Thinking Orthodox: Understanding and Acquiring the Orthodox Christian Mind
by Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou
A Book Review by Catherine Kostyn
I must start this review by saying that I wish this book had been in print 20 years ago when I entered the Orthodox Church, it would have likely saved me some struggle, or not, but it would have been very beneficial. Now this book is available it will be very useful for those seeking to enter the Orthodox Church, for a convert or cradle Orthodox, or those who want a better understanding on the differences between the Orthodox and Western Christian mindset, or phronema. Our phronema impacts how we do theology, our mindset, and how we interact with the world around us. We all have one, and Dr. Constantinou carefully lays out what it is, how it is developed and nurtured, some of the differences between the Orthodox and Western Christian phronema and how these differences developed. Conversations between Eastern and Western Christians are often fraught, and this book provides context to understand why that is.
The second part of the book focuses on the Orthodox understanding theology itself, what it is, and what it is not. This is one of those differences between East and West. Attention is given to why “armchair theologians”, (those who dabble in theology and provide opinions and criticisms yet have only a cursory understanding and no formal training in Orthodox theology), can place themselves in spiritual danger and potentially others as well. While this is not new, in these days of social media the number of armchair theologians has increased exponentially, I really appreciated the discussion. There are times to speak, and times to be silent, and this is addressed as well.
Dr. Constantinou obviously went to great effort to make this book as accessible as possible for the average reader, Orthodox or not. Deep topics are discussed clearly and placed in context with clear sources and a great bibliography and index are provided. This is not a book you will read once and set down, it is thought provoking and you will return to it time and time again.
We are grateful to Catherine Kostyn, a customer of our St. Seraphim Bookstore, for submitting this book review. This book was also recommended by Fr. John to his Orthodoxly 101 Class and is (of course) available in our bookstore.