Orthodoxy and Western Christianity: On Western Christianity

These articles are relevant to all "Western Christians"—Roman Catholics or Protestants.


Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy, a collection of articles from the ROCOR Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Washington, DC.

Theology and Mysticism in the Tradition of the Eastern Church, by Vladimir Lossky. Introduction to his book The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church.

Way Apart: What is the Difference Between Orthodoxy and Western Confessions? by Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev and Galic.

The Difference Between Orthodox Spirituality and Other Traditions: Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos. More information on his books and various articles.

The Historical Study of Orthodox Theology: Some Basic Guidelines. Lecture 1 from Orthodox and Roman Catholic Relations From the Fourth Crusade to the Hesychastic Controversy. by Archbishop Chrysostomos.

Franks, Romans, Feudalism and Doctrine: an outstanding set of three unabridged lectures by Fr. John Romanides (originally published in 1981 by Holy Cross Press). Provides a much needed corrective to the typical Western understanding of the Roman Empire and the history of the Christian Church.

The River of Fire, by Dr. Alexander Kalomiros.

Original Sin According to St. Paul: Fr. John S. Romanides. On this see also the following three-part essay published in St. Vladimir's Seminary Quarterly, by David Weaver:  "The Exegesis of Romans 5:12 Among the Greek Fathers and Its Implications for the Doctrine of Original Sin: The 5th-12th Centuries" (Vol. 27, No. 3, 1983 & Vol. 29, Nos. 2-3, 1985). Part I in Vol. 27 is titled "From Paul to Augustine: Romans 5:12 in Early Christian Exegesis."

The Cure of the Neurobiological Sickness of Religion, by Fr. John Romanides.

Are Protestantism and Roman Catholicism Heretical? A timely compilation given some of the false teaching prevalent in some Orthodox circles these days.

The Blessed (Saint) Augustine of Hippo. His Place in the Orthodox Church: A Corrective. This is a compilation of a variety of articles and excerpts from the Fathers dealing with the proper Orthodox view of St. Augustine.

The Non-Orthodox: The Orthodox Teaching on Christians Outside of the Church: by Patrick Barnes. My humble attempt to answer a common question of inquiring Protestants and Roman Catholics.

“Monogamous Communion”: A Defense of “Closed” Communion, by Fr. Michael Shanbour.

Recommended Books

The Ancestral Sin. Many thanks to Father Gregory Telepneff for alerting me to this new book by the late Father John Romanides. Father Gregory writes:

"This book is a translation of Fr. Romanides' doctoral dissertation from Thessaloniki decades ago. Readers of his various articles will recognize many of his favorite themes from Patristic theology.

"Theologically, the scope of this work is very broad. Although primarily a book contrasting the Patristic doctrine of Ancestral Sin with the Western, juridical notion of Original Sin, it necessarily also, as you can see from the back cover statement (below), traces fundamental ideas on theological anthropology, soteriology, and the Essence-Energies distinction—ideas which are at the heart of the profound theological differences between Orthodoxy and the West.

"I regard this work, frankly, as an essential read for an understanding of Orthodox theology. It strikes even deeper than Lossky's otherwise fine Mystical Theology."

The Roman West and the Byzantine East, by Archbishop Chrysostomos and Bishop Auxentios. Available from The Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies. This is a superb, short treatment of general differences between East and West. "This little book takes us back to the quest for truth and tells us why we Orthodox believe that our Church is true to the Church established by the Apostles, why she has historical and spiritual primacy. It does so by pointing out differences and by the bold proclamation of Orthodoxy's uniqueness." [from the back cover]. Also, I cannot resist including this excerpt from p. 10: "All history, one might say, is artificial... The Western view of the Christian past, however, is particularly artificial—it is a rather a "whopping lie," as the modern idiom would have it, if only because it ignores the historical experience of more than half of the Christian world, the Christian East, from which Western Christianity itself derives! Yet, it has gained such ascendancy that one is hesitant to challenge it. It is so ubiquitous that even Eastern Christians, especially those living in the West, often embrace it themselves. And if they do not, in fact, embrace it as their personal view, they often feel compelled to speak within its framework in trying to present their own perspectives on the Christian past. The Western view has, indeed, become triumphant, despite its inadequacies in accounting, as we shall see, for a vast part of Christian history."

The Collected Works of Georges Florovsky. Vol. XIII, Ecumenism I: A Doctrinal Approach. Vaduz, Europa: Bchervertriebsanstalt, 1989. I cannot too highly recommend this book. Father Florovsky is one of the most noteworthy scholars of the twentieth century. He was a man very well acquainted with Protestant thought. Practically every chapter is loaded with insights that are applicable to the Reformation, the Church, and Orthodoxy. Though out of print, some of the volumes in his Collected Works can still be found in Orthodox bookstores.

Eastern Orthodox Christianity: A Western Perspective, by Daniel Clendenin. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994. A very lucid and helpful introduction to the Orthodox Church for a Westerner. Written by a fairly well-informed evangelical protestant. It contains very good footnotes and an extensive bibliography. The only drawback is that he does not deal with the two major areas of ecclesiology and sacraments. See also his Eastern Orthodox Theology: A Contemporary Reader. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1995, which is a good supplement to his first book. It contains a collection of hard to find classic articles and chapters from books by Orthodox theologians.

Dancing Alone: The Quest for Orthodox Faith in the Age of False Religions, by Frank Schaeffer. Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Press, 1994. Frank Schaeffer is the son of the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer. The first half is a jolting polemic concerning the problems in Western Christianity, followed by a thorough treatise of the author's solution: Eastern Orthodoxy. Though often unfair and sweeping in some of his criticisms of the West, Frank has done an excellent job of stirring people up to consider the "western dilemma" and to seriously consider a discovery of the riches of the east. Worthwhile reading, but beware of polemic overgeneralizations and attitudes that are often not accepted by many seasoned Orthodox Christians.


Truths regarding the creation ex nihilo, the destiny of man, Adam's sin and fall, the origin of death, soteriology and God's relations with the world were exposited as the doctrines of the primitive Church by the Apostles and post-Apostolic Fathers of the first and second centuries. Hindered by the paradigms of post-Augustinian thought, Western Christianity has rarely understood these doctrines that predate by several centuries the commonly held juridical ideas of original sin and atonement.

—From the backmatter for The Ancestral Sin