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The Table Video

Gerald Sittser

How to Connect to Ancient Spiritual Wisdom

Professor of Theology / Senior Fellow in the Office of Church Engagement, Whitworth University
October 21, 2016

Gerald Sittser of Whitworth University introduces a way to begin reading the ancient Desert Mothers and Fathers.


We can make some of these great texts, more readable texts, simply more available and encourage study groups in churches and colleges. I am absolutely committed to having people read primary sources as much as possible. I mean, that’s all I have my students read. They don’t read texts.

Man: Read the old books.

They read the old books, as C.S. Lewis called them. The fresh breezes of the sea blowing in to our world. So I have students read Cashin’s “The Institute”. They read “On the Incarnation” by Athanasius. They read “Julian of Norwich”. They read Aelred of Rievaulx’s “On Spiritual Friendship”. Or “On the Priesthood”, Chrystostom’s book. I have them read Chrystostom’s sermons. And then I will often provide a little reading guide so they can get inside those texts maybe a little bit more easily.

That’s one thing I do. I have a pastor’s reading group that I’m leading right now. All young church planners in Spokane. None of them have been to seminary. None of them. And they’re reading nothing but early Christian sources. So last week we spent an hour and a half discussing Irenaeus’ “On the Apostolic Preaching”. And it was so rich because he’s the first one who came up with the idea of the significance of story and doing theology in light of the Biblical story. And there were sparks flying everywhere.

Now they had never heard of this guy before. And yet, he became their friend, as well as their teacher by spending a lot of time in this text and then reading it and discussing it together. So I want to do that with Cashin and then you have little study groups and then you have teachers who are able to explain some of these ideas in ways that are translatable and accessible and applicable. [gentle music]