De Bloei van het Oosters Christendom

Olivier Clement

The Orthodox Theologisch Vormingscentrum de Heilige Johannes de Theoloog has already translated many courses and books originally published by l’Institut de Th√©ologie Orthodoxe Saint-Serge. However, being chronically
understaffed and overworked, the translations are given to the students as soon as the actual translation has finished. There’s no time for proofing, and no time for an accurate colofon either. So I don’t know to which of Olivier Clements numerous works the book I just finished belongs — the English translation of the Dutch translation or interpretation of the French title is, more or less, “The Heyday of Oriental Christianity”, and it’s Church history, not a contemporary sermon. Not that oriental Christianity isn’t flourishing, because it is, at least in the occidental Netherlands, where we’re looking for a bigger church building again, because we simply don’t fit in the building we own now.

Anyway, apart from the forgiveable typoes and the rather flowery style — Olivier Clement is a French intellectual from the twentieth century — this book is the goods. It is a thorough investigation of the history of theological thought in the Orthodox Church, in particular as influenced by the Western Church during the century preceding and following the Great Schism.

Clement must be a gifted writer, and the translator has done his or her level best, because even in the hasty translation into Dutch, Clement manages to make the particular issues surrounding the filioque and other thorny theological issues quite clear, often in a single paragraph or even in a well-put sentence.

It’s refreshing enough to get something to read that shows the Orthodox¬† vision of the Great Schism, but it is admirable that the author doesn’t get bogged down in a defensive (or offensive) position, but manages to show where both sides were right, and where they were wrong in an objective way, while at the same time not falling into the trap of considering everything through the distortion of a contemporary set of values, nor through an anemic impartiality where no longer any moral decision is possible.

It’s a pity that the Dutch translation is apparently incomplete — the footnotes are indicated as missing, but I also fear that there are rather more than the 100 pages we were given… Next time I’m in Brussels I should ask for the French title, so I can acquire it.