Thursday, 11 September 2014

Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, by Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky

Michael Pomazansky Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, 3rd Edition 2005 St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood

In reviewing another book, I commented that I would really like to see a Catholic equivalent of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. Pomazansky's Orthodox Dogmatic Theology comes to close to being an Eastern Orthodox equivalent of Grudem's Systematic Theology. While Grudem's textbook is a good deal thicker, they are both aimed at a similar introductory level reader. While Grudem quotes a lot more Scripture than Pomazansky, they both alike assume the Bible means what they think it means without taking a lot of time to prove it exegetically (this is probably more forgivable given the presuppositions of Pomazansky).

Orthodox Dogmatic Theology provises an excellent overview of the main topics of Eastern Orthodox Theology. It is therefore an invaluable resource to those wanting to understand what Orthodox Christians believe. A lot of introductory books about Eastern Orthodoxy focus on history, spirituality or liturgy, providing only a cursory treatment of doctrine.

I very much like the fact that Pomazansky writes for the layperson, using intelligible language. Yet he never dumbs down and communicates the theological concepts well. I find most Catholic theological works either dumb down too much or else use too much technical jargon and therefore fail to engage with the less advanced, but well educated reader.

This is of course written by somebody coming from the hardline, conservative, anti-ecumenical wing of Eastern Orthodoxy. The author has nothing positive at all to say about either Catholicism or Protestantism. He regards all sacraments outside of the Orthodox Church as null and void, leaving doubt about the final salvation of non-Orthodox. It is this harsh eternally polemtical posture that put me off Eastern Orthodoxy. I am a westerner and have no desire to repudiate my theological heritage. I think converts who buy into that anti-western mentality are likely to end up very confused.

This book contains some useful appendices. The first deals with some of the more radical developments in Russian Orthodox theology. More useful is the second appendice, which gives an overview of the Ecumenical Councils. The third appendix provides a list and brief summary of the contribution of the individual Church Fathers.

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