"My kingdom is not of this world" (Jn. 18:36)
EDUCATING COOKIE A. LAGUDA-ALICAYA ON WHAT THE WORD OF GOD SAYS ABOUT ASCETICISM
In a series of articles, we refuted Ms. Cookie Laguda-Alicaya’s tirade on celibacy and abstinence. This time, we move on to her next attack – asceticism and mysticism. For Ms. Laguda-Alicaya, “false teachers put emphasis on mysticism.” But as to how much emphasis is given, she does not say. Here again, we see Ms. Laguda-Alicaya’s penchant for generalization – and subjectivism.
Ms. Cookie Laguda-Alicaya starts her discussion with a wrong citation from Scripture! For a so-called “Bible Christian” to commit this startling error reveals much about her grasp (or the lack of it) of the Word of God. Ms. Laguda-Alicaya wrongly cites Ephesians 2:18-19 as:
“Let no one disqualify you, insisting on ascetism (sic) and worship of angels, going on in details about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. (Ephesians 2:18-19)”
Cookie Laguda-Alicaya fails to read, and cite, her Bible correctly
The correct passage, Ms. Cookie Laguda-Alicaya, is Colossians 2:18-19! How could a self-professed “Bible Christian” miss that? This error is too telling of the level of familiarity of Ms. Laguda-Alicaya with God’s Word. Writing Ephesians 2:18-19 instead of Colossians 2:18-19 is far from a mere typographical error. This “Bible Christian” who has the temerity to lecture about the Bible to others is clearly mistaken about her Scripture citation. This is evident in the way she started her quote: “In Ephesians 2, we see them described as follows” [then follow the verses erroneously cited as Ephesians 2:18-19]. Not only that, Ms. Laguda-Alicaya repeated this Scriptural blunder in the next paragraph: “But many of the false teachers in the world are described in Ephesians to not only dwell in ascetism, but also present a kind of spirituality in the picture of mysticism.”
Let’s set the record straight, Cookie. This is what Ephesians 2:18-19 states:
“For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.”
After committing such Scriptural blunder, Ms. Cookie Laguda-Alicaya trains her guns anew on abstinence: “Ascetism (sic) is the practice mentioned above about abstinence.” Ms. Laguda-Alicaya forgets that there is no such word as “ascetism.” What she probably means is “asceticism.” This shows Ms. Cookie Laguda-Alicaya’s ineptness and incompetence to pontificate on this topic. She can’t even get her spelling right. Worse, she transported the mis-spelled word “ascetism” to her erroneously quoted passage from Scripture, thereby polluting the inspired and infallible Word of God with her wrong spelling.
"But I chastise my body, and bring it to subjection ..." - (1 Cor. 9:27, DRV)
I have dealt with the issue on abstinence and I will not restate here what I have already stated. I will limit myself to discussing asceticism [and mysticism on my next article] based on Sacred Scripture.
Note that Ms. Cookie Laguda-Alicaya is not fond of defining her terms. Thus, we cannot fully divine what she is trying to convey. For instance, she did not define what is asceticism (she even mis-spelled it) before she assailed it. It appears, therefore, that Ms. Laguda-Alicaya is railing against something she does not know. Verse 10 of Jude says this of people like Cookie Laguda-Alicaya: “But these rail at whatsoever things they know not: and what they understand naturally, like the creatures without reason, in these things are they destroyed” (ASV).
Asceticism is derived from the Greek ἄσκησις (áskēsis) which means "exercise" or "training.” It describes a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from various worldly pleasures, often with the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals. Similarly, the Catholic Encyclopedia explains that the “word asceticism comes from the Greek askesis which means practice, bodily exercise, and more especially, athletic training.” It further notes that the “early Christians adopted it to signify the practice of the spiritual things, or spiritual exercises performed for the purpose of acquiring the habits of virtue.”
"I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should" (1 Cor. 9:27, NLT)
Of course, forms of asceticism may be found in various non-Christian religions but it doesn’t mean that asceticism is foreign to Christianity. The Apostle Paul likens Christian life to one of practice, exercise or training. Thus, in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul writes:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
But, Cookie Laguda-Alicaya would have none of that! She has closed her eyes, mind and heart to that oft-recurring theme in Sacred Scripture. Writing to his disciple Timothy, Paul states:
“Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules” (1 Tim. 2:3-5).
Elijah the Prophet lived an ascetic life
And if that is not enough, Paul goes on to say:
“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:7-10).
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).
"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain" (1 Cor. 9:24, KJV)
Before the end of his life, again using athletic analogy, Paul declared:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
The problem with Ms. Cookie Laguda-Alicaya is that she is fond of generalization. She lumps all asceticism together and condemns them. She conveniently forgets that there is a Biblical asceticism. Her anti-ascetic mentality blinded her to the Biblical reality.
Our Lord Jesus Christ commends unworldliness and condemns worldliness. He declared, “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn. 18:36). Thus, Paul reminds us: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:2).
St. John the Baptist was an ascetic: "John wore clothes made of hair from camels. He had a leather belt around him. His food was locusts and wild honey" (Mt. 3:4, NLV).
Because of her one-track mind, Ms. Cookie Laguda-Alicaya did not give us the complete picture of asceticism in the Bible. Her one-sided, biased presentation failed to give justice to those holy persons in the Bible who lived ascetically. In the Old Testament, the prophet Elijah was an ascetic, clad in skins and a leather girdle, dwelling in mountain caves and fed by ravens (cf. 2 Kgs. 1:7-8). In the New Testament, we find an example of ascetic lifestyle in St. John the Baptist who “was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey” (Mk. 1:6, see also Mt. 3:4). And not to forget, Jesus Christ Our Lord was Himself an ascetic who “emptied Himself” (Phil. 2:7) for our sake. He said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mt. 16:14). And further He said: “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Mt. 10:38).
"Woe to you that call evil good and good evil ..." (Isa. 5:20)
Christian asceticism, therefore, is something good but Ms. Cookie Laguda-Alicaya calls it evil.
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isa. 5:20).
 She repeats the same error in the next sentence: “But many of the false teachers in the world are described in Ephesians to not only dwell in ascetism, but also present a kind of spirituality in the picture of mysticism.”
 Ms. Cookie Laguda-Alicaya had in mind Colossians 2:18-19 from the English Standard Version (ESV):
“Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.”