First let me say that, while I disagree with the call to a more isolated position for the church, there is some consideration to the principles behind Mr. Dreher’s conclusion that deserves consideration.
I would ask the reader to read his book. There are many reviewers out there who give their response to his call and conclusion but to not spend any time with his argument. The challenge is to read the book and get a hold on the principles he has in mind. Go ahead and agree or disagree with what he is calling for. Instead look at the principles. They are things which have been a part of intra-church discussions for the past several decades: It’s nothing really new. But he has organized these principles in such a way as to lead to a call for what he deems necessary. I think there are other possible solutions to the problems we face.
One of the first things he does is dismantles our ever-so-popular evangelical triumphalism. I’m not certain that he really intended to do so, but he did it quite effectively. So many of our personalities have this habit of proclaiming “Look what God did. We’re on God’s side.” However true it may be it is not a good way to communicate with the world around us. It tells the world that we have a shallow view of our history.
It seems to me that his target is not simply isolation but rather that the church become a “hot box” for its members. The need is clear (See Kevin VanHoozer, “The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision”) as the church not only abandoned giving its membership a rich biblical training but avoided any training but evangelism. And even that was too often done with only surface-level effort.
Some fellowships have done this well. I’ve always had this mental affinity for the “local church Bible institute” principle. It avoids the potential for isolation in the Benedict Option and provides the education and training necessary for developing richer lives in a fellowship. And just as Mr. Dreher called for more intra-church cooperation the presence of a “LCBI” solution would be best accomplished with a group of churches working together.
But this is just one possible solution. There are other ways to do get the job done. What matters most to me is that we be about practicing and working toward those ends. Our church life must be as eschatological as our theology.
What this means, in short, is that we are faced with some serious challenges that go unstated and then are not confronted. There are alternatives to the conclusion he comes to. It is, and I agree with him completely on this principle, getting late in the game to continue to ignore the times and the seasons around us, to behaving triumphantly while the world collapses. We must take our job more seriously.