Paraclete Press sent me a complimentary copy of this book written by Andreas Andreopoulos and it's truly wonderful. I had written a review of a book on the same subject by Bert Ghezzi. Ghezzi is Roman Catholic and Andreopoulos is Eastern Orthodox. Ghezzi's book is written in a popular style that would be easy for any layman to pick up and read. Andreopoulos writes with great clarity but seems to be writing for the pastor, scholar, or educated layperson. Andreopoulos gives a very objective and thorough telling of the story of the history of the sign of the cross with lots of footnotes. It could be used for a college class or for a research paper. There is much less overlap between the books than I expected and I would recommend that both be purchased.
Chapter three, which deals with the meaning of signs and symbols is fascinating. I had never even thought of about 80% of what is dealt with in this chapter.
I did have some disagreements with the author on some of the issues dealt with in the book. The author holds to a synergistic view of salvation in which God and man co-operate. This is not much of a surprise--the author is Eastern Orthodox. Even though I disagree with him, I appreciate the way in which he presents these teachings. Andreopoulos makes it clear at the beginning of the book that he wants to write a book that is accessible to those outside of his own communion and he definitely does that. I've read books by Orthodox authors for an Orthodox audience that would be very difficult for a non-Orthodox reader to understand because of the theological jargon. Recently I've heard radio programs and read books written by Orthodox speakers or authors for what seems to be an evangelical audience. Sometimes these books and programs present Orthodox spirituality in a way in which no Orthodox Christian who has grown up in the faith would ever recognize it. Sometimes it even seems like they are being deliberately deceptive to try to lure evangelicals in. But Andreopoulos doesn't engage in any of this nonsense. He knows what he believes. He knows what his church teaches. He uses the vocabulary of his church but explains it so that it is understandable to the outsider. This is the only way that ecumenical dialog should ever take place. People should know the teachings of their church and not hide them or try to smooth over differences. They should also be able to explain these teachings in a way that is understandable to outsiders.
Has the subject of the sign of the cross been exhausted by the publishing of these two books? I don't think so. I look forward to a book written by a Lutheran or Anglican author on the same subject. But this is a great book.