Early in second and third century Christian history, violence against Christians by the Roman Empire, struggles against pagan ideology, practices that were corrupting the Church, and certain lax spiritual discipline had crept into many areas of the Christian faith. As some leaders attempted to control the faith by growing their personal power and influence on the political front, others sought escape from the spiritual darkness they perceived among the world to retain their own spiritual purity. Many men fled life in mainstream culture in an effort to purify their hearts and minds by practicing asceticism, or a self-denying way of life for Christ's purpose as stated in Matthew 19:21 when He stated, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." (NASB) They frequently secluded themselves in caves on the outskirts of villages and cities to find relief in their heart level relationship with God. Their behavior was marked by their willingness to put all aside everything they had in order to escape the environment in which they lived while they honored God through their spiritual disciplines. "Wherefore there is no need to set much value on these things, nor for the sake of them to practise a life of discipline and labour; but that living well we may please God." - Anthony of the Desert Anthony of Thebes or Anthony of the Desert (about 250-355 A.D.), as described by writer Athanasius of Alexandria (a student' of Anthony), is considered by scholars as being a prime figure in the monastic movement in the early Christian Church. He fled Egyptian society around the age of twenty and spent the next eighty six years of his life in first a cave , a tomb and then in an abandoned Roman Fort deep in the roughest terrain of the Western Egyptian desert wilderness. Anthony found both solace and spiritual battles in the extended periods of prayer, fasting and...
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