Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Benedict Option: Initial Response

I finally got the Benedict Option from the library and read a little of it over the weekend. First impression? Underwhelmed. For all of the hype it thus far has been a pretty forgettable work. The book itself is pretty small, I think Rod Dreher wrote more words endlessly hyping and then angrily defending the Benedict Option (BenOp) than he put into the book. Since the release it seems like he is spending more time defending the book from alleged detractors than writing anything of substance. I find it irritating because his non-stop self-promotion has largely overwhelmed the rest of the American Conservative writers which is a shame because they often are writing things that no one else is. I often go to the webpage of the TAC and click on every non-Dreher story just to help promote interesting stuff that isn't shilling for a book.

I am admittedly reading the BenOp as a hostile reviewer. I have written some pretty strongly worded criticisms of the BenOp as inadequate based on Dreher's endless previews and also critiqued Dreher himself (see: The Benedict Option And The Future Of The Church: We Should Look Back But Where And When Is The Real Question and The Anabaptist Option > The Benedict Option for starters). My number one concern with the BenOp is that it purports to point out the path forward for Christians while being written by someone who is from what I can tell either not a Christian, based on his adherence to Eastern Orthodoxy, or if he is one in spite of being EO, he is pretty Biblically illiterate. Someone who praises the virtue of mormonism and isn't sure if Muslims and Christians worship the same God or not, and hasn't even thought about it, really isn't someone in a position to be a pathfinder for the church.

For example, early on in the BenOp (page 23) Dreher claims to have identified five critical events that "stripped" the West of her "ancestral faith": the loss of a sense that God and creation were "connected" in the 14th century, "The collapse of religious unity and religious authority in the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century", the 18th century Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and the 60's era Sexual Revolution. Yes, Dreher lumps the Reformation in with the Sexual Revolution as being to blame for the loss of the West's "ancestral faith".

For Protestants, the Reformation was not about undoing the false "unity" of the church, it was about restoring the Gospel. That is infinitely more important than preserving "religious unity", a farcical concept for anyone familiar with church history. A unity based on a lie is not Biblical unity. His casual slander of the Reformation as akin to the Sexual Revolution is par for the course thus far, Dreher seems more interested in preserving traditional religious forms and morals than he is in preserving the truth.

My basic position on Rod Dreher is that he is a sometimes useful commenter on culture from a nominally "Christian" conservative religious viewpoint. As a leader in the church he is largely disqualified for a bunch of reasons, primarily because he doesn't understand the church at all and doesn't seem to understand or be very interested in the Gospel. So why read him at all? Simply because the book has sold a lot of copies and is bandied about as a critical resource for the church including some breathless fawning about it being the most important book this year/decade/century. I am going to keep pluggin away at it and posting updates as I go.

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