The Benedict Option: Relative versus Revelatory Truth

“God moves in a mysterious way.” – Isaiah 55:8-9.

I am a member of a weekly men’s prayer fellowship. Each member is required to give a Biblical lesson for a month. It turns out that I will be giving the lesson next month.

I began thinking what should I speak about that hasn’t already been covered? I thought about discussing the Book of Revelations because many Christians are seeing signs of the end of times and the second coming of Jesus. While thinking about my topic God revealed to me a book titled “The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher.” After reading Dreher’s book I asked members of the prayer fellowship to read the book and discuss the ideas contained in it during our weekly Friday meetings during the month of September.

Why did God, who moves in a mysterious way, reveal this book to me?

Because I and many others, Christian and non-Christian alike, feel something is wrong, very wrong, in America and it’s getting worse.

Dreher in his book bears his soul and his concerns for the future of his family, community and the nation. Dreher writes in the preface to his book:

In my 2006 book Crunchy Cons, which explored a countercultural, traditionalist conservative sensibility, I brought up the work of philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, who declared that Western civilization has lost its moorings. The time was coming, said MacIntyre, when men and women of virtue would understand that continued full participation in mainstream society was not possible for those who wanted to live a life of traditional virtue. These people would find new ways to live in community, he said, just as Saint Benedict, the sixth-century father of Western monasticism, responded to the collapse of Roman civilization by founding a monastic order.

Dreher explains how, over the past 7 centuries, Western civilization has come to embrace relative truth and abandon revelatory truth.

Relative truth is the doctrine that there are no absolute truths. Revelatory truth is the knowledge that there are absolute truths. Truths that transcend culture, civilization and mankind itself. These absolute truths have been revealed to us thus the term I use in the title “Revelatory Truth.”

William “Bill” Hild, Pastor of First Sarasota Baptist Church, gave a sermon on “Revelatory Truth.” You may wish to listen to what Pastor Bill has to say by clicking here.

Lindy Keffer in her column “Absolute Truth” wrote:

In a society where ultimate truth is treated like a fairy tale, an outdated idea or even an insult to human intelligence, the motto of the day becomes, “WHATEVER!” Believe whatever you want. Do whatever seems best to you. Live for whatever brings you pleasure, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. And of course, be tolerant. Don’t try to tell anyone that their whatever is wrong.

But where does that leave us? If we have ultimate truth, it gives us both a way to explain the world around us and a basis for making decisions. Without it, we’re alone.

Dreher notes:

Unprecedented numbers of young adult Americans say they have no religious affiliation at all. According to the Pew Research Center, one in three 18-to-29-year-olds have put religion aside, if they ever picked it up in the first place.

[ … ]

In 2005, sociologist Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton examined a wide variety of backgrounds. What they found was that in most cases, teenagers adhered to a mush pseudoreligion the researchers deemed Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD).

MTD has five basic tenets:

  • A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
  • God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible, and by most world religions.
  • The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  • God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when he is needed to resolve a problem.
  • Good people go to heaven when they die.

This creed, they found, is especially prominent among Catholic and Mainline Protestant teenagers.

MTD reeks of relative truth, not Revelatory or Absolute Truth.

Dreher writes:

MTD, in both its progressive and its conservative versions, is that it’s mostly about improving one’s self-esteem and subjective happiness and getting along well with others. It has little to do with the Christianity of Scripture and tradition, which teaches repentance, self-sacrificial love, and purity of heart, and commends suffering-the Way of the Cross- as the pathway to God. Though superficially Christian, MTD is the natural religion of a culture that worships the Self and material comfort.

Dreher warns, “Nobody but the most deluded of the old-school Religious Right believes that this cultural revolution can be turned back. The wave cannot be stopped, only ridden.”

What Dreher presents is another way forward for those who embrace revelatory/absolute truth.

He asks,

“Could it be that the best way to fight the flood is to . . . stop fighting the flood?”

That is to quit piling up sandbags [to fight the flood] and to build an ark in which to shelter until the water recedes and we can put our feet on dry land again? Rather than wasting energy and resources fighting unwinnable political battles, we should instead work of building communities, institutions, and networks of resistance that can outwit, outlast, and eventually overcome the occupation.

Dreher unequivocally states, “We have been in a place like this before. In the first centuries of Christianity, the early church survived and grew under Roman persecution and later after the collapse of the empire in the West. We latter-day Christians must learn from their example-and particularly from the example of Saint Benedict.”

Dreher is on to something. Christians must go back in time, and back to the basics, in order to regain a virtuous Christian future.

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6 replies
  1. Frank Thiboutot
    Frank Thiboutot says:

    I was raised a Catholic which at one time provided a good moral compass whether one participated in the dogma and rituals or not. Now, with the Marxist Pope, Catholics charities involvement in refugee resettlement, etc. they wonder why they’re losing parishioners.

    Reply

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