The Seven Deadly Sins

Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins
In his extraordinarily insightful book, Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins: Learnng from the Psychology of Ancient Monks, Dennis Okholm has done a great service, especially for those called to roles of ministry and leadership.

Gluttony
Lust
Greed
Anger
Envy
Sloth
Vainglory

Dangerous Passions Deadly Sins Learning From the Psychology of the Ancient MonksThese are the dangerous passions that beset all of humanity, but which are additionally destructive when they are manifest in the lives of those called to places and positions of influencing others.

This is not an easy book to read because it is a deep and wise book. Okholm, who is a Benedictine oblate, a pastor at Holy Trinity Anglican Church and a seminary professor takes us deep into the spiritual psychology of several great monastics. 

Evagrius, Cassian, Gregory the Great and Thomas Aquinas are the important authors and developers of the Seven Deadly Sins. Okholm is intimately familiar with their writing, their thelogy, their spirituality and their contexts. There are generous amounts of quotes from these thinkers which make this book even more worthwhile, for very few of its readers will go back to these sources. 

Along with his deep knowledge of the spiritual tradition on these dangerous passions, Okholm is also widely engaging with contemporary sources of theological, sociological and psychological commentators who write on these problems.

For every deadly sin, Okholm provides the best practical remedies from the monastic tradition. He makes possible a greater self-awareness about these passions and sins. He counsels the use of a spiritaul director and/or a community of spiritual friends. He gives immediately applicable spiritual practices.

Speaking personally, in my 40 years as a follower of Christ and my 32 years in ministry I now I have made progress on these deadly sins, but after reading this book, I understand how much more growth and healing is needed.

I believe this book was even more powerful for me, since I spent the summer writing a workbook called Jesus Encounters: Embracing the Life of Christ, which is a study on the transforming presence of Christ formed in us, that renews the image of God in us. As I wrote on ten different virtues and on how the transformation process unfolds and moves us forward, I found myself thinking about the seven deadly sins tradition. Which was why I read this new book by Okholm as soon as I had the time to do so.

In Jesus Encounters, I emphasize what Okholm does. Transformation always requires the grace of God as well as a long time of patient and wise formation where the participant is highly active in the spiritual disciplines God has provided for our transformation. So we need to be "girded" for the long obedience in the same direction (Nietzsche & Eugene Peterson).

In a culture that now views the ancient deadlly sins as desired pastimes (in many cases) and which has proven rather inept at the cure of sin-sick souls, and in a church culture that appears to be more and more like our surrounding culture - this is a virtual manifesto of what a different way of life is like.

For anyone called to pastoral ministry, to the work of spiritual direction, and to leadership in general - books like this are MANDATORY if one desires to understand the human heart, the social condition and God's transforming presence and regular. Without these kinds of resources we are at the mercy of these dangerous passions exacerbated terribly in our culture.

I will write about a few of them in the next several days.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International
BrianRice@lcileaders.org

p.s.  Okholm's book, Monk Habits for Everyday People is another great book to check out.