Eastern Orthodoxy Through Western Eyes by Donald Fairbairn My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Fairbairn offers a really helpful primer on the important things to know about our brothers and sisters in Christ across the Bosphorus. He also gives a good handful of insights on how EO believers view Protestants. Perhaps the most helpful takeaway was a very simple (perhaps oversimplification) observation about the respective traditions. In the West our salvation largely consists of “looking back” to the work of Christ upon the cross; whereas for the Orthodox, they view salvation as something we are “looking forward” to. The West is very text based, the East very image based.
Fairbairn is quite gracious towards EO, and I think does a good job of painting them in the best possible light. But he also doesn’t paint a Thomas Kinkade vision of EO; he highlights how often the understanding of Orthodoxy by the average practitioner is grossly in error (especially as regards icons), even while EO theologians try to be careful to avoid those errors. He also reminds Protestants of the areas where we are prone to fall into error.
That said, this is a helpful starting place to understanding the key distinctions, but Fairbairn doesn’t go as far in making it plain how truly grievous the errors are in EO. While we certainly should seek to understand where our Eastern brethren are coming from and what they are (and aren’t saying), we must not be naÃ¯ve in thinking that our differences are insignificant. Altogether, I’d recommend this as a good beginning place; it was helpful to me in getting a grasp on the key similarities and differences between Geneva and Constantinople.
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