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Trevin Wax is a Gospel Coalition blogger and the author of a new book, This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel. Here are edited excerpts of a March interview in front of students at Patrick Henry College. (For more from this interview, see “Millennial mission” and “Preaching to millennials.”)
Many Christians say we’re headed for trouble and hard times. How should we react?
We should not run for the hills or be like the prophet Elijah after Mount Carmel—running into caves, afraid of Jezebel, saying I’m the only one who’s faithful. In a time that was more difficult to be a Christian than it is for us now, the apostles prepared Christians for spiritual battle, not surviving a spiritual siege. Our posture matters here: That I might have some short-term pessimism does not mean that I have a long-term pessimism.
What is Christian hope at such a time?
It’s hope when the times are hard. Courage is courage when it’s hard, not easy. If things look bleak in the short-term, that calls for more courage, more hope, not less.
What do you think of the Benedict Option?
I love aspects of it. The key insight there is that the church cannot pass on what it does not have, so there’s no sense in trying to reach the general culture if we haven’t built a culture of our own with which to engage it. What’s the point of holding the line when it comes to what our view of marriage is in the next generation if Christian marriages are hollowed out from the inside, because we bought into every other aspect of sexual revolution ideology about marriage, and just haven’t come to grips with same-sex marriage?
The culture-building aspect of the Benedict Option is a real positive.
Yes, the fortification of identity through practices and habit, through cultivating imagination. I have concerns about the Benedict Option as an overall posture: It’s much too defensive. The Benedict Option is filled with references to earthquakes and floods and Waterloo. It uses the Benedictine monks experience of running to the hills after an earthquake as a literal representation of what we’re expected to do. I love the idea of making sure that there is light in the city on the hill, the church: Otherwise, what’s the point of having the city on the hill? But the defensive leaves us too prone to a pessimism that would lead us to forfeit some of our mission, which is we’re to be moving forward.
Rod Dreher uses the example of the Shire from The Lord of the Rings.
I love the idea of the Shire if it means we’re cultivating that sort of merry homeland for hobbits, but the whole point of The Lord of the Rings is that it’s a mission. Someone had to leave the Shire and go to Mordor and face down the orcs. I don’t think Rod would say the strategy of cultivating the Shire is the only strategy but I’m afraid people will take him that way—and then we’re missing Jesus’ image of the church: Not a fortress besieged by barbarians but a mission where we’re battering the gates of Hell.