In 1960, Penguin Books asked the 26-year-old Timothy Ware to write a book on his newfound Eastern Orthodox faith. His first reaction was to say no; he had been Orthodox for only two years. But a friend urged him to try and so he set his pen to paper. Now nearly 50 years old, The Orthodox Church remains the go-to book for people who want an introduction to Orthodoxy. Since that first book, Ware became a monk, took the name Kallistos, became a lecturer at Oxford University, and was made Metropolitan Bishop of Diokleia for Greek Orthodoxy in Britain.
Earlier this year, Ware lectured at North Park University and Wheaton College about what evangelicals could learn from the Orthodox and what the Orthodox could learn from evangelicals. Christianity Today editor in chief David Neff interviewed him during that visit.
Some friends who have joined the Orthodox Church talk as if the Orthodox tradition was fixed very early and handed down without change. You treat tradition in a much more dynamic way.
You're quite right that I think tradition is dynamic. I recall the definition given by the great Russian Orthodox theologian, Vladimir Lossky: "Tradition is the life of the Holy Spirit in the church." Clearly, tradition is life; it's not a fixed formula. Still less is it writings in leather-bound volumes. Tradition is life, and it is the life of Christ present in the church through the Holy Spirit. It is not simply fixed doctrines, but the continuing self-understanding and self-criticism of the Christian community.
What keeps that dynamic self-understanding from going off the rails?
Holy Scripture as it has been understood in the church and by the church through the centuries. With that understanding of Holy ...