Sunday, June 30, 2019

The greater danger. . .

There was a time when perhaps the danger was making Christianity inaccessible by the implication that it is no big deal to be Christian and easy peasy to live the Christian life.  I know that when I was growing up in the 1950s it seemed that American culture was an ally, or, at least not an enemy of the faith.  It seemed that Christianity and American culture went together like different donuts in the same box of sweet delights.  Of course, it never was quite that easy or comfortable a fit.  The tensions that existed were minimized by both sides and both were willing to do this because it was in the interest of both to do so.  They had common goals like duty, responsibility, family stability, children, and productivity.  People without faith were compelled to a sense of morality that often appeared indistinguishable from the morality of Jesus and the Scriptures.  Yes, I know it was more illusion than truth but that was the way it was.  By the end of the 1960s it had all changed.

Now, looking back, it is understandable why so many feel a sense of nostalgia for a time when it did not appear to be difficult to be Christian and it certainly did not seem to cost you much to be identified as a follower of Jesus.  Yet, the boomer in me and in the folks of my generation have bequeathed a terrible legacy to the church of today.  We still cling to the idea and have taught it to our children that being a Christian isn't really all that hard, you can disagree with the Scriptures and still be a good Christian, you do not need to practice your faith and still be a good Christian, your life and lifestyle does not need to change to be a good Christian, and Christianity is more like a little something extra than it is an ontological transformation.

It is long past time to be more honest and forthright with ourselves and with our children.  Being Christian is not the easy way.  Going with the flow of culture and the world and the sinful desires of the heart is the easy way.  Christianity is not for the faint of heart.  Christianity is hard.  It does not only expect a change in you but constantly calls you to repentance (to change) in which the old you dies and the new you in Christ continually arises to live in but not of the world.  That is the state we are in today.  We live in a world no longer overtly friendly but one that is downright suspicious of Christians, suspect of the Church and its motives, and quite willing to reject any and all claims of truth that do not accord with the momentary desire of the heart.  Christianity is no longer the easy religion it once seemed.  If that day ever was, it is long gone.

It is this that Rod Dreher's Benedict Option and the voices of others address.  We can no longer afford a shallow, uncertain, compromising Christianity (as if we ever could).  Now it requires of us that we be faithful when faithfulness is hard and the world loves to sit in judgment against us.  Christianity cannot afford to be an option of compromise to the world -- not in doctrine or life.  And it will certainly hurt to stand up and to stand out as the people God has declared us to be in Christ.  Our words will risk being labeled as hate speech, our actions of charity will be rejected unless they abandon every form of witness which accompanies them, and our ranks will thin under the duress of a world in which a crossless Christ dies for people who do not sin.  Abortion has placed this tension in the limelight but even here we cannot win the day simply by passing laws to make killing the unborn evil, we must also offer a positive witness for why life is good and valuable.

As a parent and grandparent I wonder what kind of world my children will live in when they are my age and what kind of world my grandchildren will grow up in -- and, of course, whether they will remain faithful as the world increasingly rejects anything of orthodox doctrine and practice.  Living in the South I know we are buffered against some of the more overt forms of persecution of Christianity but it is but a temporary refuge.  What happens in the bastions of illiberal liberalism will soon show up here in Tennessee, as they already have the rural remotes and suburban regions of the Midwest where I grew up.

The greater danger to us today is not a Christianity which is deemed loveless by those who reject the truth of the Scriptures but a Christianity which is too spineless and weak to be true to Christ in a world of challenge.  We do not risk making Christianity too difficult for those who might be interested in pursing their interest in the Gospel but we certainly do risk making Christian too casual and easy to be worth believing and living.  Cheap grace was Bonhoeffer's charge but we have made cheap grace normal and a pious and godly life that reflects our baptism and faith something rare.  It shows up in the evangelical preaching which attempts to offer a good life now as a worthy substitute for a life that is eternal.  It is just such a Gospel that is a mile wide but an inch deep which forces God to submit to your desires and places upon Him the requirement of change.  Any talk of a Benedict Option has at is core not a political strategy but a desire to be the holy men and women God has declared us to be, to strive not for what will get us by but the fullness of our lives in Christ under the cross, and for the courage and will to live under Him now so that we will be prepared to live under Him in eternity when He comes to claim us for this everlasting life.  Far from making too much of sin and redemption, judgment and absolution, life in Christ in the world, we have made too little and our Christianity has become fat, bloated, lazy, and selfish.  Strangely enough, there are those even in orthodox churches who tell us to give up even more to the prevailing winds of change.  It is not simply sexuality that is at stack but truth.  Until we realize this, we risk making even cheaper the costly redemption which Jesus paid for with His own life and death.


Carl Vehse said...

Martin Luther rejected monasticism and he would likely reject the so-called "Benedict option" as well.

For Missouri Synod Lutherans, the so-called "Benedict option" brings to mind those times around 1839, when Martin Stephan tried to impose his notion of an isolated community of his followers. That didn't get too far either.

Paul said...

Dr. Strickert the book actually outlines something parallel to what Luther did in the small catechism by applying the monastic ordering of prayer, work, discipline, and the life of love to the life of all Christians. You might say Dreher is similarly trying to suggest Christians monasticize the home and everyday life. Additionally, Dreher discusses education, the life of congregations, and practical ways to support the body of Christ. No Zion on the Mississippi anywhere in sight.

Have you read the book? If so I think more specific critiques would be helpful. These are not issues that are going away, and I think Pr. Peters is raising substantive concerns about the pressures being applied by the culture and how the Church should respond.

Carl Vehse said...

Paul @ 1:09 PM: "the book actually outlines something parallel to what Luther did in the small catechism by applying the monastic ordering..."


There is nothing in the 1529 Small Catechism that deals specifically with any monastic ordering. In fact Luther had abandoned monastic life five years earlier and demonstrated that abandonment by marrying Kate, a former nun.

Dreher's book also has no hint of such a claim. This is not surprising because Dreher was a Methodist who converted to Romanism, and then converted to the Eastern sect. Dreher doesn't appear to be an expert in Lurtheran theology.

In any case the Lutheran understanding of the Kingdom of the Left responsibilities of a U.S. Christian (as part of the Government) would reject the notion of a "Benedict Option" as a transgression of the Fourth Commandment. The responsibility of a U.S. Christian in the Kingdom of the Left is to work to maintain justice within our form of government.

Paul said...

The theological profundity of Luther’s teaching results, rather surprisingly, in a simple pattern of daily devotions both for himself and others. In his daily devotions Luther prayed the catechism. That, for him, consisted of three main texts: the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. That is also what he advocates for all Christians and teaches in his Small Catechism. The Small Catechism is his handbook for family devotions, his textbook for evangelical piety. Like a handbook for the training of an artisan, it gives instruction in “the rules and practices” of the Christian life. far Dr. John Kleinig.

My point is that the monastic ordering stuck with Luther, as he maintained a simplified but structured life of prayer, meditation, and training in both doctrine and life. Luther recognized value in the ora et labora of the monastery, as the Christian is required to be fluent and diligent in the faith (see preface to Large Catechism). Furthermore, I would say Luther, like Dreher recognizes such a "rule," yes I think you can rightly call the Small Catechism a rule of sorts, is essential in the fallen world where the flood of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh seek to overwhelm Christians. Without the ark of the church and it's influence on the domestic church and the practice of Christians in daily life there are tremendous consequences.

Furthermore, whether or not Dreher makes an argument to abandon the responsibilities of citizenship is not directly related to my comment, but since you have brought it up I would simply say that the "thick" communities of Christians Dreher suggests building are the very communities that have impacted the kingdom of the left through the individual actions of the faithful in their vocation as citizen, so I see this argument as a non-starter.

Have you read the book? If so I think more specific critiques would be helpful. These are issues that are not going away, and I think Pr. Peters is raising substantive concerns about the pressures being applied by the culture and how the Church should respond.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading "Crazy Carl" and "Crazy Vehse's" remarks much as I like watching a train wreck.

He is a poster child for what happens to a person who obtains a little knowledge, and obsesses over fantasy conspiracy theories. It's a shame this old man has chosen to devote his golden years to obsessive-compulsive theories, lies, slanders, libels and other crap comments.

His pastor needs to put him under church discipline see, seek his repentance and if he refused excommunicate him. Is he aware of his congregants sin on the Internet?

Chris Jones said...

Dr Strickert, have you read the book?

Carl Vehse said...

Paul on June 30, 2019 at 3:29 PM,

Your point changed from what Luther did in the Small Catechism (at 1:09 PM) to a stretched description of monasticism to being simply a monastic ordering ("rule") a Christian should follow in their daily life.

The monasticism that is included in the "Benedict option" includes a withdrawal from responsible participation in the Kingdom of the Left.

You cannot claim that from a paper by John Kleinig that Martin Luther retained a real monastic ordering, since Luther abandoned such monasticism when he married. That Christians (should) have order in their life in the Kingdom of the Right does not mean Christians should adopt the notions of monasticism.

Carl Vehse said...

Chris on July 1, 2019 at 1:02 PM,

In addition to reading various sections available in Google Book's website, The Benedict Option (No, I'm not going to buy the book to read the whole thing.) I've also read (and sometimes commented on) blogs about the "Benedict option," such as the Cranach columns: "The Benedict Option," April 9, 2015, and "My Thoughts on 'The Benedict Option'," June 29, 2018;

and Pastoral Meandering columns: "What culture is left for Christianity to address?," June 2, 2016; "A Benedict Option. . .," April 12, 2017; and "Where Benedict Option issues hit the road. . .," April 16, 2018;

and the Steadfast Lutheran April 3, 2017, column, "Lutheran Reflections on The Benedict Option" by Rev. John A. Frahm III.

Carl Vehse said...

Rev Frahm also references the July 1, 2015, article, "There Is No Benedict Option,” by Bruce Frohnen.

"Vague assurances of religious toleration have been made, but it is clear that the freedom of religious institutions and communities to govern themselves has been placed on the road to extinction. One no longer may refuse to engage with the culture on one´s own terms. Bakers, photographers, and various forms of ministers will have to actively participate in celebrations going against their most deeply held beliefs, actively undermining the society in which they grew up and in which they desperately wish to raise their children. Of course, certain individuals may receive certain individual exemptions (some ministers may, for now, be exempt from officiating same-sex weddings, provided they can prove the sincerity and insularity of their institutional beliefs).

"Leaders of this society
[including the fifth-column media] will not leave Christians alone if we simply surrender the public square to them. And they will deny they are persecuting anyone for simply applying the law to revoke tax exemptions, force the hiring of nonbelievers, and even jail those who fail to abide by laws they consider eminently reasonable, fair, and just. More is demanded of us than mere quiet. We are being commanded to celebrate what Saint John Paul the Great so rightly termed a Culture of Death. This culture denies God. It treats children as disposable, marriage as a mere public expression of current emotional attachments, and faith as meanings we posit for ourselves. It cannot long abide those whose very existence testifies to the shallow, self-involved, and fundamentally empty nature of its false vision of reality....

"The answer must be for more of us to march and to stand in solidarity with those whom the new system seeks to ruin financially and spiritually. We may well “lose” in the short run by the standards of this world. But our children and our children´s children need to know that we fought hard, not that we retreated in the face of arrogance and injustice. For we are not fighting for victory in this world, but to witness to the nature and reality of the next."

Carl Vehse said...

A comment to Frohnen's article noted, "A 'Benedict Option' simply isn’t possible in battling a totalitarian ideology."

Christians will be needed in this sociey in various governing vocations that will bring murderers and traitors to justice in trials, convictions, and carrying out of sentences.

Instead of a monastic lifestyle in some catacomb, Christians will be needed to fill various necessary vocations like that of Nuremberg Lutheran Frantz Schmidt (1554-1634), whose story is told by Vanderbilt history professor Joel F. Harrington in his book, The Faithful Executioner (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013). Despite his vocational duties over a 45-year career, Frantz Schmidt was a sober, reliable family man, one who reluctantly pursued his vocation.