Eastern Othodoxy is often an almost impenetrable system of thought for Christians of different theological persuasions. James R. Payton, Jr.’s The Victory of the Cross: Salvation in Eastern Orthodoxy seeks to dispel some of that confusion by focusing closely on a specific theological question–salvation–and explaining it from an Eastern Orthodox perspective.
James R. Payton, Jr. comes at these controversial questions from the perspective of an evangelical with a deep understanding of the Orthodox faith. He explores some of the major themes in Eastern Orthodoxy related to salvation and brings light to them for those who might not have any real understanding of how Orthodoxy views certain topics. After a brief introduction, Payton sets the stage with a discussion of the cross, then walks readers through what might be a somewhat familiar path of going from a chapter on the need for salvation (also viewed in Orthodoxy as universal, though their view of original sin is less a culpable sin than a tendency towards sin) and moving into the focus on the savior, Christ. The way God saved humanity is one that is debated in non-Eastern circles as well, and here Payton focuses largely on the awe that the salvation brought with Christ inspires. One of the most controversial–perhaps only for its strangeness to non-Orthodox ears–aspects of Orthodox theology related to salvation is deification. An entire chapter is dedicated to that concept, along with a following chapter on “becoming like God” on the path to salvation.
Payton does an excellent job of grounding Eastern Orthodox beliefs in its practice and highlighting how much Orthodoxy draws from Church Fathers as well as orthopraxy. What is so often lost in many forms of Christianity today is the practice of lived faith. There’s a sense of “Yeah, I’m saved, and I read my Bible and go to church, and that’s it.” But Eastern Orthodoxy’s view of salvation does not allow such a surface level faith, at least not when done rightly. Instead, it demands a whole life committed to Christ and infused with the divine in contemplation and, indeed, in one’s own life. Payton’s work helps explain those aspects of Eastern Orthodoxy which may be strange to those who haven’t encountered it before while also ably highlighting the depth of the practice of faith and a life focused on the sign of the Cross.
The Victory of the Cross is a fascinating, adept introduction to the nature of salvation in Eastern Orthodoxy. It will serve readers not only as a way to springboard discussions into Eastern Orthodoxy, but also as a path to coming to a better understanding of the richness of the Christian tradition worldwide.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.
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