The Human Icon: A Comparative Study of Hindu and Orthodox Christian Beliefs

By Christine Mangala Frost

A contribution to the dialogue between Hinduism and Orthodox Christianity, emphasising important commonalities in thought and practice.

ISBN: 9780227176351


Despite the history that divides them, Hinduism and Orthodox Christianity have much in common. In The Human Icon, Christine Mangala Frost explores how both religions seek to realise the divine potential of every human being, and the differences in their approach. Frost, who has experienced both the extraordinary riches and the all-too-human failings of Hinduism and Orthodox Christianity from the inside, is perfectly placed to examine the convergences and divergences between the two faiths. Inspired by a desire to clear up the misunderstandings that exist between the two, The Human Icon is a study in how two faiths, superficially dissimilar, can nevertheless find meeting points everywhere. The powerful intellectual and spiritual patristic traditions of Orthodox Christianity offer a rare tool for revitalising too-often stalled dialogue with Hinduism and present the chance for a broader and more diverse understanding of the oldest religion in the world.

Tracing the long history of Orthodox Christianity in India, from the Thomas Christians of ancient times to the distinctive theology of Paulos Mar Gregorios and the Kottayam School, Frost explores the impact of Hindu thought on Indian Christianity and considers the potential for confluence.

With a breadth of interest that spans Hindu bhakti, Orthodox devotional theology, Vedanta and theosis, as well as meditational Yoga and hesychastic prayer, Frost offers a fresh perspective on how the devotees of both faiths approach the ideal of divinisation, and presents a thoughtful, modern methodology for a dialogue of life.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 366
Illustrations b&w

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Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Christine Mangala Frost is a Guest Lecturer and Research Associate at the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge, where she edits and presents their outreach programme, The Way. Born in India and raised Hindu, she converted first to Anglicanism and then, in 1997, to Orthodox Christianity. She is the author of several journal articles on interfaith issues, as well as three novels, including The Firewalkers (1991), which was shortlisted for both the Deo Gloria Award and the Commonwealth First Book Prize.


List of Illustrations


1. Introduction: What It Means to Inhabit a Hindu World
2. Orthodox Christianity in India: A Dialogue of Life
3. The Quest for the Divine: Divinisation (‘Tat tvam asi’) in Vedanta and Deification (Theosis) in Orthodox Christianity
4. The Quest for the Divine in the Bhakti Tradition: God, ‘the Lover of Mankind’
5. The Problem of Suffering and Evil: Karma and the Cross
6. Yoga and Hesychasm: The Body and the ‘Body of Christ’
7. ‘Signs and Wonders’: Orthodox Spiritual Elders and Hindu Holy Men


Select Bibliography


Endorsements and Reviews

Dr Frost has capably achieved a gargantuan task in shining a light on the spirituality of Orthodox Christianity for a Hindu audience and likewise illuminating the richness and depth of Hinduism for her own Orthodox Christian community. … She is a critical observer who strives to be fair to both religions both on their own grounds and in dialogue. A reader of this book will be enlightened and encouraged by the possibilities that lie ahead for mutual enhancement and understanding between Orthodox Christians and Hindus alike., August 2017

A wonderful book!
Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia (Timothy Ware)

Anyone who wants to reflect on the connections and differences between Hinduism and Christianity would do well to read this book. Scholarly but accessible, it is written by a knowledgeable and experienced author, and deserves wide attention. … The Human Icon deserves to become a key text for any Christian engaged in conversation with their Hindu friends and neighbours.
Tom Wilson, in Anvil, Vol 34, Issue 1

Without judgement or obvious inclusion of cultural bias, the text provides an informative entry point for strengthening understanding of aspects of [Hinduism and Orthodox Christianity]. … Additionally, and congruous with the topical orientation of the book, the subjects covered are well defined and contextualized, and are given contemporary relevance. …. The appeal of The Human Icon can be found in its sensitivity and appreciation to religious practice, belief, and devotion, and its discussion of influences and commonalities that increases understanding of Hinduism through the inclusion of a discussion of Christianity.
Madhavi Venkatesan, in Reading Religion, 27 February 2018

Personally, this book was a positive learning experience, while being thought provoking on a page to page basis. I hope that this will be the same sentiment shared by others who choose to challenge their preconceived notions, or enlighten their already informed minds.
Philip Halikias, in Journal of Inter-religious Studies, Nov 2018

Mangala-Frost’s book is immensely engaging, the fruit of long experience and deep reflection.
Andrew Louth, in Sobornost Journal