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on 18 February 2000
I'm not an Eastern Orthodox Christian, but I nevertheless found this book an extremely interesting and helpful introduction to Orthodoxy. I knew virtually nothing about the subject prior to reading this book, and found the history fascinating.
This book has led me to read other books connected with Orthodoxy including "The Brothers Karamazov" and "Way of a Pilgrim", and to develop a greater interest and respect for the tradition of icons. The Jesus Prayer ("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me") is a central part of Orthodox spirituality, and I have found this prayer an enriching addition to my spiritual life.
For a Christian, this is an essential read, as the Orthodox tradition is little-understood in the West and has a great deal to offer Western Christians. For non-Christians, this is a well written history of a Church which has had a long and at times very hard history, suffering under the Ottoman empire and then Communism.
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on 18 July 2009
Although a graduate in Theology, my academic experience never extended beyond Rome and the interaction between "Western Christianity" and the dialogue with Judaism, Islam and Buddhism and ethics and philosophy. Although realising that there were differences between Western Christianity and Orthodoxy I never explored these and it was only as a result of a visit to an Orthodox Cathedral in Estonia that my interest was stimulated. This book is an ideal introduction to this tradition and the reader, like myself, will perhaps have a whole new view on Orthodoxy and the tribulations and trials that the Orthodox communities have faced throughout history, not only from Islam but also from Communism. (I particularly was interested in that section which dealt with the experience in the Russian Church under Communism). This book has now stimulated my interest to carry my studies further and try to understand more about Orthodox Christianity and whether it has a spiritual message in post modernity.
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on 25 December 2010
"The Orthodox Church" by Timothy Ware (also known as Kallistos Ware) is probably the best introduction to the history and faith of the Eastern Orthodox churches.

The author is an Orthodox bishop of British nationality, and his aim is to explain Orthodoxy to a Western audience. He succeeds relatively well in this. Of course, the book is partisan but some Orthodox believers nevertheless believe that Ware is too "soft". Another book by the same author, "The Orthodox Way", explains his view of Orthodox spirituality in more detail. That book is also quite easy to read.

It should be noted that the historical chapters mostly deal with the Byzantine Empire and Russia. Relatively little is said about other Orthodox nations such as Serbia, Romania or Bulgaria. Apart from the historical chapters, there is also an extensive section on liturgy, the sacraments and Church organization.

"The Orthodox Church" is recommended reading for the general reader who wants to know more about Eastern Orthodoxy in general and the Russian Orthodox Church in particular.
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on 7 February 2011
Does exactly what it says on the tin and does it very well. Written in such a way that shows the authors deep love for Orthodoxy, both as a topic of study and as a way of life.
I left it deeply informed and yet hungry for more.
The sweeping history really compliments the section on theology, as it helps to bring out the themes of this belief.
The footnotes were particularly useful in suggesting further reading. Suitable for students and for those who merely wish to know more about Eastern Christianity.
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on 22 December 2011
This was the first book I read on a subject totally dedicated to describing the Orthodox Church. It was a good read in some ways, but I have to admit that Ware lost me in the second half of the book when he begins describing Orthodox theology. I am interested in Orthodox theology, but somehow Ware's book didn't do it for me. A better book in my opinion is The Way: What Every Protestant Should Know about the Orthodox Church by Clark Carlton, and also Becoming Orthodox by Peter Gilquist. If you're Catholic there is The Truth: What Every Roman Catholic Should Know about the Orthodox Church also by Carlton.
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on 20 November 2015
A very thorough book that delves deeply into the subject matter. As expected, the Bishop is obviously highly educated and very knowledgable in the subject, this clearly comes across in the book. He has evidently worked hard at condensing what is a very comprehensive topic area into a very readable paperback without doing an injustice to the church and its history. Due to the author's credentials I would imagine the book is unrivalled in its field. However, for those with only a superficial interest in the topic the book may be a rather little too dense, dry and monotonous, it is not really light reading and I found myself getting a little bored at times, as admittedly, I am more interested in orthodox theology and praxis rather than church history. Hence why my title. It would be shame not to complete what is a very insightful book. If you have any reservations you may wish to consider the author's other book 'the Orthodox Way' as an alternative, or as a precursor to this book, a book that goes far deeper into the subjects of history, theology and praxis, splits and the effects of persecution under Communism. The book also provides a very good clear explanation of theosis, the orthodox understanding of the very purpose of all of our lives. The Orthodox Church is significantly more developed and complete in its understanding of this particular theological concept, than is found anywhere in the West. The book, although primarily aimed at lay readers, is nonetheless sufficiently academic to be able to make a very credible contribution to any theology degree course.
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on 14 February 2014
It interests me that a westerner would convert to Orthodoxy. Timothy Ware (aka Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia) says that, from their point of view, Protestant and Catholic are like two sides of the same coin; but if so, Catholic and Orthodox are almost the same side of the same coin - or better, like two brothers who, though somewhat estranged, grew up together and share the same perspective. The differences in theological doctrine are, as he admits, tiny and almost ludicrously abstract; the liturgy and sacraments are essentially the same. The difference is mostly of emphasis - particularly on eremitic life and mysticism - and in presentation. With its sumptuous robes, icons and music, the Orthodox church can seem to a Westerner to combine Christianity with the exotic 'otherness' of Asian religions. Maybe that's the attraction; maybe it's that it offers a way to go 'back to the source' without having to go through the Papacy. But when Ware talks about western Orthodox reviving 'the ancient Roman liturgy', a Catholic must feel: er, surely that's the Mass?

I'm not sure you would choose a convert to write objectively about any subject, either. Ware is not entirely uncritical, but it's fair to say that he tends to take his adopted faith as it is in theory*, and judge other institutions - particularly Catholicism - by their worst practice. This is a pretty basic, descriptive, historical book, not giving you very much about theology or spirituality. It's not much more than a starting point but, in that respect, it serves its purpose.

*I wonder what Ware would make of the Russian church disgracefully backing Putin's carryings-on in Ukraine, and its thinly-veiled threats against other Christian groups in the region.
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on 3 January 2013
This is a work of great scholarship that is readily accessible to all. It was so clear and understandable that deals with the fine points of doctrine that have always eluded me in comprehension. I am glad to say that Kallistos Ware has done a great service to the church and to all who wish to understand what is going on together with all the wonderful audio and visual effects of the church experience.
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on 6 May 2014
All English-speaking / reading Orthodox need to read this classic. It's well-written and very thorough. And, it's an easy read, even though it is quite packed and rather lengthy. I learned a lot reading this, and it was not a struggle. Thank you, Met Kallistos!
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on 5 April 2013
I bought this book as I had read it before but decided I wanted to own it. For anyone who wants to find out more about Orthodoxy past and present, this is a good starting point.
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