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An interview with Fr Andrew Stephen Damick on An Introduction to God

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Today we are interviewing Fr Andrew Stephen Damick, the author of Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy by Ancient Faith Publishing, host of a blog by the same name, and the author of the podcast Roads From Emmaus on Ancient Faith Radio. Recently, he completed An Introduction to God, also by Ancient Faith Publishing.

Can you tell us something about your own background?

I was raised as the son of Evangelical missionaries and converted to the Orthodox Church while in college in 1998. My interest in Orthodoxy came about as the result of seeking a more authentic union between doctrine and worship. I was received into the Antiochian parish in Raleigh, North Carolina, and six years later began attending seminary at St. Tikhon's in Pennsylvania. I was ordained to the priesthood in 2006 and graduated from seminary in 2007. I served for two years as assistant pastor in the Antiochian cathedral in Charleston, West Virginia, and then was assigned as pastor of St. Paul's in Emmaus, Pennsylvania in 2009, where I've served ever since.

What inspired you to make this book? Did you see a need for this topic?

I've observed that there are a lot of people both inside and outside churches (including Orthodox churches) who have perhaps never really grappled with primal, core questions of what it means to be Christian, such as how we actually get in contact with God or what the actual point in worship or morality really is. I've met many folks who don't come to church or are perhaps not very engaged in church not because they are in rebellion against God but because they just don't see the point. Most of the time, no one ever really tried to explain it to them. This book is an attempt to convey very foundational elements of what it means to be Christian, especially focused on clearing away some of the obstacles to Christian faith.

In An Introduction to God, you seek to introduce God to those of religious and non religious backgrounds. What difficulties did you encounter in making a book with such a wide audience?

Although I converted to Orthodoxy in 1998, I've been a Christian my whole life, so even while I spent a few years in my early twenties drifting from faith, I never really lived without it. I also was raised in a family where faith was always in the foreground. So I had to talk to people who had lived without faith or who had lived with a marginal or nominal faith to see what it felt like to them and what the path to genuine faith was like. It can be hard to see outside one's experiences. I also had to work through the manuscript multiple times to try to clear away or at least explain various assumptions that underlie Orthodox Christianity so that the text could be understood by people with little or no background in Christianity.

You also make the distinction between being introduced to God, versus learning information about God. What do you mean?

One can read about God, of course, and learn a great deal about doctrine, theology, worship practices, morality and so forth. But that is not the same thing as actually knowing God, which requires being introduced to Him. Christianity is not about mastering a body of information but having a living connection. Information is involved, of course, but God is not so much a subject of study as Someone to be encountered.

When is the book available?

I am told that Ancient Faith Publishing started shipping it on August 15, 2014, though I haven't yet gotten my own copies yet. It should be soon, though! And e-books are coming very soon, too, though I don't know the precise date.

How does this book relate to your previous work Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy?

The purpose of Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy was primarily to introduce Orthodox Christians to the differences and similarities Orthodoxy has with non-Orthodox religious groups. Secondarily, it has been used to introduce those people to Orthodoxy. I actually hear far more often from people in the second group! Both that work and An Introduction to God really have the same purpose: to help people engage with the love of God in Christ as revealed fully in His Body, the Orthodox Church. And both are pitched in such a way as to be accessible to non-specialists.

What’s your next project?

I actually have three books in mind, if you can believe it! The first is a collection of essays and talks, gathered together from various pieces I've published either online or given at retreats. The second is a work on personal and parish renewal within Orthodoxy, because in my experience, most Orthodox Christians actually do not seem to penetrate into the meaning of church life very deeply or have a sense of themselves as part of a praying community. And the third is one exploring the life of my great-great-grandfather, who was a Baptist preacher in New England, and how the question of rootedness fits into the life of the Christian. I'm not sure which ones will come to full fruition, but I am actually already working on the first. We'll see!

Click here for more information about An Introduction to God.


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