Thursday, February 22, 2024

Monasticism in violation of Scripture: The case of Amoun

Another pioneer of Egyptian monastic life was Amoun. He was born in 295 and lived in the north of Egypt in the region of the Nile Delta. He was an orphan and at the age of twenty-two was forced by his uncle to marry. He went unwillingly through the ceremony but then read passages of the Bible to his illiterate new wife instructing her about the importance of chastity. She had little option but to accept his preferred way of living but wanted at least to live in the same house. Amoun worked growing balam, ate and prayer with his wife, then retired at night to a different room. This went on for eighteen years after which his wife suggested they lived separately. Amoun then happily moved to the nearby mountiain of Nitria, when he was thirty-four years. (John Binns, The T & T Clark History of Monasticism: The Eastern Tradition, 38)

Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. (1 Cor. 7:27)

The case of Amoun, one of the pioneers of monasticism in Egypt is instrumental in showing us how seeking supposed good things led many to sin. In this case, Amoun violated Scripture and broke his marital vows to his wife. Scripture is clear that those who are married to live as married men and women — the husband to love his wife and the wife to honor and respect her husband (cf. Eph. 5:22-33). It is also clear from Scripture and its context that one's happiness or "consent" in the matter of marriage is irrelevant to the obedience of these commmands, noting that many marriages in antiquity were arranged without the concept of consent or romantic love. Amoun entering a marriage through being forced by his uncle to marry is therefore irrelevant to the issue of how he ought to conduct himself in his marriage.

God is God, and He is the one who ordains each person's station in life. The greatest virtue comes in obedience to God in our daily lives, not to create an artificial "holiness" through human means. Thus, the one who enters into marriage ought to obey God in the midst of his/her marriage, noting the marriage covenant that binds husband and wife in one flesh (Eph. 5:31 cf. Gen. 2:24). There is therefore no legitimate reason for Amoun to violate his marital covenant, breaking it with the view of "living for God." Instead of living according to God's revealed will, monasticism replaces the words of God with the commandments of Man, and in so doing showing us how sin enters through Man's sincere attempts to be good.

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