Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Book Review: Sweeter than Honey: Orthodox Thinking on Dogma and Truth By Dr. Peter Bouteneff

Sweeter than Honey: Orthodox Thinking on Dogma and Truth
By Dr. Peter Bouteneff
ISBN: 978-0881413076
Price £6.58 (Amazon Kindle Store)

As a book which I picked up purely as a timepass during a recent trip to Trivandrum, Bouteneff's most commonly known work turned out to be a worthwhile investment and one which I finished before the plane even took off. I am a fan of Bouteneff's academically honest writings and accessable writing style, but this book can easily be read and respected by Theology readers across the spectrum.

The book comprises of two sections, one which deals with the Philosophical complexities of defining truth, the other with how the Church forms Tradition around this truth. Both sections are close to 100 pages long and comprise of readable bitesize sections amid longer chapters. This allows the book to be read at a steady pace and entire sections easily found for rereading and academic quoting without sifting through paragraph after paragraph.

The content of the first section, as previously mentioned, is centered around the question "what is truth" and tackles this from a Theological viewpoint, questioning the role of Revelation and scripture in the process of defining truth. This is a good place to start, since it adds to the experience by giving the reader the benefit of understanding what Bouteneff means by truth before entering into the discussion of the Dogmatic side of the book.

The second section is where Bouteneff gets into the real study of Orthodox Dogmatics, looking at the importance of Dogma and the study of theology. This section studies the reason for studying theology, and Church's motives in the development of the Canons and Doctrine. This is further split up into sections explaining why and how certain factors and contributors to the development of Orthodox Dogmatics emerged, making compelling arguments for everything from the Orthodox Exegetical approach to the veneration of the fathers and their works. He also make a compelling case for the polemical language used by the fathers, which demonstrates a fair and academic approach which allows the reader to understand the complexities of reading the fathers.

 As key factors in the understanding of the vitality of Tradition and Dogma to the Orthodox faith, the reasons for their development of the various areas of Orthodox Doctrine and key questions surrounding the,  are covered well by Bouteneff and in a way which is extremely inviting and readable.  Altogether, I could not recommend this book enough. Not only is Bouteneff's writing style one which invites the reader to continue and learn, but the way in which he tackles a topic which can be immensely dry with a vitality which can only be found in a writer who triely values the Traditions of the Orthodox Faith.

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