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Encountering the Mystery: Understanding Orthodox Christianity Today Hardcover – March 18, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Although the 16-year reign of the patriarch of the Orthodox Christian communion has largely gone unnoticed in America, this new book should serve to raise his profile considerably. Like some of his Western counterparts, the popes of Rome, Bartholomew has used his position to speak out against the ravages of the global economy and has been an eloquent advocate for environmentalism. In his new book, he mines the mystical theology of Orthodoxy, which relies heavily on saints like Gregory of Nyssa and the New Testament, to paint a picture of a world transformed and renewed by Christianity. The chief principles that underlie this world are prayerfulness, asceticism and humility. Bartholomew understands the cultivation of virtue as having both personal and global dimensions, as when he writes, [L]et us treat everything with proper love and utmost care. Only in this way shall we secure a physical environment where life for the coming generations of humankind will be healthy and happy. As a citizen of Turkey, Bartholomew has also been committed to Christian-Jewish-Muslim dialogue and is believable when he says, [I]t is not religious differences that create conflict between human beings. More than anything else, this book shows that all who are committed to social justice have a friend in the Orthodox patriarch. (Mar. 18)
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ADVANCE PRAISE FOR ENCOUNTERING THE MYSTERY
"Orthodoxy is neither just a theological system nor just a set of liturgical disciplines; it is in the most serious and full sense wisdom – a perspective of Spirit-led insight that transforms both vision and action. In this exceptional book, Patriarch Bartholomew inducts his readers into this wisdom and demonstrates with authority how it bears upon a range of global issues. There is nothing archaic here, though plenty that is traditional; nothing merely fashionable, though plenty that is sharply contemporary. It is a treasury of sane and generous theology, from one of the truly great figures in the Christian world today."
—Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury
“The Ecumenical Patriarch is renowned as a bridge-builder. Encountering the Mystery is a bridge in book form, and a majestic structure it is. The text first introduces readers to the tenets and values of the Orthodox Church, then prompts us to think deeply about the nature of the world in which we live, then summons us to act on behalf of all creation. The volume is nothing less than a work of art, informed by faith, and infused with wisdom and love.”
—Madeleine K. Albright
“Although the 16-year reign of the Patriarch of the Orthodox Christian communion has largely gone unnoticed in America, this new book should serve to raise his profile considerably . . . Bartholomew has used his position to speak out against the ravages of the global economy and has been an eloquent advocate for environmentalism. In his new book, he mines the mystical theology of Orthodoxy . . . to paint a picture of a world transformed and renewed by Christianity. More than anything else, this book shows that all who are committed to social justice have a friend in the Orthodox Patriarch.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“This is an extraordinary book, for Patriarch Bartholomew is a quite exceptional human being. He has a deep understanding of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism and works tirelessly to bridge their worlds. He is concerned for the future of unborn generations, linking poverty, the dark side of globalization, and the unsustainable lifestyles of the elite with environmental degradation. He is an extraordinarily wise global leader, using the gift of his life to make this a better world for all, knowing God in all, and urging us to do the same.”
—Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and a UN Messenger of Peace www.janegoodall.org www.rootsandshoots.org
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The rest of the book is where this probably gets very divisive, Bartholomew takes positions which probably aren't fully supported by the standard orthodox, but some that I completely agree with. I assume that Bartholomew has been very influenced by living in Turkey, a prominently Islamic nation. His views are such as trying to have ecumenical dialogues with the Abrahamic faiths (Islam, Judaism, and Christianity), not in an attempt to proselytize, but to gain a real understanding and to love and respect them. Next there is a call to be less materialistic, to stop exploiting our fellow man, to not take advantage of other nations, to be peacemakers. Finally he is very environmentally aware and wants us to take measures to take care of the earth (even if it hurts our profits in the short term). This book was a nice change from what I grew up with where everything was about how God can increase our wealth or there is no need to be concerned with exploiting the earth because everything will be right when Jesus returns.
It is amazing to witness some of the "hate" spewed by some Orthodox reviewers toward their own spiritual leader...but then I guess you always get that kind of stuff when dealing with human beings, no matter where you go.
As for me, I would recommend this book to anyone, Orthodox or not, Christian or not. The world needs more people like Patriarch Bartholomew.
Most recent customer reviews
theological training, I just could not get into it.
Maybe due to my Western Christianity viewpoint
as over against the Eastern...Read more
Recomended to anyone wishing to have an insight into Orthodox Christianity.