And now, Network Christianity

Lots of Christians supported Donald Trump, for many different reasons.  Some didn’t approve of him, but thought that he would be better than Hillary Clinton.  Some thought Trump would be more favorable to the pro-life cause.  Some thought he would be better on religious liberty.  Some thought Trump would bring more jobs, shake up the status quo, and make America great again.  Most Christians who supported him probably did so for various of these reasons.  But some apparently supported him for theological reasons.

Did you notice how a number of Pentecostal groups, particularly those influenced by TV preachers, were with Trump from the beginning and expressed no qualms about some of his questionable behavior?

According to a recent book on the subject by Brad Christerson and Richard Flory (published by Oxford University Press), there is  a new movement within Pentecostal and charismatic circles.  The authors call it “Independent Network Charismatic”–or “INC”–Christianity.  It doesn’t focus on evangelism or building congregations, nor speaking in tongues or performing miracles.  Though of course Pentecostalists and charismatics continue to care about and to practice such things, this particular strain is solely about acquiring influence.  And it is based not at all on a church, but on independent networks of leaders known as “Apostles.”

INC Christianity teaches that there are “seven mountains of culture”:  business, government, media, arts & entertainment, education, family, and religion.  The idea is that if Christians “capture” each of these mountains–that is, assume leadership in these fields–the nation’s problems will be solved and they will “bring heaven to earth.”

These Network Christians still believe in signs and wonders:  They are convinced that one of them was the election of Donald Trump, whom they consider to be God’s chosen agent to bring in the kingdom of Heaven on earth.

These are not to be confused with Dominionists or Theonomists, who are Calvinists.  Nor do they seem to be millennialists, either pre- or post-, though I could be wrong about that.  (Please enlighten me if you know.)  They are charismatics, seeing leadership in all of these areas as a sort of spiritual gift. UPDATE:  They also strike me as applying the “prosperity gospel”–which these groups also hold to–on the national level.  These leaders are part of the New Apostolic Reformation movement, which more fully accounts for their theology.

I suspect all Christians who support Trump or who are active in politics or who seek cultural impact will get tarred with this brush.  You can ascend those seven mountains–if that is your vocation–without buying into the theology behind these “networks.”  But you should be aware that this new social gospel is in the air. [Read more…]

Christians’ transition from majority to minority

Josh Daffern says that all of the current controversies Christians are facing over religious liberty, sexuality, and the like are all symptoms of something bigger:  “The biggest issue American Evangelicals will face for the next 50 years is how we handle our transition from a moral majority to a prophetic minority.” [Read more…]

Letting the culture do the work of the church

Political scientist James R. Rogers (a member of the LCMS) argues that a big part of the problem in American Christianity today is that, for a long time, churches have relied on the culture to instill morality, rather than instilling Christian morality themselves.  Ever since the Sixties, though, the culture has been taking a different turn. . . . [Read more…]

How should the church respond?

Russell Moore on the gay marriage ruling and on how churches should respond:

As I write this, the Supreme Court has handed down what will be the “Roe v. Wade” of marriage, redefining marriage in all 50 states. This is a sober moment, and I am a conscientious dissenter from this ruling. The Court now has disregarded thousands of years of definition of the most foundational unit of society, and the cultural changes here will be broad and deep. So how should the church respond? [Read more…]

“Voting Republican will not save us now”

Rod Dreher takes a bleak look at the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage.  It is now clear, he says, that we really do live in a post-Christian culture.  Now that homosexuality has been given the status of race, the government and the public really are going to go after those who don’t believe that homosexuality is moral.  The institution of marriage as a whole is going to be affected, since, if it can be redefined at will, it will no longer have any boundaries.  So Christians will have to live as exiles in their own country.  Dreher goes on to advocate “the Benedict option.”

What do you think about this?  Is Dreher over-stating the problems?  Are things really going to be that bad? [Read more…]

The Benedict Option

The outrage from big business (even Walmart!), the media, and the culture at large over Indiana’s Religious Freedom bill has many Christians thinking that America is a lost cause.  The dominant culture is so fixated on gay marriage and sexual permissiveness that it will not tolerate dissenters.  Even religious liberty, in the court of public opinion and likely legal opinion, will have to give way, and conservative believers will increasingly be demonized and punished.

Whether we are actually at that point or not, a number of thinkers–mostly of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox persuasion–are raising the possibility of what they call  The Benedict Option.

After Rome fell to moral chaos and then to the barbarians, St. Benedict formed distinct Christian communities where believers could practice their faith separated from the world.  Similarly, mainstream American culture may become so hostile to Christianity, so the reasoning goes, that Christians must form alternative communities, carrying on an alternative culture, until, as with Benedict, the barbarians are converted.

Rick Strickert posted some powerful quotations on this subject on Lutheran Forum, which I give after the jump.  And then I want to pose a question:  Can there be a Lutheran version of the Benedict Option, and, if so, how would it be different from the Roman Catholic and Fundamentalist versions? [Read more…]