Classic Spiritual Disciplines

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The faculty introduced me to the classic spiritual disciplines when I was a master’s degree candidate at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Ten years earlier during my university study, I encountered a statement made by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

If you’re not familiar with him, here’s a brief introduction — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a Russian novelist, philosopher, historian, short story writer, and a political prisoner. Solzhenitsyn was an outspoken critic of the Soviet Union and Communism and helped to raise global awareness of the Soviet Gulag forced-labor camp system.

Solzhenitsyn’s statement was “The meaning of earthly existence is not, as we have grown used to thinking, in prosperity, but in the soul’s development.”

Richard J. Foster

I also encountered the writings of a Quaker, Richard J. Foster. His book Celebration of Discipline had a dramatic impact on my life. Only the Bible has had a bigger impact. As I read and studied, I found that throughout time, many philosophers, theologians, and writers have proposed several practices that might be spiritual disciplines. These include celebration, chastity, confession, contemplation, evangelism, fasting, fellowship, gratitude, journaling, meditation, prayer, self-examination, silence, simplicity, solitude, spiritual disciplines, stewardship, study, and submission/obedience.

In the early 1980s, I lived in southeastern Louisiana serving as Associate Pastor for Education and Outreach at the Superior Avenue Baptist Church in Bogalusa, Louisiana. On my day off, I found myself in New Orleans doing one of my favorite things. I was browsing through the bookstore at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. I found and purchased “An Anthology of Devotional Literature” by the late Thomas S. Kepler. He was an ardent student of the Christian mystics and for many years a professor of religion at Oberlin College in Ohio.

Thomas S. Kepler

Dr. Kepler’s anthology brings you 140 classic articles on prayer, meditation, and other aspects of spirituality by Christian authors of two millennia. Delve into a rich library of… Essays by Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Merton, Richard Foster, and others. Selections from every major tradition of Christianity. It includes a biographical sketch of each contributor. Author and topical indexes included for quick reference. They updated it from its 1947 original edition in 2001.

I’ve pulled the book off the shelf, blown the dust off of it, and am again using it to supplement my daily devotions. So far I’ve read Clement of Rome’s insights into Christian love from The First Epistle to the Corinthians (not to be confused with the book of First Corinthians in the Bible) and Justin Martyr’s “On The Sole of The Government.”

I’ll mention an idea or two from the book from time to time. It isn’t light reading, but it is interesting. It helps me walk with the Lord and keep my focus on God. It helps me grow in my Christian faith.

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