5 Reactions to 'The Benedict Option'

1. James K.A. Smith

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(Photo: Rodrigo Valera Photography)James K.A. Smith, Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview at Calvin College, speaking on "Re-Imagining Religion in a Secular Age," at Faith Angle Forum, Miami Beach, Florida, March 15, 2016.

Calvin College Philosophy Professor James K.A. Smith took a critical view of the Benedict Option, contrasting it with St. Augustine of Hippo's correspondence with a public official named Boniface who considered leaving his post to enter a monastery.

"Given that Augustine founded monastic communities and wrote his own Rule, Boniface probably expected his plan to receive an encouraging reply from the aging bishop in Hippo," wrote Smith.

"Instead, Augustine counsels him to remain in his post as a matter of divine calling. While some are called to lives of chastity and perfect continence and cloistered devotion, Augustine notes, 'Each person, as the apostle says, has his own gift from God, one this gift, another that (1 Cor. 7:7). Hence others fight invisible enemies by praying for you; you struggle against visible barbarians by fighting for them.'"

Smith found Dreher's book "puzzling and frustrating," adding that it is "not clear what the endgame is that he expects, and I think there is some incoherence to his proposal because of it."

"Allegedly, the BenOp ark is where civilization will be guarded until—what, exactly? He seems to envision a time in the future where the florist and photographers and wedding cake bakers can let down the gang plank and re-enter a society that is eager to welcome them," continued Smith.

"But why would they? What's the theological grounding for that expectation, especially given the arc of the history Dreher tells?"

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