Father Michael Harper Foundation
Book Reviews

Eastern Orthodox Christianity,  a Western Perspective
Daniel B Clendenin
Baker Books   176 pages

This book was first published in 1994, and is one of a number in recent years to be written by
Protestants, reflecting their growing interest, especially in North America, in Eastern Orthodoxy.   One
obvious and practical reason for this is the growing Eastern diaspora in Western Europe and North
America, which is bringing East and West into a proximity which has never  happened before in the
history of Christianity.  Another reason has been the advent in the last century of the Ecumenical
Movement, and the Orthodox involvement in it.    

The author has been a visiting Professor at the Moscow State University, and in this book seeks to
compare Eastern Orthodoxy mainly with Protestantism, and with only oblique references to Roman
Catholicism.    It is a readable book, and is sympathetic to Orthodoxy.  It contains much useful and
accurate information.  The short history is good, and he is fair, on the whole, to Orthodox views.   
The author comes from the Evangelical tradition of Protestantism, and so quotes frequently from it.  

However, Daniel Clendenin does not seem to have seen the central importance of the Incarnation in
Orthodox life and its Theology.   He thus misses one of the major reasons why Orthodox make so
much of Icons, although he is not critical of Icons per se.  He does not seem, in the final chapter, to
grasp the Orthodox understanding of the Church as the Body of Christ, rather than a human

He seems to miss out most in his critique of Theosis.   It is a pity there is no mention of what is
probably the most important convergence between Orthodoxy and Protestantism, the work of John
Wesley and his grasp of Deification, which provoked a huge seismic change in Protestantism.    There
is also no examination of the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements as they relate to Orthodoxy,
with their obvious link with the early streams of Methodism.    

There are some obvious inaccuracies.   He refers (p 17) to Orthodoxy as the fourth major religion,
whereas in fact it is the second.   On page 25 he sees the Great Schism in much too stark terms,
whereas 1054 was a “symptom rather than a cause”.  On page 34 he refers to the Edict of Toleration
as 311 and issued by the Emperor Galerius.  In fact it was 313 and issued by the Emperors
Constantine and Licinius.

But this book is to be commended not only for its contents, but for the spirit in which it has been
written.  It seems that a turning point is taking place, of which this book is a good example.    
Evangelicalism in the past has either displayed almost complete ignorance of Orthodoxy – or has
tended to write it all off as a superstitious aberration.

Michael Harper

Deification in Eastern Orthodox Theology
An Evaluation and Critique of the Theology of Dumitru Stăniloae
Emil Bartos
Paternoster Press   370 pages

This is a valuable book, not least because it will introduce to more Western readers the important
work of this eminent Romanian theologian, one of the most influential in the 20th Century.   Like
other theologians one can think of, he is not easy to read.  But our perseverance will be rewarded
with the illumination he brings to so many subjects, not least that of Deification.

The subject is important for at least two major reasons.  First, because this doctrine is one of the
pillars of Orthodoxy, being at the heart of some of its greatest teachers’ writings, for example,
Symeon the New Theologian and St Gregory Palamas.  And secondly because   it constitutes one of
the main areas of convergence between East and West, especially in the overlap with John Wesley
and early Methodism.  

Dumitru Stăniloae is regarded by the author of this book as a “modern” theologian, and so in some
senses he is.  He always majored on the need to make the Christian Faith relevant to the
contemporary situations of life.  But unlike some liberal theologians, this did not mean changing the
truths which are unchangeable to suit modern man.  He rejected the views of biblical criticism
advanced by Bultmann,- the need to change theological language since the Scriptures are
“mythological objectification  of certain existential references man makes to God whom he conceives
as that which transcends man”.

Emil Bartos, who is  Dean of Theology  at the Emmanuel Bible Institute in Oradea, Romania,  does a
thorough job.   He begins with the Apophatic Way of Knowledge, a normal starting point for
Orthodox theology.   He then goes on to Essence and Energies, with particular reference to Dumitru
Stăniloae’s understanding of Gregory Palamas.  He then examines the Anthropological Aspect of
Deification, one of the most important aspects of Stăniloae’s approach to the subject.  He then goes
on to the the Person of Christ and the Work of Christ, ending with two sections on the Pneumato-
Ecclesialogical Aspect, first concerning the Church, and then concerning Grace.  One most useful
aspect of this book is the practical use of summaries at the end of each section.

This is a very thorough book, both on an important subject – Deification, and on the work of an
important theologian.   Stăniloae has a most fascinating, but subtle, new approach as an Orthodox
Priest and theologian, which well repays the effort one has to make to understand the nuances of his
unwrapping a subject like Deification,-which of course has figured so prominently in Eastern
teaching.   Perhaps most important of all is his placing of the locus of Deification in the Church.   Like
many other 20th Century Orthodox theologians he sees the prominence of the doctrine of the Trinity
in understanding ecclesiology.   The Trinity is the model for the Church.   

This book is a most valuable addition to our understanding of Deification, as well as the increasingly
influential work of Dumitru Stăniloae.  

Michael Harper
Father Michael Harper Foundation
Father Michael Harper Foundation
Fr Michael Harper Foundation
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Cambridge CB3 9JB, UK
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