Some Problems with the Benedict Option

As discussed by Nathan Conkey in his article, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. A Kind of a Book Review.

When he maintains that Christianity emerged from the confluence of Hebrew Religion, Greek philosophy and Roman law he describes the history of unreformed syncretism which has given us this present flood, which he rightly laments. He incorporates Plato, tutor of the thirty tyrants of Greece, father of totalitarianism, into his Classical Christian curriculum, and complains of a malaise in politics.

Having once incorporated Hebrew religion, Greek philosophy and Roman law into his ‘christianity,’ any solution offered in terms of this faith will bear the disharmonious, qualities of these rival faiths.

We see this in his advocacy of monasticism on the one hand, and marriage and the family on the other. Eastern Orthodoxy, and Roman Catholicism advocate both institutions, but, since monasticism, the formal forbidding of marriage for religious reasons is of pagan, diabolical origins, it must of necessity be at odds with the Biblical institution of the family. The forbidding of marriage for religious reasons, along with other ascetic practices are roundly rejected by Scripture, and nowhere encouraged as an ideal. To aim to turn family homes into ‘domestic monasteries’ is to divide something by nothing, and can only result in a division by zero error, lots of heat, but sadly, no light.

Again, having once adopted paganism in the form of Plato and Aristotle, with their view of God as a limiting concept only, into his ‘Christianity’ a kind of Gresham’s law is seen to be at work, with bad doctrine driving out good. For the Greeks, evil was metaphysical, in things, whereas Christ locates the seat of evil in the human heart. Hence his rather curious superstition that technology-in-itself is not morally neutral. The use of technology is most certainly NOT morally neutral, but to ascribe moral qualities to things-in-themselves is, I submit, pagan, superstitious animism.

Rod Dreher is a man worth treating seriously.

Unfortunately, he – like the Roman Catholics and the Greek Orthodox – are still trapped in the Greco-Roman (and, thus, intensely anti-Christian) tar sands that got us into this mess in the first place.

Institutionally, Mr. Dreher points to Benedict as the example of a Christian response to the fall of Rome. But, it was far from the only response, and was, in fact, a departure from the norm, not to mention the fact that being a hermit is a pagan practice, not a Christian one. God has given us an institutional solution, the church! This is not to ex-post-facto justify all that present-day churches do, and hanker for the good-old-days of Christian meetings, and sing-songs. This is a call to reform in accordance with the Word of God. It was the Church in the Roman empire which was a ‘parallel polis’ ‘Imperium in Imperio.’ It judged disputes between believers, and functioned as a parallel legal system, even for many pagans. It provided welfare, jobs for the jobless, education, and more. Together with that was the Christian family. The need of the day is to return, not to some idealised ‘early church,’ but, to take Mr. Dreher’s advice, and educate ourselves in the faith, including the works of the early church fathers that we might once again govern through service, in Christ.

There is no doubt much wisdom in the Rule of Benedict, and likely much advice best avoided. We emphatically do not need to follow either Benedict’s book, or his Lectio Divina. What we desperately do need, as per the author’s complaint, need to become literate Christians, learn the faith, and work to pass it on. Our only rule of faith is the scripture contained in the Old and New Testaments. With all due respect to Mr. Dreher, we have the solution, all of scripture, for all of life.

This is, of course, an easy rhetorical out, with a wave of my hand I dismiss his treatise, and poof! the problems are still there. The challenge remains, however, are we wiling to subject ourselves to Christ as king? Are we willing to tithe to works seeking to build alternative curricula? Are we wiling to support Christian scholarship, or simply move five, ten, or five hundred miles down the road to be with like-minded Christians? I do recommend that the serious Christian read this book, take notes, and ignore everything tainted with the leprosy of paganism. Let’s even humbly accept his critique of evangelicalism, and humbly build new churches, new wineskins, for the new wine of God, by his grace and in his power alone.

New wine will not be contained in old wineskins.

Conkey is totally correct on the root solution to our root problems. Are we going to be serious about exalting – and obeying – Christ as our King, in all things? Is His Word our Law?

Or are we going to once again turn to “sophisticated anti-Christian thought”, forever grovelling before the statist, humanist, power-adoring tyrants of Greece and Rome?

Leave the dead slavers and defunct imperialists to rot on the ground where they have fallen.

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