The Human Icon

A Comparative Study of Hindu and Orthodox Christian Beliefs

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Christine Mangala Frost
  • Cambridge, England: 
    James Clarke & Co.
    , June
     368 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


In The Human Icon, Christina Mangala Frost discusses selected belief structures that comprise Hinduism and Orthodox Christianity with a religious literacy approach. The book does not compare the two religions but rather articulates the meaning of specific practices, words, and beliefs as these relate to common themes in both religious faiths. Without judgement or obvious inclusion of cultural bias, the text provides an informative entry point for strengthening understanding of aspects of both religions. In its discussion of yoga and other secularized and borrowed religious practices, it explores how the two religious faiths have been subject to scrutiny by each other’s practitioners.

The book is divided into seven chapters with several topical sections. Though time periods are important in the discussions, it is the topics covered that are the text’s primary focus. This thematic approach increases the book’s accessibility for readers, as an understanding of history is not required in order to follow the narrative. Additionally, and congruous with the topical orientation of the book, the subjects covered are well defined and contextualized, and are given contemporary relevance.

Frost begins by defining what it means to be Hindu, and the discussion unfolds within a continental context that allows her to include an introduction to Orthodox Christianity within India. The parallels between the two faiths then touch on the variation and inclusion within each religion of divination, ritual, and the concept of “holy” that culminates in the search for meaning and significance of life. Without formalizing a comparative inquiry between the two religions, Frost does reveal the influence of societal and cultural orientations on the practice of religion, surfacing how similarities between faiths of different origins may appear due to a common socio-cultural context. Though not addressed explicitly, the discussion encourages introspection on the influence of culture on one’s comfort with specific religious traditions. Frost discusses her own transformation from a Brahmin Hindu in India to an Anglican and then an Orthodox Christian residing in the United Kingdom. Though Frost acknowledges that her own religious transformation is embedded within the thematic inquiry that outlines the book, she also states that it was her “earnest pursuit of Hindu spiritual ideals” that led her to Christ. Further she notes that the text mimics her present spiritual practice as the inquiry is from an Orthodox Christian perspective. However, and of significance to the reader, the tonality of the book does not reflect the author’s religious transformation and orientation. 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.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Madhavi Venkatesan is Visiting Assitant Teaching Professor of Economics at Northeastern University.

Date of Review: 
February 27, 2018
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

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.


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