The division of Christendom into the Greek East and the Latin West has its origins far back in history, but its consequences still affect Europe, and thus western civilization. Philip Sherrard's classic study seeks to indicate both the fundamental character and some of the consequences of this division. He points especially to the underlying metaphysical bases of Greek Christian thought, and contrasts them with those of the Latin West; he argues persuasively that the philosophical and even theological differences, remote as they might seem from practical affairs, are symptoms of a deep divergence of outlook that has profoundly affected the history of ideas and hence the whole course of European history. He exemplifies this by comparing the relationships between the spiritual and temporal powers during the Byzantine period with those assumed by the medieval Papacy, by an analysis of the ‘Platonic reaction’ of such figures as Gemistos Plethon, and by an exposition of the intellectual background of the Renaissance, the Reformation and, finally, of the modern western world. His concluding chapters discuss the impact of modern western ideas on Greek life and letters during the last few centuries.
With an unusual knowledge of aspects of the thought of the Greek Church Fathers often neglected in the West, and a deep sympathy with their outlook in these matters, Philip Sherrard presents a point of view that may be unfamiliar, but should be of great concern, both to theologians and philosophers, and to historians and students of European civilization and indeed of world affairs in general.
‘One of the principles that Sherrard strongly defended was the intimate relationship — almost identity — between theology and life. For Sherrard, a doctrinal attitude is inevitably reflected in practice. Spirituality is dogma lived out; the Church's ethos applies its thought to life. . . .This conviction is nowhere more clearly expressed among Sherrard’s writings than in The Greek East and the Latin West . . . The book is neither merely a manual of ecclesiastic history nor simply a history of Christian thought through the centuries. . . . it is intimately linked with the author’s profound interest outlined above, inasmuch as it represents his “first serious attempt to confront and to find some explanation for the spiritual dereliction . . . of the modern western world.” ’ John Chryssavgis, Journal of Modern Greek Studies.
The Greek East and the Latin West was first printed by Oxford University Press in 1959, and reprinted by Denise Harvey from the original edition with amendments made by the author and the addition of an Appendix, ‘Church and State in Modern Greece’, in 1992, 1995 and 2002. The present 2017 edition has been completely re-typeset with further small amendments.
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