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Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants Paperback – December 1, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Readers might not think that poverty, chastity and obedience would be attractive to the common Protestant, but Okholm, a theology professor at Azusa Pacific University, will make them think twice. Although he is a Presbyterian, Okholm is comfortable with Catholicism and realistic about the benefits and burdens of both denominations. He finds in Benedictine monasticism a helpful path to holiness, and he avoids idealizing or romanticizing the monastic life. This is why his work succeeds as a guide for the common Christian. Okholm is wise to point out that St. Benedict's Rule, the text upon which his vision of monastic life is built, is both challenging and down-to-earth. The author invites readers to integrate some monastic practices into their daily lives and stresses that this does not involve cloistering themselves—these practices are both ordinary and sacred. He also provides an excellent example for Catholics and Protestants alike to dig deeply into the Christian tradition and find how both can spiritually benefit from the other. Okholm provides a Historical Afterword to address why Protestants initially rejected the monastic life. This is a fascinating and, considering its brevity, surprisingly detailed overview that readers should not pass up. (Dec.)
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From the Back Cover
When Dennis Okholm began exploring the roots of contemporary Benedictine monasticism, he quickly found that St. Benedict has as much to offer Protestants as he does Roman Catholics. In Monk Habits for Everyday People, Okholm--a professor who was raised as a Pentecostal and a Baptist--uses his profound experience with Benedictine spirituality to show how it can enrich the lives and prayer practices of Protestants.
"As a knowledgeable pastor and theologian, Dennis Okholm proves an excellent guide. . . . This memoir, gentle in tone and often humorous, is nonetheless full of challenges to Protestant comfort zones. . . . Okholm reminds us that for all Christians, good spiritual habits are good for our spiritual health; that 'scripture is the original rule'; and that Christ is the point of it all, our true beginning and our end."
--Kathleen Norris, author of The Cloister Walk (from the foreword)
"Twenty years in the making, Dennis Okholm's Monk Habits is the perfect introduction to Benedictine spirituality for the earnest Protestant believer. In taking us on his own journey, he invites to discover Benedict of Nursia and Benedict's myriad faithful followers over fifteen centuries. This represents an important bridge between evangelicalism and Catholicism. Highly recommended."
--Tony Jones, author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier
"The practices of Benedictine monasticism have several times brought revitalization and spiritual focus back to the worldwide church at large. In this informative and irenic book, Dennis Okholm explains how the 'rule' of Benedict did the same for him personally as an evangelical professor and Presbyterian minister. The book's winsome portrait of the Benedictines--and, through their monastic practices, of Christ--makes for a spiritual feast. The historically minded will also benefit from Okholm's careful discussion of why more Protestants should pay greater heed to the Benedictine life."
--Mark A. Noll, coauthor of Is the Reformation Over? An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Catholicism
Top Customer Reviews
Evangelical theologian and educator Dennis Okholm offers this spiritual memoir of his pilgrimage into monastic culture in an era when a chorus of evangelical voices are crying out for changes in their branch of the church. Various evangelical writers are arguing: The movement's become stale. It's been hijacked by political operatives. It's turned Christianity into an easy-bake recipe for prosperity. And, where many of these writers wind up trying to take us is back into centuries-old Christian traditions that once were considered exclusively "Catholic." And, when evangelicals said that word in the past, they often sneered.
Don't mistake Okholm's book for one of those angry evangelical books trying to shake up the movement from its foundations, but not offering much of a pathway through the resulting rubble. No, this is a thoughtful, careful, mature memoir from a man who set out through back roads to visit his first monastery in the spring of 1987. He admits that, at the time, he suspected monastic life was a tired old "relic of the Middle Ages."
Instead, he wound up exploring this world for two decades, finding elements of Christianity that were missing in the version of the faith that had been handed down to him.
Kathleen Norris wrote the Foreword to Okholm's book and Norris fans will understand right away that this is a strong vote of confidence in Okholm's voice. He's coming to this particular conversation, in the form of this book, in the same season that Tony Campolo and Mary Albert Darling - also evangelical scholars - are offering us, "The God of Intimacy and Action: Reconnecting Ancient Spiritual Practices, Evangelism and Justice."
Don't pick up this book thinking you'll grab a few tips for a richer life of prayer. There are deeper implications to this pilgrimage, Okholm argues. At one point, he writes to those of us with roots in the evangelical world, "We have become consumers of religion rather than cultivators of a spiritual life; we have spawned an entire industry of Christian kitsch and bookstores full of spiritual junk food that leaves us sated and flabby. As if we believed the infomercial that promises great abs if we just buy the right piece of equipment for $39.95, we think that the secret to being a spiritually fit Christian can be had by finding some secret technique or buying the most recent hot-selling inspirational devotional."
This is dangerous spiritual territory. This is a truly prophetic voice guiding us inward.
And, if you like where Okholm takes you, then you'll want to read "God of Intimacy and Action." If you like that voice, then you'll want to hear more from Norris and her "Cloister Walk," as well.
This isn't a stray drop of rain. It's a refreshing spiritual shower of compelling insights.
Unlike many recent books on the New Monasticism, which are full of exhortations but little practical advice, Dennis Okholm mixes spirituality with insight into how communities are built and how they thrive. Utilizing Benedictine principles that have held houses together for centuries, like obedience, stability, and humility, he posits how Christians can grow together in service to the Lord and the world.
But Okholm's directives are not limited to monastic communities. He suggests how Benedictine spirituality can overcome the star-power trend he sees in many Protestant churches. He suggests that if more pastors held obedience, balance, and listening at the heart of their ministries, the dissent that strikes many congregations could be kept at bay, and the Gospel of Christ better served in our mission fields.
This book is slim, and can be read in a single night. But it's rich in content that can be used for prayer, study, group discussion, and private meditation. It also contains a long, detailed list of further reading, a checklist of ways to live the Benedictine life in the lay world, and a helpful afterword to reconcile stringent Protestant theology with Benedictine vows.
Accessible for both lay readers and seminarians. Laced with helpful examples of how Christ's word is lived in the world. I recommend this book for all who hope to grow as members of the Body of Christ.
Contrary to popular belief Monks do have a lot to teach us about coming into the presence of God. Dennis Okholm writes about Benedictine habits. Some of these include:
Learning to Listen, Letting go of our Possession so that we are free to share, treating each guest as if there were Christ and beginning to see God in everything.
I felt that the Okholm was teaching a radical way of life that most believe are reserved for the "super spiritual." This radical way of life really goes back to what Jesus taught; loving God and loving people. I get excited about growing spiritually through this habits described in the book. At the same time it should be understood that the habits are not always the most exciting way to spend one's time though they will lead to the most fulfilling life, a life lived in pursuit of God!
Monk Habits For Everyday People is a quick read and really just wets one's appetite for more Benedictine spirituality. Dennis Okholm provides a list of books in the back that will help with this.
Diana Glyer is the author of The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community