- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Mentor; 1St Edition edition (September 20, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1845502477
- ISBN-13: 978-1845502478
- Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #658,711 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Through Western Eyes: Eastern Orthodoxy: A Reformed Perspective Paperback – September 20, 2010
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"Just finishing Bob Letham's brilliant and accessible Through Western Eyes: Eastern Orthodoxy -- a Reformed Perspective. Typical of Bob's style -- awesome learning, accessible writing, and a fine critical exposition of the history and theology of Orthodoxy, which is careful and honorable throughout. It gave me much food for thought, especially on the matter of icons (I'd never thought of the photographs of the great Hugh Miller and R S Candlish in my office as icons before....).The book is a great read, and Bob's way of using Orthodoxy as a means of sharpening the reader's own understanding of the Reformed tradition is a piece of classic pedagogy". (Carl R. Trueman ~ Paul Woolley Professor of Historical Theology and Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
"Nevertheless, conversations will continue and Dr Letham's book is probably the best one there is from a reformed perspective. It should be in the library of every pastor and theologian and consulted whenever questions relating to the eastern church and our links with its tradition arise." (Gerald Bray ~ Research Professor, Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama)
Several years ago on one of my visits, to Eastern Europe countries, I was asked by local students to explain the difference between their local Orthodox Church and my own Baptist church. It would have been useful to read this book before then, even if my answer was basically correct...This book will be useful to those living and working (perhaps as missionaries) in countries where these churches are active. It will give a balanced insight into their beliefs - and challenge our thinking too! (J. H. John Peet, Grace Magazine)
"The publication of Robert Letham's magnificient piece of work is deeply significant..It is essential reading for Chrsitian Ministers, theological students, schoolteacher/lecturers, and Christians who needs to informed." (Rt Revd Dr J Barry Shucksmith Royal Navy (Rtd))
"Just finishing Bob Letham's brilliant and accessible Through Western Eyes: Eastern Orthodoxy -- a Reformed Perspective. Typical of Bob's style -- awesome learning, accessible writing, and a fine critical exposition of the history and theology of Orthodoxy, which is careful and honorable throughout. It gave me much food for thought, especially on the matter of icons (I'd never thought of the photographs of the great Hugh Miller and R S Candlish in my office as icons before....).The book is a great read, and Bob's way of using Orthodoxy as a means of sharpening the reader's own understanding of the Reformed tradition is a piece of classic pedagogy". ~ Carl R. Trueman (Paul Woolley Professor of Historical Theology and Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
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A Russian Orthodox monastery has been established within 50 miles of my home, and a few Orthodox churches are closer than that, but I had never paid much attention to sorting Orthodoxy from Catholicism. (One used icons, the other statues. One used a knotted prayer rope, the other a rosary. So?) When I did learn more about the Orthodox, they seemed to resemble my Baptists more than Roman Catholics. A close friend who works at the monastery has considered converting. So I wanted to learn more.
This author compares and contrasts the Orthodox mostly to the "Reformed" branch of Protestantism, and with Roman Catholicism. My potential convert friend and I both think he does a good job of it. Be ready to consult the glossary often, though, and I'm sure you'll wish the book had an index or hyperlinks, instead of just a timeline. Quick: define "homiosis" and "filioque."
I have long considered "denominations" to just be different organs in the growing "Body of Christ," the Church, so I have no problem recognizing that the Orthodox are fellow Christians. We too often talk past each other, saying the same things, differently. And, there are a few real differences. This should help.
The second part of the book, on the theology of the OC, is the main part of the book. Letham's irenic style is very inviting. He covers those areas most dear to each tradition (Icons, Scripture/Tradition, Trinity, Justification) and gives a fair treatment. One interesting example is when he compared icons to a picture of Martyn Lloyd-Jones which was hung in a visible place in a home he had visited. Such examples help to give those horrified with the thought of honoring icons a contemporary perspective.
Part three, Comparative Evaluation, was also well done. He shows that there is important overlap of belief and call attention to areas of mutual misunderstanding. Additionally, Letham doesn't mince words when it comes to areas of crucial disagreement.
Overall well written and advisable for those looking for an intro to the Orthodox Church or comparing the OC with the reformed perspective.
However, from the point of view of a Reformed reader, I was quite disappointed, even somewhat stunned, by the mild treatment Dr. Letham gives of the Orthodox Church. Those writing from an Orthodox point of view usually criticize Protestants and Protestant theology in very vigorous terms. I expected this book to proclaim loudly and in no uncertain terms why Reformed Protestantism is more Biblically accurate than Eastern Orthodoxy. But the author refused to do anything of the sort. He seemed to be as walking on eggshells throughout the whole book, fearing that he might say something politically incorrect that might offend Orthodox readers.
If such a book had been written by Martin Luther or John Calvin or their immediate successors, they would have pointed out the many disturbing similarities between Orthodoxy and the Roman Church (e.g. emphasis on works for justification, sacramentalism, Mariolatry, prayers for the dead, etc.). Dr. Letham almost seemed to be apologizing for the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century. Where are the great Reformed apologists of today who will stand up strongly and boldly declare the Word of God in no uncertain terms even if they offend Roman Catholics or the Eastern Orthodox?
It is no exaggeration to say that 70% of the book is simply a statement of Orthodox views with no commentary from a Reformed perspective. Another 15% is a criticism of Protestants who don't correctly understand Orthodoxy. The other 15% is a criticism of Orthodox who don't correctly understand Protestants. Can you imagine John Calvin writing his Institutes of the Christian Religion in a way like this?
I am still looking for a scholarly book on Eastern Orthodoxy written from a Reformed perspective that will not worry about offending critics and will stay true to all of the distinctives of the Reformers. I'm sorry to say that this book doesn't fit the bill..