"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Councils of the Church

There are certain scholars who justly acquire the reputation of being figures whom one must read even if they are offering a recitation of the phone-book set to Galician chant or Louisiana jazz or whatever. One of those is Paul Valliere, author of such widely and highly received studies as Modern Russian Theology: Bukharev, Soloviev, Bulgakov: Orthodox Theology in a New Key (Eerdmans, 2001), 453pp. He is the author of a recently released study Conciliarism: A History of Decision-Making in the Church (Cambridge UP, 2012, 302pp.), about which the publisher informs us:
Conciliarism is one of the oldest and most essential means of decision-making in the history of the Christian Church. Indeed, as a leading Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann states, 'Before we understand the place and the function of the council in the Church, we must, therefore, see the Church herself as a council.' Paul Valliere tells the story of councils and conciliar decision-making in the Christian Church from earliest times to the present. Drawing extensively upon the scholarship on conciliarism which has appeared in the last half-century, Valliere brings a broad ecumenical perspective to the study and shows how the conciliar tradition of the Christian past can serve as a resource for resolving conflicts in the Church today. The book presents a conciliarism which involves historical legacy, but which leads us forward, not backward, and which keeps the Church's collective eyes on the prize - the eschatological kingdom of God.
I've just recently finished reading this excellent book, and will have more to say about it soon. But in the meantime if you are a Christian of any tradition--Protestant (most especially Anglican), Catholic, or Orthodox--you will want to read this book to deepen your understanding of Christian history in general, and in particular the nature and history of councils in the Church. Those who follow the current conflicts in the Anglican Communion will also find this a cogently written book that attends to current debates while it is also immersed in the relevant conciliar history which Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants all share. 

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