Dr. Bruce Foltz, professor of philosophy at Eckerd College, has also written a fuller review on the Eighth Day Books Blog for Aug. 28 2011. The link is blog.eighthdaybooks.com/?p=792
«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. » (Bruce Foltz, Professor of Philosophy, Eckerd College)
From the Author
At its core, the book is really about being a Christian in this post-Christian world and the choices that this reality presents. In some ways, today's situation is similar to that of believers during the first centuries of the early church. The two easiest options are to reject the culture entirely and try to survive in a self-enclosed cultural ghetto or to embrace the culture and merge with it. Both of those choices, however, have severe problems in terms of Christian outreach on the one hand and apostasy on the other. These subjects I discuss at length in chapter one entitled "Egyptian Gold in a Christian Hand: Models for Relating Cognitive Therapy and Orthodox Pastoral Theology." Looking at important figures in the history of Christianity, I note that there is yet another option, which I refer to as discerning openness. It can be seen in the works of Clement of Alexandria, Basil the Great, and Maximus the Confessor among other luminaries of the first millennium. So, Ancient Christian Wisdom and Aaron Beck's Cognitive Therapy is about applying an approach of discerning openness to what may be one of the most important forms of treatment for various psychological problems of our day.
Of course, I anticipate objections from audiences who feel very strongly about what inspires them in their lives. For example, some Christians might point out that Christian tradition in all its many manifestations often seems to be at odds with modern secularism as an ideology that leaves little room for the sacred in human life. They might have some very reasonable questions such as "Wouldn't a therapy that grows out of such an ideology be dangerous for the believer? When dealing with the human soul is it theologically acceptable to apply the findings from a very different source, anthropologically speaking, to how a Christian can better think, feel, and live? Mightn't the use of such a source have a harmful effect on the faith of the believer?" These questions are foremost in my mind and in each chapter I try to answer them on the basis of the teachings of early Christian writers.
Therapists and counselors in the secular world will also come to this work with their own questions and reservations. Starting with Freud, psychotherapy has been very suspicious of religion and, at the very least, influenced by the Freudian understanding of religion as a misguided projection of the primitive subconscious. Psychologists rightly decry the fact that many who appeared to be mentally ill were stigmatized as witches, tortured, and burned at the stake in the West during the Dark Ages and even during the more broad-minded Renaissance. Thus, the non-religious psychologist reading this work might have questions such as "What insight could possibly be derived from figures who take demon possession seriously? Wouldn't mixing pre-Enlightenment thought with results derived from the rigorous application of the scientific method be one step backwards if not two?" I have also tried to be mindful of these questions out of respect for the time, the work, and the genuine human compassion that are also at the foundation of the development of the cognitive therapeutic attempt to relieve human suffering.
And so, the work begins and continues as a kind of balancing act. Yet, the aim is not to avoid offending certain people, but to be fair to all parties in the hope of recognizing the unified wisdom of God both through revelation and the use of the God-given reason of the human mind. Of course, it's a tall order to respond to the best of our culture even in its secularity in a way that is somewhat analogous to how the Great Cappadocians responded to the best of ancient "secularism," Plato and Aristotle. But I believe that it is an attempt that needs to be made and a conversation that should be had. Ancient Christian Wisdom seeks to begin that conversation, which is really important for so many people who suffer from psychological and spiritual problems.