Communion and Otherness
John D. Zizioulas
T. & T. Clark, $34.95, 315 pp.
In his foreword to Communion and Otherness, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, calls it “a great book and a converting one.” Williams warns that readers will have to work hard to understand parts of the book, and he is right: this is not an easy read, but it is very much worth the effort. John Zizioulas, an Orthodox bishop whose title is Metropolitan John of Pergamon and who has taught for years in Scotland and England, bases his work solidly in the Orthodox tradition while looking also at Levinas, Buber, Heidegger, Husserl, Lacan, and other more recent thinkers. Like many Orthodox writers, Zizioulas is sometimes critical of Western theology (Williams suggests he might not be entirely fair to the Augustinian tradition), but he is equally hard on certain Orthodox theologians. The book includes an exchange between Zizioulas and the Orthodox writer Philip Sherrard that clarifies Zizioulas’s opposition to the Platonism he believes has corrupted much Orthodox thinking, particularly in its consideration of life after death.
Communion and Otherness is a collection of some previously published pieces together with three new essays. Zizioulas’s earlier Being and Communion (1985) emphasized relationship and communion as elements necessary for unity. The central idea of the new book is otherness. Zizioulas insists that it is essential to Christian ontology—essential, that is, to a Christian...