Ancient Christian Wisdom & Aaron Beck’s Cognitive Therapy

Alexis Trader

Ancient Christian Wisdom and Aaron Beck’s Cognitive Therapy

A Meeting of Minds

Father Alexis Trader

Paperback: 351 pages

Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, 2012


Ancient Christian Wisdom and Aaron Beck’s Cognitive Therapy details a colorful journey deep into two seemingly disparate worlds united by a common insight into the way our thinking influences our emotions, behaviors, and ultimately our lives. In this innovative study about mental and spiritual health, readers are not only provided with a thorough introduction to the elegant theory and practical techniques of cognitive therapy, they are also initiated into the perennial teachings of ascetics and monks in the Greek-speaking East and Latin-speaking West whose powerful writings not only anticipated many contemporary findings, but also suggest unexplored pathways and breathtaking vistas for human growth and development. This groundbreaking interdisciplinary volume in the art of pastoral counseling, patristic studies, and the interface between psychology and theology will be a coveted addition to the working libraries of pastors and psychologists alike. In addition, it is ideal as a textbook for seminary classes in pastoral theology and pastoral counseling, as well as for graduate courses in psychology dealing with the relationship between psychological models and religious worldviews.
«This remarkable volume will not only appeal to a wide range of audiences, but each one will surely find a wealth of ideas and insights far exceeding what could have been expected. Therapists will find the most impressive retrieval of the spiritual depth beneath their science since the work of Carl Jung. Pastoral counselors will discover the truth of what they have long espoused – that scientific and spiritual knowledge cannot really conflict in a world created by a single deity – along with practical guidance that will set a new standard in their field. Students of human nature will find a stunning juxtaposition of ancient wisdom and the findings of modern research. Intellectual historians will discover here an author equally at home in the world of ancient spiritual wisdom and modern science, who is at the same time able to make brilliant connections between these cultural domains. And individuals seeking wisdom about what Plato called ‘that greatest question’ of how one is to live will find insights and challenges that have the potential to be life-transforming.»   (see whole review)

Bruce Foltz, Professor of Philosophy, Eckerd College

«This unique study, which is wonderfully written, has broadened and deepened my knowledge of not only the spiritual teachings and pastoral practices of the Early Church, but also the contemporary theories of the renowned psychiatrist, Dr. Aaron Beck and his school. Although it is more expensive than many popularized works in theology or psychology, it contains an expansive wealth of material and information that could easily fill two or three other lesser volumes. Classic reference works and textbooks are in fact comparably priced. Ancient Christian Wisdom can even be conceived of as three works in one: it provides an excellent introduction to the pastoral practices of the Church Fathers and how they approach the art of spiritual guidance and healing, with vast references and quotes from their original writings; it also presents a complete and reader-friendly introduction to Cognitive Therapy, including its theory and techniques; and most significant of all, it draws surprising connections and also highlights the underlying differences between these two approaches. This third aspect sets it apart from other important resources in either field.  The book is also quite literally a pleasure to read, being written in a style that is both elegant and strikingly clear. It takes the reader on an inspiring journey that spans and bridges the two seemingly contrasting worlds of theology and psychology. At the same time, this is no intimidating esoteric work for specialists only. It’s a practical volume useful for anyone open to these two important sources of human understanding. An excellent asset which beautifully inspires and informs, Ancient Christian Wisdom is a major contribution to the fields of pastoral theology and spirituality and will surely impact the ministries and practices of countless pastors and therapists throughout the English-speaking world.  I believe this very innovative book will soon come to be regarded as a groundbreaking study in its field. I highly recommend it as an invaluable tool for every pastor’s bookshelf and counselor’s office.»

Professor Harry Boosalis, Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox Seminary

Father Alexis Trader is an Orthodox Christian father confessor who has had the opportunity not only to investigate ascetic literature for a period of over twenty years, but also to observe and test how those teachings can be put into practice today by those living in monasteries as well as by individuals struggling in contemporary society. His considerable monastic experience in the ancient monastic republic of Mount Athos and elsewhere has furnished him with a psychologically and existentially relevant hermeneutical context for a fresh approach to patristic texts. Father Alexis received his PhD summa cum laude in theology from the University of Thessalonica in Greece and his MA in divinity from the University of Chicago. He is the author of books in Greek and English as well as a translator of a number of Greek theological and pastoral works.

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