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Quotes about monasticism from throughout Christian History.
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When the church joins the powers of the world , when luxury and ostentation take hold of Christian altars, when the whole of society is intent on turning the narrow path into a wide avenue, how is one to resist the enormous temptation of the times? How is one to witness to the crucified Lord, to the one who had nowhere to lay his head, at a time when many leaders of the church live in costly homes, and when the ultimate witness of martyrdom is no longer possible? How to overcome Satan, who is constantly tempting the faithful with the new honors that society offers?
Many found an answer in the monastic life: to flee from human society, to leave everything behind, to dominate the body and its passions, which give way to temptation. (The Story of Christianity. Vol. 1. ch. 15.)
Monasticism was not the invention of an individual, but a mass exodus, a contagion, which seems to have suddenly affected thousands of people. (The Story of Christianity. Vol. 1. ch. 15.)
Some travelers who visited the region declared, with obvious exaggeration, that the desert was more populated than some cities. Others speak of twenty thousand women and ten thousand men leading the monastic life in a single area of Egypt. (The Story of Christianity. Vol. 1. ch. 15.)
Where To Go From Here
You can read more about what I call the fall of the Church. I get a lot of flack for writing from that perspective because most people believe that Jesus' promise in Matthew 16:18—that the gates of hell won't prevail against the church—means that the massive hierarchy that the church became under Constantine can't reach a fallen state. I do not.
I am convinced that almost every reference to and promise to the church in the Scriptures involves the practical reality of the local church. Only the local church can love each other, be at peace with one another, and, in short, obey all the commands of the New Testament given to members of the church. It is the local church that is to be militantly overthrowing the powers of darkness, and as it does so, the gates of hell will be cast down.
Surely it is obvious that the gates of Hades are a defense, not an offensive weapon. If the local churches will be militant in obedience to Jesus, they will tear open or throw down those gates and rescue those who are still in captivity to the powers of hell, to "spiritual wickedness in high places."
Thus, Jesus' promise in Matthew 16:18 has nothing whatsoever to do with the worldly church described in the quotes above. It has to do with you and me, bound together in service to Jesus, loving and learning from him together. As we do so, the gates of Hades will not be superior in strength to us.