I have very much appreciated the series of books by Fr. John Strickland, where he reviews the 2,000-year history of Christendom (and which I have reviewed here). One reason I have appreciated these is for the topic covered – a view of Christendom from the East, as offered by this Orthodox priest-historian.
But another reason – and one without which I would have never spent much time in the material – is his humility when discussing and examining Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. For example, when considering the events of the Papal Reformation, he understands and appreciates the issues being dealt with by Western Christianity.
He can do this while at the same time pointing to how certain aspects of this Reformation caused Western Christianity to move away from (in his view) Paradise and toward Utopia.
All of this is an introduction to a video interview of Fr. Strickland by Austin Suggs. The entire interview is worthwhile, but I will point to the concluding segment, in which Suggs asks Strickland:
For someone living in the West that feels this tension – that the West does have some sense of decline – this sense that something is wrong, what can Western Christians do to regain that sense of paradise? Is there anything short of becoming Orthodox or restoring communion?
Fr. Strickland responds:
As a convinced Orthodox Christian, I would obviously emphasize the value of returning to the original faith of Christianity, but I would not say that the only solution to the problem is universal conversion to Orthodoxy.
As I mentioned before, I don’t like the word “conversion” in this context, applying to a person baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. However, I agree that the only solution is not to be found in a universal return to Orthodox Christianity.
But to continue: Strickland offers that his fourth book will be titled “The Age of Nihilism,” where he will examine the anti-Christian agenda in the West from the last one-hundred-plus years.
The problem is solved as we return to traditional Christianity. For me, that means Orthodoxy, but I can certainly recognize that Roman Catholicism and Protestantism also have elements of traditional Christianity within them – there is no question about this to me.
Nor to me. And, I suspect, some Roman Catholics and Protestants can point to some aspects of traditional Christianity better found in these traditions than in Orthodoxy.
Returning to those first millennium elements of culture – which we share together whether we are Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or Protestant – I think returning to that experience of paradise, which springs out of the liturgical sacramental life of the Church – East and West.
This means returning to their own roots which will take them back to an approach to Christianity that is centered upon liturgy, centered upon sacramental communion with God, the experience of God’s presence – of Heavenly immanence – that the kingdom of heaven has drawn near and is filling this world, and that pessimism begins to dissipate insofar as we experience God’s loving, caring presence in this world.
None. Strickland said it best.