As a Western Christian, I have always been very comfortable in thinking I knew what it meant to be a Christian. There are the Creeds, there are the Scriptures, there is Tradition, and there is the Church: knowing those from the basis of my own Western standpoint was all I needed to know about what Christianity was all about.
But that is an impoverished and denuded understanding of Christianity because it fails to account for the Eastern expression of Christianity, an expression most fully revealed in the Churches of Orthodoxy. To truly appreciate Christianity, and my identity as a Christian, I need to know something of the life and experience of my Eastern brothers and sisters.
And that is where this book by Kallistos Ware comes in.
For those with an interest in exploring the Eastern expression of Christianity that is Orthodoxy, this book is a very good place to start. In just over 300 pages, Ware sets out the history, the structure, the beliefs, and the worship of the Orthodox in enough detail to garner some understanding and, for those with the appetite, to encourage further exploration. In this latter aspect, Ware helpfully includes a rather comprehensive ‘Further Reading’ list at the end of the book.
I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to deepen their understanding of what Christianity is all about, whether they from the West or the East.
From the back cover:
‘Orthodoxy is not just a kind of Roman Catholicism without the Pope, but something quite distinct from any religious system in the west. Yet those who look more closely at this “unknown world” will discover much in it which, while different, is yet curiously familiar’.
Since its first publication fifty years ago, Timothy Ware’s book has become established throughout the English-speaking world as the standard introduction to Eastern Christianity. In this fully revised and updated third edition he explains the Orthodox views on such widely ranging matters as Free Will, Purgatory, the Papacy and the relation between the different Churches, making this the definitive guide for both Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike.