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The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to its History, Doctrine, and Spiritual Culture 1st Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1444337310
ISBN-10: 1444337319
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"As a handbook for what would be considered the traditional Orthodox position on matters of Christian belief, thought, and praxis, it is reliable, with relatively few omissions, and well written." (CHURCH HISTORY, June 2009)

“The volume's detailed, comprehensive treatment will require and repay a careful reading. Summing Up: Essential.” (Choice, April 2009)

Throughout he writes with passion, deep sensitivity, and a wonderful evocative clarity.” (Logos, May 2009)

"[The book] will help the Orthodox to a deeper understanding of the riches of their faith and will introduce the non-Orthodox to fresh ways of thinking about their faith, and both to a renewed engagement with the life of the church." (Ecclesiastical History, April 2009)

"McGuckin's hope that his book may contribute to the dialogue between East and West deserves to be realised." (Church Times, October 2008)

 







Review

“This is an unparalleled introduction to the Orthodox Church. Comprehensive in its scope, surveying the history and present state of the Church, it is also bold and fresh in its presentation of Orthodox theology and yet, or rather thus, truly traditional. Fr. John McGuckin’s inspired and challenging vision of Orthodoxy reveals a Church entering upon a ‘new spring,’ ready to address the concerns of the modern world, intellectually, politically, and socially, grounded in God’s philanthropy for all his creation.”
John Behr, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary

“Fr. John McGuckin has succeeded here in an almost impossible task: to offer us a concise, evocative, sympathetic, yet historically sophisticated portrait of the history, faith, and practice of the Orthodox Churches in one highly readable, constantly informative volume. Poet and scholar as he is, McGuckin writes gracefully and engagingly, yet with a theological and spiritual depth that invites all of us to reflect more deeply on what is most fundamental to the Christian faith. The book seems bound to become a classic.” 
Brian E. Daley, SJ, University of Notre Dame


“This volume will be the classical introduction to Orthodoxy at least for most of this century. McGuckin is, in an ascending and unifying order, scholar and poet, convert and Romanian Orthodox priest. The book’s content is clearly set in a twenty-first century context, while being deeply scriptural, patristic and byzantine. The aroma of Orthodoxy wafts through its pages. It serves as the gateway to this Christian community for outsiders and insiders alike, because it is faithful and insight-filled while also ancient and up to date.” 
Frederick W. Norris, Emmanuel School of Religion --This text refers to the Digital edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (December 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444337319
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444337310
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.9 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #349,483 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
THE ORTHODOX CHURCH is an introduction to the history, doctrine, and culture of this ancient Christian tradition by Father John Anthony McGuckin, a priest and professor, and a convert to Orthodoxy himself. There is what you would expect in such a book, such as a presentation of the Orthodox bodies worldwide, the use of icons, and the notion of Holy Tradition against the papal rule known in Roman Catholicism or the Sola Scriptura tendencies of Protestants.

But Father McGuckin goes beyond these most basic topics to give a rigorous presentation of Orthodox theology, including the difficult Christological controversies of the early Church, the relationship between Emperor and Patriarch in Byzantium (still informative for us today), and some of the underappreciated masterpieces of liturgical writing. Father McGuckin's sermons must be really something to listen to, for his prose here is rich and passionate, deftly wielding classical rhetorical skills.

My only major complaint about the book is that it is written wholly from the perspective of a Western writer who has obviously spent a long time in the rounds of liberal academic discourse, and this is often incongruent with the general spirit of Orthodoxy worldwide. In speaking of the need to give women a more prominent role in the modern church, McGuckin calls for the restoration of the order of diaconess. However, he doesn't mention the very understandable fear among a number of churches that this may only be the camel's nose on the way to feminists calling for female priestly ordination.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I originally thought of this as a introductory textbook level book for the Orthodox Church. However, the dry, academic material is really only confined to the historical chapters at the beginning. And honestly, that's where I learned the most.

This book is written in a very British style of English. Thus, it relies on a lot of rhetoric and imagery to enhance his points, and thus states in three pages what an American text might say in a paragraph or two. The points and facts are there, and you can learn a lot from the Orthodox church, but if you were looking to a solid, direct, and concise introduction to Orthodoxy, this might not be for you.

On the positive, it does cover a wide range of topics, and he approaches Orthodoxy from a modern perspective. This is probably due to his own conversion from Anglicanism to Orthodoxy.

As an endnote, don't take this review to be a complete criticism. I like the book and it's quite quotable. It's definitely something I'd recommend for someone interested in Orthodoxy. My personal preference is simply for something more direct and less "flowery."
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Format: Paperback
This book is like most McGuckin books: mature, balanced scholarship, the occasional quip, and a fine survey of the most relevant literature. The best way to describe this book is to call it "Timothy Ware's Book on Steroids." He does not tell you anything--history-wise--about Orthodoxy that you would not find in Ware. In fact, most of the theology that you find here you would also find in Ware, with a few sections more cogently argued, I suppose.

Rather than review each section, which would read like a summary of Orthodox theology, I will highlight several sections that show his uniquness/insight. The section on the Church and the Orthodox view of non-Orthodox was a sane and welcome balance to much current thinking. Ware bases his discussion primarily around--not Cyprian--but St Basil's Letter to Amphiliocus. Basil notes (repeatedly, I might add, in his letters, though McGuckin only highlights one of them) that the dividing line is not between "Orthodox vs. non-Orthodox," but "Orthodox compared with multiple Christian communities who are not equal in terms of division."

McGuckin has a nice section defending the concept of our Holy Beloved Emperor. Given that modernity has been one violent negation of monarchy, this is a bold move on McGuckin's part(literally). McGuckin does not naively wish for the return of a Russian Tsar, but he does not that almost all modern options in politics have failed miserably; thus so, positing monarchism as an epistemological critique and pointer towards renewal has many promising dividends for Christians.

Other chapters end on these similar notes: McGuckin presents the Orthodox position firmly and without compromise, but he isn't a jerk about it and leaves room for the reader to calmly disagree (as I do on a few topics).
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Format: Paperback
Fr McGuckin's book is both brilliant and beautiful. It is articulate, profound, balanced, insightful, compassionate, and frequently inspiring--a tall order. It must be said up front that this is not an easy book to read. Fr McGuckin's writing style is elegant but very dense; the reader must be prepared to work. But the rewards are worth it.

This book is not a basic introduction--it presupposes a certain familiarity either with Orthodoxy, or at least with theological concepts and terminology. For those who want a basic introduction to Orthodoxy, I would still recommend Timothy Ware's The Orthodox Church: New Edition, Hilarion Alfeyev's The Mystery of Faith: An Introduction to the Teaching and Spirituality of the Orthodox Church, or Gillian Crow's accessible and brief Orthodoxy for Today. As other reviewers have commented, you aren't necessarily going to learn anything new in the historical section, but that's only the first chapter; the book really begins to shine from Chapter 2 onward. I would recommend Fr. McGuckin's book for every Orthodox Christian, and consider it essential reading for anyone active in the church. It should be required reading for every potential seminarian. One could only wish that every future bishop of the Church were formed by McGuckin's vision of what bishops in the Orthodox Church are supposed to be.
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