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Ambassador Baptist Church
1926 Babcock Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15209
(412)822-7255
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Question:
clear.gif - 808 Bytes I read you article on Monasticism with great care. I do not dispute the facts of what you wrote, but I do think that some of your conclusions are very wrong. Your view "All these various extremes were practiced for the purpose of obtaining salvation." I think misses the point of monasticism entirely. Such ascetic practices are not done to win God's favor and through this salvation but rather to be in communion with God. I know many monastics and they would be offended by such beliefs that their actions are undertaken for salvation's purpose. They quite well understand that man is saved through the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, monastics take up Christs words “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Matthew 19:21). It's all about following Christ, communion with Christ and loving Christ.


Response:
You may click on verses to reveal pop-up Scripture

clear.gif - 808 Bytes Thank you for your gracious letter.

 There may be monastics who would reject my position, but the Catholic Encyclopedia supports it. If I might quote:

 "If a man wish to attain eternal life it is better for him to renounce his possessions than to retain them....In Egypt the first teachers of monks taught that the renunciation should be made as absolute as possible...As the monastic institute became more organized legislation appeared in the various codes to regulate this point among others. That the principle remained the same however is clear from the strong way in which St. Benedict speaks of the matter while making special allowance for the needs of the infirm, etc. (Reg. Ben., xxxiii). "Above everything the vice of private ownership is to be cut off by the roots from the monastery." (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10459a.htm) {The underlining is mine for emphasis}

 According to the quotation above, salvation is attained through man's efforts, and becoming a monk will assist in that process.

 May I quote again from the Catholic Encyclopedia under the heading of "St. Benedict of Nursia??

"6. (a) When a Christian household, a community, has been organized by the willing acceptance of its social duties and responsibilities, by obedience to an authority, and, further, is under the continuous discipline of work and self-denial, the next step in the regeneration of its members in their return to God is prayer."
(http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02467b.htm)

 The word "regeneration" is a Biblical word for salvation. The Catholic church refers to baptism as the sacrament of regeneration. The Catholic church defines regeneration as follows, "Regeneration is a Biblico-dogmatic term closely connected with the ideas of justification, Divine sonship, and the deification of the soul through grace." (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12714a.htm).

 Thus, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, part of the purpose of the monastery is to help people take steps towards regeneration, which means steps towards justification and salvation.

 The Council of Trent included the following canons:

"CANON XXIV.-If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.

CANON XXXII.-If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema."

 Thus we see again the teaching that good works help a man to achieve salvation.

 Under a section on Benedictine Rule, the Catholic Encyclopedia says,

 "Another characteristic feature of the saint's Rule is its view of work. His so-called order was not established to carry on any particular work or to meet any special crisis in the Church, as has been the case with other orders. With Benedict the work of his monks was only a means to goodness of life. The great disciplinary force for human nature is work; idleness is its ruin. The purpose of his Rule was to bring men "back to God by the labour of obedience, from whom they had departed by the idleness of disobedience". Work was the first condition of all growth in goodness. It was in order that his own life might be "wearied with labours for God's sake" that St. Benedict left Enfide for the cave at Subiaco. It is necessary, comments St. Gregory, that God's elect should at the beginning, when life and temptations are strong are strong in them, "be wearied with labour and pains". In the regeneration of human nature in the order of discipline, even prayer comes after work, for grace meets with no co-operation in the soul and heart of an idler. When the Goth "gave over the world" and went to Subiaco, St. Benedict gave him a bill-hook and set him to clear away briars for the making of a garden. "Ecce! labora!" go and work. Work is not, as the civilization of the time taught, the condition peculiar to slaves; it is the universal lot of man, necessary for his well-being as a man, and essential for him as a Christian."
(http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02467b.htm)

 Note that monks are achieving "goodness" through work. Work is said to be necessary for the "regeneration of human nature". Since Catholicism teaches that the soul of man must co-operate with God in salvation, it is instructive to note above that "grace meets no co-operation in the soul and heart of an idler". Thus, those in the monastic movement labor so that they can co-operate with God in the salvation of their souls.

 I hope this gives you some insight into how I drew my conclusions. The Catholic church teaches that man merits his salvation in part through his labors. The Monastic movement is such a labor. My guess is that most people who are involved in that movement believe in their hearts that they are somehow earning God's favor through their ascetic lifestyle, and thus are more worthy of Heaven. Of course, this is not what the Bible teaches, for salvation is completely by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9).

 If I might add something; I believe you are missing the point of Matthew 19:21. In context, Christ was dealing with a young man who wanted to do something good in order to be able to go to Heaven (19:16). Christ tells him that in order to have eternal life he must keep the commandments, which, of course, no one can do. This is why we require a Savior. No man can keep the commandments completely for his entire life, which is why Paul declares that “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). The young man foolishly tells Jesus that he has kept all the commandments all of his life (vs. 20). Rather than rebuke him, Christ simply tells him that if he really loves his neighbor as himself (vs. 19) that he should then sell everything he has and give the money to the poor. The young man refuses, revealing that he has, in fact, not kept the commandments from his youth, for he is covetous and does not love his neighbor as himself.

 The point is that the young man is a sinner, and thus can do nothing to save his soul. Likewise, no other man can do anything to save his soul; he can only choose to repent and receive Christ as Savior. A monastic lifestyle does not make a man perfect, for he is already a sinner and nothing can cleanse away his sins except the blood of Christ received by faith alone. I hope that you have made this decision yourself at some point in your life.

Thanks for writing.

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By
Pastor Dr. Mark Montgomery
Email: Ask the Pastor
Ambassador Baptist Church
1926 Babcock Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15209
(412)822-7255




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