Kallistos Ware is an English bishop within the Greek Orthodox Church. Born Timothy, Ware went to Westminster School in London and later to Magdalen College, Oxford. In 1966, Ware was ordained to the Greek Orthodox priesthood and received the name, “Kallistos.” Ware lectured on Orthodox Studies for 35 years at the University of Oxford, retiring in 2001. Ware’s most popular publications are The Orthodox Church and The Orthodox Way, both intended for lay people.
Burn the Heretics
Given my assumptions, I appreciate Bishop Kallistos Ware’s The Orthodox Way, which functions as a primer on Eastern Orthodoxy.
Orthodoxy and the Western Church: They’re Different!
The first distinct difference surrounds the representation of God. Whereas Western Christianity remains wary of images, fearing the worship of idols, Orthodoxy distinctly focuses on symbolism.
“Recognizing that God is incomparably greater than anything we can say or think about him, we find it necessary to refer to him not just through direct statements but through pictures and images. Our theology is to a large extent symbolic. Yet symbols alone are insufficient to convey the transcendence and the 'otherness' of God” (14).
|Photo by Marcel Germain|
Second, Orthodoxy considers sin in different terms. Where Western traditions focus on compunction through a juridical lens, Orthodoxy views sin through a therapeutic lens.
“For the Orthodox tradition, then, Adam’s original sin affects the human race in its entirety, and it has consequences both on the physical and the moral level: it results not only in sickness and physical death, but in moral weakness and paralysis” (62).While Western traditions steer toward sin as guilt in need of just punishment, Orthodoxy tends to consider sin in medical terms—a disease in need of a cure.
Lastly, Orthodoxy carries a high view of the Holy Spirit. Although Western traditions pay lip service to this third member of the Trinity, in practical terms, the Holy Spirit functions as a secondary member, a process proceeding from God the Father and God the Son. Not so, in Orthodoxy.
“First, the Spirit is a person… Secondly, the Spirit, as the third member of the Holy Trinity, is coequal and coeternal with the other two; he is not merely a function dependent upon them or an intermediary that they employ” (91-92).
Three Cheers for Ecumenism
A way to lead life, The Orthodox Way considers the basic tenets of Orthodox tradition. While the core principles between Western and Orthodox tradition resemble each other, Orthodoxy varies to a slight degree. But, the overarching goals remain the same. Ware writes,
“The spiritual Way is not only ecclesial and sacramental; it is also evangelical” (109).Such sentiments can be preached in sanctuaries across the Western world. Of course, my ecumenical leanings need not be reciprocated. As my grandparents’ illustration clearly implies, Orthodoxy remains wary of the West. However, I appreciate learning about the Orthodox tradition. In many ways, Ware’s explanation of Orthodoxy aligns closely with core Western theological principles surrounding the deity of Christ, the divine nature of the Trinity, and the necessity of prayer. Even though Eastern and Western traditions vary significantly in specific theological insights, the general positions offer much to be praised.
The Orthodox Way shifts my understanding from broad stereotypes to in-depth specifics. If you possess a curiosity about the Orthodox Church, Kallistos Ware’s The Orthodox Way acts as a sterling introduction.
Verdict: 4.5 out of 5
Posted by: Donovan Richards
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