Definition: The belief that spiritual benefits are received through the renunciation of worldly pleasures and living an austere life. One common feature of asceticism has been severe treatment of the body – for example, monks who wore coarse shirts and performed self-flagellation. Ascetics may also become recluses in order to avoid the pollution of the world. Ascetics often believe that their practices assist in obtaining salvation – that their way is a more certain “road to heaven.”
Discussion: While fasting and abstinence may promote godly living and spiritual insight (Acts 13:3), the apostle Paul warns of asceticism’s danger. The practice can take a person captive to following a set of traditions and deceptions, thinking that their discipline assists in salvation. Asceticism denies the sufficiency of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sin unto salvation. We are accounted righteous solely on the basis of His righteousness (Col.2:8-10). While asceticism has the appearance of godliness, it is actually of no value against fleshly indulgence (Col. 2:20-23).
Articles & Viewpoints:
- Article from the Catholic Encyclopedia – Asceticism