Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Category: The Benedict Option (Page 2 of 2)

October 25, 2017 — The Roots of Decline

Today’s Bible reading

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. – 1 John 2:15-20

More thoughts for meditation

How did “Western civilization” get to a place where Christians could support Donald Trump and to the place where identity wars could divide brothers and sisters in faith? Here’s the philosophical/theological trail toward the answer Rod Dreher enumerated in The Benedict Option. Before you say “TLDNR,” just think of this history lesson as a means to meditate, perhaps a way to confess your sin of complicity and ignorance, or as a way for the Holy Spirit to potentially convict you of your worldliness, in light of today’s reading.

  • In the 1300’s “nominalism” took the medieval philosopher’s sense that everything has an inherent, God-given meaning and tweaked it to say that the meaning of objects and actions in the material world depends on what humans assign them. You can see the seeds of our present preoccupation with our individual identities in this thought — how we have been named and how we name ourselves makes all the difference to most of us, and the title “child of God” is not usually our number one sense of self, since that derives from God and not ourselves.
  • In the 1400’s optimism about human potential shifted Europe’s focus from God to humanity who was seen as “the measure of all things. We’ve been measuring our progress ever since.
  • In the 1500’s the Reformation broke any remaining sense of religious authority to shreds and started the infighting that makes Christians hard to trust. Martin Luther said, “Here I stand” and ably expressed the personal conviction that has been individualizing faith ever since.
  • In the 1600’s The Wars of Religion in Europe further discredited religion and helped usher in the modern nation state. The scientific revolution  replaced the organic sense of the universe with a machine. Descartes applied the mechanistic thinking to the body: “I think therefore I am,” not “I am an organic part of God’s world.” Most Europeans, like Descartes, still thought of themselves as faithful Christians at this time, but the way they thought of themselves and decided what is true began to change.
  • In the 1700’s the Enlightenment created a framework for existence with reason, not God, at the center. Religion became private, not public. The United States protected an individual’s right to choose faith in a faithless state. France created an antifaith democracy.
  • In the 1800’s The industrial revolution ended the connection most people had with the land. Relationships became defined by money. The romantic movement rebelled by emphasizing individualism and passion.
  • In the 1900’s The horrible world wars severely damaged faith in the gods of reason and progress as well as faith in Jesus. The growth of technology and consumerism further convinced people to fulfill individual desires and submit to huge corporations which supplied that fulfillment. The sexual revolution elevated the desiring individual as the center of a new social order, deposing enfeebled Christianity and all other religions.
  • Now in the 2000’s people have almost no moral center outside themselves to rely on, no community that is respected to monitor their behavior, and no sense of covenant that can require their sacrifice. We are reduced to individuals gathering enough power to win an argument about whether our desires will be legalized and our identity protected.

Obviously, Dreher was not making a comprehensive history and a lot of wonderful things happened at the same time. As Christians we love history, since it is the story of life and death with God in the center of it all. We do not fear it and we are great at learning from it. We trust God to be at work in it (as is demonstrated in Jesus and the church) and through it (to bring creation to right). Nevertheless, the track to the present Jesus-less world is striking!

Suggestions for action

If, like John says in our reading, the antichrists have gone out into the world, what do we do? We must return to Jesus every moment, hold on to the “golden thread” of faith that connects us to our beginnings, and live in the mercy/will of God. Would you write John’s paragraphs to your friends or children? If not, why are you different? Ask God what to write to them; you might even do it and see what happens.

Pray through your own history. Where has God revealed the antichrists? Where did you steer towards the will of God? Where were you deluded by the false prophets? Praise, confession, intercession will follow.

October 24, 2017 — Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism

Today’s Bible reading

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. – 2 Timothy 4:3-5

More thoughts for meditation

Twelve years ago, Smith and Denton published their findings about the spiritual lives of American teenagers. Rod Dreher and others among the Evangelical church, appear to be catching up with the religion that has characterized most Americans for decades. Smith told Dreher in an interview, “America has lived a long time off its thin Christian veneer, partly necessitated by the Cold War. That is all finally being stripped away by the combination of mass consumer capitalism and liberal individualism.” Under the veneer of nominal Christianity is the real religion Smith and Denton discovered: moralistic, therapeutic deism. They named five basic tenets of the ascendant faith:

  • A God exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
  • God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  • The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  • God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
  • Good people go to heaven when they die.

This faith is especially prominent among Catholics and Mainline Protestants. It is colonizing Christian churches and replacing the true faith.

Dreher says the flood is already up to the rafters but Evangelicals are still at war, trying to turn the cultural tide back – and using Donald Trump as their Cyrus! He says it would be better to build an ark. That is just what Benedict of Nursia did in similar days.

Suggestions for action

First off, how much does your own “personal” belief resemble MTD? If you dare assess the faith of those in your cell are they closer to radical Christianity or MTD? If you feel reluctant to pray about this, assess what is behind your reluctance.

If you wanted you become a a more radical Christian, the kind that would build an “ark” to sail the stormy flood of unbelief that has come upon the culture, what more would you do? What might prevent you? Make a list and meditate on it with Jesus.

Speaking of radical…Today is Rosa Parks Day! Remember her at Celebrating Our Transhistorical Body.

October 23, 2017 — The Great Flood

mountains nisin flood church river disaster

Today’s Bible reading

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive opinions. They will even deny the Master who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Even so, many will follow their licentious ways, and because of these teachers[a] the way of truth will be maligned. And in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced against them long ago, has not been idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgment; and if he did not spare the ancient world, even though he saved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood on a world of the ungodly; …then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment. – 2 Peter 2:1-9

More thoughts for meditation

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at the American Conservative. So some people might think that disqualifies him from leading us in prayer this week. But his book The Benedict Option might make you feel like you need to show some respect across the lines around your blue-state world. Christians the world over, especially in Europe and the United States, are wondering what to do, now that “Christendom” is collapsing around them, “How should we be the church when the institutional church is crumbling? What will our children become if the world around them is hostile to their faith?” Dreher writes:

“The spiritual crisis overtaking the West is the most serious since the fall of the Roman Empire near the end of the fifth century . The light of Christianity is flickering out all over the West…The changes that have overtaken the West in modern times have revolutionized everything, even the church, which no longer forms souls but caters to selves. As conservative Anglican theologian Ephraim Radner has said, ‘there is no safe place in the world of in our churches within which to be a Christian. It is a new epoch.’ [We have something to say about the “crisis”]

Don’t be fooled by the large number of churches you see today. Unprecedented numbers of young adult Americans say they have no religious affiliation at all. According to the Pew research Center, one in three 18-to-29-year-olds have put religion aside, if they ever picked it up in the first place. If the demographic trends continue, our churches will soon be empty.”

He is going to go on to say that the “Benedict option” is what we should try. He means that anyone waking up to the inhospitable environment in which they live should band together to form real communities of radical faith in the same way Benedict of Nursia did as the Roman Empire was dissolving (on his way to founding the Benedictine Order). It is a good idea, isn’t it? It sounds like he needs Circle of Hope, doesn’t it?

We say we are transhistorical (so we can commune with Benedict of Nursia), transnational (so we don’t feel overly responsible for “America”), and we are also transdenominational, meaning that if Rod Dreher finally ended up in the Orthodox Church, that’s fine. We admire them, too.

Suggestions for action

It is sad that “conservatives” are being forced to admit holding on to the United States was a mistake and aspiring to political dominance was bad for the faith of their children. But it is also good that some of them are admitting it. Can you allow for the big changes in society and church to bring all us Jesus followers together rather than splitting us up even further? What could you do to speed along the reconciliation of the Church, especially if you have relatives or church friends on the other side of some trumped-up political divide?

Pray around your life for a few minutes. Who is divided from whom by what? Who do you leave alone because they are “like that?” Who has lost their faith because the world finally leeched it out of them or beat them down? Imagine with God what it would be like if these folks lived in a community of life-centering faith in Jesus. Don’t worry whether you think this is possible right now. Just pray it. And see where you fit into God’s building plans.

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