Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Preface to the Revised 2014 Edition of My Book, Orthodoxy and Catholicism: A Comparison

The original edition of this volume was completed in July 2004, and was drawn largely from writings, including debates, from the previous seven years online. It has been one of the few books (at least on a lay level or among the apologetics community) to examine Orthodoxy from a Catholic perspective, and has had some degree of influence as such. The Coming Home Network has purchased two large bulk orders and Logos Bible Software included it in its large collection of theological works (with nine other books of mine, as of this writing).

Most notably, in June 2011, I received a letter from His Excellency, Ladislav Hučko: Bishop - Apostolic Exarch of the Greek-Catholic Church, in Prague (Byzantine Rite). He asked for permission to reprint up to 200 copies of my book (already translated into Czech) for his priests and fellow Czech bishops.

There are eight Bohemian bishops in the Czech Republic and five Moravian bishops. The country has eight dioceses and an Apostolic Exarchate. In the Archdiocese of Prague alone there were (in 2011) 378 parishes with 216 priests, serving 370,000 Catholics. It wasn't clear exactly who was to receive copies of my book, but it appeared to be all the bishops in the Czech Republic and many priests as well. I received no remuneration, but that was rather beside the point.

But to return to the reasons for this revision: in 2004, though I sought to be ecumenical scarcely any less than I do now, I seemed to mostly run across Orthodox online who were of an “anti-Catholic” or “anti-western” nature, and the book reflected that.

I have become concerned that readers do not come away from this book with a mistaken perception that I am “anti-Orthodox” or that I think most, or the majority of Orthodox Christians are anti-Catholic or anti-western. I know (from much personal experience) that some – likely, many -- of them are. What percentage of the whole falls under that mindset, I have no idea. But I know that there are also ecumenical Orthodox.

It has been my strong desire for some time now to revise my book in order to emphasize ecumenism and unity proportionately a lot more than in the first edition. I basically stopped debating theology with the Orthodox around 2001 or so. I only debated on rare occasion when someone strongly challenged some aspect of Catholicism, or when I felt Catholic views were being distorted and had to be defended, as part of my duty as an apologist.

I was much more interested in finding common ground, and that desire and passion has grown in the ensuing years. I've also learned a thing or two about Orthodoxy over the past decade. I want my book to reflect that, and to be able to read by Orthodox and also Eastern Catholics, without having seizures or going into apoplectic fits (caused by either my ignorance, or overly polemical or biased writing). Please excuse my humorous exaggeration . . .

Toward that end I have enlisted three very qualified persons (and friends) to participate in the revised edition: two of them (FrDeacon Daniel Dozier and Pete Vere) Eastern Catholic, and one, Tim Carl, Orthodox. Their more specific descriptions are found in an earlier section.

The revision is not merely a debate book, with equal time for all. Nor is it exclusively “ecumenical.” It's still an apologetic for Catholicism and respectful critique of Orthodoxy, but now it also includes friendly ecumenical discussion and dialogue: feedback and input from both Eastern Catholics and Orthodox. The overall tone and tenor is considerably different.
I first revised it on my own, according to my expressed goals. I remain the final editor, but only after very serious, close consultation with my three friends. When they all agreed (or even two agreed), that “this statement x is untrue / is offensive / excessively polemical or insulting,” etc., I removed or greatly modified the passage.

All three had to agree that the book is fair and a true ecumenical effort and that “dissenting” views from my own (in cases where we – inevitably – have honest disagreements) were allowed a fair shake in the comments sections and the text itself.

After the initial “review” of my own “unilateral” revision, my three friends commented at the end of each chapter, with a limit of 800 words for each entry. I then counter-replied (or agreed or conceded one or more points, as the case may be), and they got the last word with a second counter-response. Each party had two “rounds” so to speak.

Obviously, since I wrote the chapters, they are weighted towards my views. Be that as it may, readers nevertheless will have an opportunity to hear from Eastern Catholics and Orthodox, so that we can attempt a “meeting of the minds” between East and West. I want readers to be able to observe and “resonate with” a genuine, friendly, mutually respectful dialogue. I still believe in it (ever the hopeful idealist).

The three contributors also wrote new chapters at the end of the book, where they discussed whatever is close to their hearts and of concern or importance to them. I participated in discussions at the end of those chapters, with the other two non-authors of the chapter: the reverse of the procedure in the chapters before the last three.

The book will still be in part a defense of Catholic views, where there are differences. It will not be devoid of apologetics; it'll just have more ecumenical elements and the discussions added to it; a different overall spirit and goal: to foster unity as well as to defend Catholic views when they are strongly critiqued by the Orthodox (and vice versa).

Eastern Catholicism is fully incorporated, through the contributions and input of FrDeacon Daniel Dozier and Pete Vere, so that the book deals with all of Catholicism, not just Western / Latin (my own category). I learned many things myself, expanded my horizons in the dialogues, and thoroughly enjoyed both the fellowship and the amiable theological challenges.

My deep hope and prayer is that readers will be educated and edified by the final product of our combined efforts. I'm particularly gratified to be able to combine in one book two aspects that are very dear to my heart: respectful dialogue, and a blending of apologetics and ecumenism in such a way that it is clearly seen that the two endeavors are complimentary and not contradictory.

May God greatly bless you, the reader, and I'd like to express my deep, profound thanks and appreciation to FrDeacon Daniel Dozier, Pete Vere, and Tim Carl, for their participation.



Donald Hirst said...

And the new edition is available when? I have a copy of the older edition and would like to compare the two.

Dave Armstrong said...

If self-published, shortly after August 1st. If "officially" published, who knows when?!