The Monkhood of All Believers
The Monastic Foundation of Christian Spirituality
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Although the institution of monasticism has existed in the Christian church since the first century, it is often misunderstood. Greg Peters, an expert in monastic studies, reintroduces historic monasticism to the Protestant church, articulating a monastic spirituality for all believers.
As Peters explains, what we have known as monasticism for the past 1,500 years is actually a modified version of the earliest monastic life, which was not necessarily characterized by poverty, chastity, and obedience but rather by one's single-minded focus on God--a single-mindedness rooted in one's baptismal vows and the priesthood of all believers. Peters argues that all monks are Christians, but all Christians are also monks. To be a monk, one must first and foremost be singled-minded toward God. This book presents a theology of monasticism for the whole church, offering a vision of Christian spirituality that brings together important elements of history and practice. The author connects monasticism to movements in contemporary spiritual formation, helping readers understand how monastic practices can be a resource for exploring a robust spiritual life.
Part 1: What Is a Monk?
1. Defining the Monk
2. The Monk in History
3. Interiorized Monasticism
Part 2: Asceticism: The Monastic Vocation
4. Defining Asceticism
5. The Priesthood of All Believers
Part 3: The Monkhood of All Believers
6. All Monks Are Christians and All Christians Are Monks
7. The Vocation of Monasticism
"Without rejecting institutionalized monasticism, Greg Peters succeeds in demonstrating that we are all monks in the sense that our baptismal vows obligate us to cultivate a single-minded interior devotion to God and to seek an asceticism of balance and moderation in everyday life. One could call it a revisionist history of monasticism that commends it to Protestants--especially to those heirs of Luther who have rejected monasticism. But along the way what makes Greg's book a feast is all the wisdom he has unearthed from the entire history and wide breadth of the Christian church. This book is a unique contribution in more than one way."
Dennis Okholm, Azusa Pacific University; author of Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins: Learning from the Psychology of Ancient Monks
"This reader-friendly book is an exploration of the meaning of monkhood from various early and medieval sources. A monk is simply one who is single-mindedly devoted to God despite being associated with institutional forms. By drawing upon medieval sources such as Robert de Sorbon's sermon on marriage and The Abbey of the Holy Ghost, and the more recent Russian Orthodox writer Paul Evdokimov, as well as Luther's and Calvin's critiques of the institutions of monasticism of their day, Peters presents an 'ecumenical theology of monasticism.' His work, which makes room for Protestants to live out an interior monasticism of the heart, adds an important theological dimension to the explorations of monastic spirituality today across the Christian and Orthodox spectrum."
Mary Forman, OSB, professor emerita, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, Minnesota; prioress of the Monastery of St. Gertrude, Cottonwood, Idaho
"Greg Peters's masterly book offers a long-awaited historical and theological evaluation of the baptismal foundation of monastic vocation and conversely of the monastic nature of Christian life. Monks remind us that growth in Christian life is a process of inner unification and of ever-greater humanity. Monasticism is not a luxury for a few but a gift available for all who have been baptized."
Luigi Gioia, research associate, Von Hügel Institute, University of Cambridge
"A winsome recovery of monasticism, The Monkhood of All Believers reaches across theological traditions as it presents an irenic, ecumenical theology of monasticism. It is baptism, Greg Peters explains, that turns us into monks. This is monastic spirituality of the most compelling sort."
Hans Boersma, J. I. Packer Professor of Theology, Regent College
"In order to be inspired by monasticism, most Christians, especially in the Protestant traditions, need to know much more about its true history and spirituality and also about their own call to holiness. Peters has provided a scholarly yet accessible exploration of the vocation of all believers."
Judith Sutera, OSB, monastery of Mount Saint Scholastica, Atchison, Kansas
"I often tell guests, or curious visitors, at our monastery that one of the things a monastery is good for is that it puts on display, as an evangelizing word, the ingredients of any serious Christian life. Greg Peters's book affirms this in systematic detail, linking key texts from the tradition of monastic life with an invitation to contemporary Christians to let those insights mark them. It crosses denominational divides as it does so. This book meets the contemporary interest in monasticism, an ancient tradition still very much alive."
Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, Abbot of Mount Angel Abbey
"This is essential reading for anyone interested in the roots of monasticism and why monastic life still matters today. The Monkhood of All Believers could not be more timely, since for the first time in history there are now more lay associates of monasteries--men and women, Catholic and Protestant, married and single, working and retired--than there are monks and sisters living within monastery walls. They are among the growing number of believers Peters identifies as interior monks. Just as Martin Luther spoke of the priesthood of all believers, Peters sees the definition of 'monk' and 'monastic' expanding and adapting into the monkhood of all believers, reflecting the spiritual reality of the twenty-first century."
Judith Valente, author of How to Live: What the Rule of St. Benedict Teaches Us about Happiness, Meaning, and Community and The Art of Pausing: Meditations for the Overworked and Overwhelmed
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