"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).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Orthodox Readings of Aquinas

As the Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart acerbically put it, most Orthodox never bother to read Roman Catholic sources, but that does not prevent them from criticizing them, often in truly fatuous terms. And among those sources, it is a matter of some competition as to whether Augustine (as I noted before) or Aquinas is the more criticized and misunderstood because ignored. Along comes a new book that looks set to remedy this as least as far as the "angelic doctor" is concerned:  Marcus Plested, Orthodox Readings of Aquinas (Changing Paradigms in Historical and Systematic Theology, OUP, 2013).

About this book the publisher tells us:
This book is the first exploration of the remarkable odyssey of Thomas Aquinas in the Orthodox Christian world, from the Byzantine to the modern era. Aquinas was received with astonishing enthusiasm across the Byzantine theological spectrum. By contrast, modern Orthodox readings of Aquinas have been resoundingly negative, routinely presenting Aquinas as the archetype of as a specifically Western form of theology against which the Orthodox East must set its face. Basing itself primarily on a close study of the Byzantine reception of Thomas, this study rejects such hackneyed dichotomies, arguing instead for a properly catholic or universal construal of Orthodoxy - one in which Thomas might once again find a place. In its probing of the East-West dichotomy, this book questions the widespread juxtaposition of Gregory Palamas and Thomas Aquinas as archetypes of opposing Greek and Latin theological traditions. The long period between the Fall of Constantinople and the Russian Revolution, conventionally written off as an era of sterility and malformation for Orthodox theology, is also viewed with a fresh perspective. Study of the reception of Thomas in this period reveals a theological sophistication and a generosity of vision that is rarely accounted for. In short, this is a book which radically re-thinks the history of Orthodox theology through the prism of the fascinating and largely untold story of Orthodox engagement with Aquinas.

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