A popular book in Christian circles came out a few years ago (pre-2020!) titled The Benedict Option. It’s a book that observes many of our current cultural problems in the West, our moral failings and fallings as a society. We have serious malfunctions at every level: individual, family, church, city, nation. Things are bad and seem to be getting worse as people become less connected to history, to each their neighbors, and most of all to God.
The Benedict Option is named after St. Benedict who organized a system of rules for monks. Benedict emphasized order both internally for the soul and externally for living together in community. The idea of a Benedict option urges Christians to get out of the public fight, which the author says the conservatives have basically lost anyway, and focus on building our churches and schools and other institutions so that when the modern experiment against reality collapses believers will have survived. He claims that as long as we have religious liberty we should us it to make sure that our small cells are strong.
The cover photo on The Benedict Option is of Mont-Saint Michel. I got to visit there in 2018, and it was spectacular, and quite out on its own.
I’ve read or listened to a variety of responses to the Benedict Option. On one side are those who want a more prophetic, aggressive, warlike fight to take over culture; one called it the Boniface Option after St. Boniface who cut down a idol with an axe in front of a hostile crowd. On the other side are those who don’t think we have any cultural responsibility other than to evangelize. Maybe we could call this the Bunker Option. This perspective sees groups such as families, churches, and schools, just as platforms to speak the gospel. These groups exist, and fine, but we need not worry about building them.
The project at this site is an attempt to both understand the cultural questions and to provide an answer. What are we here on earth to do? What are Christians saved for? As Kuyperian Dispensationalists we not only see culture getting worse in ebbs and flows over centuries, we also see that darkness hates the light and will put up a serious fight until the end. We aren’t surprised by apostasy and idolatry, by unbelief and immorality. But what are we supposed to do? Run away and hide? Just stick it out until the rapture?
Throughout history most Dispensationalists have retreated, and we haven’t done much in our caves except complain (it’s like the Archie Bunker Option). The Benedict Option at least encourages Christians to build, even if it’s more of a island withdrawn from trouble. But we’ve seen that this is a failure to read the parts of the Bible where God says that His creation is good, it’s a gift, and that we’re to receive it with thanks and stewardship and industry. Our Lord made the world and all who love Him will hate the things of earth in one way so that they will be better image-bearers on earth for His glory. We believe His Word, His Son, and expect the fruit of our faith to be abundant and obvious in public view. The fruit of faith will provoke others—the Jews, especially in the end times-to jealously. They will want what we have from God in Christ.
Let’s call this the Blessed Option. By faith we worship the Lord and seek His blessing on our obedience and good works. His blessings may not always be how we would define them. Blessings include wisdom gleaned from trouble, joy in pain, as well as things such as profit and increasing influence. But others will see our God-given blessings and want in.
My heart still burns, like the hearts of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, as it did at the beginning of the series. This Bible reading and Bible obeying project is one that connects truths, orients perspective, and motivates our work. It is an eschatology with train tracks that don’t run out, and the ride is good.
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