Are the ideas depicted in The Rule of Saint Benedict good rules or bad rules for people to live by?

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The Rule of Saint Benedict includes a great many precepts. They are directed primarily at monks, and some are even more specialized, being applicable to abbots and other officials. Some of the most generally relevant are in the long list in chapter IV on the instruments of good works. Few of these ideas are original and most of the early ones echo the Ten Commandments:

In the first place, to love the Lord God with the whole heart, the whole soul and the whole strength.

Then one’s neighbor, as if oneself.

Then, not to kill.

Not to commit adultery.

Not to steal ...

However, even this general list quickly becomes more specialized and refers to monks in particular:

To yield obedience in all things to the abbot’s precepts, even if he himself act contrary to their spirit, the which be far from him: being mindful of that precept of the Lord: "What they say, do ye; but what they do, do ye not."

As for whether these are good rules to live by, they are, like most lists of regulations, a mixed bag. Here are some that I would not want to follow:

To chastise the body

Not to embrace delights

To have wholesome fear of the day of judgment

With fear to shrink from hell

To have the expectation of death daily before one’s eyes

To love chastity

To avoid elation

There are also many rules to do with loving and fearing God which would only be relevant to a theist and others which would only apply to a Christian.

The Rule of Saint Benedict, of course, also includes plenty of very commendable rules exhorting love and charity. However, since the mind of the reader determines which are the good rules and which are the bad, it is all too clear that the mind, not the rulebook, is the ultimate authority. This makes the rulebook superfluous, since even if some of the rules are excellent, one must work out for oneself which these are.

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