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The Orthodox Church Paperback – September 16, 1997
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Within each topic he is relatively concise, and there are times at which I wished he'd gone into greater detail, but the topics covered are numerous and he lends a creative outlook on many things that I'd not read in other introductions to the Orthodox Church, which more than makes up for any want of detail in a few spots.
Of special interest to me is his attitude toward Western Christians. He exhibits a charity that is refreshing as much as it is clarifying. The book is replete with contrasts on certain issues between Orthodoxy and Catholicism (and sometimes Protestantism). He strikes a perfect balance between defending Orthodoxy on all fronts, as he believes it to be the one true Church of Christ, while constantly affirming what is best in each tradition; even to the point of acknowledging God's special gifts to Western Christianity (Catholicism and Protestantism), as unique from Orthodoxy.
This is especially hopeful, as many times Orthodox tend to divide along the line of those completely hostile to the 'heresy of ecumenism' on the one hand, and those who are eager for visible unity even prior to all the proper ado and pontifications and deliberations on the other. Perhaps Fr. Bulgakov offers a vision that has true fidelity to his own faith, while resolving these unfortunate opposites (that often result in vitriol and reactionary thought) and paves a path of charity for genuine dialogue among Christians.
Ch. 1 "The Church"
Ch. 2 "The Church as Tradition"
Ch. 3 "The Hierarchy"
Ch. 4 "The Unity of the Church"
Ch. 5 "The Sanctity of the Church"
Ch. 6 "Orthodox Dogma"
Ch. 7 "The Sacraments"
Ch. 8 "The Virgin and the Saints in Orthodoxy"
Ch. 9 "The Orthodox Church Service"
Ch. 10 "Icons and their Cult"
Ch. 11 "Orthodox Mysticism"
Ch. 12 "Orthodox Ethic"
Ch. 13 "Orthodoxy and the State"
Ch. 14 "Orthodoxy and the Economic Life"
Ch. 15 "Orthodoxy and Apocalyptic Thought"
Ch. 16 "Orthodox Eschatology"
Ch. 17 "Orthodoxy and the Other Confessions"
Ch. 18 "Conclusion"
From this index it is clear that the book is a comprehensive study of Orthodoxy, covering a very broad range of the areas of life, in particular Orthodox life. Bulgakov takes the reader by the hand and takes the reader on a journey thru Orthodoxy. It is a book that one does not finish and lays aside, rather one reads it again and again and again,..
It does not contain explicit reference to Sophiology, a doctrine with which Bulgakov's name will forever be associated. It is a book about Orthodox dogmatic theology with little reference to history, which has been treated by H.H. Kalistos Ware Bishop of Diokleia elsewhere ("The Orthodox Church"). For Fr. Bulgakov's sophiology one should turn to the trilogy "The Bride of the Lamb", "The Comforter" and "The Lamb of God" of which only the first has yet appeared in English; and of course the small introduction to "sophiology" called "Sophia: The Wisdom of God."
The book is a powerfull and convincing testimony to the energy and life that is contained in Orthodox theology. The book allows one to grow deeper, and much more firmly in Orthodox theology; especially in the light of Western challenges to Orthodoxy.
The book is best read as a companion, as a dogmatic travel-guide. Reading it is a journey into Orthodoxy in its dogmatic aspect (which must NEVER be separated from Orthodox praxis) re-reading it frequently is like "tuning ones inner Orthodox instrument" to make sure ones "tone remains Orthodox." It is a book that will be of enormous help to become Orthodox and to continue to become Orthodox; for becoming Orthodox does not end in Baptism and Chrismation, it merely begins from there on and this book will nurture ones contineous Journey into Orthodoxy.
"All Christians who now discover the need of facing a new future, are beginning to understand the world importance of Orthodoxy.
Does that future exist for the Church? Yes, for Orthodoxy is not yet achieved, either in fact or even in principle. Above Orthodoxy there is no other dome than the vault of Heaven. (..) It is Orthodoxy, and Orthodoxy only, which is the manifest and the hidden truth of all Christian confessions, divided now, but called to reunite in one flock under One Pastor, May God grant it!"
Get it, you won't regret it! ;-)