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Discussion Forum : Scriptures and Doctrine : Asceticism or the leading of the Spirit?

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RobertW
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Joined: 2004/2/12
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Independence, Missouri

 Asceticism or the leading of the Spirit?

This thread is carried over from the 'obese Christians' thread. Here we plan to discuss the distinction between basic asceticism and [u]S[/u]pirituality or how they could possibly relate to one another.


For starters I hope all were able to read the wikipedia article on asceticism that Ron referred to (you can find it [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ascetic]HERE[/url]).

A good starting question I think is, what is the [i]criteria[/i] or protocol for implementing an ascetic practice either to abstain from certain things or enguaging in works (a form of ascetic bahavior)? there are some things that can be labeled as 'ascetic' which is basic compliance to scripture, but what about those areas where there is no real direction? What role does the Holy Spirit play in all these things? Do we make up rules for ourselves hoping that God will accept them as some sort of sacrifice even though He may not have required it at our hands, or do we seek to know prayerfully what God's direction for our life is and allow the Holy Spirit to tailor our convictions to the purpose for which He has called us?

Any Comments?




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Robert Wurtz II

 2005/8/10 13:06Profile
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 Re: Asceticism or the leading of the Spirit?

Should the priority be the method or the purpose? Given the crudest idea that asceticism means making life uncomfortable for ourselves... why?


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Ron Bailey

 2005/8/10 13:19Profile
RobertW
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 Re:

I think the purpose has to be the main concern. I'm probably being real narrow minded here, but I generally try not to be preoccupied with finding new ways to make my life uncomfortable. One the other hand I try to be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit as He directs my way and convicts me of certain things that I may have done in the past that were in some way entertaining, etc.

Because we are so different as individuals there could be any number of things that could lead to destruction in my life that may have no real impact on others (and vise versa). Moreover if I look in the mirror and try to determine what is best for me I may get my life dangerously out-of-whack in such a way as to make me vulnerable to other attacks from the enemy. Case in point were the folks at Corinth who seem to have felt that abstenence in marriage was somehow a virtue- but in reality it opened the door to the enemy to bring temptation for the incontinency of one or the other party. It would be horrible to think we were being 'spiritual' by fasting physical needs within marriage only to find out that our spouse had fallen into an affair while we were being 'super spiritual'. That is an extreme example, but I am trying to emphasize that God knows best in these matters. I have an old saying that if we limit ourself from the things that God approves the enemy will find a way to trip us in that which God does not approve.

Make sense?


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Robert Wurtz II

 2005/8/10 13:52Profile
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 Asceticism: why?

Agreed then, the purpose is the main concern. I am trying to use the broad brush approach in thinking this through, so what is the purpose. Very generally, then...

To aid my attempts to get closer to God?
To enhance my spiritual capacity?
To crush my pride in myself?
To weaken my body so that my spirit can make contact with God?

I am just trying to drill down to the absolute basics here. What is the ascetic trying to do and why does he think asceticism will help?


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Ron Bailey

 2005/8/10 14:46Profile
RobertW
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 Re: Asceticism: why?

Quote:
To aid [u]my attempts[/u] to get closer to God?
To enhance [u]my spiritual capacity[/u]?
To [u]crush my pride in myself[/u]?
To [u]weaken my body[/u] so that my spirit can make contact with God?



Sounds to me like we are trying to lead God here rather than Him leading us. :-?

Is not the essence of all our Spiritual lives to 'follow'? In the Old Testament they followed the cloud. In the New Testament they followed Christ. Could asceticism be a bad case of trying to ram the cart out in front of the horse?



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Robert Wurtz II

 2005/8/10 15:33Profile
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 Re:

I am looking at that list again from a different angle and am thinking that it is exactly what we try to do.

1) Aid my attempts at trying to get closer to God

* some things are between God and me
* something is a hindrance to my devotional life
* something has taken the place of my effection for Christ

2) To enhance my Spiritual capacity

* I can only be as full of the Holy Spirit as I am empty of myself?

3) To crush my pride in myself?

* This is a tough one. Some sort of self-inflicted chastisement to bring myself low.

4) To weaken my body so my Spirit can make contact with God

* Sounds kind of dualistic.
* could be the purpose of fasting


I am wondering if again this is us trying to be the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is come He will [u]lead[/u]...

I have done a lot of crazy things over the years trying to get closer to God. I have destroyed electronic gadgets, etc. I have made determinations to do certain things and not do certain things. I failed in all most all of them at some point or another. Yet when I allowed the Holy Spirit to lead me away from those things I found it quite easy to lay them down. However, maybe I have not yet plumbed the depth of spirituality to see the need to implement severe ascetic practices into my life. Life seems to beat me up enough as it is. Trouble on the right hand and the left. Maybe its like exercise. If you were a ditch digger you would not need to go to the gym every night. So too for those on the front lines of society staring the enemy in the face on every hand go home each night beat down and in little need of any supplemental lashings. Yet, if I were somewhere insulated from the world and in good health and prosperity and the family was all in good health I may need to implement some measures to keep myself in check I suppose. But after a day of madness on the right hand and the left I can't take a whole lot more spiritual exercise for exercise sake.

Hope that makes sense.


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Robert Wurtz II

 2005/8/10 16:37Profile
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 Re:

Hi Robert
Yes, your answers are all those that I subconsciously built into the questions! I was tempted to give the same kind of answers as yours to each question, and only just resisted it. The underlying question behind all these questions is has God revealed how we can approach Him or are we left to our own devices?

Behind all my questions was the theme "how does the unworthy, undeserving, unfit, approach a Holy God?" and built into the most obvious forms of asceticism the answer seems to be 'by trying harder' or 'paying more'. If we were with revelation this might be the best we could come up with, but now having revelation any of these other possibilities is rejection of God's route, which is by grace through faith.

Perhaps we need to include the idea of 'chastisement... without which we are not sons'. The ascetic however seems to create his own chastisement hoping to deserve sonship.

We are going to have to head out, I think, to our old stomping ground... the body and its 'subduing' ;-)


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Ron Bailey

 2005/8/10 17:56Profile
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 Re:

I've read both of your comments through but I approach this subject a bit differently. I see Paul beating his body into submission lest after he has preached to others he himself might become a cast away. I see that as a form of ascetism. Then also I see the scripture that says , 1Co 11:31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.


In other religions the ascetic road is to make them acceptable. Christianity is as you say grace through faith. I do believe however that God has given us tools to aid us in our walk and the road of ascertism I believe can be one of them tools. I don't believe its healthy to live in this mode (if you will). But from time to time to take special precautions, almost like Paul did in his Nazarite vow, I think it can be a healthy part of christianity. I guess it depends on the motivation of the heart. :-)


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D.Miller

 2005/8/10 19:42Profile
RobertW
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 Re:

Quote:
I see Paul beating his body into submission lest after he has preached to others he himself might become a cast away.



This is a good passage to bring up.

[i]But I [u]keep under[/u] my body, and [u]bring it into subjection[/u]: lest that by any means, whenI have preached to others,I myself should be a [u]castaway[/u].[/i] (I Corinthians 9:27)

Fearsome passage it is, depending on which side of the Calvinism/Arminianism debate you fall. the word castaway is 'adokimos'- usually translated as 'reprobate' or 'rejected'. At the least is would seem to mean 'disqualified.' The passage seems to be saying that Paul beats up his body leaving it black and blue (black eye, etc) and then hauls it off as a slave.

I think a clue to understanding this is in the previous passage where Paul states that he does not fight as one "beating the air." That is, he does not try to wear down his opponent by throwing short sided punches that are only intended to make a reaction (this is my attempt to bring my body down apart from revelation). This is a useless tactic unless you are setting the enemy up for a counter punch. Actually is looks quite foolish and is a tactic employed in the hallways of junior high schools by young boys. Constantly acting like they are going to hit one another to gain a quick reflex. Haha, "I made you blink!" Nonsense.

Adam Clarke comments on this also:

[i]The apostle considers his body as an enemy with which he must contend; he must mortify it by self-denial, abstinence, and severe labour; it must be the slave of his soul, and not the soul the slave of the body, which in all unregenerate men is the case.[/i]

Ron mentioned that we are back to our old stomping grounds again. So we are. In retrospect I have to say that there has to be a distinction made between asceticism as it is commonly known and biblical discipline. The one is at the least bible based or led of the Holy Spirit. The other is a knockoff of some other religion for the purpose of achieving merit before God. It is no different than the prophets of Baal cutting themselves and leaping on the altar to get their 'Baal' to answer or men casting their firstborn sons into the fires of Molech. If asceticism alone could move God we had been no different than the pagans.

Maybe we need to take a look at the reasons as to why folk like Samson, Samuel, and John Baptist took Nazerite vows for life. Actually, Samson was not given a choice in the matter. But why? Was it to bring them into favor with God? I don't think so. I believe that they and even what Paul is saying is that we have to keep our bodily appetites in check and not allow them to rule us. samson is a good point in this. he could have been a deliverer in Israel. BUT, it was not his ascetic lifestyle that allowed him to defeat his enemies. It was the Spirit of the Lord God coming upon him. His vow, it seems to me, was in place so that he would abstain from the pitfalls of certain vice so that he could accomplish the plan of God for his life unabated.

Yet, this does not answer everything because the hair could not have a razor come upon it. This has to be a simple obedience thing. Some things to us may seem 'silly' but it is an act of obedience. there was no virtue in Samsons hair any more than there was in John Baptists Camel's hair or Samuel's linen ephod. Washing in the Jordon 7 times was an act of obedience carried out in faith. There was no virtue in the nasty river water.

So to this I must ask, what did God say to do? You could fast for 40 days and not gain a thing if God simply to you to take out that earring or get a haircut. You could run through a troop and leap over a wall bloodied and bruised and if God told you to be still and know He is God- you had gained nothing but sin. Just be obedient to God. When He tells you to lay something down- lay it down. To obey is better than all the ascetic sacrifice of a thousand whips, rods, or stone pillows.



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Robert Wurtz II

 2005/8/11 8:39Profile
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 Re:

Quote:
here has to be a distinction made between asceticism as it is commonly known and biblical discipline. The one is at the least bible based or led of the Holy Spirit. The other is a knockoff of some other religion for the purpose of achieving merit before God...To obey is better than all the ascetic sacrifice of a thousand whips, rods, or stone pillows.



This reminds me of the legendary asceticsm of many monks. In discussing the beatitude, "Blessed are the poor in spirit" author Jim Forest records this story of a monk from the the Egyptian Desert Fathers.

"But sanctity is not the sumof the would-be-saint's empty pockets. There have been many whose feats of asceticism were displays of pride more then poverty of spirit.

Early in his monastic life John the dwarf announced to a brother that he was going deeper into the Egyptian desert, declaring from on now he would live like an angel. Several days later, close to starvation, John knocked on the brother's door. "Who is there?" asked the brother. "John." came the reply. "No, it can't be John," said the brother. "John is now an angel-he no longer needs food and shelter." Only then did he open his door to the chagrined and hungry John.

The chastened monk embraced a humbler, more ordinary poverty."


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Mike Compton

 2005/8/11 10:44Profile





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