Looking East in Winter: Contemporary Thought and the Eastern Christian Tradition
(BLOOMSBURY continuum, 272 PP, £20)
Tablet bookshop price £16 • tel 020 7799 4064
Here is a book that takes Christian thought in the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition and seeks determinedly and persuasively to justify its value for the worldwide Church – and indeed for the world. It also seeks to overturn a tendency among Western Christians – not least theologians – to assume that Eastern Orthodox tradition is only (or largely) good for “patristics” and “spirituality”.
For Rowan Williams, both ancient and contemporary manifestations of Eastern Christian thought are replete with medicine for some desperate contemporary ills. The fact that these medicines have been unavailable has in part been because they are often not translated into English (not a problem for Williams, whose footnotes show that language barriers are rarely an obstacle for him). But the very fact that these translations have been unavailable might itself reflect some deeply entrenched parochial prejudices, and the assumption that there is not much to be gained from the East can both engender and reinforce this ignorance.