I recently read through Ask for the Ancient Paths by Fr James Guirguis (sales info link). Before too much time passed I wanted to pass along my thoughts on the book. Note that I’ve also done an interview with Fr James about his book that I’ll be posting soon on my Conversations podcast.
Being a convert I readily appreciate it when anyone attempts to engage the culture and try to explain just what in the world Orthodoxy is. Good luck! Fr James is a better man than me in that he does just that. What’s even more interesting is that Fr James is NOT himself a convert. Usually it’s the gung-ho convert (looking at myself) that feels the need to tackle the world for Jesus and Orthodoxy, but Fr James was raised Orthodox (Coptic). For that I give him double kudos, and a tip of the hat. I wish that more “cradle” orthodox were ready to jump in the ring with the wily Protestant.
Following in the vein of books like Becoming Orthodox and Thirsting for God he tackles the big questions that a Protestant would have when encountering Orthodoxy for the first time. Catholics need not apply, unfortunately, but I can easily understand why. There’s just only so much ink the world, and you have to focus a book down on something that can be accomplished. Even just tackling the Protestant questions is more than can usually be addressed in a single tome. Fr James doesn’t try to cover everything, but he does get most of the biggies and does a head nod to some of the others.
His target for the book is the the Orthodox first encounter. If you are just becoming aware of Orthodoxy, or want to gently break in a loved one, this book is for you. Fr James takes a kind and humble approach that I think will be well received by his audience.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out a weakness of the book, and that would be the length. The book is slim, and while I certainly don’t discount a book for not beating around the bush, I feel like there was some additional bush to be beaten here. The earlier (and thankfully more important) topics are addressed in good length considering the target audience, but the later chapters get shorter and shorter. I’d like to see Fr James take another whack at addressing those topics to the same degree as he did with the earlier ones. Keep the great attitude, but give us more of that stuff we want!
Yeah, no ugly! I liked the book. I liked the tone and the length (mostly) for what Fr James was going for. I’d like to see it beefed up with a second edition, but it still does the job, and is worth the investment to have on hand for the inevitable Orthodox introduction for the periodic Protestant inquirer.
You can find more information about the book, as well as order a copy, at http://store.ancientfaith.com/ask-for-the-ancient-paths/. Find out more about Fr James at his blog, Out of Egypt.