Monday, July 21, 2008

Orthodox Books for Beginners

Fr. Peter Gillquist, the man who ruined my career as a Baptist missionary (and I thank God he did!)

This is the second part of a four-part series on good Orthodox books to read. Last time, I quoted Fr. Stephen Freeman's list of the books that had been most influential in his life. As I mentioned, all of the books on his list are pretty advanced and would probably be a bit much for people who are inquirers into Orthodoxy, catechumens, or are Orthodox but in their "rookie season."

So, over the next few days I will give an excerpt from my upcoming book From Baptist to Bosnia to Byzantium. This first list consists of the books that I found most helpful in seeing the Orthodox viewpoint on Scripture and theology vis-a-vis the evangelical Protestant view. If a book is not on this list, it doesn't necessarily mean that it would not be helpful, only that either it hadn't come out at the time or that I was simply unaware of it.

Bajis, Fr. Jordan, Common Ground: An Introduction to Orthodox Christianity for the American Christian. Minneapolis: Light and Life Publishing, 1991. This is a scholarly, well-researched, and persuasive book. It was particularly helpful in winning me over to the Orthodox position on infant baptism and on the authoritative nature of Holy Tradition, but it also has excellent chapters on salvation and Sola Scriptura.

Carlton, Clark, The Way: What Every Protestant Should Know About the Orthodox Church. Salisbury, MA: Regina Orthodox Press, 1997. As I mentioned in the text, reading this book put the nail in the coffin of my being an evangelical. This is a very persuasive book, particularly regarding Sola Scriptura vs. Tradition and the structure and style of Orthodox worship. One caveat: this book is not for the thin-skinned! It should probably not be the first book that an evangelical reads about Orthodoxy, unless he or she is already on the path to conversion.

Gillquist, Fr. Peter, Becoming Orthodox: A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith, revised edition. Ben Lomond, CA: Conciliar Press, 1992. This is the book that started me on my pilgrimage to Orthodoxy. It is very well-written and inspiring story that reads like a novel in places. This is the first book that I give to evangelical friends who are curious about Orthodoxy. It is persuasive yet irenic in tone, and it is simply a great and inspiring story.

The Orthodox Study Bible: New Testament and Psalms, New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1993. An essential read for all Orthodox Christians and for all non-Orthodox Christians who desire to understand the Orthodox understanding of Scripture. [Fr. James' note: When I wrote this, the complete OSB had not yet been published. Of course, now I recommend the full Bible]

Roberts, Alexander, and James Donaldson, The Ante Nicene Fathers, Volume 1: The Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, fourth printing. Peabody, MA: Hendrikson, 2004. This is part of the magisterial series that includes English translations of the Pre-Nicene, Nicene, and Post-Nicene Fathers. Translated by leading Anglican scholars of the nineteenth century, the translation is generally reliable, even if the notes are often not.

Sparks, Fr. Jack, ed., The Apostolic Fathers. Minneapolis: Light and Life Publishing, 1978. A more recent and readable translation than The Ante-Nicene Fathers, translated by twentieth-century non-Orthodox scholars, with introductions and notes by Sparks, an Orthodox priest who converted to Orthodoxy in the late 1970’s.

Ware, Timothy (Metropolitan Kallistos), The Orthodox Church, fourth edition. London: Penguin Books, 1997. Perhaps the most widely read and best-selling English language book on Orthodoxy, this book is generally recognized as the standard introduction to the Orthodox faith. Unlike the works by Bajis, Carlton, and Gillquist, this work does not seek to persuade the reader of the superiority of Orthodoxy to other Christian traditions, but simply presents a solid and highly readable overview of Orthodox history and doctrine.

More recommendations tomorrow...


Anonymous said...

James, please let me know when your book is published. I would like to read it. Seriously, I would. God bless you, Jennifer and the family as you serve Him.


Clint said...

Great list, Father. I have read many of them, but most were part of the "seminary donation."

See you in a few days!

Fr. James Early said...


Thank you for the kind words. I appreciate your comments, and I'm glad the wildfires didn't affect you. The book should be out in January. I'll have more detailed information toward the end of this year.

Anonymous said...

As a newly baptized Orthodox I was encouraged to faithfully attend liturgy (Sunday and all the other occasions!) rather than read too much. Given, there was less available to read then, and I was personally too much into systematically organizing my belief system, so the advice was more personal than general.

Having said that, I fully agree these books are for those whose hearts are already seeking. Those who are merely curious may benefit, but don't expect to actually see it happen before your eyes - give it time and space and pray for the hearts that don't know how much fullness is yet in store.

Thanks for the lists, and the brief summary of contents!