In my current class our professor posed the following question concerning the Benedictine Rule – What are the key elements of Benedict’s monastic theology and practice and what monastic principles are relevant for modern evangelicals who are not monks? The following is my response to that question:
I have to admit this “Rule” by Benedict was both a fascinating and a lugubrious reading. It was fascinating in that all the rules that were formulated in the Rule for the Benedictine monks had, for its motivation, the goal of becoming more Christ-like and putting to death the desires and lusts of the world. The key elements of the Rule required intense study, regimented lifestyles, the memorization and repetition of Scripture on a daily (if not hourly) basis, complete separation from the society in which they found themselves, hard industrious work, giving all one has to the poor, intense focusing of worship on God and Christ, submission to Christian leaders, celibacy, harsh discipline for those who were deemed violators of the code of conduct (or the Abbott’s wishes), responsibility – are all positive components of the life of a Christian who truly and sincerely wants to submit his life and will to Jesus Christ. It was also interesting to note that in the time of Benedict (c. 480-540) this was how the Christians of that day thought they could find a deeper, and more meaningful, walk with Christ. What was disheartening in this reading, however, was that three to four hundred years after the establishment of the primitive New Testament church, the Church had come to accept the underlying theological premise of the monastic life – i.e., in order to be pleasing to God one had to submit to this type of religiosity, which was a works-based religion. In Benedict’s Rule, it was difficult to find any mention of, or reference to, the concepts of salvation by faith, grace and mercy alone apart from any works, accomplishments, or the man-made, rules-based monastic lifestyle. Worship of God had been reduced to a cold ritualism.
However, many of the above-mentioned “rules” of monasticism (in principle) do offer moderns positive goals to strive for in their daily living because the Rule was based on Scripture text (even if many times taken out of context). The NT Scriptures are full of admonitions by the inspired writers for God’s people to put to death the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16; Col. 3:2,3), and to live our lives in total submission to God, Christ and the leading of the Holy Spirit so that the world may see us and glorify Him (2 Cor. 9:13; Matt. 5:16). There are other positive things we can take away from the “Rule of Benedict”, such as the emphasis on the memorization of Scripture, to be in the world but not of the world, a positive work ethic, contributing to the needs of the poor, supporting the godly leaders of the body of believers that we associate with, as well as recognizing that we worship a holy and sovereign God who demands our all and our best, and we are not to be sidetracked by the false allurements of the sinful pleasures of this world.
— Bro. Scott