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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.






20 November 2005

Monks


Q: What is a monk? Are they born-again Christians? I have a friend who listens to monk music. Please let me know, so I can help him find out if monks are okay or not.

Martin Luther - Augustinian MonkA: Monks are men who take voluntary vows of such things as poverty, celibacy, and obedience to some religious superior. While Buddhism and some other beliefs have a type of monk, I’ll focus on Christian monasticism.

Most monks that I know of belong to Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism, but other churches also have monastic orders. In Anglican or Lutheran monasticism, the vows are not perpetual, but are for the time one lives in a community or for a set period. Brothers can then leave and marry. Catholic monks, like nuns, take a series of vows. They remain as such for life unless released from their vows for extraordinary circumstances.

As for the music, your friend’s probably listening to chant music from the earlier centuries of the Christian church. Much of this is in Latin or Greek, often quoting and almost always based on Bible texts. It is the music of worship from earlier years and is still kept in some form in much of Christendom. I have some of this early music myself and often listen to it when reading Scripture and theology books.

Reformer Martin Luther began his religious vocation in the Augustinian Order of monks. The picture of him included here shows his garment and the special haircut, known as a tonsure. This is a 1520 portrait by Lucas Cranach.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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