This Just In: Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins by Dennis Okholm

Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins:
Learning from the Psychology of Ancient Monks

by Dennis Okholm

This volume unpacks the psychological insights found in the writings of three early monks—Evagrius Ponticus (fourth century), John Cassian (fifth century), and Gregory the Great (sixth century)—to help us appreciate the relevance of these monastic writers and apply their wisdom to our own spiritual and psychological well-being. The book addresses each of the seven deadly sins, offering practical guidance from the early monastic tradition for overcoming these dangerous passions.

As Dennis Okholm introduces key monastic figures, literature, and thought of the early church, he relates early Christian writings to modern studies in psychology. He shows how ancient monks often anticipated the insights of contemporary psychology and sociology, exploring, for example, how their discussions of gluttony compare with current discussions regarding eating disorders. This book will appeal to readers interested in spirituality, early monastic resources, and ancient wisdom for human flourishing, as well as students of spirituality and spiritual formation.

Dennis Okholm
(PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary), a Benedictine oblate, speaks frequently in church and youth group settings and serves as assistant pastor at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Costa Mesa, California. He is also professor of theology at Azusa Pacific University and adjunct professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. Okholm is the author or editor of many books, including Monk Habits for Everyday People.

Praise for Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins:

“Dennis Okholm’s Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins is a welcome addition to the growing Christian psychology corpus. Christian counseling needs better roots, and Dennis Okholm reminds us of the classic nature of what is at the heart of humans—a tendency to move away from the heart of God—and the fact that some of the best Christian psychologists lived before modern psychology was born.”
Gary W. Moon, executive director, Martin Institute and Dallas Willard Center, Westmont College; author of Apprenticeship with Jesus

“Okholm is both a careful and a broadly informed student of his subject, and the result of that happy combination is as intriguing and informing an overview of human foibles as I have ever seen. Pastoral as well as informative—in places even gentle—Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins gives us a theology both of human frailty and of the full panoply of yearnings resident in us as a species. In effect, it also gives contemporary psychology and especially Christian counseling their deep history by paralleling the contemporary with the ancients of the faith.”
Phyllis Tickle, author of The Great EmergenceEmergence Christianity, and Greed

“Okholm’s book is a welcome addition to the burgeoning literature on the deadly sins. He is a close reader of the ancient sources and puts them into conversation with modern psychology without being reductive. A perceptive study, engagingly written, with a nice pastoral tone.”
Lawrence S. Cunningham, John A. O’Brien Professor of Theology (emeritus), University of Note Dame

“Dennis Okholm sets his treatment of the seven deadly sins in conversation with ancient monastic wisdom, godly psychological principles, and biblical truth. In so doing, he does not merely condemn vice but gently commends virtue and prayer to accompany us on a journey to the heart’s true home: a life derived from and lived in the kingdom of God. It only takes a quick look at the news headlines or our interpersonal relationships to know that a fresh word on ethics is needed. I recommend Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins to anyone searching for such a word.”
Todd Hunter, Anglican bishop; author of Our Favorite Sins

“Dennis Okholm’s Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins is a tour de force of early Christian monastic psychology and theology. Okholm does not ride roughshod over the modern psychological movement but instead shows the ways in which it has failed to truly find its rootedness in the historic Christian tradition. Okholm knows that there is much to learn from the likes of John Cassian, Evagrius of Pontus, and Gregory the Great, and he has judiciously analyzed aspects of this heritage and engagingly presented them to the modern reader. This book should certainly be read by every psychologist, theologian, and practitioner of spiritual formation.”
Rev. Greg Peters, associate professor of medieval and spiritual theology, Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University

“Dennis Okholm—scholar, teacher, pastor, and spiritual guide—humbly and clearly brings the psychology of ancient Christian monks into conversation with contemporary psychological science and ordinary experience, inviting his readers to a disciplined, grace-reliant life. Evagrius, Cassian, and Gregory the Great prove to be wise interlocutors for those who want to live reasonably and faithfully in today’s sex-saturated, self-esteem-fixated, consumerist society, which forms and informs us with thoughts very much like those that Evagrius wrote about. It is fashionable to make light of the ‘seven deadlies,’ but they are still lethal. This book offers antidotes.”
Hugh Feiss, OSB, Monastery of the Ascension

Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins is written by a theologian and should be read by theologians, but psychologists ought to read this book also. Dennis Okholm both informs and critiques contemporary psychology by exploring the rich wisdom found throughout centuries of Christian thought. He challenges psychologists to consider that morality has a place in contemporary discourse about mental health and does so in a way that brings hope and inspires us toward virtuous living.”
Mark R. McMinn, professor of psychology, George Fox University; author of Sin and Grace in Christian Counseling

“According to the Christian tradition, sin has seven deadly forms. Okholm has written a wise, accessible introduction to these forms that brims with insights from the church fathers and enough anecdotes and personal transparency to make it a practical and profitable read. This is a terrific example of Christian psychology.”
Eric L. Johnson, Lawrence and Charlotte Hoover Professor of Pastoral Care, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; director of the Society for Christian Psychology