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.
§ 105. Heretical and Catholic Asceticism.
Schaff observes that not all asceticism in antiquity was alike. Some, based on pagan philosophy, he considers heretical, but that based on Christian ideals is sound (Schaff 2014, Loc. 17225). The heretical kind develops in Gnosticism and Manichaenism. He finds these ideas based on “a confusion of sin with matter, and a perverted idea of God and the creation (Schaff 2014, Loc. 17230). A genuinely Christian asceticism, on the othre hand, grows from Scripture, though Schaff finds it to strain some passages of Scripture. The purpose of a Christian asceticism is to control the body, rather than to mortify it (Schaff 2014, Loc. 17236). However, Schaff considers it to devolve into the same misuse of asceticism as found among the Gnostics. Eventually, there is a desire to escape from the body (Schaff 2014, Loc. 17241). Asceticism moves ultimately to a division of sins from one another based on how harmful they are. This in turn creates special classes of holy people (Schaff 2014, Loc. 17247). Doing works of piety becomes a work which can earn special merit. The list of works which earn merit then grows (Schaff 2014, Loc. 17263).