19 August 2007

Philogia Justiniani: "Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells"

I must say, I really enjoyed Matthew Gallatin's Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells. He comes from the same charismatic background that my family had been involved in at one time, and is an educated fellow about Protestantism in general. That makes this particular book very good for those inquiring into the faith from that background, as well as being the book that I will now loan out to evangelical/charismatic friends who ask me questions about why I became Orthodox. Also, for those who don't know, Matthew has a podcast on Ancient Faith Radio (see link in the sidebar) called "Pilgrims from Paradise." His most recent topic has been a multi-part study of the life of Abraham as a refutation of the Protestant doctrine of sola fide. Many of the point he makes in it are also addressed in Thirsting for God.

One of the most poignant things about this book, to me, was the confessional nature of it. Gallatin's sincerity is hard to ignore, and his devotion to Orthodoxy comes, literally, from a feeling of finally finding what he was looking for after years of trying to get it elsewhere. Gallatin's best moments come when he, in detail, describes why it is that Protestants are always looking to get back to that "first moment of discovering Jesus" experience--and why they never get there. His extended metaphor of the process of salvation (and, let's note, it is a process--a life-long struggle--not a one-time event) as a "dance" with God is one that comes back later in the podcast, but is a brilliant way of showing that the Eastern conception of salvation is a set of interactive movements that we make with God. This is contrasted with the Western understanding of "who God is" that comes primarily through thinking about God. As Gallatin points out, if you are in another room from the woman who you've been told about--and you love all that you know about her--until you step through the doorway and get to know her, all you really have is a mental picture. You can't really be in love with a mental picture. Gallatin rightly points out that it is precisely the participation in the Sacramental life of the Church where God meets us at the doorway, and invites us to participate in his very own life and existence. This is where salvation lies--not in thinking about God's goodness or his righteousness, but in joining ourselves to his life (which is, by definition, goodness and righteousness) in the way that he has proscribed.

In all, Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells is a great read, and very instructive for those who are Orthodox, those inquiring into Orthodoxy, or for those who just want to understand what we Orthodox are so on about.


Karenee said...

What? Is this a whole-hearted recommendation?

I shall have to see if it's in the library.

The Hermit said...

It is, indeed, a whole-hearted recommendation. I really enjoy Matthew Gallatin's thoughts and his style. It's very approachable, and very honest in its treatment of the subject.

Karenee said...

NOT at the library, sadly. perhaps it will eventually show up in Paperback Swap It's been there before...

The Hermit said...

I'll send you mine, if you promise to send it back :)

Chocolatesa said...

I'll have to get myself a copy as well.

Bogdan Nemes said...


I think you should see the Codex Justinianus Book on my blog. I think you'll love it.
It is the 1490 edition, and you can find it in 15th Century Incunabula label. :)
I also have a lot of interesting religious writings throughout the history, including several bibles.