Mr. Binns isn't writing with conversion in mind. He comes to the subject of Orthodoxy with historical hands, choosing the level of objectivity as his measure. That said, he is a fine craftsman -- remarkably clear and astute in his explication of a tradition marked by controversy from within and without. Beginning with Straight Street (a main avenue in the city of Damascus by which you can arrive at the Patriarchal seats of the Greek, Syrian and Antiochian Orthodox Churches as well as the Greek Catholic delegation), Cambridge professor and Vicar John Binns proceeds to map out where the Orthodox are, how they got there and in what ways they're different. These chapters encompass an incredible amount of information and insight without become dense or inaccessible. Writing with equanimity, Binns is able to discuss the liturgy, doctrine, icons, monasticism, mission and popular piety of the churches, pointing out their affinities and divergences without inflaming debate. He understands the difficulty of using words to convey his meaning, pointing out that our Western vocabulary does not easily translate the contexts of Eastern society and faith. But by shifting our eyes away from the university and toward the monastery, our author reveals he is not entirely without bent. At the heart of Orthodox theology, we find the experience of God, not a discussion about Him -- and it is this distinction which finally matters most.
An Eighth Day View:
This introduction describes the life of the Orthodox Churches of the Christian East from the accession of the Emperor Constantine in 312 up to the year 2000. It discusses the distinctive Orthodox approaches to the themes of liturgy, theology, monastic life and spirituality, iconography, popular religion, mission, politics and the schism between East and West. The final chapter examines the response of the Churches to the new freedom following the collapse of communism and the prospects for the future.