The Victory of the Cross: Salvation in Eastern Orthodoxy, By James R. Payton Jr.
The Victory of the Cross
  • Length: 224 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: September 24, 2019
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 5256
  • ISBN: 9780830852567

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Word Guild Awards — Academic

How can Christians claim that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross is a victory?

Yet the doctrine of salvation affirms precisely that: in his death and his resurrection, Christ is victorious over the power of sin and death. The articulation of this tenet of faith has taken different shapes throughout the church's life and history. Eastern Orthodoxy has made its own contributions to the belief in salvation through Christ, but its expressions sometimes sound unfamiliar to Western branches of the church.

Here James Payton, a Western Christian with a sympathetic ear for Eastern Orthodoxy, explores the Orthodox doctrine of salvation. Payton helps Christians of all traditions listen to Orthodox brothers and sisters so that together we might rejoice, "Where, O death, is your victory?"

"James Payton is a theologian skilled in patristic and contemporary thought. He is also a careful and sympathetic reader in all things to do with Eastern Christianity, an area in which he has immersed himself in a deeply insightful manner. In this present study he has surveyed Orthodox thought on salvation in Christ, and the result is an elegant and masterful survey of a major theme at the very heart of the Christian message. His approachable style is unfailingly clear, and this important study will surely be a new standard on the reading lists."

John A. McGuckin, Oxford University faculty of theology

"Professor Payton belongs to a charmed circle of bridge builders working between the Orthodox and evangelical worlds today. This book brings together a wide range of topics related to the doctrine of salvation in the Eastern Church from creation to consummation and compares it with classical Protestant thought. The author's dependence on original biblical, patristic, liturgical, and monastic texts has produced a masterful synthesis of the Orthodox vision of salvation. Free of artificial contrasts between Eastern and Western theology that are too often made today, this book is carefully nuanced and critically reliable. Readers, both East and West, will find it to be an ideal textbook for theology classes as well as a handy resource for understanding selected topics in Eastern Orthodox doctrine."

Bradley Nassif, professor of biblical and theological studies, North Park University

"For readers interested in the way the Eastern Church has understood the patristic heritage, and even more, in the way that heritage shapes the lives of Orthodox believers, this book is a must. Relying on patristic and modern Eastern theological sources and especially on the Orthodox liturgical services that the faithful hear throughout their lives, Payton sure-footedly guides Western readers along the path of Christian life as Orthodoxy understands it. There is much to ponder in this slim but packed volume. I recommend it with pleasure!"

Donald Fairbairn, Robert E. Cooley Professor of Early Christianity, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, author of Life in the Trinity

"This is the product of many years of appreciatively reading and studying the centrality of the cross in Eastern Orthodox theology and practice. James Payton is an expert guide to Orthodoxy's account of God's victorious act of salvation, as he corrects common misconceptions, clarifies significant differences between Orthodoxy and Western Christianity, and provides a holistic account of the cross and salvation. He demonstrates a respectful fluency with the material, including biblical interpretation, patristic theology, modern Orthodox theologians and historians, and liturgy and spirituality. This book is essential for anyone interested in deepening their understanding of the saving power of Christ and his cross."

David Lauber, associate professor of theology, Wheaton College

"Dr. James Payton is not Orthodox. So he tells us, though it is not at all clear this is the case from this book written with the voice of an experienced insider. To paraphrase our Lord: those who hear him, hear us. The result is a highly faithful presentation of the ancient patristic approach to salvation, accessible both to Western Christians, who may be discovering this tradition for the first time, as well as to Eastern Christians, who will benefit from a clearer and more organized articulation of their theological inheritance than they are used to. Payton handles Orthodoxy's points of intersection with and divergence from familiar Western themes with theological precision and pastoral respect. Especially welcome in this book is the inclusion of a miniconcordance of scriptural terms related to salvation celebrated in Orthodox liturgy. This will be a useful resource for years to come."

Geoffrey Ready, codirector, Orthodox School of Theology at Trinity College

"We Orthodox Christians are either ignorant or biased about the true experience and faith of evangelicals. Either because we care too little or perhaps because we care too much, most of us aren't sufficiently versed in the points of reference, the tensions, the conflicts, or the confluences with evangelicals, except by way of clichés or exaggerations. In short, we Orthodox Christians don't know how to speak with evangelicals about our faith. For that, we need Jim Payton. In this fine book, Payton shows us once again that he is fully grounded in his own tradition and at the same time deeply knowledgeable about and open to learning about ours. Rooted in the Scriptures, he draws deeply into the patristic and liturgical tradition through which Orthodox Christians receive and understand them. In this way, he evokes an understanding of salvation that highlights different emphases yet reminds us of our common commitment to be biblical Christians. This book is highly illuminating for all Christians, including for us Orthodox."

Peter C. Bouteneff, professor of systematic theology, St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary

"James Payton's understanding of the Orthodox faith is profound and accurate, to an extent non-Orthodox Christians rarely achieve. This deep engagement shows in his thorough exploration of the biblical, liturgical, and early church sources. My copy is filled with marginal notes, arrows, and exclamation points. It's a book I wish I could have written myself."

Frederica Mathewes-Green, author of Welcome to the Orthodox Church: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity


Preliminary Note on Orthodox Terminology and Liturgies
1. Introduction
2. Setting the Stage: Viewing the Cross
3. The Need for Salvation
4. The Focus on the Savior
5. The Economy of Salvation: How God Saved Humanity
6. Deification: The Goal of Salvation
7. Becoming like God: The Path of Salvation
8. The Sign of the Cross
Appendix: On Orthodox Usage of Biblical Terms for the Reception of Salvation
For Further Reading
Name Index
Subject Index
Scripture Index


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James R. Payton Jr.

James R. Payton Jr. (PhD, University of Waterloo, Canada) is emeritus professor of history at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ontario, Canada. He is the author of Light from the Christian East: An Introduction to the Orthodox Tradition and Getting the Reformation Wrong: Correcting Some Misunderstandings, as well as the editor of A Patristic Treasury: Early Church Wisdom for Today.