[quote="Medic_Mark, post:1, topic:223668"]
My protestant housemates are developing a fondness for repeatedly repudiating Catholic practice whenever the topic comes up. I'm trying to avoid debates with them because we all have formal theological education from the Baptist tradition. It isn't that I have nothing to say, but I'm trying to make my life more focused on spiritual matters rather than a constant question and answer, tit for tat, teeth and blood, apologetic existence (if that makes sense). There is a time for it, though.
Anyway, one of the things they had to say about the cloistered monastics was this: It violates God's command to go out into the world. I didn't have an answer to that one handy as, quite frankly, I've never thought of it that way. Any help?
To the poster who mentioned the panoply of services offered at some monasteries: I think the roommates are referring to the totally-cloistered extreme fringe of the monastic world--the Carthusian and even Trappist orders, rather than the Benedictines.
In any case, this question needs to be completely re-framed.
First things first: 'What is the world?'
When God said to 'Go out into the world', I wouldn't--in my humble opinion--think that he meant by this: 'go out into the world, and become the world'. What distinguishes the Baptist community from the Carthusians: when they do not make themselves accessible, when they do not attempt to readjust their cultural standards so that their message of Christianity can fit the 'world' surrounding them? Baptists--I hope you don't take offense at this, and I don't mean to suggest that only Baptists do this--tend to form fairly insular communities, that are regulated by their own, sometimes unforgiving and pigheaded, set of rules. A Baptist pastor getting up on the pulpit and preaching in the manner that many do, is really off-putting to most of America. It looks like this man is angry, drunk, or talking all crazy for no reason.
This is not 'going out into the world'--yes, its living in a mixed-gender, secular community, but its not exactly 'going into the world' in the apostolic way that I think the Lord meant it.
You could easily derail what I anticipate to be simplistic and unthinking conception of 'the world', by comparing their own Baptist standards with a stereotypically... I guess... ""hyper-apostolic"" tradition. Like the Mormons, who receive excellent cultural and language training at BYU, and then set out literally into the world with their message. They plumb the depths, and don't just settle for the local community.
Tell your roommates that the Lord didn't reduce the apostolic requirement of 'going into the world' to attending youth group and Sabbath services. If they were 'real Christians', do as the Mormons do. [just be the Devil's Advocate]
That should be enough--for now--in terms of negative arguments, and forcing them to redefine their claims... which, if I surmise correctly, is a pretty typical set of assumptions.
In terms of positive arguments, there is the most obvious: the Carthusian monastery is the proverbial city on the hill. When the Lord told us to go out into the world, there was no corollary injunction to: 'neglect what is inside'. On the other hand, the simple fact that the ideal of an intensely focused Christianity and prayerful, celibate life exists somewhere in this post-Lapsarian world is a miracle for the entire world to behold. Moreover, this lifestyle--despite its rigors--is far from unnaturally sterile and artificial. Work and humble toil is a factor in the lives of most cloistered monks. Community--even when most interaction is mute--is still a factor in the refectory, while praying the Divine Office, while on weekend hikes.
What it comes down to is that there are barriers and entrances into this community, as there are in the Baptist community. Both exist, as can clearly be seen, with different purposes, and both live Christianity to different degrees, in different ways.
I hope this was of some small help.