Long-suffering reader Iyov left the following extended comment to the last installment of Cradle and Convert. I am posting it as a main entry inasmuch as his questions and observations are eminently worthy of discussion, comment, and argument (of the civilized sort, naturally):
(1) From whence convertsHop to it, folks!
I was under the impression that in the US, at least, converts to Orthodoxy were high-church Protestants and Catholics -- who had felt that their own churches had become too corrupt or liberal. I was under this impression because of sites such as Lancelot Andrewes Press, connected with which is reprinting Neale's psalter and Monastic Diurnal and is connected with westernorthodox.com; or because of the interest among some Western Rite Orthodox in praying versions of the Divine Office (besides the Monastic Diurnal, there is extensive discussion of the use of the Anglican Breviary by Orthodox (including a review in an Orthodox publication listed on their front page), the existence of Benedictine Orthodox monasteries in the US (adding a whole second meaning to OSB), etc. Am I wrong -- is it Evangelicals primarily moving into Orthodoxy?
As far as Study Bibles go, I think that Study Bibles have great potential -- for example, I am very interested in Study Bibles that address linguistic issues with the source text or reception history. Reading such commentary can substantially enhance one's appreciation for the text (although they are not a particularly good way to learn about a religion -- they can be a good way to learn how a particular religion reads Scripture.) Now I must say that a number of Evangelical Study Bibles are often little more than extended pericopes (explaining the "action" in the text as if the reader were too dim to grasp it) and usually error-ridden. It seems to me that the OSB NT was a bit like this (although the accompanying essays were more informative). Some recent Evangelical study Bibles read like magazines with colorful photos and brief little 100-200 word essays. Still, I don't find any inherent problem with the idea of a study Bible, just in the execution. (While one may disagree theologically with mainline, Catholic, and Jewish study Bibles, they are usually addressed to a more educated audience and present more sophisticated material than Evangelical study Bibles)
The challenge of pedagogy
Having said all this, I do think it is a fair pedagogical question of how best to teach members of faith community about issues dealing with Scripture, history, mysticism, theology, etc. And it is not clear to me that the Orthodox Church has shone in this area. If Evangelicals succeed in teaching, perhaps it is become they often seem to aim low (if you ever read popular Evangelical books, or watch Evangelical TV, or listen to Evangelical radio, you will know what I mean). But where are the great Orthodox success stories in outreach and education in the United States? For example, what fraction of Orthodox not born into Greek or Russian speaking households master Koine or Slavonic? I suspect at least among traditional observant Jewish communities, a larger fraction of the congregation learns Hebrew. I sometimes think that Orthodox aim very high, but most fall by the wayside and many treasures of the religion are esoteric to the majority of Christian Orthodox.
To put this in the form of a question, I ask all those who read this, how good a job do you think Orthodoxy is doing in educating a wide fraction of its population about Scripture or theology or history or mysticism? What could Orthodoxy do better?