It is against this unrealistic elitist conception of sanctity that Plekon tries to construct a better understanding of what it means to be a saint, a holy person (hagios). The brilliance of this book is that it is not an academic diatribe, neither is it a sustained theological treatise (though it is both academically sensitive and theologically deep). The method that Plekon chooses to think through sainthood is by thinking about actual saints as he sees them. Thus the book takes us through a host of biographies from persons across the theological and ecclesial spectrum—some living, some having entered their rest.
As I’ve suggested in some earlier book sketches, I think Protestants like myself have a lot to gain by learning from the Eastern Orthodox Church. One of the ways I’ve grown the most by listening to the Orthodox voice is the way I think about salvation. The way I typically heard the story growing up made salvation a matter of alignment, like applying for membership in the right club, and then a lifetime’s work trying not to get kicked out. And salvation was taught this way because of our underlying theological assumptions. Now, I’m not saying this is completely wrong, but I do think there’s some serious gaps and even errors in that way of thinking.
Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code vividly depicts the Council of Nicaea as a chaotic shouting match in which several ‘Gospels’ were rejected. This may have been the first time many ever realized other ‘gospels’ were produced at all. What do we make of this? If not through some inane conspiracy, how did the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and New Testament get to its present form? What of these other ‘gospels’? These are questions about which Christians should have a basic understanding, and Lee McDonald’s book aims to help.
Anyone who enlists pacifism as a badge of honor in some pollyannaish sentiment of good will is an idiot. (Full disclosure: I had to look the proper way to spell pollyannaish.) At the same time, the caricature of Christian “pacifism” as weak-willed, emasculated hippy-religion is equally false. Anyone sincerely interested in investigating the various ways in which Christians conceive, argue for, and practice non-violence would do well to start here. I hope that people read this book (or my representation of it) with an open, generous, but critical eye.
In the church I grew up in we prided ourselves on restoring the New Testament Church. This was a way of saying that the way we did things in our church was intended to be a copy in all things essential of the church as it we see it in the New Testament. We fought one another over the minutiae of this project, like whether the early church had one or many communion cups, but we never seemed to bother too much over whether they had things like air conditioning or a/v systems.