Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church (The Complete Eight Volumes in One). Amazon Kindle Edition, 2014.
Volume 2, Ante-Nicene Christianity A.D. 100-325, “Chapter 9. Ascetic Tendencies.” Sections 104-108, Loc. 17159-17485.
§ 104. Ascetic Virtue and Piety.
Schaff makes it clear that in his discussion of Asceticism he will be deferring most of the elements of Monasticim to the following chapter (Schaff 2014, Loc. 17170). The study of asceticism can make this period of Christianity appear very legalistic. After all, much of Christianity was seen through specific outward practices (Schaff 2014, Loc. 17173). The ideal was to retreat from the world, rather than to live in the world by God’s grace. Schaff, who views asceticism in very negative terms, finds it a strong element in Christianity by the late third century (Schaff 2014, Loc. 17176). He defines asceticism as a rigid outward morality. The problem Schaff has with this asceticism is that it goes beyond Scripture and results in an arrogant disdain for biblical standards.
Schaff does note that ascetic movements are not only found in Christianity (Schaff 2014, Loc. 17192). However, he finds special interests in ascetic practices among Christians by the second half of the second century. These people would retreat from society and social good for the sake of Christian purity (Schaff 2014, Loc. 17208). However, the bulk of the ascetic movement happened after the time of Constantine, when Christianity was no longer officially censured (Schaff 2014, Loc. 17214). Asceticism remained popular in Christianity throughout the Middle Ages.