"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, March 20, 2013

Orthodox Constructions of the West

Few things are more tedious than the ignorant potshots too many Orthodox "apologists" take at "the West," the "Western Church," "Western Christianity," etc. These are invariably without irony, without self-awareness, and certainly without any real or serious knowledge of, inter alia, history, theology, etc., etc.

But, happily, we are living in a time when intelligent and critical but charitable and informed discussion can be had by and among Eastern Christians about the Western world we all inhabit, and between Eastern and Western Christians. As I noted with the recent publication of Marcus Plested's splendid book about the reception of Aquinas in Orthodoxy, we seem to have turned a corner and are entering a time of very productive historical research and scholarly debate whose net effect should be to clear away a lot of the bad history and tendentious cant we have allowed to disrupt Christian relations and efforts towards Christian unity. 

Along comes another book that will deepen this process. Fordham University Press tells us that at long last we will, in June, see the publication of a very welcome volume of conference proceedings edited by Aristotle Papanikolaou and George Demarcopolous:  Orthodox Constructions of the West (June 2013), 352pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:

The category of the "West" has played a particularly significant role in the modern Eastern Orthodox imagination. It has functioned as an absolute marker of difference from what is considered to be the essence of Orthodoxy, and, thus, ironically, has become a constitutive aspect of the modern Orthodox self. The essays collected in this volume examines the many factors that contributed to the "Eastern" construction of the "West" in order to understand why the "West" is so important to the Eastern Christian's sense of self.

And about this book, St. Vladimir's Professor Peter Bouteneff tells us:
This book represents a significant step in the direction of self-reflection and self-criticism that has almost completely eluded Orthodox identity narratives colored by centuries of political oppression and demographic challenges. After too long a wait, such an initiative is all the more remarkable: it approaches the prophetic. Demacopoulos and Papanikolaou are to be recognized for having assembled a world-class array of scholars in diverse fields to produce a compilation that is fascinating, accessible, and at points highly challenging. It will inspire heated debate, and will surely become a staging point for future work.
I look forward to reading this upon publication and will have more to say in due course. Bravo to the editors and contributors for taking this project on!

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