Of Lawful Oaths and Vows.
Chapter 23, Paragraph 5.
“…and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious, and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself.”
When I was a child I had aspirations to be a ballerina. I was awestruck each time I watched these women perform. Beautiful not only in costume and in movement, they embodied the culture of self-denial that surrounded the dance world: strictly watch what you eat, steel your mind against the fatigue, sacrifice your social life, push through the pain and don’t complain. Those who followed those mantras had the reward of achieving grace an ordinary woman could not.
In Roman Catholic culture, such awe as I had for ballet dancers surrounds those men and women who enter monastical life. They, too, live a life of self-denial. Their pleasures are denied for a seemingly greater goal. Dangling in front of them is the reward of achieving a greater holiness than those in the everyday world.
Taking monastical vows, and the life of asceticism that accompanies it, is very attractive. In such a system your level of holiness is determined by how devoted you are. Increasing in piety is only limited by yourself; therefore, push yourself further up the ladder to receive your well-earned reward. This system, however, is totally antithetical with the Gospel. No matter how hard we work, we cannot merit His favor by our actions. Only through faith in Christ alone can we be saved. Our holiness rests upon Him alone. Any good we do is through the Spirit, and good works are only those which Scripture states.
The Bible warns against false teachers who appeal to our senses with a life of asceticism. May we not be enamored with such superstition as has ensnared those who have joined monastic orders. Let our zeal be for Christ, and may we follow what He has commanded in His word.
If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. -Colossians 2:20-23, NASB
Questions to Consider
- Is there anything you are doing to be “more holy” that Scripture doesn’t warrant?