Friday, November 30, 2018

14 - Book Review: "The Undead and Theology"

The Undead and Theology

Pickwick Publications, 2012, 298 pp.

Edited by Kim Paffenroth and John W. Morehead

The academy and pop culture alike recognize the great symbolic and teaching value of the undead, whether vampires, zombies, or other undead or living-dead creatures. This has been explored variously from critiques of consumerism and racism, through explorations of gender and sexuality, to consideration of the breakdown of the nuclear family. Most academic examinations of the undead have been undertaken from the perspectives of philosophy and political theory, but another important avenue of exploration comes through theology. Through the vampire, the zombie, the Golem, and Cenobites, contributors address a variety of theological issues by way of critical reflection on the divine and the sacred in popular culture through film, television, graphic novels, and literature.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

13 - Book Review: "Our Necessary Shadow: The Nature and Meaning of Psychiatry" by Tom Burns

Our Necessary Shadow: The Nature and Meaning of Psychiatry
By Tom Burns

Review by Marianne Szegedy-Maszak

The halcyon days of psychiatry — when this medical expertise had status, when the most intelligent interns and residents chose the mind over the body, when popular culture regarded the discipline with fascination rather than contempt — are long gone. In its place is a field that has been eclipsed by the glamour of neuroscience, the juggernaut of Big Pharma, and a general confusion about its place in both medicine and the crowded field of mental health professionals.

To use an expression that appears neither in the glossary nor the index of Tom Burns’s fascinating analysis of the scientific and medical exploration of the mind, psychiatry is suffering an identity crisis. But Burns is not one of the renegades, condemning from within. At the outset of “Our Necessary Shadow,” he marks his territory: Psychiatry is a “legitimate medical specialty” and a genuine and increasingly important “power for good.”

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

12 - Book Review: "Jesus Fallen?" by Emmanuel Hatzidakis

Jesus Fallen? 
The Human Nature of Christ Examined From An Eastern Orthodox Perspective

By Emmanuel Hatzidakis

Reviewed by John Sanidopoulos

This is a beautifully bound and printed publication by Orthodox Witness, and includes detailed Topic, Author, and Scriptural Indexes, as well as 8 pages of full-color illustrations. It is a detailed critique of post-lapsarian Christology in 684 pages, but it is not presented as dry theology; rather it is enriched with deep and authentic patristic truth with an abundance of sources that clearly show Christ was not born with a fallen human nature, but a pre-lapsarian (pre-fallen) human nature just as Adam had in Paradise. It begins by offering an overview of the issue among both Orthodox and non-Orthodox, then it continues by analyzing the nature of man before and after the fall, and after a thorough examination of the details of Orthodox Christology, the author begins to address the issue. Key questions are asked, such as: Are the blameless passions of Christ inherited or voluntarily assumed? Was Christ's humanity necessarily corruptible and mortal? Would Christ have died of "natural" causes? How do the two natures exist in Christ? What is the impact of Perichoresis and Antidosis? And after an entire chapter is dedicated to the sinlessness of Christ, he addresses the objections of those who submit to the post-lapsarian thesis, which I thought was most valuable. This is followed by a chapter in which the author ties everything together with the Orthodox patristic theology of Soteriology and Christology.

Friday, August 31, 2018

11- Book Review: "Prodigal Daughter: A Journey to Byzantium" by Myrna Kostash

Prodigal Daughter: A Journey to Byzantium

By Myrna Kostash

Review by Cheryl Purdey
January 9, 2011

With the simple but provocative declaration, "I'm Greek," Myrna Kostash embarks on a unique journey. It was something she said as a Grade 4 student growing up in Edmonton when she was ashamed and confused about her Ukrainian background.

As an adult, she is still fascinated with the Greek or Byzantine origins of her heritage, and her curiosity motivates this book. Part spiritual quest, part scholarly inquiry, part travel memoir, Prodigal Daughter is as richly layered as the civilization she explores. A self-described secular humanist, Kostash nevertheless has a deep interest in the Orthodox Church, and the result is an intellectually vigorous study.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

10 - Book Review: "The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom" by Candida Moss

The Myth of Persecution:
How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom

By Candida Moss
HarperOne, 320 pages, $25.99

A Review by Ephraim Radner

(Christianity Today, May 2013)

The tedium of repeated déjà vu in this sad little volume did at least send me back to Gibbon’s Decline and Fall. It is as if a publisher came to Candida Moss, a professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Notre Dame, with a proposal for a quick buck, relying on the political twitter of the times: “You’re an expert: Reframe Gibbon’s notorious chapter on the Romans and the Christians with some contemporary scholarship and cultural fillips, and we can put out a nifty pamphlet that’ll sell.”

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

9 - Book Review: "The Photian Schism" by Francis Dvornik

By Bishop John (Christodoulou) Kalogeraki of Amoriou

The work titled The Photian Schism of Fr. Francis Dvornik was welcomed with great enthusiasm by Byzantinists, because Photios had, by the judgments and opinions of fanatic heterodox theologians and historians, been erroneously discarded. Historians beforehand portrayed the Patriarch Photios as the cause of the schism of the Church between West and East. Thanks to this treatise, which was published in 1948, the outstanding personality and enormous worth of the great and wise Patriarch of the Orthodox Church was recognized.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

8 - Book Review: "Protestant Patriarch: The Life of Cyril Lucaris (1572-1638), Patriarch of Constantinople"

Protestant Patriarch:
The Life of Cyril Lucaris (1572-1638),
Patriarch of Constantinople

By George A. Hadjiantoniou
160 pp. Richmond, John Knox Press, 1961.

Cyril Lucaris, Greek Orthodox Patriarch successively of Alexandria (1601-1630) and of Constantinople (1630-1638), is a noble, tragic, sometimes enigmatic figure, a man of exceptional gifts, of towering courage, and of saintly life. Educated in Italy, and in personal contact with the ambassadors in Constantinople of the Protestant powers, he sought to reform the Greek Church along the lines of the Reformation in Europe and published a Calvinist Confessio which has become celebrated. The foreign envoys supported him - and sometimes used him as a pawn in their own diplomatic projects. Inevitably Lucaris, made enemies - notably the Jesuits in Constantinople - and they finally achieved his ruin. He was falsely accused of treason and strangled by order of the Sultan, and his body was thrown into the Bosporus. He is remembered for having made a present to King Charles I of England of the Codex Alexandrinus, as a token of his esteem of the English ambassador, Sir Thomas Rowe.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

7 - Book Review: "The Christian Parthenon: Classicism and Pilgrimage in Byzantine Athens" by Anthony Kaldellis

The Christian Parthenon: 
Classicism and Pilgrimage in Byzantine Athens

By Anthony Kaldellis

Reviewed by Nassos Papalexandrou,
University of Texas at Austin

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2009.12.18

A monographic study of the Christian Parthenon is long overdue. It is ironic that Kaldellis' bold and provocative book was published simultaneously with the pompous inauguration of the New Acropolis Museum at Athens, a cultural institution that decisively concretizes the Parthenon as the great masterpiece of Classical Antiquity. Kaldellis is a byzantinist who takes issue with this monolithic and fictional construction of the Parthenon in both popular and scholarly imagination since the eighteenth century. His argument is that the perceptual filters of Classicism, distorting, disorienting, and culturally contingent as they have always been, have diverted attention from the illustrious career of the monument as a Christian church. Consequently he sets out to rehabilitate the monument in its former, hitherto neglected glory as a pilgrimage site of universal appeal and as a focus of attention, cult, and intellectual preoccupation that have no match in Classical antiquity. He does so with expository verve and an often polemical tone that militates against the prevalent neglect and misunderstanding of the rich intellectual heritage of Medieval Hellenism. It is time we discovered the riches and complexity of post-antique Hellenism, Kaldellis argues. His book provides a paradigm for how to go about this, especially how to formulate questions and methods of approach that defy the suspicious assumption that Hellenism after antiquity was orientally decadent, derivative, and second-rate. It is no accident that this revisionist project has to start with the Parthenon. At once a blessing and a curse, this tyrant of a monument has to be deconstructed along with all the ideologies it has come to epitomize in Western civilization. The undertaking is daunting, but Kaldellis's book shows that it is well worth the effort.

Monday, June 11, 2018

6 - Book Review: "Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire" by Edward N. Luttwak

By Nicholas D. Rosen

Blame it on reading Gibbon's Decline and Fall back when I was young and impressionable. I did go on to read other books, notably Runciman's Byzantine Civilization, but I nonetheless had a rather soured view of the Byzantines. They squabbled over fine points of theology, while failing to fight with the courage of their Roman predecessors, making their history one long, sad decline; and they lacked a sense of individualism, an idea of the freedom and worth of each human being, unlike the West, flawed though it has been.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

5 - Book Review: "Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation"

'Occult America' Shows What a Fertile Place This Nation Has Been for Homegrown Religious Movements

Reviewed By David M. Kinchen

The first Europeans to arrive in what is now the United States came to practice their religion in peace -- and all too often to deny others the same freedom. Mitch Horowitz explores the influence of spiritualism, Freemasonry and transcendentalism in America in "Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation" (Bantam Books, 304 pages, $27.00).

Exhaustively researched (and yes, there's an index! as well as notes on sources) and written in a very accessible style, "Occult America" devotes much of its space to spiritualism, mesmerism, divination, channeling and other movements that have often been dismissed out of hand by experts, Horowitz says.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

4 - Book Review: "Beloved Sufferer - The Life and Mystical Revelations of a Russian Eldress: Schemanun Macaria" by Gennady Durasov

Blessed Schemanun Macaria (May 29, 1926 - June 6, 1993)

On June 6, 2009 I noticed in my calendar of Saints and Feast Days published by St. Herman Monastery that we celebrate the memory of a crippled woman who lived in extreme suffering yet endured her suffering with great patience and humility, and in return bore great spiritual powers in our days - Blessed Schemanun Macaria of Russia (+1993). I first came across her life story through the book published by St. Xenia Skete titled Beloved Sufferer - The Life and Mystical Revelations of a Russian Eldress: Schemanun Macaria. This biography was first written in Russian by one of her spiritual children, Gennady Durasov. Soon after her death in 1993, in the Christmas issue of the Russian magazine Russky Palomnik (Russian Pilgrim), her story was first made public to the world. It was this original manuscript that was sent to Saint Herman Brotherhood in California and distributed by them in Russian until an expanded copy was sent by Durasov to be translated into English. It is this expanded copy that was published by St. Xenia Skete which is affiliated with Saint Herman Monastery.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

3 - Book Review: "Greek Orthodox Patrology" by Panagiotes K. Chrestou

For those who are not familiar with the late Dr. Panagiotes Chrestou, he is without a doubt the greatest patristics scholar of the twentieth century and has yet to be surpassed. A foretaste of his genius is presented in this volume which introduces the reader to the study of the Church Fathers. One should keep in mind that this volume, translated by another patristics scholar Fr. George Dragas, consists of only about half of the first volume introduction to Professor Chrestou's 5-volume magnum opus. The second half of the introduction is forthcoming.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

2 - Book Review: "The Struggle for Virtue: Asceticism in a Modern Secular Society" by Archbishop Averky (Taushev)

The Struggle for Virtue: Asceticism in a Modern Secular Society consists of thirteen lectures by Archbishop Averky (Taushev), former Abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville. They were delivered shortly after the end of World War II in Western Europe to help introduce the Orthodox method of asceticism as a means of healing and transformation of the human person to the modern world not acquainted with it. It accomplishes its goal and is an excellent book of introduction for those who desire to root out evil and the passions within us in order to live a life of virtue in Christ.

Friday, May 4, 2018

1 - Book Review: "The Disaster Artist" by Greg Sestero

I thought I would conveniently write my first review for the last book I read since the launch of this website, which was The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made, a 2013 non-fiction book written by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell. This is a book I have been wanting to read since it came out, but only just got to reading it after acquiring a copy from the author himself just a few weeks ago.