Book Reviews

Three Views on Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism

James Stamoolis Grand Rapids 2004-11-02

Since the mid-twentieth century, Eastern Orthodox Christianity has continued to grow worldwide. In postcommunist Europe it has rebounded in social and political influence. In America it presents an alternative to theological liberalism and an ethos prized by postmodern worship and spirituality. Centuries of Protestant ignorance have been compounded by Orthodox isolation, creating significant barriers to mutual, constructive understanding.

In this book five contributors with strong academic and pastoral credentials speak on the compatibility of Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestant evangelicalism.

Bradley Nassif argues that the two traditions are “largely compatible according to the criteria of Evangelical self-definition [but] are significantly less compatible according to Orthodox self-definition” (p. 83). For Michael Horton there is considerable agreement, but he notes that disagreements (involving Scripture and tradition, sin and free will, redemption, justification, sanctification, and eschatology) prevent ecclesiastical communion (p. 118). Vladimir Berzonsky takes the position that “unity is impossible without metanoia (repentance),” which he explains as the Protestant abandonment of the cherished principle of constant reformation for the Orthodox view of the church as ‘the faith nourished, cherished, defended, and protected throughout the ages” (p. 181). George Hancock-Stefan believes in the “slim possibility” of compatibility, prevented in large part by what appear to be pragmatic issues rather than theological differences. Edward Rommen sees potential for compatibility, since “under certain conditions some evangelical doctrines may be compatible with the teaching of the Orthodox Church” (p. 235). Following each essay the other contributors respond, highlighting the posture, strengths, misunderstandings, and weaknesses of each essay. Despite some evident misunderstandings by each writer of the other tradition, the dialogue maintains an honest and irenic spirit.

For individuals on both sides, this is an excellent overview of the framework and attitudes within which dialogue may occur.

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