on March 23, 2004
"The Orthodox Way," by Bishop Kallistos Ware is the second most frequently recommended book on Eastern Orthodoxy in the English language to date, and the top book specifically on Orthodox Christian spirituality. (The number one book on Orthodoxy is his classic work, "The Orthodox Church," published under his given name, Timothy Ware.
I first read an earlier edition of "The Orthodox Way" many years ago as an Evangelical Christian, shortly after I began looking into the Orthodox Church. At that time it communicated to me that something profoundly spiritual was going on in this church of "smells and bells," robes and formal liturgical worship. It introduced me to the mystery of God, and made me realize that it was important to spend less energy talking about and trying to understand God, and to spend more time getting to know him in prayer. This is where I first encountered the idea that theology in the strict sense of the word is "the contemplation of God himself."
It was this book that explained the importance of the Trinity, not only as part of the Nicene Creed, but that God has been Trinity since before the book of Genesis, and a proper understanding of him will drive how we commune with him. My first reading introduced me to new terms and concepts: apophatic approach (saying what God is not rather than what he is), apatheia (dispassion), passion (any disordered appetite or longing that takes possession of the soul), nous (spiritual intellect), nepsis (watchfulness, sobriety and wakefulness), theosis (deified, or "christified," or "made sharers of the divine nature" [2 Peter 1:4]), and the difference between the "essence" and "energies" of God.
Now, seven years after I began "checking out" the Orthodox Church, and four years after coming home to Orthodoxy, I found myself rereading this volume (revised edition) and discovering how much went right over my head. This time I paid closer attention to the many quotes from liturgical texts, Church Fathers, saints, mystics, monks, historians and theologians. It made me appreciate how much Bishop Kallistos is writing from a rich tradition, that has become my tradition, and how that this Orthodox way, is The Spiritual Way. For fear that this last statement may sound sectarian, it should be noted that this volume has been endorsed by a number leaders and authors outside of the Eastern Orthodox tradition.
God wants all to come to know him, and this volume can introduce the reader to a Way that is well mapped out, but sadly, not often traveled. May God grant me the ability follow this way more closely.
On a closing note, at the time I write this review, Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ" is in the theaters, and causing many to discuss the significance of Jesus' death on the cross. "The Orthodox Way" has perhaps the best brief summary of what Jesus accomplished by his passion and death on the cross, not to mention his birth, life, teachings and resurrection, which are all part of the story.
on October 17, 2003
If anyone has read Ware's book, The Orthodox Church, then this book is a must read. For those who haven't read Ware's introductory work on Orthodoxy, this book will still be enlightening and rewarding.
Bishop Ware's main purpose in this book is to introduce the reader to the more salient and deeper teachings of the Orthdox Christian faith. Ware begins by arguing that God is an ineffable and incomprehensible mystery that cannot be understood by the human mind. This squares well with traditional Eastern teaching, but not so well with Western paradigms. The Orthodox believe that God's Essence and Uncreated Divine Energies are two distinct and separate concepts, whereas the West, following after Augustine, believe that God's essence and energy are one and the same. Therefore, the Orthodox believe that God in His essence is completely mysterious and unknowable by man, but God's energies may be perceived and understood. Also, the Orthodox employ a different method in order to understand and know God called the apophatic approach. This method states that one can know something about God by understanding what God is not. I think this is a valuable method and one that needs to be utilized more by Christians of a Western mindset.
Next Ware deals with the traditional Orthodox understanding of God as Trinity. Ware argues that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one in essence but consist as three separate persons. Nothing really new or groundbreaking here, but Ware does an admirable job of defending the traditional Christian doctrine of the Trinity. The area where many will disagree with him is on the issue of the procession of the Holy Spirit. The Orthodox believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father as Jesus says in John 15:26, whereas the West holds that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Ware argues that to hold that the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son can have disastrous consequences by leading one to confuse the distinctive characteristics possessed by each Divine person. Also, he believes that since such an idea was a later unauthorized addition to the creed, and not argued for by the Eastern Fathers of the Church it is to be rejected. Finally, Ware deals with the subject of God as creator and God in relation to man. Once again, one won't find to much disagreement between traditional Eastern teaching and Western teaching, but there are a few differences. The Orthodox have a completely different understanding of original sin. They believe that mankind is not guilty of Adam and Eve's sin since they can only be guilty of that transgression, but that we all bear the consequences of their disobedience. Since the human race exists as a corporate solidarity Ware argues, mankind suffers evil, pain, death and sin because we are related to and descend from Adam and Eve.
Lastly, Ware deals with the subject of God as man and God as Spirit. Ware shows why the Incarnation was an absolute necessity because of the sinfulness and fallen nature of mankind. He speaks of the redemptive significance of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and here is where Ware goes off the beaten track by hinting that maybe even Satan and the fallen angels will eventually be redeemed. I believe that Scripture seriously mittigates against such a view and leaves no doubt about the fate of Satan and his demons. Also, Ware's treatment of spiritual toll houses and the 40 journey after death are odd and are not well established teachings within Orthodoxy. In fact, such a teaching seems to have more in common with early pagan beliefs than early Christian teaching. Although the 40 days following one's death is an imporant time in Orthodoxy, the belief that one is tested and tried on a path of toll houses is not a common teaching. Overall, this book is an excellent work on the basic tenets of the Orthodox Christian faith. Although it does have some awkward elements it is still an excellent book and one that should be read by anyone interested in learning more about the Orthodox Church.
on July 13, 2003
A modern day classic of the highest quality. Bishop Ware covers the absolute basics or Christian philosophy such as God as Mystery, God as Trinity, God as Creator, God as Man, God as Spirit, and God as Prayer. He gives complete and full logical basis for each teaching, belief, and action of the Orthodox, and non-Orthodox Christian.
It reminds me of "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis in which he tells the story of how he went from a vehement opponent of religion in general, especially Christianity, to an Anglican Christian through philosophy. Not that Ware tells the story of his conversion, but that both of them use are utmost in their philosophy which flows so naturally and purely that it couldn't just be from humans.
One of the main reasons (aside from historical reasons) I converted to Christianity instead of Islam, Hinduism, Deism, etc, (the list goes on at the religions I considered, researched, etc. some more than others though) is because the first was so much more philosophical, contemplative, logical, and filled with love, while retaining the utter unattainable, unknowable, and unfathomable greatness of God. It was as if everthing just clicked together, the entire essense and meaning of the Gospels permeated and elimenated the 'contradictions' that are seen when they are viewed in a shallow, ultra legalistic and literal sense. I realized they were written to expound a meaning and essense of love, not to be a code of laws like the Qur'an is for Muslims, or the Constitution is for hicks; to be viewed in a legalistic, shallow way, taken at face value, and not having a meaning past the words on the page.
All I can do is to recommend this book, if it were within my abilities I would give a copy to every person I meet and bid them read it again and again and again
on October 27, 2003
Bishop Kallistos Ware does an excellent job of offering the reader a modern Orthodox catechism. The book presents theology in a way that is never stuffy and always enlightening. Non Orthodox readers will be impressed by the similarities of the basic trinitarian theology of the Orthodox church and other branches of Christianity whether it be Roman Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, etc. However, readers from other traditions will be challenged by the depth of mysticism in Orthodoxy and the emphasis on a serious relationship with God this side of heaven. Eastern Orthodoxy has a message for the rest of Christianity and this book delivers it well.
on June 19, 2002
I first read this book five years ago, and I still remember how uplifting it was. I'd always experienced theology as an intellectual struggle, but this book showed me that theology can be a deep, existential experience of God. As it did so, I saw clearly why Orthodox Christianity does not suffer from the theological diseases of the West. Of course, they have their own problems, but theology isn't one of them. In short, this book revolutionized my view and experience of Christianity. Amazingly perhaps, it's had this effect on other people as well.
Let me describe some other similar books, to help you find what you're looking for. Ware's book "The Orthodox Church" introduces Orthodoxy to a Western audience, briefly covering history and some of the more common misunderstandings Westerners have. Though a little dry, it's most people's first book on Orthodoxy. Another very good book by the same author is "The Inner Kingdom," a collection of essays on various topics. In it, he doesn't cover the fundamentals of Orthodoxy, but he addresses many issues (such as environmentalism, death, confession and so on) in greater depth. And perhaps the best book on Orthodox theology is Olivier Clement's "Roots of Christian Mysticism," which makes the heart and depth of ancient Christian tradition accessible to modern readers. Hopefully one of these books is what you're looking for!
(p.s. In case you are wondering, I am not Orthodox.)
on May 19, 2001
Orthodoxy can be a difficult subject for Protestants and Catholics to understand. This is due to the Western, compared to the Eastern approach in viewing Christianity. While the west generally likes things in neat rational-concrete catagories, the east is generally able to except the mystery of God and focus their efforts in that area.
Bishop Kallistos Ware, a Protestant Convert to Orthodxy, has written this book in a very easy-to-read style. He writes concisely (maybe at times to concise) which does not overburden the average Western reader. I would have personnaly like a little more in-depth analysis in certain areas, but this was not his purpose. It has caused me to study some ideas even more and I think that may have been the purpose. To give a clear meaning aboutthis cherished religion, and for those who desire further study, to do so.
All the chapters are well written: God as Trinity, creation, man, spirit, prayer, and eternity. At times trying to understand the view point may be difficult, but this is due to a cultural make-up in approaching philosophy and theology. An outstanding text.
on May 18, 2000
Bishop +KALISTOS, himself a convert to Orthodoxy, explains in plain language the basic beliefs of the Orthodox Church. Focusing on some of the characteristics of God, he dedicates a chapter to God as Mystery, as Trinity, as Creator, as Man, as Sprit and as Prayer.
This book provides invaluable insight into the faith of the Orthodox Church, and the teachings of the many men and women of the East who wrote about God - monks, nuns, priests, bishops and laymen, and cites liberally from ancient sources.
The clear message is that if you are looking for a solution to the problems of 20th century Christianity, they can be found in the writings of men and women who dealt with the same issues over the centuries!
Through it all, in clear prose, Bishop +KALISTOS provides deep insight into what drives Orthodoxy - a love for God and a desire to worship Him!
This book is a must for any student of Christianity, for it provides perspectives and answers not often encountered in Western Christianity. You may just find the answers you are looking for!
on December 6, 2001
Let me start off by telling you what this book is and what it is not via the context I was introduced to it: It was in a systematic theology class. That is the context to which THE ORTHODOX WAY is best suited. It is distinctly a theological explination of what Orthodoxy is in terms of theological ideas and beliefs. It is not the what but rather the why. Having said that, it is an excellent condensation of Orthodox theology in reletivly easy to grasp language. This makes sense as the book was intended for those new to Orthodoxy. However, while there is some explination of ritual, this book is concerned with what the Orthodox person believes, not what he or she does. Still, it should not be passed up by one who wants an introduction to Orthodoxy. On the whole, not bad. I recomend it if you've got some spare change.
on June 2, 1999
Bishop KALLISTOS (Ware), famous for his companion volume "The Orthodox Church", presents in this offering a comprehensive approach to Orthodox spirituality. While "Church" deals with the history, organization, structure and basic theology of the Orthodox Church, "Way" is concerned exclusively on the Orthodox spiritual life -- the Orthodox "way" of spirituality. Having said that, since Orthodox theology is in its essence mystical and closely related to spirituality, KALLISTOS' book covers much spiritual theology from the Orthodox perspective. This is not a complicated treatise for experts, but a readable, usable guide for everyone wishing to uncover the incomparable glories of Orthodox spirituality. A tremendous guide to Orthodoxy "from the inside out".
on August 3, 2000
I had been visiting Orthodox churches for a long time before I read this book and so must disagree with the reviewer from Alaska. I have seen in person the kind of prayer and life that Kallistos Ware describes in this book. Of course, everywhere you will find neurotic and superstitious people, but this is no judgement upon a book written by a man who is neither.
It is true that the book is somewhat idealized, but its fault (if any) is in not showing the other side. It is good that Ware presents the best side of Orthodoxy, for we must know the best if we are to aspire to it. Who would wish to start out on a spiritual journey without an idea of the goal?