"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).

Thursday, September 9, 2010

David Bell's Fine Introduction to Orthodoxy

I rejoiced when I found David Bell’s new book. For I teach introductory courses on Eastern Christianity to students who are largely if vaguely Protestant, with a substantial minority of Roman Catholics making up the rest of my classes. Neither of these groups has any experience of Eastern Christianity, and so I have been trying to find the best introductory text for them.

David N. Bell, Orthodoxy: Evolving Tradition (Collegeville, MN: Cistercian Publications/Liturgical Press, 2008), viii+241pp.

Bell himself, as he recounts in the introduction, teaches a similar mixture of students, and he decided to write this present text. The result is a perfect balance between dispassionate scholarly explanation of Orthodoxy, on the one hand, and an sensitive “insider view” on the other. Bell, a much published professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland and recent inductee into the Royal Society of Canada, is also a subdeacon in the Canadian archdiocese of the Orthodox Church of America, in which capacity he is helping to lead a new mission parish in St. John’s. His text avoids any hint of triumphalism or smugness, and he also avoids taking things for granted by clearly explaining terms and making apt comparisons. To do all this in a brief, cogent, affordable book is no small achievement.

The longer version of this review was published in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies 50 (2009), available here:

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