The Benedict Option; Is No Option

I have to be honest with you, I have been thinking about dropping out. By dropping out I mean stop using my IPhone, IPad, watching TV, especially the news, and giving up my laptop. I am discouraged about our society, politics, social morality, and generally this earth in general. However, I’ve decided my hope has been misplaced in a fallen system that has no ability to regenerate itself. I have decided that it is best to listen to what Psalm 121:1 says, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.”

David Skeel this morning wrote in the regular WSJ article, Houses of Worship, that “now isn’t the time to flee the public square.” He began the article by discussing the Benedict Option, which calls for Christians to stage a “strategic retreat from the culture.” This reminds me of Ayn Rand’s book “Atlas Shrugged,” where John Galt encourages all the creative and innovative leaders to leave society.

We could say, who is Rod Dreher, just like John Galt, who is calling for this disappearance? “Mr. Dreher, in a series of blog posts over the past several weeks for the American Conservative, has described the Benedict Option as my name for an inchoate phenomenon in which Christians adopt a more consciously countercultural stance toward our post-Christian mainstream culture.” I think it is very evident that we are in a post-Christian culture, so I think this is a relevant discussion to have.

In the early sixth century the Church decided to leave the world and move into monastic life. Subsequently, this has been attempted many times throughout history. In 2006, David Kuo, “a former special assistant to President George W. Bush,” wrote in “Tempting Faith” that he was “advocating that evangelical Christians take a timeout and abstain from politics for a few years.” Another person in 2010, James Davison Hunter, argued the same message. However, we are still here and still participating, and I think we need to continue to do this, but with keeping something in mind.

I understand scripture and its clear picture of the world. The world is fallen. Therefore, we cannot look to Politics, Religion, Capitalism, or Socialism to save the world it is just not possible. In fact, if we look to any of these isms to accomplish this we are practicing idolatry.

Timothy Keller in his wonderful book, “Counterfeit Gods: The empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power,” describes how we have focused on the wrong things thinking they will accomplish what God can only do. As I continue to read his book I am amazed at how accurate his words are. Let me give you a few examples.

Loving one’s country is a good thing, but Keller tells us what Reinhold Niebuhr think of extreme nationalism. Niebuhr stated that “when power and prosperity of a nation become unconditional absolutes that veto all other concerns, then violence and injustice can be perpetrated without question.” I think this is supported by history. Keller references Dutch scholar Bob Goudzwaard to make his point of how this end justifies the means, “Thus a nation’s goal of material prosperity becomes an idol when we use it to justify the destruction of the natural environment or allow the abuse of individuals or classes of people.” Thus we can make politics an idol, and God forbid that politics and Christianity ever become strange bedfellows again.

Neibuhr warned us against making your political philosophy a “saving faith.” We only have to look to recent history to see the reality of this failure. These failures are reflected in the Marxism of Russia, the excesses of Capitalism, and government in general. If we focus our hopes on any of the above, and look to these ideologies as absolutes, this will only lead to disappointment. C.E.M. Joad, states, “It is because we rejected the doctrine of original sin that we are disappointed.”

These ideologies demand total commitment, yet they will never provide peace. Neibuhr “argued that human thinking always elevates some finite value or object to be the Answer.” Keller states, “In Marxism the powerful state becomes the savior and capitalists are demonized. In conservative economic thought, free markets and competition will solve our problems, and therefore liberals and government are the obstacles to a happy society.” The fact is, neither of these extremes are the truth.

Phew, I have righted the ship. Even though I think that business has an incredible ability to create positive social change, I understand what is in the heart of human kind. I don’t trust human systems, but I also think that good can be done through them. I just have to trust my God to work that out. Now my hold is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteousness. I will dare not trust the sweetest frame, but only lean on Jesus name. Yep, that is the truth.

And that is my thought for the day!

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