Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book Review: Talking Back

Some religious books are nice little add-ons to your library, some are heretical, and some are just plain old necessary. "Talking Back" fits into the latter category for any serious practicing Catholic or Orthodox. It resurrects one of the most uncomfortable aspects of Christian theology: demons and their role in temptation. While it's sure to be a bit of a surreal book for any post-Enlightenment Christian, it's something that really needs a look at.

The book begins with a historical look at St. Evagrius of Pontus and examines his place in patristics, which is considerable. Evagrius was one of the great Egyptian monks and helped synthesize all their teachings down. He was a contributor to the "Philokalia", a collection of Eastern Christian writings and was known for his practical advice. Talking Back was written as part of a request from another monk who wished to know how to resist demons.

Yeah, you read right. How to resist demons.

Turns out that the monks of Egypt all believed the same thing: our sins are the result of being actively tempted by demons. Our sins are not just from our corrupted nature., they're our demons taking advantage of our weakened nature. To deal with these temptations Evagrius suggests that the temptee rebuke the demon with scriptural passages.This fills a much-needed hole in practical theology: resisting temptation.

The following sections of the book deal with the eight deadly demons: gluttony, fornication, avarice, sadness, anger, despondency, vainglory, and pride.Each demon has a list of circumstances and replies. Each of the lists were compiled by Evagrius and his compatriots. These are very specific and practical. Some of these circumstances can seem a little strange to anyone in our modern day and age, but some of the other circumstances are so right on the money that I can't help but lend credence to the others.

Everyone should have a copy of this book. Period. It's essential.