"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).

Friday, March 10, 2017

Eastern Orthodoxy in the Academy Today (II).

In part I, we gave a brief overview of the contents of Eastern Orthodox Christianity and American Higher Education: Theological, Historical, and Contemporary Reflections. I then focused on Michael Plekon's chapter.

Among the other contributors whom I count as friends, I turn next to Radu Bordeianu's chapter, "Ecumenism in the Classroom: an Orthodox Perspective on Teaching in a Catholic University." Bordeianu is a Romanian Orthodox scholar who has taught at Duquesne in Pittsburgh for many years now. He has invited me there to be part of the Holy Spirit Colloquium and Lecture; and we have often been at other conferences together across the country. I interviewed him a while back about his superlative book, Dumitru Staniloae: An Ecumenical Ecclesiology, which I thought, then and since, is the finest work in ecclesiology to appear so far in this century.

In his chapter in Eastern Orthodox Christianity and American Higher EducationBordeianu begins by explicitly turning again to Staniloae as a model and inspiration before turning to reflections in three areas: teaching, research, and service. In all three, Bordeianu contends, ecumenism is not an optional add-on, but an integral part of each. Given the realities not just of the modern academy, but of the world, at least in North America, where huge numbers of Orthodox are married to non-Orthodox, ecumenical sensitivity and ministry remain very important, no matter how many times fanatics fulminate against the very concept and word.

Academics, even when not explicitly teaching ecumenism, can model it, Bordeianu says, and in so doing make their own modest contribution to the search for Christian unity. To do anything other than that in the modern university would, I can readily attest, turn students off very quickly. Explicitly bashing other Christians in the classroom, especially in front of students who may be curious about but otherwise ignorant of or estranged from Christianity, is guaranteed to alienate them further and deepen their inclination to write off all Christians as crazy.


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