While his proposal is controversial, I do agree with some of his tenets:
- I agree that a dark age is looming for the church in America.
- I agree that the "election of President Donald Trump and the Republican majority might be a temporary reprieve from secular leftist attacks on Christians' rights ....... but more nefarious forces are at work and faithful Christians would do well to prepare for what appears to be evil times ahead." (i.e., just as the righteous reign of Josiah brought temporary relief to ancient Israel before judgment finally fell.)
- I agree that Christian education is key to survival of the church. "For example, he correctly points out that if the faith is going to survive within churches and communities, then Christians are going to have to become far more serious and intentional about education." (I strongly concur and have written on this topic several times - i.e., see here.)
One of the most important pieces of the Benedict Option movement is the spread of classical Christian schools. Rather than letting their children spend forty hours a week learning “facts” with a few hours of worldview education slapped on top, parents need to pull them from public schools and provide them with an education that is rightly ordered—that is, one based on the premise that there is a God-given, unified structure to reality and that it is discoverable. They need to teach them Scripture and history.
Building schools that can educate properly will require churches, parents, peer groups, and fellow traveler Christians to work together. It will be costly, but it will be worth it.
For serious Christian parents, education cannot be simply a matter of building their child’s transcript to boost her chance of making it into the Ivy League. If this is the model your family follows (perhaps with a sprinkle of God on top for seasoning), you will be hard-pressed to form countercultural Christian adults capable of resisting the disorders of our time.
The kind of schooling that will build a more resilient, mature faith in young Christians is one that imbues them with a sense of order, meaning, and continuity. It’s one that integrates knowledge into a harmonious vision of the whole, one that unites all things that are, were, and ever will be in God.
Every educational model presupposes an anthropology: an idea of what a human being is. In general, the mainstream model is geared toward equipping students to succeed in the workforce, to provide a pleasant, secure life for themselves and their future families, and ideally, to fulfill their personal goals—whatever those goals might be. The standard Christian educational model today takes this model and adds religion classes and prayer services.
But from a traditional Christian perspective, the model is based on a flawed anthropology. In traditional Christianity, the ultimate goal is to love and serve God with all one’s heart, soul, and mind, to achieve unity with Him in eternity. To prepare for eternal life, we must join ourselves to Christ and strive to live in harmony with the divine will.
To be fully human is to be fully conformed to that reality—as C. S. Lewis would say, to the things that are— through cooperating with God’s freely given grace. To be humanized is to grow—by contemplation and action, and through faith and reason—in the love of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. These are all reflections of the Triune God, in Whom we live and move and have our being.
To compartmentalize education, separating it from the life of the church, is to create a false distinction ...
... To be sure, there is nothing wrong in principle with learning something useful or achieving excellence in science, the arts, literature, or any other field of the intellect. But mastery of facts and their application is not the same thing as education, any more than an advanced degree in systematic theology makes one a saint.
The separation of learning from virtue creates a society that esteems people for their success in manipulating science, law, money, images, words, and so forth. Whether or not their accomplishments are morally worthy is a secondary question, one that will seem naïve to many if it occurs to them at all.
If a Christian way of living isn’t integrated in with students’ intellectual and spiritual lives, they’ll be at risk of falling away through no fault of their own. As John Mark Reynolds, who recently founded Houston’s Saint Constantine School, puts it, Christian young people who have had a personal, life-changing encounter with Christ, and who know Christian apologetics but have not integrated them into their lives, are more vulnerable than they think. They have to learn how to translate the conversion experience and intellectual knowledge of the faith into a Christian way of living—or their faith will remain fragile.
I think there is truth to Rod's argument that "Christians simply cannot offer the world what they themselves do not have. And that is because, to a large extent, American culture and politics has captured the Church. Churches have ceased being salt and light and the Gospel message, including how it is to be lived, has been "hollowed out from within." "
To retrieve this, his alternative "option" calls for an intentional separation from culture for a time to build vibrant communities ordered around prayer and time alone with God, as well as fresh thinking about building conscience-shaping institutions that are distinctly Christian. There is some scriptural support for such a radical position - i.e., 2 Cor 6:17.
The church-at-large in America is widely impotent against evil; we are figuratively wondering in the wilderness. Instead of being an agent of change conforming the culture to Christ, we have largely conformed to the culture. In the gospels, Christ frequently withdrew with His disciples from the public to privately teach and strengthen them. While the disciples spent most of their time in public ministry, the solitary times with Christ were key to their effectiveness. The church in America has spent too much time immersed in the culture and not enough time in intimacy with her Lord. We need to collectively repent and renew our relationship with our Savior. If that requires a temporary withdrawal from the culture, so be it.