Introduction to Orthodoxy
James Bernstein, Surprised by Christ: My Journey from Judaism to Orthodox Christianity (Ben Lomand, CA: Conciliar Press, 2008). ISBN # 1888212950.
Destined to become a classic! This book tells the story of Fr. James Berstein’s journey from Judaism to Protestantism and then to Orthodox Christianity. The first half of the book is largely autobiographical and the second half of the book is an exceptionally well-written look into the theology and teachings of the Church.
Clark Carlton, The Life: The Orthodox Doctrine of Salvation. (Salisbury, MA: Regina Orthodox Press, 2007). ISBN # 1928653022. ISBN-13 # 978-1928653028.
I never thought I would ever recommend something by Clark Carlton as he tends to be quite inflammatory. This work, however, is toned down a lot and thus it is worth a read as it accurately explains the differences in Western and Eastern Christian teachings on salvation. This is a good starter text on the topic of salvation.
Eastern Orthodox Christianity: A Western Perspective, 2nd edition. Daniel B. Clendenin, Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003). ISBN # 0801026520.
Anthony Coniaris, Introducing the Orthodox Church: Its Life and Faith (Minneapolis: Light and Life Publishing, 1982). ISBN # 0937032255
Peter Guillquist, Becoming Orthodox: A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith, Revised Edition (Ben Lomand, CA: Conciliar Press, 2002). ISBN # 0962271330.
This book describes the journey of a group of evangelical Christians from Campus Crusade for Christ who went in search of the New Testament Church and discovered Orthodoxy.
James R. Payton, Light from the Christian East: An Introduction to the Orthodox Tradition (Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2007). ISBN-13 # 9780830825943.
An excellent overview of the Orthodox Faith with only one problem – the author errors in explaining to whom the debt was paid by the ransom of Christ on the Cross. Christ offered Himself to death, not to Satan. I contacted the author and gave him references regarding this issue. He plans to correct it for the next edition.
Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church, New Edition (Penguin [non-classics], 1993). ISBN # 0140146563.
This book is the “gold standard” introductory text on the Orthodox Church.
Bishop Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, Revised Edition (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1998). ISBN # 0-913836-58-3.
This book is a general account of the doctrine, worship, and life of Orthodox Christians and it discusses the basic issues of theology.
Archimandrite Meletios Webber, Bread & Water, Wine & Oil: An Orthodox Christian Experience of God (Ben Lomand, CA: Conciliar Press, 2007). ISBN # 1888212918.
In this unique and accessible book, the author first explores the role of mystery in the Christian life, then walks the reader through the seven major Mysteries (or sacraments) of the Orthodox Church, showing the way to a richer, fuller life in Christ.
Henry Chadwick, The Early Church, Revised Edition (Penguin [non-classics], 1993). ISBN # 0140231994.
Veselin Kesich, Formation and Struggles: The Birth of the Church AD 33-200 (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007). ISBN-13 # 978-0-88141-319-9
Carl J. Sommer, We Look for a Kingdom: The Everyday Lives of the Early Christians (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007). ISBN # 1586170791.
Written by a Roman Catholic, it is an excellent look into the early Church. Be careful, however, as the author tries to project the modern Roman Catholic Church (the papacy in particular) back onto the ancient Church.
Liturgy and Worship
Fr. Lawrence Farley, Let Us Attend: A Journey through the Orthodox Divine Liturgy (Ben Lomand, CA: Conciliar Press, 2007). ISBN # 188821287X
Benjamin D. Williams and Harold B. Anstall, Orthodox Worship: A Living Continuity with the Synagogue, the Temple, and the Early Church (Minneapolis: Light and Life Publishing, 1990). ISBN # 0-937032-72-7
Church Fathers and Patristic Writings
The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations. Edited and revised by Michael W. Holmes (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1999). ISBN # 0-8010-2225-8 *(a less expensive, English only text is available, ISBN # 0801031087.) The writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, and the Didache (included in this publication) are standard reading in Orthodox seminaries and are an essential look at the liturgical, eucharistic, and hierarchical nature of the immediately post-apostolic Church.
Alexander Schmemann. Of Water and the Spirit: A Liturgical Study of Baptism (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1974). ISBN # 0913836109.
Alexander Schmemann, The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1988). ISBN # 0881410187.
John Breck, The Power of the Word in the Worshiping Church (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1986). ISBN # 0881410438
Veselin Kesich, The Gospel Image of Christ, Revised Edition (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1992). ISBN # 0881411027.
Theodore G. Stylianopoulos, The New Testament: An Orthodox Perspective. Volume 1: Scripture, Tradition, Hermeneutics (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1999). ISBN # 1885652135.
Eastern Orthodox Theology: A Contemporary Reader. 2nd edition. Daniel B. Clendenin, Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003). ISBN # 1-84227-234-9
John Behr, Asceticism and Anthropology in Irenaeus and Clement (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). ISBN # 0198270003.
Fr. John Behr is a phenomenal writer and thinker. I recommend all of his books.
John Behr, The Mystery of Christ: Life in Death (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2006). ISBN # 0881413062.
John Behr, The Nicene Faith (2 volumes) (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2006). ISBN # 088141266X.
John Behr, The Way to Nicea (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press) 2001. ISBN # 0881412244.
Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev, Christ the Conquerer of Hell: the Descent into Hades from an Orthodox Perspective. (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press) 2009. ISBN # 9780881410617.
A must-read for anyone who wants to understand the Orthodox perspective on Christ’s descent into Hades.
Paisius Altschul, Wade in the River: The Story of the African Christian Faith (Crossbearers Publishing, 2001). ISBN # 0971636508
Frederica Mathewes-Green, At the Corner of East and Now: A Modern Life in Ancient Christian Orthodoxy. (Jeremy P. Tarcher, Publ., 2000). ISBN # 1585420441
WARNING # 1: Oftentimes inquirers into the Orthodox Christian faith may find themselves overwhelmed with a plethora of books on monastic “spirituality.” Monasticism is an intensified version of the Orthodox Christian life, an “alternative lifestyle” that exists apart from job, marriage, and family. The spiritual writings of the monastic lifestyle reflect that. St. Paul in his First Epistle to the Corinthians says that new converts must be first fed on milk like children before given solid meat to consume (re: I Corinthians 3:2). If you are investigating the Orthodox Christian faith, avoid going immediately to the “meat” such as the Philokalia, the writings of monastics (sainted or not), etc. Start first with a general overview of the faith and the history of the early Church, re-learn the Bible and how to study and interpret it, learn about the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Christ from the Orthodox point-of-view, learn about how we worship the crucified and risen Christ, and learn how we are united to Christ in the sacramental life of the Church. Once you have mastered these “basics”, you can then cautiously, with the guidance of your parish priest, venture into the world of “spirituality.”
WARNING # 2: This is related to # 1 above. Avoid the writings of Seraphim Rose and Elder Ephraim. They highly controversial figures within mainstream canonical Orthodox Christianity. Many of their teachings, in particular the “Aerial Toll Houses” of Seraphim Rose, are not representative of the dogmatic teachings, or even the theologumena (theological opinions), of authentic Orthodox Christianity.
WARNING # 3: Anyone can produce a website and claim to be proclaiming the “truth.” Beware of websites that are more concerned with fundamentalist, Old Calendar, reactionary, hyper-monastic, neo-gnostic versions of Eastern Orthodoxy. They are easily discerned by their lack of humility, absence of Christian love, bizarre teachings, and prolific writings that contain words like “modernist,” “ecumenist,” “deconstructionist,” and other “-ist” words and who claim that any “Orthodoxy” besides themselves is either “Latinized” or “Protestantized.”