An Introduction to the Eastern Orthodox Church For the Curious (My List of Recommended Reading)

I’m often asked about the Eastern Orthodox Church since I have been going to a Greek Orthodox church for the last 25 years. Since I come from an evangelical background I get the question “Why did you convert?”

I didn’t. The word “conversion” implies the evangelical idea of salvation as a one-stop conversion-to-Jesus moment, AKA the “born-again” experience of passing from “dark to light.”

But the Orthodox view of salvation is of a mysterious journey toward God. So I don’t think I was “lost” before I “became” Orthodox any more than I think that the Orthodox Church is the only gateway to God. It’s just where I go to church. And the Orthodox Church is as full of imperfections as any group. It just happens to be where I make my stand against the flesh. (I speak on this topic in colleges and churches and may be contacted on my website about speaking engagements.)

I think that  other people — who certainly do not need to join the Orthodox Church in order to find God let alone meaning — could learn a lot that is helpful to their own journey by better understanding what the Orthodox Tradition is  and by deepening their spiritual understanding of the spiritual path found there.

So in the spirit of sharing – not evangelism – I share a few titles of books that might be helpful you that provide a clear easy-to-read “link” for contemporary people from a non-Orthodox background like me, to the rich liturgical and monastic Orthodox tradition.

Here are the links to the various electronic platforms — Kindle or B&N, NOOK and such — and of course you can also order the paperbacks too if you wish to by going online to Regina Orthodox Press and ordering there. (They offer a great discount of 40% off of purchases of 5 items or more.)

Please Click HERE to go to the Regina Orthodox website or order for your Kindle and NOOK by going directly to Amazon, or to Barnes and Noble, by using the links I’ve provided below. These titles are on I-Tunes too.

BOOKS ON KINDLE, B&N or I-Tunes

ONE FLEW OVER<BR>THE ONION DOME

One Flew Over the Onion Dome 

Converts to the Orthodox Church are sometimes stunned by the ethnic ghetto they seem to have landed in. Cradle Orthodox are no less amazed by these zealous sometimes apparently nutty converts. And priests seem to often not have a clue as to how to deal with the mixed blessing of newcomers. How on earth can we all understand each other? More importantly what can we learn from each other? Now at last a NEW book that will bring us all together in love and understanding: ONE FLEW OVER THE ONION DOME — American Orthodox Converts, Retreads & Reverts Fr. Joseph David Huneycutt

“The Convert experience is full of surprises, not only for the pilgrims involved but for those who attempt to pastor and teach them. One Flew Over the Onion Dome tackles these challenges with up-front honesty, good humor, and steadfast faith.” Frederica Mathewes-Green NPR commentator and author

Available on I-Tunes

or

Click on the title for:

One Flew Over the Onion Dome on Kindle

One Flew Over the Onion Dome on Barnes and Noble

The Faith

The Faith: Introduction to Orthodox Thinking and Liturgy

An Orthodox Catechism by author Clark Carlton. Quite simply, The Faith is the best single-volume introduction to Orthodoxy in the English language. It is used by all North American “jurisdictions” (Russian, Greek etc.,) as a basic catechism. The Faith is a beautifully written book that truly answers the question, “What is it that you Orthodox believe?” The Faith has become an Orthodox classic. Perfect for group or individual study. The Faith is written in short chapters with a special section of questions after each chapter for further reflection. Each section also has relevant quotes from the Fathers and suggestions for further reading.

Available on I-Tunes

or

Click on the title for:

The Faith on Amazon Kindle

The Faith on Barnes and Noble

The Life: The Orthodox<br> Doctrine of Salvation

The Life: The Orthodox Doctrine of Salvation

The Life completes the series with a focus on “the one thing needful:” what must we do to be saved. The author presents the Orthodox doctrine of salvation in an easy-to-understand format, fully supported with scriptural references and quotations from the Fathers. The Life addresses many issues related to the doctrine of salvation, including issues that some find confusing. Among these are the immortality of the soul and the resurrection, the relationship of faith and works, and what it means to have a “personal relationship” with Christ.

Available on I-Tunes

or

Click on the title for:

The Life on Amazon Kindle

The Life on Barnes and Noble

The Truth

The Truth: What Every Roman Catholic Should Know About the Orthodox Church

The Truth will give Roman Catholics a profound understanding of the Orthodox Church. It will give both Orthodox and Roman Catholics insight as to the reasons why the two churches are not in communion with one another. The Truth will also help those confused by the outward similarities between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism to understand the marked differences between the two churches. The Truth will help Protestants understand church history in a new way and claims of the Orthodox Church to be the Bride of Christ.

Available on I-Tunes

or

Click on the title for:

The Truth on Amazon Kindle

The Truth on Barnes and Noble

The Way

The Way: What every Protestant Should Know About the Orthodox Church

The Way clearly presents: The fundamental issues that distinguish the Orthodox Church from all Protestant denominations… A comprehensive understanding of how Orthodox and Protestants understand Scripture, Tradition, and the structure of the Church… Explains worship in the Early Church and the Protestant reformation…

Available on I-Tunes

or

Click on the title for:

The Way on Amazon Kindle

The Way on Barnes and Noble

 

Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back.To book Frank to speak at your college, church or group please contact Frank HERE

 

About Frank Schaeffer

Frank Schaeffer is an American author, film director, screenwriter and public speaker. He is the son of the late theologian and author Francis Schaeffer. He became a Hollywood film director and author, writing several internationally acclaimed novels including And God Said, "Billy!" as well as the Calvin Becker Trilogy depicting life in a fundamentalist mission home-- Portofino, Zermatt, and Saving Grandma.

  • Theresa Mason

    Thanks for the list! I’ll check them out!

  • Yodit

    Thank you so much, may God work in you more, Amen!

  • sean carlson

    frederica matthewes-green’s own writings on the Orthodox faith are to be highly recommended (I speak as a dreaded Evangelical). Her spirit is irenic, gracious, even alluring. Pretty much everything crazy uncle Frank is not :)

    • Frank Schaeffer

      Hi Sean funny that she lists me as a favorite author! Maybe she actually reads my books.

      • http://patheos.com jason greene

        Frank
        thank you for your work. I love your wisdom and wit (even though I think that you sound a little angry sometimes). I spent my youth up through my mid twenties in pentecostal evangelicalism and I lost faith in much of it (although I still love Jesus). I attend a UMC. I find it to be the place that I fit. It blends the evangel, the sacramental, the communal, and a warm spirit. It allows people to have differing opinions without wanting to boycott or kill one another. Yet we have our problems as well. Our left wing and our right wing fight pretty bitterly at times while the rest of us just want to live out our faith and walk the journey together. Keep up the good work…

        Peace….

  • sean carlson

    Frank – I’ve read, I believe, almost everything you’ve written. Being a former Marine I found your tribute to your son & his military service quite moving. Enjoyed Baby Jack. Read your book on the Orthodox faith which I thought made Matthewes-Green look positively saintly. Trust you are not too thin skinned & can take my occasional poking.We both share being grandparents, & probably like you, my grandchild can do no wrong! Best wishes – Sean

    C

    • Frank Schaeffer

      Hi Sean, Thanks and good of you to read/respond/talk! Best to you all and BTW my Marine (former) is well as I trust you are. F

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  • Patty H.

    Evangelical Protestants seem to have no concept of Christian history. There was Jesus 2,000 years ago and hop, skip and jump to modern America. What happened in between is deemed of no consequence. It’s very difficult to be a religious fanatic if one seriously studies the history of religions. When you see how much needless suffering has been caused by the willingness to defend religious dogma with violence and oppression, you can’t help but develop a certain immunity to the idea that any human beings can claim to speak for the Divine.

  • Ephestion

    I kinda feel sorry for you Frank. I think what you went through as a child has scarred you. I want to embrace what you have to say because you essentially speak the truth. I think over the years you have become a little more transparent with your feelings, biases, motives etc. Which makes good for a philosopher. A few good men have said that philosophy can ruin a person in as much as it can build them. Socrates was told to stay away from it, or atleast keep it in moderation. The result as you may know was a death sentence for speaking the truth, ruffling the feathers of the Oligarchy, the man who shook the foundations of the establishment.

    When someone starts a path to seeking the truth, it can be a dangerous thing. It is a risk people will take. Either you are blessed by ignorance, or your mind will open to a new way of thought. That new way of thought can never be untaught, it stays with us forever. It is a loss of innocence and a realization of truth. Some people become unstable, dysfunctional in civilisation, where friends are interested in the lastest TV episode, your mind is trapped on some cyclic argument you wish to solve. Philosophy makes a person have greater depth and in the end it can either ruin him or help mold him as a better person.

    I have read lately that you attend an Orthodox Church but don’t consider yourself Orthodox or associate with the belief of Orthodox Christianity. I think you are at the stage where everything has been scrapped and you are redefining what to keep and throw out. It seems you are still struggling with the scars of the past and seeking a thing to heal them. But your upbringing in a Protestant or Evangelical environment, still has left you with the mark of individuality. Individuality with respect to what you believe and how you worship, if you do that at all.

    All I have to say is that, deep down, I think you do Believe! I think the next step you will take is realise that letting Jesus Christ into your life as the son of God goes beyond the concept of personality worship. Which may I add seems very Protestant in nature, like following each personality that seems fun to read, watch or listen to. In some cases you have disclosed or others have disclosed things you have said as being indicative of a lost individual. The reality is this, Jesus to Christians is the foundation of our faith. He goes beyond the concept of a cool guy we follow, he is the core of our spiritual belief. He represents to us the very will of God being spoken on Earth. In otherwords he is our religion as much as God is. The man Jesus may have been cool, but the spiritual Jesus is God. So when you write these things or say these things that show you have in some way distanced yourself from the Orthodox faith, I feel you need a nudge to get you back on track.

    I will argue with you in your secular fashion. The West needs a faith to temper the cultural lacking of true moral traditions. Much like when the pagan Greeks flocked to Christianity even at the cost of their lives. If you don’t tame lions they can wreak havoc. We don’t need a religion to incite hatred, we need a religion that pacifies us. The moral traditions of Western society were heavily influenced by people like Bentham who wrote along the lines that “Doing what is pleasurable for the majority is justice.” Utilitarian type ideology has led to the idea of sacrifice the one to save the thousands, or cannibalism to ensure the life of crew members and the like. The West has some major issues in determining what Christians would consider basic moral values. Protestantism and Catholicism appear void in a similar way that many Western philosophies lack true substance. They are void in that they lack the substance that identifies them as long lasting truths. Aristotle’s version of Justice was that it was a Categorical form of justice perceived that the object or case of interest needed to honor and personify the qualities and values a society deemed as worthy. This idea promoted the concept of either we all live free or we all die trying to be free. There was no sacrifice of the few to save the majority in Greek history. Greeks morals were personified by the Hellenophil French author Alexander Dumas “All for one, one for all”. The simple fact of the matter is that both ancient Greek philosophy and Christianity lay down a platform on which can better a society. The fact that the West has committed such atrocities in the world needs to be reconciled with a faith that clarifies human morals, spiritual understanding and respect. A religion that can undo countless years spent as serfs under the Feudalism, and the idea that “We should go with the flow.”. Instead Christianity is a rebellion against the immoral, a standing in defiance of the injustices of the world. We need people like that in society.

    In the East they are not any better, I won’t say much about the Islamic faith, we all know what it represents and what it has done. But somewhere in the middle is Greek Orthodoxy and other similar Orthodoxies. The motive is not I am righteous and you are not, but rather we are all sinners, we are all hypocritical to our own beliefs. Yet God has time for us if we try and accept Jesus and his words into our lives. Like the thief on the cross, a man guilty of his sins, recognizes them and appeals to Jesus for salvation, and he is saved. Salvation is a mystery and not some Westernized formula, nor is a jihad going to bring any spiritual salvation. The war against Islam does not exist for Orthodox people, Islam is the one at war with the rest of the world by defining US and THEM, Believers and Non Believers. Protestantism and Catholicism tend to do the same in a more subtle way. If you don’t believe this or that you are not saved. I have listened to my fair share of youtube videos that put down one faith or the other. Orthodoxy is challenged by the political and religious biases of both East and West and still remains unchanged. When something remains unchanged even with a heavy toll of spilt blood, it is a testimony to being the truth. Much like the works of Plato or Aristotle live on because they were the absolute humans could come to the secular truth, so too Orthodox Christianity is that absolute truth for spiritual life. Just like Aristotle and Plato’s works were better definitions and philosophies than the contemporaries who challenged them, so too the Orthodox faith persists unchanged and is the better practice of the alternatives. Yes it has problems, there are some issues, some questions may remain unanswered truthfully but compared to the rest, it is the best we have.

    Hope you feel better Frank, I would like to see you evolve in years to come. I think you have the capacity to bring to light things others had little knowledge of. You are in a position that can help others and yourself, in the process. I find your books and videos entertaining, I think those too will evolve once you tackle your next assignment: spiritual truth :) I wish you all the best.


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