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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 25 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? In Light 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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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 25 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? In Light 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.

30 review for Light from the Christian East: An Introduction to the Orthodox Tradition

  1. 4 out of 5

    Debbi

    I was delighted at James Payton’s respectful and thoroughly researched take on the Orthodox Faith in Light from the Christian East: Introducing the Orthodox Tradition. This is the kind of book one can recommended to a non-Orthodox friend who’s looking to gain a better understanding of a the Eastern Christian tradition without having to feel like it’s being shoved down their throat. Conversion stories, while very helpful and informative, often force the reader to take a position. This book is inf I was delighted at James Payton’s respectful and thoroughly researched take on the Orthodox Faith in Light from the Christian East: Introducing the Orthodox Tradition. This is the kind of book one can recommended to a non-Orthodox friend who’s looking to gain a better understanding of a the Eastern Christian tradition without having to feel like it’s being shoved down their throat. Conversion stories, while very helpful and informative, often force the reader to take a position. This book is informing you on the Eastern Orthodox church and its beliefs rather than trying to preach Orthodoxy. Prof. Payton does spend some time each chapter encouraging Western readers to think about what can be gained in their own faith tradition by learning about Orthodoxy. “There is much in the Eastern Orthodox understanding of the relationship of the Creator and his creation that can enrich our Western Christian perspectives about God and his relationship to the creation of which we are part and in which we live.” pg.99 Payton is not Orthodox himself, but his respectful handling of the faith is refreshing in a day of internet polemics regarding East/West discussions. Here you will not find someone who has not just read a book about Orthodoxy or has gone to a service or two. Payton is a professor of Byzantine & Church History and, in his acknowledgments, it is evidenced that he has visited many different Orthodox churches and made friends and discussed much with many different Orthodox priests and theologians. Even though he is looking from the outside in he knows his stuff and he is deeply respectful to our faith. Light from the Christian East would make an excellent companion book to either Metropolitan KALLISTOS’ (Timothy Ware) The Orthodox Church or Fr. Anthony Coniaris’ Introducing the Orthodox Church. However, it brings to the table a different perspective. Prof. Payton delves much more into the mind and perspective of the Orthodox Christian. He explains why we view God, Creation, theology, sin, the fall of man, and salvation the way we do. Rather than a list of what we believe or our history, he goes deeper and tries to understand the Eastern Orthodox mindset. My one minor reservation with the book is the author’s desire for Western Christians to use this knowledge to deepen their own faith walk (it is the only time he gets a bit preachy). I’m not sure that he meant it this way, but I would worry that people would fall into an attitude of “a-la-carte” Christianity, picking and choosing what they want or not. I would have preferred if the author had just shared the Orthodox faith and encouraged Western Christians to appreciate our differences. If you looking for a book to better understanding of Eastern Christianity but don’t want polemics or to be preached at about what is wrong with Western Christianity, I think A Light from the Christian East would be a very good jumping off point.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David

    This is a superb introduction to the Orthodox Church because it clearly and succinctly compares and contrasts Orthodox theology and practice with Catholic and Protestant traditions in an impartial and thoroughly-cited manner. This would make an excellent first read for any Catholic or Protestant unfamiliar with Orthodoxy, and it would also be useful to Orthodox seeking to understand how they can communicate effectively with Western Christians. The first chapter briefly reviews the history of Chr This is a superb introduction to the Orthodox Church because it clearly and succinctly compares and contrasts Orthodox theology and practice with Catholic and Protestant traditions in an impartial and thoroughly-cited manner. This would make an excellent first read for any Catholic or Protestant unfamiliar with Orthodoxy, and it would also be useful to Orthodox seeking to understand how they can communicate effectively with Western Christians. The first chapter briefly reviews the history of Christianity with the purpose of illustrating the cultural and historic origins of the divisions between Byzantine and Roman Christianity. For example: "In both cases, the Hellenistic and Roman cultures into which Christianity had been introduced had shaped the way in which Christian claims were presented and whicj claims were emphasized by those who called others to faith in Christ." (p. 25). Chapter 2 ("Western Reactions") addresses the various inaccurate assumptions made by Western Christians about the Orthodox Church: "Basically the Same as Roman Catholicism", "An Ossified Relic of the Christian Past", and "Assimilated to Pagan Greek Thought". Chapter 3 ("Orthodoxy's Approach to Doctrine") notes, "...churches in the West have polished and refined their doctrinal emphases, becoming distinctive over increasingly arcane points of doctrine and interpretation. ... In the Christian East, that has not been the pattern of the history of the church;" (p. 68). Chapter 4 ("Talking About God") discusses three distinctive differences in how Eastern Orthodox and Western Christians perceive God. The Orthodox make much heavier use of apophatic theology. They affirm the divine "energies" (or "actions") to be, "...nothing less or other than God" (p. 81). Finally, the Orthodox affirm that, "...the divine energies are God himself acting not at a safe distance, but in the closest possible immanence with us." (p. 83). The distinctively Orthodox view of the divine energies remains the crucial theme in Chapter 5 ("The Creator and the Creation"), the chapters on salvation (7 & 8), and Chapter 9 ("What is Grace?"). This Orthodox understanding of God's nature forms the foundational rift between Latin Christendom and the Orthodox, as the Catholic Encyclopedia notes: "Latin theology on the whole was too deeply impregnated with the Aristotelean Scholastic system to tolerate a theory that opposed its very foundation. That all created beings are composed of actus and potentia, that God alone is actus purus, simple as He is infinite — this is the root of all Scholastic natural theology." ("Hesychasm"). Chapter 5 ("Creator and Creation") expands on the differences between the Eastern and Western God. "God cannot beven be 'placed' with created beings in a shared category of 'being.' Indeed, even using the same term 'being' violates truth, for God and all the rest of what exists cannot be reduced to elements in a common quantification. Divine being is beyond all categories of 'existence'; there was no 'category' of 'being' in 'eternity past' into which God 'fit.'... There is no 'chain of being' which somehow includes both God and his creation. The Creator is totally other than his creation." (p. 89) This stands in stark contrast to the "natural theology" of Aquinas which apprehends God as the "Unmoved Mover" through precisely the "chain of being" which Orthodoxy rejects. Chapter 6 ("Humanity as Created and Fallen") describes the differences between the Western and the Orthodox view of Adam and original sin. The Orthodox affirm that Adam was never cursed by God, as Irenaeus wrote: "God pronounced no curse upon Adam" (Against Heresies as in Payton, p. 110). Orthodoxy affirms that while Adam's sin gave death dominion over mankind (Rom 5:15, 17), "According to Orthodoxy, the human race does not share in or inherit the guilt of Adam's sin, although it unquestionably suffers the effects of that sin. ... Orthodoxy teaches that God does not hold us guilty of someone else's sin." (p. 111). Chapter 7 ("The Accomplishment of Salvation") shows how fundamentally different is the Orthodox understanding of the work of Christ: "In Western Christianity, Christ is seen as the one who suffers the punishment human beings deserve for their sin: Christ is seen as victim. By contrast, in Eastern Christian thought, Christ is the victor: he defeats those enemies and frees humanity from their bondage. In the Eastern Christian tradition, there are four main elements to this answer." (p. 122). These four elements are the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ which together form the "recapitulation" of Adam in Christ for, "all those who are 'in Christ.'" (p. 123). This is expressed by the Orthodox affirmation that the sacrifice of the Cross would be ineffective without the Resurrection: "In Western Christianity, the basic understanding of salvation is that the work was finished in Christ's suffering and death on the cross. ... Orthodoxy sees humanity's problem as its bondage to sin, death, and the devil. Salvation in its fullness is not completed until life is restored to Christ and those 'in him': Christ's resurrection is a necessity to break the bonds of death." (p. 128 - 129). Thus, the Orthodox describe Christ's death as a ransom paid to the Father but also as a ransom to Satan acting like bait to catch and destroy Satan's power over men. Chapter 8 ("The Application of Salvation") addresses the contrast between Western and Orthodox faith concerning the means by which salvation is applied to the individual soul. Roman Catholics and Protestants both struggle with the question of how the soul is justified in the court of divine justice. The debate has centered on the "ordo salutis", or the sequence of justification, sanctification, and glorification. In contrast, "...Eastern Christianity orients its concerns regarding the application of salvation on the process of that application, not on the particular steps in that process. ... 'He [the Son of God] became man so that man might become god.' [St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word] This pithy declaration has commended itself to subsequent generations in Eastern Christendom and encapsulates the Orthodox understanding to this day." (p. 142). "What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it." (Deuteronomy 12:32). Reflecting on all the significant differences between the Orthodox and the Western Christians prompts us to consider: has the West added to the Gospel or diminished something from it? I think that it has.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michael Clevenger

    Great read. Coupled with Metropolitan Kallistos Ware's The Orthodox Church; great primers on the OC and Patristic Fathers.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Aurore

    Ce livre permet de découvrir la foi orthodoxe et d'en être enrichi. L'auteur expose différents aspects du christianisme orthodoxe et en parallèle présente la position des "chrétiens de l'ouest" (protestants et catholique romains), ce qui amène à se questionner sur sa propre foi qui est d'une certaine façon similaire à celle des orthodoxes et en même temps tellement éloignée sur certains aspects. Ce livre appelle à l'humilité. Le but du livre n'est pas de persuader le lecteur de devenir chrétien Ce livre permet de découvrir la foi orthodoxe et d'en être enrichi. L'auteur expose différents aspects du christianisme orthodoxe et en parallèle présente la position des "chrétiens de l'ouest" (protestants et catholique romains), ce qui amène à se questionner sur sa propre foi qui est d'une certaine façon similaire à celle des orthodoxes et en même temps tellement éloignée sur certains aspects. Ce livre appelle à l'humilité. Le but du livre n'est pas de persuader le lecteur de devenir chrétien orthodoxe mais de montrer que nous pouvons beaucoup apprendre de leur foi. J'ai été pour ma part particulièrement interpellé par leur vision du salut accomplis par Christ (Christ vainqueur et la "deification" qui en découle) ainsi que sur l'eucharistie.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    Over the past two decades, the Orthodox Church has intrigued many evangelical Christians in the United States. James R. Payton's LIGHT FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST is one of the latest books that seek to introduce Eastern Christianity to evangelicals. This is not an introduction to the Orthodox Church for general audiences. Unless you are a big fan of evangelical doctrinal debates, the best all-around presentation of Orthodoxy is Bishop Kallistos Ware's THE ORTHODOX CHURCH. If you are an evangelical b Over the past two decades, the Orthodox Church has intrigued many evangelical Christians in the United States. James R. Payton's LIGHT FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST is one of the latest books that seek to introduce Eastern Christianity to evangelicals. This is not an introduction to the Orthodox Church for general audiences. Unless you are a big fan of evangelical doctrinal debates, the best all-around presentation of Orthodoxy is Bishop Kallistos Ware's THE ORTHODOX CHURCH. If you are an evangelical but prefer something less academic and more personal, Peter Guillquist's BECOMING ORTHODOX is for you. Payton's work is more like Daniel B. Clendenin's EASTERN ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY in targeting an audience of evangelicals trained in theology and apologetics. Payton's book is divided into chapters each dealing with one particular issue of theology that is viewed differently in Orthodoxy than in general Protestantism. These include the relationship between the Creator and Creation, humanity as created and fallen, the accomplishment of salvation and its application, the nature of grace, and Orthodoxy's entire approach to doctrine. Payton does a good job of citing both Orthodox theologians and the main Protestant reformers in opposing the two perspectives. Payton makes a good case for the use of icons, using the same Scripture-based arguments as St John of Damascus. As an Orthodox Christian, what I found unsatisfactory about Prof Payton's book is his belief that the Orthodox Church should be seen as a rich set of ideas that can be integrated into one's own denomination, when in fact the Orthodox Church teaches that it is *the* Church of Christ and all are called to it. I wish that Curnow had explained why he has chosen not to convert to Orthodoxy. It's puzzling that he has so many good things to say about the Church and its traditions, but he himself remains non-Orthodox.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    This book was recommended to me by my Orthodox godparents. Being a recent convert from Catholicism, with a large background in Western Christianity, I found this book excellent. The author belongs to the Protestant tradition, but he is also a Church historian, very well read in both Western and Eastern traditions. I don’t think I have ever read any book as good as this one presenting Orthodoxy from a Western point of view. It is extremely balanced and sympathetic – actually, all along I wondered This book was recommended to me by my Orthodox godparents. Being a recent convert from Catholicism, with a large background in Western Christianity, I found this book excellent. The author belongs to the Protestant tradition, but he is also a Church historian, very well read in both Western and Eastern traditions. I don’t think I have ever read any book as good as this one presenting Orthodoxy from a Western point of view. It is extremely balanced and sympathetic – actually, all along I wondered how long it would take for the author to make the plunge and become Orthodox, as many other great Church historians, Jaroslav Pelikan being one of the latest ones. He tackles all the major Christian themes, sums up the Western position, and then highlights what’s common and different from an Orthodox point of view. His main point is that Western Christianity can learn so much from Eastern Christianity and have a broader and deeper understanding of Christianity. The tone of the book is perfect, in the sense that there is no trace of polemic whatsoever, at least that was my feeling. This is very appreciable. My Orthodox godfather, Philosophy and Religion teacher, has used it to introduce his students to Orthodfoxy. This is not an easy read, this is for study. But if you want to have a view of the whole of Christianity, this is for you. As I read along, I posted a few excerpts – scroll down to see the relevant posts. original post: http://wordsandpeace.wordpress.com/20... Emma @ Words And Peace

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Wuertz

    This book best deals with the East West contrast than some of the other books I have read. However, it is really academic in the approach. It isn't really user friendly in my opinion. There are a lot of good arguments and dealing with common conflicts between East and West, but overall I don't think this is a book you can just hand off to anyone asking questions about Orthodoxy. Particularly anyone without a college education. It is just too heady. It is no wonder why, about halfway in I found o This book best deals with the East West contrast than some of the other books I have read. However, it is really academic in the approach. It isn't really user friendly in my opinion. There are a lot of good arguments and dealing with common conflicts between East and West, but overall I don't think this is a book you can just hand off to anyone asking questions about Orthodoxy. Particularly anyone without a college education. It is just too heady. It is no wonder why, about halfway in I found out an Orthodox friend of ours actually had Payton as a professor in college prior to his conversion (the friend's conversion, not Payton's) and the manuscript for this book was basically the class. I think it would be helpful to take the ideas and simplify them first or use them in conversation. A lot of it was just a bit over my head. I skipped thru about a third of the book because I was really having a hard time keeping at it. Feel like when I went on my food industry book binge and at the end I just couldn't read another book on the subject, no matter how well written because it was all stuff I'd heard a billion different ways. I think, for me, the top three chapters I got the most out of were "Western Reactions," which takes common Western arguments against Orthodoxy and deals with them; "Orthodoxy's Approach to Doctrine" which contrasts Western and Eastern approaches to theology; and "Icons" which deals with the arguments against icons.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Je lis donc je suis

    Excellent read! This is my third book in the past couple of months on Orthodoxy and I would say that it does the best job so far on making this beautiful and colorful branch of the Church (probably really the root and trunk) accessible to those of us raised in the West, whether Catholic or Protestant. I highly recommend it. I will be buying a couple of paper copies of it to pass out to (Protestant) friends here in Orthodox Georgia to help people get beyond stereotypes. I am looking forward to jo Excellent read! This is my third book in the past couple of months on Orthodoxy and I would say that it does the best job so far on making this beautiful and colorful branch of the Church (probably really the root and trunk) accessible to those of us raised in the West, whether Catholic or Protestant. I highly recommend it. I will be buying a couple of paper copies of it to pass out to (Protestant) friends here in Orthodox Georgia to help people get beyond stereotypes. I am looking forward to joining the Divine Liturgy when the opportunity presents itself while I am here in Georgia.

  9. 4 out of 5

    G Walker

    Payton does a very good job at making the Eastern tradition accessible to the West. This is a great introduction to Orthodoxy... vastly better than Clendenin. A nice supplement to Letham. It may strike one as deep at first, but once one gets their bearings, a second time through shows that what he wrote is actually fairly accessible. A very valuable tool for a truly "catholic" understanding of the church (in tradition, theology and practice). Good stuff.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Williams

    James Payton is a Reformed Christian who examines the doctrine and beliefs of the Orthodox Church. This is a well-written and good book to read. I would highly, highly recommend this to Christian who wants to understand who those strange "Orthodox" are. Whether your a Protestant or Catholic who just wants to learn about the Orthodox or a person who is contemplating becoming orthodox, I would recommend you to read this book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    I knew very little of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and I knew very little of early Church history. This book shed light on much the practice and history of ancient Christianity. It challenged my assumptions, especially about sacraments and worship.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay Billington

    This is an awesome introduction to Orthodox faith for a Western Catholic or Protestant. It includes many insights concerning what Western Christianity has to learn from its Eastern brothers and sisters.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nate

    This was one of the best introductions for Protestants to engage with the Orthodox tradition. It presented the core of Eastern Christian theology in a way that Westerners could clearly understand. It made me really appreciate what Orthodoxy has to offer Christianity on the whole.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    great intro into Orthodoxy for Protestants who know a lot about their faith and where they came from. it's a bit dense in parts, so not for the casual reader, but has a depth of information not found in many other western-friendly books on EO.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    This book was written by a Protestant theologian as an introduction to the Eastern Orthodox tradition of Christianity. The book includes chapters on all of the major aspects of the tradition. It provides a good introduction to the differences between Eastern and Western Christianity.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Fr. Ted

    I think this is a really fine book for comparing Christianity East and West. If you are very familiar with Orthodoxy, you probably aren't going to learn anything new, but it should help you understand the differences and similarities between Orthodoxy and Western Christianities.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mike Collier

    I found this book very informational but difficult to read. I do not have sufficient vocabulary or theological knowledge to understand it all. The last half was more straight forward and therefore easier than the first half.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Taylor Brown

    Written by a Protestant primarily FOR Protestants who may be curious about why Orthodox Christianity might be worthy of appreciation, even from without.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    A good general introduction. It only suffers from not being long enough. Evidently Bishop Timothy Ware's introduction, which this books seems to draw heavily from, is more complete.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Johns

    A superb read that takes time to study and digest. The book is written by a western Christian who is objective and doesn't take opportunity to be an apologist for either side.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Angelica Archangelica

    Wonderful, extremely thorough explanation and comparison of Eastern Orthodoxy for Protestant readers.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Robert Martin

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ben Swakopf

  24. 4 out of 5

    Zachary

  25. 5 out of 5

    Calvin

  26. 4 out of 5

    Beth Forbes

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jeffery

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paige Buursma

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mike Andrew

  30. 4 out of 5

    Graham Martin veale

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