The protestant reaction to Monasticism

For any protestant on the forum this is a question for you. Why do protestants typically have an anti-monastic outlook? That is I ran accross a supposed quote from luther, though I don’t doubt it, that Luther said the woman who changes a diaper does more than the monastic.

It seems this attitude has prevailed till the current day in protestant churches concering monasticism. My question is why?

Well 1st you have to consider that almost all protestants believe salvation is in Christ alone and works are not necessary, Most also do not believe in purgatory.

That being said,why would one enter a Monastic lifestyle when they see no gain from it. Those almost extremist devout christians(The one’s who if Catholics would enter the lifestyle) see little reason. They can live a normal life praising the lord, having a wife and a family and everything they own.

I think Luther’s main objections to it were primarily soteriological and vocational. He felt that it created a caste system where certain Christians are given greater grace than others, thus creating a second and first class Christian (same with the priesthood). The other is what you mentioned…that they don’t serve as much of a benefit to the community by withdrawing from it.

I don’t know if thats the case for western monasticism, but as far as eastern monasticism is concerned while the role is highly respected, indeed its hard to go against nature and live outside of the world and dedicate ones self to God totally, that doesn’t mean neccessarily that they are greater than those living in the world. And I do beg to differ that monasticism has not served the community, scribes protecting scrolls (thus preserving scripture inevitbly before any work), works of practical advice, prayer for the world, great examples of teachers like Saint Anthony. Monks serve God and the world.

I hear you. No, I don’t think it’s entirely negative. Remember that as far as Luther is concerned, most of his critcisms were against monasticism as it existed in his time period. His argument would have probably been that those who served their neighbor in their secular vocations were more wholly devoted to God than someone in the middle of nowhere. His critivisms along those lines were also directed against the anabaptists who separated themselves from non-anabaptist society.

Luther himself, though, was still heavily influenced by the monastic tradition even after the start of the Reformation (esp. Bernard). As you said, the scholarly work of monks in church history cannot be under stated.

As a woman discerning becoming a cloistered nun, I can see where this kind of life is misunderstood–i don’t even fully understand it myself. Especially to someone who does not recognize the Communion of Saints, the solidarity of the Church, the power of intercessory prayer, and the universality of the Eucharist, a vocation to belong to God alone, to be love in the heart of the Church would make no sense at all. Mother Mary Francis PCC explains it well in A Right to Be Merry:

The world has been illuminated for more than seven hundred years by the unfailing light that is Saint Clare, but the world at large does not know it. Working, studying, writing in the sunlight, we are not inspired to sit down and reflect that if the sun were not there, all these pursuits would be impossible.

As Christ is seen in the Gospels preaching in the synagogues, healing the sick, teaching the crowds, feeding the hungry, and forgiving sins, He is also seen going up to the mountain simply to pray and to be in union with the Father. So if some are called to be the hands and feet of Christ by preaching, teaching, healing, feeding, forgiving, etc, as St. Paul explains in Romans 12:4, certainly some are called to be the heart of Christ pumping Divine Love to all the organs and limbs of the body. Ultimately though, that is the only job of the heart, and it would seem quite futile to someone who sees the external hands and feet and eyes and lips which heal and travel and see and speak. The heart…doesn’t exactly do anything at all…except supply the necessary nourishment for the rest of the body to work, completely hidden from the outside world. Noone thinks about this seemingly useless work of the heart in comparison with the more utilitarian work of the other body parts, but if the heart were not there, healing and traveling and seeing and speaking would be impossible.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I understand how other people could easily misunderstand this vocation. We believe in one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church which is united–not only throughout this earth but also with all the Saints in Heaven above–in their faith and in the Eucharist, and one in which the intercessory prayer of some can greatly benefit the souls of others. In this light, it’s a pretty humbling and awesome call. But when you throw out the unity of the Eucharist and the intercession of the Saints and trade our Catholic (universal) faith for Sola Scriptura (by which one Spirit of Truth somehow supposedly leads thousands of people to reach different “truths”), it is foolishness. Sometimes it looks like foolishness even to those who are called (take it from me!), but “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (1 Cor 1:27), and we are sometimes called to accept with blind faith that “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor 2:9)

Please pray for me and my discernment. God bless you all!

Pax et bonum :rolleyes:

God bless you on your journey! I too, can understand why the world sees the monastic life as foolish and even somewhat worthless as far as living a “productive” life or ministering to those in need. I find this attitude short-sighted and maybe even rash.

I believe the cloister is admirable as only the hardy ones are called who are willing to make great sacrifice for the glory of God. We forget that all of us, indeed, the whole world are beneficiaries of their meritorious hidden life of prayer and virtue seen only by God, but surely used by Him for the greater good and the salvation of souls. To live in the darkness of pure faith must be to embrace the authentic self (which Jesus tells all of us we must do) and not without the richest of blessings, not only for those who live the life, but for all of humankind, who sadly, seems to be losing faith and placing more hope in the secular.


PS to 2loveandBeloved:

I truly know that the Poor Clares and others practicing their charisms, have a direct line to heaven! :wink:

Why not ask a monastic? :wink:

I humbly submit to the wisdom CAFs resident Franciscan JReducation:

Monastic communities such as the Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, Carmelites, and Trinitarians take from the monastic communities the life of prayer, the intense community life, manual labor, penance, strict order in all things, obedience to the rule and the superior, poverty.
But they do not live inside a monastery.
Francis of Assisi founded the mendicant movement. His intention was to take the religious life outside of the monastery. His friars were never to be monks or live like the monks. They were to pray, obey, work, and do penance like the monks. But they were to have two things that the monks did not have. First, they were not to own any property. They had total poverty, which monks do not have. Second, they were never to detach from the world, which the monks did. The friars were to make use of whatever the world had to offer as long as it was useful and to reject what was not useful.

During the time of Francis and Dominic, who are considered the patriarchs of the mendicant movement, also called friars, there was no TV and very few sports. But the friars did engage in whatever forms of entertainment were available. They read books. Francis was a musician, a poet and son writer. They put on plays. In fact, that’s how we get the Christmas cretch and the Stations of the Cross. St. Francis loved the theater. It made him very sad that the common people did not know how to read and were unable to get the full benefit of the Christmas story or Christ’s passion, so he created the first Christmas pageant and the first living Stations of the Cross.
He pulled from his skills and love for the theater and put them to good use in preaching. Dominicans always read. From the very beginning they were the most well educated preachers in the world, later followed by the Jesuits. They not only read religious books. The two orders have read poetry, novels, science, theater and they made important contributions to the world of writing and science. For example, St. Maximilian Kolbe was an engineer and a mathematician. He was also the first religious journalist. He was a Franciscan. Pope John Paul II was a play writer and an actor, even after he was a priest.

Friars are to live the life of the monks, but remain connected to the world. What we take from the monastery is the prayer, silence, penance, obedience and detachment from what is unnecessary. We do not give up what is good for man and what brings him enjoyment of life.
Francis of Assisi was very emphatic that the world was good, because it came from the hand of God. What has to be rejected is whatever is evil. Man takes the good things that God gives us and ruins them. A good movie, a good game of basketball, a good book is not evil. The challenge that the friar faces is separating the good from the garbage. This requires a great deal of discipline. It is much easier to throw out all movies, books, sports and other forms of entertainment. You don’t to think and you don’t have to make judgments. But that’s not the vision that the great mendicant patriarchs had, Dominic and Francis. They wanted their sons to struggle with these choices, because when they struggled and they made the right choices between the good and the bad, they set an example for the laity.

The link following is to the Augsburg Confession’s article regarding monastic vows. At the end one can find the Catholic Confutaton’s response and the further response form the Apology of the Augsburg Confession.


It seems like they took the worst monasticism involves and ignored all the good it has done, and that there are genuine monks. One could rail against the evils of the world, the temptations in the world and even in marraige but does that negate the blessings? There are some things i agree with, we should not think perfection lies solely in the monastary, plenty of holy people outside of the monastary have lived lives in faith pleasing to God through their actions, just as many monks have.

God bless you Tigg!

Prayers coming your way :slight_smile:

I actually agree that they did. However, one must also recognise the historic times this was written in.
And yet, today, there are Lutheran monastaries, here and around the world, for example:


You nailed it. I couldn’t agree more as to how monasticism has served the world. :thumbsup:

I don’t know the answer to the OP’s question. But I know my Episcopal/Lutheran church (dual TEC/ELCA affiliation) is quite friendly to and even identifies with the Benedictine monastic tradition.

Have you heard anything about the New Monasticism? You are operating under some ancient assumptions.

[PS. Luther was observing the corruption that existed in many monasteries during his lifetime. It was a fact then and at other times in history too, particularly in the 12-13th centuries. It was also remarked upon by Catholics, and you can find that, if you search it out. There have been many monastic reforms through the ages, as well as movements that were reactions to monasticism WITHIN the Catholic church. All this seems rather remote to us now, since monasticism is only an idealized concept for many people.]

It’s not directly in the Bible. Sola scriptura and all that.

That’s not how sola scriptura works. Lutherans are sola scripturists, and in a previous post I listed a link to the site of a Lutheran monestary.


And their are also many different Anglican Monasteries and Convents over the globe, Benedictine, Franciscan, etc.

There also is at least one Calvinist community Taize founded by brother Rodger.

Many Orthodox religious communities exist as well, world wide.

Don’t the Lutherans have the Briggtine nuns in Sweden?

I think so.


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