Demetrios J. Constantelos - Christian Faith and Cultural Heritage: Essays from a Greek Orthodox Perspective. Reviewed by Rev. Dr. George C. Papademetriou

(Rev. Dr. George C. Papademetriou is retired professor of theology, Hellenic College/ Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology.)

Christian Faith and Cultural Heritage: Essays from a Greek Orthodox Perspective (Boston: Somerset Hall Press, 2005), a new book by the Rev. Professor Demetrios Constantelos, is a welcome addition to the long list of books that explore the interrelationship among religion, culture, and reason, and also among Hellenism, Judaism, and Christianity. This book utilizes an interdisciplinary approach to knowledge, and should be of special interest to people of the Orthodox Christian faith, and those of Greek ancestry who live in the United States, Canada, Australia, and other English speaking countries.

In three major parts, sixteen chapters, and 352 pages, the author examines several aspects of the encounter between Hellenism and Christianity. The first part of the book includes a lengthy chapter on the relationship between Hellenism and Christianity and the cross-influences of Hellenism and Judaism. Other chapters deal with inter-religious and ecumenical topics.

The second part of the book examines the Greek background of several aspects of Christian doctrine, ethical principles, and educational ideals. The background of Christian and monastic philanthropy, the influence of Byzantine philanthropy in the Western middle ages, Greek and Christian mysticism, and liturgical life are some of the themes explored and expertly discussed.

The third part of the book, An Old World Heritage in a New World, is addressed primarily to people of Greek ancestry who live outside of Greece in the United States, Canada, Australia, and other English-speaking countries. This part discusses the tension between the Greek Orthodox of the diaspora who insist on preserving their linguistic and cultural heritage, including their ancestral language with its unique and unbroken oral and written tradition, and those who claim that only religion matters. Many of these people are concerned with how to maintain and grow spiritually and at the same time preserve a Greek cultural identity. Culture, family, ethnic particularities, and the universality of the Orthodox Christian faith are topics that have long concerned theologians, sociologists, historians, and business leaders in the Greek diaspora.

The interdisciplinary work of Professor Constantelos highlights and illustrates what other scholars have long observed. Werner Jaeger, the author of a monumental study on Greek paideia and the theology of Greek philosophers, wrote, “Without the large post-classical evolution of Greek culture, the rise of a Christian world-religion would have been impossible.” The Christian theologian-philosopher Paul Tillich, in his penetrating and original studies on theology, wrote, “Culture is the form of religion and religion is the heart of culture, that is, the two are inseparable” (theologian Paul Tillich).

Christian Faith and Cultural Heritage stimulates the mind and enriches our knowledge on a theme of perpetual interest. More information is available at