21 October 2009

Norman Russell Book Arrives

My copy of Norman Russell’s Fellow Workers with God: Orthodox Thinking on Theosis (Crestwood, NY: SVS, 2009), arrived yesterday. Written for a popular audience, with 174 pages of text, I ought to be able to finish it and write a review in time to send it to the Unmercenary Readers editors by 10 November for the Unmercenary Readers Review Symposium (I encourage interested reviewers to check out the details here).

I don’t recall reading anything at all substantial by Norman Russell before—anything, that is, in which he is writing in his own voice. I’m familiar with him largely through his translations, and even those do not seem often to include much in the way of introductions by Russell himself. His translation of the Historia monachorum in Aegypto (The Lives of the Desert Fathers [Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian, 1981]), is introduced by Benedicta Ward, while his translations of Yannaras’s Orthodoxy and the West: Hellenic Self-Identity in the Modern Age (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross, 2006)—with Fr Peter Chamberas—and Stelios Ramfos’s Like a Pelican in the Wilderness (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross, 2000) feature only brief translator’s notes.

Part of St Vladimir’s Press’s ‘Foundations Series’, Fellow Workers with God is intended as a concise, lucid overview of the Orthodox teaching on theosis for a general audience. I’m already enjoying the Introduction, in which Russell offers a bit of context for his work, summarising the ‘rediscovery’ of the doctrine of deification among Orthodox, and consequently, Catholic and Protestant theologians during the twentieth century (he acknowledges however that the term ‘theosis’ remained a technical one, ‘familiar . . . to monks and patristic scholars’, p. 13).

To tell the truth, ordinarily I would likely be more interested in his scholarly study, The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition (Oxford: Oxford U, 2004). But the symposium should make this fun, and it seems clear that the book is worthwhile anyway.


Ariston said...

Yes, I got mine a few days ago. I have poked around in it, but I probably will read it in a rush in the days (or day) before the symposium deadline.

It seems, however, to have depth for a popular work. I hope that impression shows true.

leitourgeia said...

I started it yesterday for the same purpose. I consider myself part of the target audience for the book, since I am definitely not a specialist -- there's a reason I'm in a history program and not a theology program. My eyes glassed over so many times trying to read Lossky a few years ago that I finally gave up. Fifty some odd pages into Russell and there's no glassing over yet, although I'm still not totally sure I track all of the theological arguments.