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...]

Luther, Madison, and the Two Kingdoms

Rev. Matthew Harrison, the president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, discusses a letter President James Madison sent to a Lutheran pastor in 1821 upon reading one of his sermons:

It is a pleasing and persuasive example of pious zeal, united with pure benevolence and of a cordial attachment to a particular creed, untinctured with sectarian illiberality. It illustrates the excellence of a system which, by a due distinction, to which the genius and courage of Luther led the way, between what is due to Caesar and what is due God, best promotes the discharge of both obligations. The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without a legal incorporation of religious and civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical Religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity.

 President Harrison then goes on to give a very clear and perceptive explanation of the Doctrine of the  Two Kingdoms, which Madison was picking up on, which gives an alternative both to the view that the church should try to rule the world and the view that Christians should withdraw from that world. [Read more...]

“Two Kingdoms” from another Lutheran at Patheos

Another Lutheran joins me here at Patheos, Rebecca Florence Miller.   She has made a splash already with her post Why Christians Should Stand Up for Atheists,  which makes the case that religious liberty is for everyone, including those who reject religion.   (Atheists are reportedly astounded that a conservative Christians is standing up for them, but that should happen more than it usually does on an issue like this.)  But I leave you, after the jump, with a post that explains very well the Lutheran doctrine of culture and social engagement:  The Two Kingdoms. [Read more...]

Imagination, Christian sub-cultures, & the Two Kingdoms

More from my interview with Mathew Block, in which a question about Christians refusing to attend to music, movies, books, or the like unless they are explicitly Christian, leads to a digression on the Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. [Read more...]

All literature can be Christian literature

Tom Hering, in saying kind things about my post on the Lutheran Theology of Culture, commended this piece by Joel J. Miller, What is Christian literature? God’s truth, wherever you find it. :

In a 1997 interview with Books and Culture, William F. Buckley Jr. was asked what thinkers influenced him theologically. “I’m a theological novice,” he answered, “but I simply assume that the Christian prism tends to inform Christians, whatever they are reading.”

All literature, in other words, has the potential to be Christian literature. A believer should be able to find something good, true, and beautiful thumbing through most any book — or at least be reminded of those things by their particular absence. Indeed there is a long tradition in the Christian world of reading books by non-Christians and finding in then both use and enjoyment. . . . [Read more...]

The Lutheran Theology of Culture

On the LCMS website, looking for an address, I saw prominently featured an article or an interview or something I didn’t even remember doing in which I very succinctly summarize the Lutheran theology of culture.  It’s rather different from other approaches, but I think it’s broadly applicable and can solve many of the problems Christians have today in figuring out how to relate to their cultures.  This will also shed light on a continual theme of this blog, so I’ll post the thing after the jump. [Read more...]


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