Did the Benedictine monks not care about the Great Commission?

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Milkman | Forum Activity | Posted: Fri, Feb 26 2021 9:49 AM

I'm just learning about St. Benedict. Being an evangelical I have always considered monks and their lifestyle to be reclusive and almost anti-social to those outside their places of habitations. Whether I learned that in church as a youngster or in a Baptist seminary I'm not too sure. Maybe it was the idea that all monastic communities were off-shoots of Roman Catholicism and we know how the Reformers thought about that.

As I'm reading through my sources which I've only been doing for the past week or so I'm wondering if the monastics and in particular the Benedictine way of life was one of not so much "anti" Great Commission, but one of "ho hum, let's just stay in our caves and places of worship and discipline our lives without any outside interference." 

Heaven knows that we all love to read, study and dig deep into God's word and we can get kinda miffed when something pulls us away from our desks. Reminds me of the opening Chapter of In His Steps. But was that the case for the Monastics? 

So if anyone can help me with this, that would be great!

mm. 

mm.

Posts 172
DMB | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Feb 26 2021 10:09 AM

A bit forumatically theological .... ??

1. You're making assumptions about the commission. If you take the synoptics seriously (the pairs), Acts (commissioned messengers), or early writings (Didache), the 'who' appears qualified. Especially, given the eleven (or'some') doubted ... after full-blown proof.

2. Monastic preceded the catholic (lc) church.  It'd be like you turning off the web, these days to concentrate on your citizenship (Heb writer).

and

3. Reading your church history, the early Catholic (uc) church had to battle many of the monesteries (lower-Egypt) to consolidate theological control.

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NB.Mick | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Feb 26 2021 2:55 PM

Milkman:
As I'm reading through my sources which I've only been doing for the past week or so I'm wondering if the monastics and in particular the Benedictine way of life was one of not so much "anti" Great Commission, but one of "ho hum, let's just stay in our caves and places of worship and discipline our lives without any outside interference." 

Hm. We really don't want to go into theological discussion. But I'm wondering whether it's just a lack of resources on Church History that is the issue here - and maybe some from the more Catholic side of the house could chime in with suggestions. To me, "stay in our caves" sounds a lot more like desert fathers in Egypt and other eremitic traditions than Benedictine monasteries (okay, the current thinking about the "Benedictine option" may sound a bit like "circle the wagons and don't care about the bad world outside" - but that may not be the historic side of it). To me as a European, especially the Benedictines with their motto of "ora et labora" (pray and work) and the other orders following those rules, like the Cistercians, always invokes remembering the work part: cultivating fields, draining swamps, building gardens, vineyards, villages, cities, brewing beer, operating basically everything people nowadays expect from their secular communities: hospitals, libraries, schools, homes for those without a family to support them, probably even roads. This made monasteries to be the community hubs in many places throughout Europe. The monks would have lots of contact with the outside - and some monasteries were purposely built as mission stations in the wilderness. 

On the other hand, some of the (partly legendary?) bio of St. Benedict reads like the life of an eremite more than what I just described - and maybe the motto I referred to was adopted some time later, not coming from St. Benedict himself. But I do think, even so: There is value in having people live a contemplative life, doing theology, carry on the faith (including, until a couple of hundred years ago, the copying of books like the bible and other ancient manuscripts by hand!) and praying for those outside.  

Running Logos 9 latest (beta) version on Win 10

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Milkman | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Feb 26 2021 4:08 PM

NB.Mick:

Milkman:
As I'm reading through my sources which I've only been doing for the past week or so I'm wondering if the monastics and in particular the Benedictine way of life was one of not so much "anti" Great Commission, but one of "ho hum, let's just stay in our caves and places of worship and discipline our lives without any outside interference." 

Hm. We really don't want to go into theological discussion. But I'm wondering whether it's just a lack of resources on Church History that is the issue here - and maybe some from the more Catholic side of the house could chime in with suggestions. To me, "stay in our caves" sounds a lot more like desert fathers in Egypt and other eremitic traditions than Benedictine monasteries (okay, the current thinking about the "Benedictine option" may sound a bit like "circle the wagons and don't care about the bad world outside" - but that may not be the historic side of it). To me as a European, especially the Benedictines with their motto of "ora et labora" (pray and work) and the other orders following those rules, like the Cistercians, always invokes remembering the work part: cultivating fields, draining swamps, building gardens, vineyards, villages, cities, brewing beer, operating basically everything people nowadays expect from their secular communities: hospitals, libraries, schools, homes for those without a family to support them, probably even roads. This made monasteries to be the community hubs in many places throughout Europe. The monks would have lots of contact with the outside - and some monasteries were purposely built as mission stations in the wilderness. 

On the other hand, some of the (partly legendary?) bio of St. Benedict reads like the life of an eremite more than what I just described - and maybe the motto I referred to was adopted some time later, not coming from St. Benedict himself. But I do think, even so: There is value in having people live a contemplative life, doing theology, carry on the faith (including, until a couple of hundred years ago, the copying of books like the bible and other ancient manuscripts by hand!) and praying for those outside.  

Hey Mick. I never even considered my question to be a theo discussion. Hey to each it's own. - Pilgrims on the Way. I just want to know if there is 'evidence' to support a monastic/benedictine/anthonian world/biblical world view to win/lead/convert - you put your own word in - others to Christ. 

mm.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Feb 26 2021 4:12 PM

Milkman:
Being an evangelical I have always considered monks and their lifestyle to be reclusive and almost anti-social to those outside their places of habitations.

Your base assumption is faulty. Study the virtue of hospitality

Milkman:
Maybe it was the idea that all monastic communities were off-shoots of Roman Catholicism and we know how the Reformers thought about that.
.

Again your base assumption is faulty. Eastern and Oriental Orthodox have monastics. Then study the history of Protestant monasticism and intentional communities.

Milkman:
As I'm reading through my sources which I've only been doing for the past week or so I'm wondering if the monastics and in particular the Benedictine way of life was one of not so much "anti" Great Commission, but one of "ho hum, let's just stay in our caves and places of worship and discipline our lives without any outside interference." 

Amazing illogic ... have you ever heard of the usefulness of prayer and example in evangelization? Not everyone is called to the same aspect of evangelization. Search the Bible on different gifts and roles.

Milkman:
Heaven knows that we all love to read, study and dig deep into God's word and we can get kinda miffed when something pulls us away from our desks. Reminds me of the opening Chapter of In His Steps. But was that the case for the Monastics? 

Huh? Study is not a distinguishing mark of monastics although it is the vocation of many. Prayer is the distinguishing mark of monastics. Study is important in many monastic communities but the top two "study oriented" orders are Jesuits and Dominicans - neither of which are monastic.

Now step back and think it through. For much of Christian history, books were extremely valuable. Most monastics take vows of poverty which means, no books. [Dominicans do not take a vow of poverty because as traveling preachers they carried their own liturgical books and therefore were not poor.] Books were read to them or quoted from memory. For much of European Christian history, individual secular communities were homogenous in religious affiliation but not in belief ... the work was educating the flock or traveling to the border lands to engage in evangelization efforts. Study the history of Christianity by geographic region -- you'll see the monks traveling and teaching in a way more familiar to you.

  

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Feb 26 2021 4:16 PM

Milkman:
I never even considered my question to be a theo discussion.

This surprises me - I can't see it as anything but theological which is why I point to rather than provide answers.

Milkman:
Hey to each it's own

Just an FYI - to me this rings of the American secular theology

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Milkman | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Feb 26 2021 4:48 PM

wow!

mm.

Posts 196
Pater Noster | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Feb 26 2021 4:53 PM

This is a very good book in Logos if you are interested in reading about Benedictine like:

https://www.logos.com/product/179883/the-rule-of-the-master

Monastic life is one of intense prayer, work, and fasting. Baptized Christians are called to a life of continuous conversion. They also pray together and individually for specific people, the world, issues, etc. They offer their work in union with Christ on the cross for the conversion of others. Their work often times carries them in contact with others, depending on the group, as a way to discipleship.

They are not separating from the world so much as they are leaving worldly temptations and interests aside in a radical focus on the greater good, as Jesus taught. They actually give up all their personal delights that we all share to focus on God, and to bring the world's needs to God. As Scripture states that God listens to the prayers of the righteous, their own conversion is an important dimension to helping the world through their efforts.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Feb 26 2021 5:20 PM

Milkman:

wow!

My reaction to your post as well ... I know you are broadly read. Surprise

You usually ask questions in an inquisitive rather than theological manner. Would it not have been better to ask (in the forums) How do the Benedictine monks see their mission within that of the Great Commission? and to ask (yourself) Among all the commandments of Jesus Christ, why do I use the Great Commission as a critical measure?.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Sam Parkinson | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Feb 26 2021 11:53 PM

The answer's a bit simpler than what's been given so far. It was the monastics who converted most of Europe. 

The people Gregory the Great sent to convert England? All monks. Within the uk, the great early preachers who reached the population? All monks. Patrick in Ireland, David in Wales? Monks. Boniface and his companions, key in reaching the Germanic peoples? Monks.

I could go on, but if you read further on the expansion of Christianity after the fall of the Western Empire through to the high middle ages, monks are the ones who do the hard work. Being poor, cheap, and single, they could go anywhere at great cost to themselves, and they often did. 

It may not have been core to the monastic ideal, but Protestants (like me!) can't criticise them for failing to act as missionaries in the early period. 

Later, of course, that work is taken over by Dominican and Franciscan friars, for whom preaching is much more central, but even their life is semi-monastic.

Posts 181
Kevin S. Coy | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Feb 27 2021 7:42 AM

Think of Martha and Mary of Bethany... Smile

KSC

“The greatest single cause of atheism...is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” Brennan Marshall

Posts 49
Erich Wong | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Feb 27 2021 8:20 AM

The Great Commission has many parts. Monastic traditions have their part in what some people in this forum mentioned but at the same I can see some of the concerns if it is overly in-ward focussed. Also, I think the "methods" of Great commission are different in church-cultures too.

I remember I preached at a Japanese church a few years ago. Afterwards I asked what kinda gospel outreach they do. They looked at me and thought it was the strangest thing they ever heard. So they said to me that they don't do it. At first, I was like what????! There is highschool across the street, there is a massive supermarket down the road! Can't they at least just do gospel tracts etc etc.

Turned out they offer children classes that focus specifically on dispensationalism and they just play soccer and have meals together and whole lot of other community hospitality stuff. That is their way of Great Commission. Perhaps it was a cultural/language misunderstanding.

Posts 1797
Ken McGuire | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Feb 27 2021 8:35 AM

As MJ pointed out, the biggest job of Monks is to pray - and not just for themselves, but for the whole world. And as NB pointed out, they connect their prayer with their work, and have often served needs of the word around them. From my experience with a few Benedictine communities, they are quite interested in witnessing to the one who offered himself for the world by reaching out to the world.I am sure I will get the quote a bit wrong, but I was taught by a Benedictine monk that they "withdraw" from the world not because they don't care for the world, but so that they can care MORE for the world instead of the rat race that we often find ourselves in. And as Sam pointed out, it was Monks who were sent off to evangelize much of Europe. And Gregory the Great himself was a monk who, when called to serve as head of the Church of Rome, tried to bring some of this spirituality to the church as a whole. Some of this was through his writings - writing of heroes of the church, including the famous biography of St. Benedict. Or writing about what this means for Pastoral Care. Or, in general, by getting involved with the world's needs - even when there was probably more than a part of him who wished he could be a simple monk.

I get it. The worldly person that I am can see what they do as useless. But that is their greatest importance to me. With every breath, they show me that a life of prayer is important, and even vital for the world. And not only that, but they invite us to join them in this vital work...

The Gospel is not ... a "new law," on the contrary, ... a "new life." - William Julius Mann

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Br Damien-Joseph OSB | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Feb 27 2021 8:57 AM

:)

Posts 52
GregW | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Feb 27 2021 9:32 AM

Ken McGuire:

As MJ pointed out, the biggest job of Monks is to pray - and not just for themselves, but for the whole world. And as NB pointed out, they connect their prayer with their work, and have often served needs of the word around them. From my experience with a few Benedictine communities, they are quite interested in witnessing to the one who offered himself for the world by reaching out to the world.I am sure I will get the quote a bit wrong, but I was taught by a Benedictine monk that they "withdraw" from the world not because they don't care for the world, but so that they can care MORE for the world instead of the rat race that we often find ourselves in. And as Sam pointed out, it was Monks who were sent off to evangelize much of Europe. And Gregory the Great himself was a monk who, when called to serve as head of the Church of Rome, tried to bring some of this spirituality to the church as a whole. Some of this was through his writings - writing of heroes of the church, including the famous biography of St. Benedict. Or writing about what this means for Pastoral Care. Or, in general, by getting involved with the world's needs - even when there was probably more than a part of him who wished he could be a simple monk.

I get it. The worldly person that I am can see what they do as useless. But that is their greatest importance to me. With every breath, they show me that a life of prayer is important, and even vital for the world. And not only that, but they invite us to join them in this vital work...

Beautifully and graciously put. Yes

Unfortunately there aren't too many books in Logos that will give you a flavour of Benedictine monasticism, but you could do a lot worse than to book yourself in for a few days' retreat in a Benedictine monastery and actually talk to the monks about their life and work (they won't be very chatty, because the Rule has something to say about that, and don't try talking to them at night or early in the morning). You will find they have a very clear view on what mission is. 

As others have mentioned, it is worth reading the Rule of Benedict and there are a number of Rule-based resources available in Logos.  

There are Protestant Benedictines as well: we have an Anglican Benedictine community close to where I live. 

Posts 12
Br Damien-Joseph OSB | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Feb 27 2021 3:28 PM

I agree with Greg. When the pandemic is over, please come visit us and stay with us for a weekend. All are welcome, Protestant or even atheist, to stay in our guesthouses and there are monks assigned to take care of guests' needs who can begin to answer your questions. (Just please leave the accusations aside and extend the benefit of the doubt when possible.) There are Benedictine monasteries in most states in the United States and several Canadian provinces and almost every European nation, and I can name at least five African countries that have at least eight Benedictine monasteries, and several in Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil... (I am also broadly thinking of Cistercian, Camaldolese, and Carthusian monasteries in these places, so my definition of "Benedictine" is pretty broad right now) and these are just the ones that I can name off the top of my head. We shouldn't be too far from where you are located, wherever that may be, but many monasteries have closed their guesthouses due to the pandemic, so I can't speak to what your access would be like at the present.

As for books, since this is a Logos forum after all, I gave my Baptist grandmother a hard copy of Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants when I became a monk, so that my way of life could be translated into language she could understand. I read only the first four or so chapters, but I feel comfortable recommending it. I also highly recommend The Rule of St. Benedict: A Contemporary Paraphrase, which is a very nice paraphrase compiled by Protestants who have become interested in Benedictine monks today (I also recommend Logos to add it to PrePub when they can). And in lieu of an actual visit to a monastery (due to pandemic and all, or at least tide one over until the pandemic ends), this book looks interesting: Cloister TalksI will have to see if it is in our library.

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SineNomine | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Feb 28 2021 2:03 PM

Milkman:
I never even considered my question to be a theo discussion.

What kind of a question did you consider it to be?

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