Observing how Christian organizations engage the culture in our nation, it is noticeable how many Christian institutions have begun to adopt an adversarial posture toward the mainstream culture, a posture known as the “Benedict Option.” The “Benedict Option,” as presented by philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre in his book After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, can be defined as follows:
“…the Benedict Option — or “Ben Op” — is an umbrella term for Christians who accept MacIntyre’s critique of modernity, and who also recognize that forming Christians who live out Christianity according to Great Tradition requires embedding (entrenching Christians) within communities and institutions dedicated to that formation.” [i]
MacIntyre says “that our contemporary world is a dark wood, and that finding our way back to the straight path will require establishing new forms of community that have as their ends a life of virtue.”[ii] Many organizations and individuals are putting up imaginary force fields with the intent to build Christianity from within their protected communities as a means of nurturing, preserving, and passing on the Christian value system. The difficulty with this strategy is that it is counter to the words of our Savior. Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19, 20.[iii] We are not to lock ourselves off from the culture. We are commissioned to GO into the culture and bring the good news of Jesus Christ.
An Alternative View
Speaking at the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities’ 40th Anniversary Celebration Gala in Washington, D.C., David Brooks, New York Times columnist and author of the best-selling book The Road to Character, offered an alternative view of how Christianity can best help nurture, preserve, and pass on the Christian value system. Mr. Brooks called Christian colleges the avant-garde of 21st-century culture. He further stated that Christian colleges “have what everybody else is desperate to have: a way of talking about and educating the human person in a way that integrates faith, emotion, and intellect. You [Christian colleges] have a recipe to nurture human beings who have a devoted heart, a courageous mind, and a purposeful soul. Almost no other set of institutions in American society has that, and everyone wants it.”[iv] From Mr. Brooks’ point of view; Christian Colleges are “ahead of everybody else and have the potential to influence American culture in a way that could be magnificent.”[v]
Arizona Christian University has long accepted the role of a university which will talk about and educate the human person in a way that integrates faith, emotion, and intellect. ACU’s vision statement speaks directly to this commitment: “Arizona Christian University exists to educate and equip followers of Christ to transform culture with the truth.” With the adoption of a Christian Liberal Arts curriculum, which grounds all students in a biblical worldview, ACU guides its students to mature theologically, spiritually, personally, socially, and intellectually. Additionally, ACU ensures that all students have a working knowledge of the Bible by requiring all students to gain a minor in biblical studies. The commitment to biblical integration in every area of instruction, speaks to the commitment of the faculty and instructors to their continuous pursuit of God’s work in their fields of study and instruction.
No, ACU is not putting up an imaginary force field with the intent to build Christianity from within a protected community. ACU is building up its students to launch them into the world with the great expectation that ACU students and graduates will transform culture with the truth.
[i] Rod Dreher, “The American Conservative,” http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/benedict-option-faq/; Accessed October 11, 2016.
[iii] The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016).
[iv] David Brooks, “CCU Advance,” http://advance.cccu.org/stories/the-cultural-value-of-christian-higher-education; Accessed October 5, 2016.