but call this a necessary text, and I thank God that Payton has written it.
The Very Best Compare/Contrast East-West Christiantiy Jul 6, 2009
During my life, I have had my Orthodox faith repeatedly, and often insultingly, challenged by well-meaning Protestant friends and family. I've avoided confrontation for the most part, but really wished I could find -- or write -- the perfect book that would both help them realize the commonalities and differences between East and West. I think Robert Payne's book comes very close to the goal of acknowledging the Roman/European development of Christian thought and practice, and comparing and contrasting it with the older, historical roots of Eastern Christianity. Payne's attitude is balanced, accurate, and strives for conciliatory understanding between the two main streams of Christian development.
Not only does Payne focus on the most obvious points of divergence between East and West, he effectively explains how it can be that we use the same words, but have different understandings of what they mean -- BUT AT THE SAME TIME -- we have instances where we mean the same thing, but use different words. What I liked best was that Payne was never condescending,or patronizing nor outright insulting to Eastern Christianity -- unlike some Protestant authors.
I think this is a really good book for someone whose family members are exploring Eastern Orthodox Christianity, because I think it will help them learn about it in a respectful context. I think for someone from a Protestant background who is curious about Eastern Orthodox Christianity that this book will tell you clearly what the major differences are. And, for Orthodox Christians trying to find out what the differences in Protestant Christianity is from Orthodoxy, this is a good book that will help you understand what Protestant Christian thought is.
Good follow up reading would be "Common Ground" by Jordan Bajis, which is easy reading and goes into more specifics about the differences between East and West in a factual but non-confrontational manner. \Common Ground: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity for the American Christian
Another is The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa and Asia -- and How It Died by Philip Jenkins.The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It Died which is an eye opener for people who think the church in Rome and the Reformation is all of Christian history.
And finally, the classic: The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware.The Orthodox Church: New Edition
The other Orthodoxy Apr 11, 2009
Lights from the Christian east is an useful resource about the "other" Orthodoxy. The author helps explain the variations between the Western and the Eastern Church. He helps the reader understand why the theologians of the eastern church have arrived at different ideas than the church caught in the maelstrom of European events. He presents the doctrines in an orderly manner and the content is more than enough for the inquiring mind regarding the orthodoxy unfamiliar to many.
A great introduction AND refresher course (For Orthodox) Jan 30, 2009
I am very impressed with this elegantly written, very inciteful and thorough book on the Eastern Orthodox Tradition. Payton hits all of the major areas of interest for western readers. It is a great book for inquirers, catechumens, parents/friends of converts, and those outside our traditon who may think they know more about us than they really do! Although not Orthodox himself, Payton manages to get inside the Eastern Orthodox "mind" and "ethos" as well or better than anyone I have read lately. I highly recommend the book.
Re-Oriented? Aug 1, 2008
After reading it through and having discussed it with friends who have read it, I would rank this book as in the top 6 of introductions to Orthodoxy for Protestants. As other reviews have noted, however, this is also something of a primer on Protestant theology, so it serves a double function. I recall from my Lutheran days being shocked at the "Catholic" side of the tradition, being raised in a rather romaphobic paris and school. This book would have helped me gain a better perspective of both my own Protestant position and that of the more authentic/established/universal Tradition. It gets into some deep waters. True, it is intended as a college textbook and is based upon the author's lecture notes (who is Protestant), but it may be a little too much for Protestants who are used to guitars, clowns and mimes in church. Even so, if you are seriously thinking about these issues, this would be a good place to start to wade into the deep end of the ocean and away from shore (once you begin to realize that your theological sandcastles were never meant to resist the tide of historical truth, perhaps, as it was for me).
For specifics, you can use the features above to see the table of contents and see it for your self. He covers almost all of the bases in a very clear and sympathetic manner.
Other books of interest may include the outstanding Common Ground: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity for the American Christian, the mroe aggressive Dancing Alone: The Quest for Orthodox Faith in the Age of False Religion, the brief but direct Discovering the Rich Heritage of Orthodoxy, the solid duo Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism: A Primer for Suspicious ProtestantsTradition, Scripture, and Interpretation: A Sourcebook of the Ancient Church (Evangelical Ressourcement: Ancient Sources for the Church's Future), and the two profound introductions to the spirituality of the Eastern tradition, The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality and Father Arseny, 1893-1973: Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father : Being the Narratives Compiled by the Servant of God Alexander Concerning His Spiritual Father. Of course, The Orthodox Way is a classic standard.