I don't think that citing that passage fully settles the matter at hand, if that's what you mean. But I do think that when you read what you wrote, and then read what our Lord said, you'll see that they don't easily hang together. Our Lord doesn't seem to be expressing anything like the kind of thoughts you were expressing. That strikes me as significant. I thought it might so strike you, as well, since you are working on understanding asceticism. If not, then nevermind.
Though I admit that I am in a state of complete disagreement with the practice of asceticism (as we've been qualifying it), I am open to the possibility that I am wrong. I have been before, I have no doubt I am about many things, and so I am sure I will admit that I am many times in the future. To that extent, I'm very much trying to understand it. What, after all, is the point of disagreeing with or rejecting something you don't understand?!? It is simply that to the extent that I do understand it, I reject it.
So can you say more about how my understanding of Jesus' words "don't easily hang together" with what He actually said? I agree it would be significant if they don't, but I'm at a loss to see the disconnect.
Injuring the body is clearly not a sin. If it were, then surgery would be sinful. What makes surgery non-sinful is the intent of the injury. The physician cuts the body open and mutilates it in order to make the person more healthy. He hasn't sinned (that is, injured the body) in order to make the person healthy. He has done something indifferent in itself in order to make the person healthy. To take a more radical case, capital punishment is not sinful, nor is corporal punishment (I mean here flogging a prisoner, not spanking a child...although that, too), given the right conditions.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm under the impression that the law of double effect is the big issue in play here. In the case of surgery, the goal
is not to injure the body. It is, rather, to make the body better. But by way of comparison, I would argue that if a non-invasive procedure is available that is just as effective if not better, then it would be sinful (all things being equal) to opt for the more invasive procedure, precisely because we should not injure the body (intentionally) where it can be avoided.
The "where it can be avoided" is important to me. So take corporeal punishment. I spank my own daughter, but there are times when I think--to the best of my judgment--that other methods would be just as if not more effective. So, since in those cases I can avoid inflicting physical pain on her, I use those other methods.
If I'm right, it would seem to me that any justification for asceticism would require self-mortifications necessary
for spiritual growth, or at least for the attainment of a particular spiritual state (and, by extension, that such a spiritual state is more desirous than the respective spiritual state where the body is properly nurtured). Further, it would seem that this justification would implicitly recognize the evil of self-mortification, but justify it via double effect. But that's part of my problem with my current understanding of asceticism. The self-mortifications themselves aren't presented as evils--albeit necessary ones--to be suffered, but rather as goods to be sought in and of themselves! Perhaps, again, that's just my misunderstanding, but that's the way it appears to me at this time.
As Obi implies, mortification attains its worth from the works of Christ and is an imitation of his suffering and penance in reparation for sin. The practice of asceticism falls under a universal Christian duty of mortification which arises because of the fallen condition of humanity.
I appreciate that argument, but the only way that can be persuasive in principle is if I can first accept the notion that asceticism is not sinful in and of itself. For if asceticism is
sinful in and of itself, then we cannot expect to engage in such sinful activity in order to bring about reparation for sin. With that said, I'm understanding you here to say that our
suffering in self-mortification has something to do with the purging of our sin, which is what I can't accept. I obviously have no problem with the idea that Christ's suffering did that. I hold to a rather typical view of substitutionary atonement here (actually, to make it worse, I hold to a univeralist view of the atonement, but that's another matter for another debate!).
I disagree. Jesus isn't taking about "something causing you to sin."
Uhm . . . those are the words He uses . . .
Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
How about 1 Cor 9:24-27?
How about it? Paul is drawing an analogy. Just as athletes discipline their bodies to get the best performance out of them, we do, too. That would justify the kind of "asceticism" I first talked about in terms of temporary fasts, but it doesn't get us anywhere near the kind of mortifications that result in injury to the body. In fact, I think that passage is in my favor here, for no athlete would injure
himself in his training. On the contrary, such "discipline" would be seen as foolish and counter-productive (which, I confess, is how I tend to view asceticism today).