“The creation and sustenance of communities in which virtue can be practiced and taught”

That title phrase is stolen from this Rod Dreher post. Rod likes to talk about the Benedict option, which refers to St. Benedict the founder of western monasticism. When he talks about the Benedict option or a new Benedict, which he took from Philosopher Alastair MacIntyre, he is not talking about physical retreat so much as cultural retreat for the purpose of the title. The larger culture does not practice or value virtue. Things that orthodox Christianity would teach as virtues, such as chastity, are almost vices to the world. Hence the need for Benedict.

Here is where this crosses with 1 Corinthians 5:1ff which we have been studying in Bible Class, and how it crosses a generation gap and causes great angst. Paul, three times in that chapter, tells the Corinthian church to regulate itself by throwing the immoral brother out. The church is a community that practices and teaches virtue. By disregarding it, by allowing public vice, that community is destroyed. If the person repents and changes their life, the community is not destroyed, because that is the nature of practice in a fallen world. But if the person persists in such activity, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump”.

In order to create and sustain such a community, that community must be able to publicly say this person by their actions has placed themselves outside the community, and they have refused to repent. We have no judgment over those outside. God judges. But those inside are under the authority of the church. For a long time this was all very theoretical stuff. The church and the larger society were roughly overlapping circles, or that was the fiction at any rate. We were part of Christendom. The only people it didn’t apply to were those who had publicly opted out like Jews or the village atheist. So any suggestion that someone who wasn’t one of those two is outside the church gets taken as raving lunacy. It shouldn’t be, because we no longer live in the time of Christendom. The orthodox church is a much smaller circle within a neo-pagan society which includes entities that claim to be church but are not. In other words we are much closer to the Apostle Paul’s Corinth than we are to the American church of 1950. Continuing to practice the conventional wisdom of the church of that era today always ends in grief.

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