Will the Benedict Option Help? (#583)

Rod Dreher's latest book, The Benedict Option has caused quite a stir among Christian conservatives. He concedes we've lost the culture war and uses the example of St. Benedict who founded monasteries to combat the collapse of the Roman Empire. He suggests withdrawal from the culture is necessary to protect the purity of the Gospel and future Generations. Wayne and Brad discuss his premises and conclusions and the pitfalls of thinking any human-contrived system can preserve the purity of the Christian community. When you know God as a real presence in the humanity, putting your trust in any system just seems preposterous. Only as people come alive in him and share that life freely int he world will the kingdom of God continue to unfold even in the brokenness of this age.

Podcast Notes:
Christianity Today article on The Idea of a Christian Village
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  1. Amen Brothers. Jesus must be our example to imitate, his life of “in and out” demonstrated for us our own path of “long obedience in the same direction” within “God’s unforced rhythms of grace” (Peterson). Or even as Richard Rohr would encourage us (Merton too), a balance of contemplation and action, like gentle tides of LOVE. Yes, practice the “mother of all the disciplines”; silence and solitude, but then “Go” as Jesus commissioned us; do small things in great LOVE. }:- ????

  2. It’s interesting how many times that God has us “rest” before we are “sent.” Adam’s first day was…the Sabbath, the day of rest. The “apostles,” the “sent-ones,” were told to rest in Jerusalem. Paul went out to the desert for seven years before he went on his apostolic journeys. Even Jesus went out to the desert before he entered his ministry.

  3. There are plenty of friends or extended family that think I’m living the “lone ranger” life style that Brad touched on. No, I don’t have a particular group of people I meet with daily or weekly. I’ve tried to fit back into the system now and again, mostly to visit a fellowship where one or more of my children may be going. But, I know, long-term, I cannot do that. Some think it’s because I work on Sundays…which I do. I drive a bus at a retirement center, and on Sundays I take different people to their desired fellowships, whether it be Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian or Baptist. Later in the day, I take many of them on enjoyable scenic bus rides.

    Having worked there for over 7½years, I’ve made a lot of very close, deep friendships. And the most amazing thing I’ve found with any of them…whether they go to church or not, is that because of our friendships and my love for them, they have NEVER been offended or asked me to stop speaking of our liberty to have a relationship with the Lord. I’ve never been asked what denomination I am. A few have asked do I ever get a chance to go to services. I’ve only told them that a few close friends of mine get together every other week or so, and not with any agenda to pray or sing or preach. I’ve told them that many of my best times of worship have been when I take a drive out to a lake, or near Mt Rainier. But because I am so loved by my Father, I enjoy just being with them, whether we ever talk about religious preferences or not.

    That doesn’t mean I haven’t had to take a long look, at how my journey has evolved. Every now and then, an extended family member, who happens to be a pastor (he says an apostle), checks with me to see if I’m still on the straight and narrow. I just smile, and sort of shift gears, so that he doesn’t have to scrutinize my life or words. I just like to be real with folks…and I no longer play the “people-pleaser” game very well…but I’m not rude about it either.

    I appreciate listening to you, Wayne and Brad. Sometimes I think how nice it would be to have a wider group of folks that enjoy fellowship. But until that happens, I’ve chosen to love those who my Father brings into my life daily. Living with my daughter and her family has been a source of great joy. My grandchildren are full of questions and want to know if this or that is “really” in the Bible. It’s fun. But it’s the dailiness of life where the love truly touches hearts.

  4. Whilst I totally agree with what Wayne and Brad said about the Benedict community stuff, I’d like to mention the German town of Herrnhut, which is probably unique on this planet.

    It started with some Christian refugees fleeing persecution from Moravia, and being donated some land by a guy named Zinzendorf (well known for his influence on Wesley).
    Whilst it has now become a religious institution, it’s history is notable as their fundamental goal was to reach unreached people groups. Worth a search if you’re interested, especially their persecution under the East German Communist regime, and the move of God in the 70s among the young people.

    Whilst living in community can be a control thing (led by a dictator), I think we shouldn’t rule out the concept of different Christian families sharing and caring in very practical ways, if not living under one roof. I see that as being backed up by Acts 2, and Acts 4 etc.

    Two things the institutional church can’t handle are persecution, and revival. Both of these require real relationships, love and care, to survive abuse and/or the influx of new Christians who know nothing and who need a variety of believers around them who are living a love walk for them to learn from.

    I am currently in China, where the government has relaxed things in recent years and the western influence has lulled believers into institutional groups where the powers that be can keep an eye on them.

    It seems that persecution and revival (whatever that is) go hand in hand, and that one sign of revival might be, a genuine caring for one another.

    Sadly I’ve not seen much of that here. If you’re in China and you know of such communities, please let me know. I’m sure they still exist.

  5. Good comment/insight, Robin
    – about persecution and revival..
    Some years ago, I visited Herrnhut in Germany. – interesting history..

  6. Let’s break the salt shakers! Let the salt be free to bring savor to every part of the food – not just the parts we like, or think are more worthy and deserving…

  7. Imagine that…people alienated from God in their minds, while in exile, sought to create a system as a substitute for God’s actual presence. Religion is always an act of outsourcing someone’s flesh. After you begin to crest all the dead religious crap and look over your shoulder, can you really help but to chuckle? It all seems pointless and useless now, but back in those days it was my whole world, and I was still never satisfied in my heart. Love has done more; trusting the Spirit within my heart to lead removes all the pressure of performing; now, I can truly rest. Demon-i zing people takes it’s root from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That’s not going away until this all wraps up. If we stop trying to figure everything out and allow his love to permeate our hearts in and out, Wayne’s right, it all gets worked out; imagine that God working stuff out for good, huh, even without a system.

  8. Wayne and Brad

    My two cents.

    Hi, my name is Dwight. They say, Hi Dwight. I say, I’m a recovering Pharisee

    I dove head first into religious obligation in my early faith years

    I became a lonely frustrated believer who wanted everyone else to be equally obligated

    Not very pretty chapter

    When I listened to God I typically heard what you or the church needed to do. I had the gift of correction ?

    Since encountering God in a fresh relationship I still ask him to speak to me

    What I hear virtually all the time (and it makes me think it is Him) love the other

    The other being my wife, my kids, my neighbor or the next person I encounter

    What if it is that simple? What if he is not speaking to me about my job, my house, or the town I live in

    Instead he says simply love the other

    Changed my prayer time, bible reading, giving, etc

    I don’t think retreat is in my heart

  9. Wayne, Brad, another good discussion although covering a lot of ground. I have a point about withdrawal form the world and a question.

    You don’t need to resurrect monasticism to withdraw from the world. Believers have been withdrawing for two thousand years and if you want, you can still join the Amish, some Mennonites, or the Exclusive Brethren. These sects still lose their young despite their best efforts. The only way to overcome the world and its malign influence, is to exercise faith (1 Jn 5:4, 5). If we don’t show our own young that our way is better what is the point of what we do to attract others to join us? We have to invest in this. The problem in most churches is that the parents have abrogated their responsibilities to live out their faith to their children to teach them the ways of the Lord, and have ceded that responsibility to professionals. It doesn’t work. Many Christian men are not taught that their responsibility is to be a priest to their family, to take charge of teaching the little ones to love Jesus, and each day to make real what the family says it believes. We neglect this at our peril (see Deut 6:6-9; 20-25; 11:18-21).

    Now for my question. I acknowledge what you both said about not being a Lone Ranger. However, it seems that the experience of many in our position, is that regular fellowship with the same group of people is either not possible or desirable and many seem to struggle with a daily walk with God (e.g. maintaining a consistent prayer life). Given that Eph 4:11-16 strongly indicates that spiritual growth is contingent on playing our part in the Body of Christ and ministering to one another in our God-given gifts, how are we to grow together in the Lord and mature in the Body without this interaction (preferably daily interaction)? I know that you promote the cultivation of friendships and seeing Jesus build the church around that, rather than institutions. But is this enough? Does not the ministering of gifts to one another necessarily involve more than the odd ad hoc friendship? In other words, do the words of Paul imply that we need groups of bigger than three or four to see the full effect of the four fold ministry, and of healthy Body interactions?

  10. The church is the “called out ones,” called out of the world. The practice of seeker-friendly so-called churches, etc. has infiltrated, corrupted and weakened the actual church, those who are born again. Come out from among the midst of them and be ye separate, saith the Lord. And I will be a Father unto you… We are to be separate from the world in the body and sanctified, then go out into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. To confuse the two is to corrupt the Christian and the gospel.

    No attempt to stamp out Christianity? Oh yes there is! Do you really think the state of this nation and world has happened by mere chance? “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear.” Rev 13:7-9
    There IS a war, a spiritual war, raging against the church and the so-called left are against us. Read “The Naked Communist” for insight delivered into the Congressional Record in the 1950’s. Here are a few of the 45 goals (and you can see the application of them today): 24. Eliminate all laws governing obscenity by calling them “censorship” and a violation of free speech and free press. 25. Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio and TV. [Note: This is the Gramscian agenda of the “long march through the institutions” spelled out explicitly: gradual take over of the “means of communication” and then using those vehicles to debauch the culture and weaken the will of the individual to resist.] 26. Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as “normal, natural and healthy.” [Note: Today those few who still have the courage to advocate public morality are denounced and viciously attacked. Most Americans are entirely unwitting regarding the motives behind this agenda.] 27. Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed religion with “social” religion. Discredit the Bible and emphasize the need for intellectual maturity, which does not need a “religious crutch.” [Note: This has been largely accomplished through the communist infiltration of the National Council of Churches, Conservative and Reform Judaism, and the Catholic seminaries.] 28. Eliminate prayer or any phase of religious expression in the schools on the grounds that it violates the principle of “separation of church and state” Here is a link to the PDF: http://glaringhypocrisy.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/The-Naked-Communist.pdf
    “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not [to be] ignorant of his devices.” 2 Cor 2:11

  11. The Bible does say Satan is the ruler of this world, yet God remains sovereign. Satan does not rule over believers. So as the world becomes darker, the believer’s light shines brighter. Satan is much more powerful than me, for sure, but Satan is not more powerful than God. And that is where I stake my hope.

  12. Hi! I,ve read your book ” so you don’t want to go to church anymore” , and i was amased of what you described there. I am from Roumania and i graduate pentecostal bible school. Dduring my life i felt spiritually encoraged when i was speaking with my grandpa from the bible and verry rarely feom the church. Those programs made me wmpty and still are. Sometimes i feel happy. I am going to a church where they keep qouting pasages from old testament about giving money and gaining blessings. I live in England now and i am really hungry for an honest chrestian rrelationship with real chrestians. I don t want to judge those who lead the church but they make me feel horrible because they are doing more for the kingdom of God tthan me because they are preaching from the pulpit. I want to be free from this bitterness. I want to live a free life without feel ashamed because i don’t give money to the congragation or not preaching from the pulpit.

  13. Daniel, if you’re anywhere in the south east of England, get in touch. I live in Hastings. Also from a pentecostal background. Don’t regularly attend anywhere right now. Don’t see church like that anymore.
    I’m in China right now but I’ll be back next week. Robin

  14. Daniel, I want to back up Robin’s offer. I too live in England in the East Midlands. If you’re nearer there than to Robin and want to meet up, please get in touch. I have lately come out of a Restorationist apostolic church so have heard the weekly tithing guilt trip many times, and deeply sympathise. My email is malcolm.charis@ntlworld.com

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