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The Table Video

James K.A. Smith& Betsy Barber

The Ancient Psychologists: Biblical Sages

Professor of Philosophy / Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview, Calvin College
Director, Center for Spiritual Renewal and Associate Professor of Spirituality and Psychology, Biola University
March 28, 2014

The ancient church fathers and mothers had intuitions about human nature and formation, making them psychologists of sorts. James K.A. Smith, Betsy Barber, and Todd Pickett in a CCT Conversation on Embodied Spirituality: Exploring Christian Spiritual Formation.


In some ways, would you say, the ancient church fathers and mothers were, in a sense, Christian psychologists? They had insights. Maybe it wasn’t evidence-based, maybe it wasn’t underwritten by the kind of social scientific research that we have, but in a way, they had intuitions about human nature and formation that we can still learn from today.

Well, certainly the sages, the Biblical wisdom literature, the desert fathers and mothers, absolutely. And I’m always impressed. My mom’s 93. She’s been walking with the Lord since she was 12. Never had any counseling in her life as far as I know. But a woman of the Word and a woman of prayer and a church lady in a very real sense, and she is so well-formed psychologically at this point in her life, by the Word, by the church, by the work of the Holy Spit in the natural outflow of what comes from life in Christ.