We Need a Christ-Exalting, City-Embracing Benedict Option

Editors’ note: This article includes an invitation to support The Gospel Coalition. New giving through July 1 will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $50,000.


“This time, however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another—doubtless quite different—St. Benedict.”  Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue

The eclipse of biblical Christianity in the West is everywhere around us. Growing majorities—especially in our nation’s cities—now find many behaviors the Bible calls sin morally acceptable.

Reminiscent of the fall of Rome in the fourth century, many Christian leaders are coming to see that these disorienting times require radical measures to re-center the church. Enter: the Benedict Option.

The Benedict Option is named for Benedict of Nursia, a 4th century monk who launched a monastic movement that preserved Western civilization. Today, writers like Rod Dreher enjoin Christian​s​ to take similar steps to “develop communities based on a shared sense of orthodoxy (right belief) and orthopraxy (right practice), for the sake of forming ourselves and the next generation in the Christian faith.”

Christ-Exalting, City-Embracing

The New York Times columnist Ross Douthat has called Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, where Tim Keller serves as senior pastor, an effective example of the Benedict Option for our twenty-first century, post-Christian context. Like other TGC-inspired communities, Redeemer aims to blend countercultural biblical faithfulness with a Christ-exalting, city-embracing vision.

This example is evident in Keller’s 2010 address to the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Cape Town, South Africa. Keller’s text is Genesis 18:27–33 where Abraham offers a high priestly appeal to God to preserve Sodom and Gomorrah. He summarizes Abraham’s high priestly case for Sodom and Gomorrah: “If there’s 50 righteous men, if there’s 40 righteous people, if there’s 30 righteous people—will you spare these cities that deserve destruction? . . . Is it possible that the righteousness of the few could secure mercy for the many?” 

In the end, Abraham’s appeal fails—Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. In Abraham, Sodom and Gomorrah “didn’t have the high priest they needed.” Though the great global cities today deserve the same destruction, through faith they have access to the ultimate high priest—Jesus Christ.

Keller’s final words are stirring:

Jesus Christ is the reality to which Abraham pointed . . .  We can pray for [these cities] like the Jews did—“pray for [Babylon] and seek the peace of the city.” We should sacrificially lay our lives out for the people in the city [and] love them with neighbor love . . . because we have now been empowered to be the priests those cities need. We should sacrificially lay down our lives for them, but most of all we should offer the righteousness of Jesus Christ to cover their sin, that they may be saved.

The Counterrevolution Will Not Be Televised

TGC editorial director Collin Hansen’s new book Blind Spots [foreword | review | interview] concludes with a chapter titled “The Counterrevolution Will Not Be Televised.” Today’s faithful gospel communities will not be celebrated in the evening news.

Grounded in our Foundation Documents, TGC equips, exhorts, and shares examples of Christians from many denominations who faithfully live out this Christ-exalting, city-embracing Benedict Option amid today’s moral confusion.

Over the last five months, I have had the honor of hearing many of your hope-filled stories. I have heard stories of pastors who now preach and lead with greater clarity and confidence thanks to TGC events and resources. I’ve talked with church-planters and missions teams bringing TGC-translated books to the nations in the cause of theological famine relief—equipping church leaders in the global cities across Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe. I’ve talked to many young believers passionate about God’s kingdom who row sharply against the current of their peers.

One example is Titus Matthews, a 23-year-old graduate of the University of Virginia who studied government and Middle Eastern studies. Titus is a second-generation immigrant from India who struggled in college with a messy past regarding faith, relationships, and identity. TGC has been essential for him as he’s wrestled with calling and social justice. He writes:

Through the fellowship of believers and resources from TGC I was able to press deeper into my relationship with the Lord like never before. I confronted my messy past. I asked difficult questions. I wrestled with my theology. And I challenged a domineering culture. With TGC's articles and discussions on these relevant topics, I realized I wasn't dealing with them alone. There were actually brothers and sisters around the country faithfully engaging in the hard problems of life. . . . For such a long time, I felt so alone in my many identity crises, but I now know there are mature and wise people boldly following Christ and having these necessary conversations . . . The Gospel Coalition has helped me see how God sees the church: a compassionate and striving, yet sinful creation. Nevertheless, what has been broken is being used for the glory of our King.

Today, Titus works with International Justice Mission in India and attends New City Fellowship, a Redeemer City to City church plant. He has been so impacted by The Gospel Coalition that this past December he became a Friend of TGC Sustainer, giving $50 a month.

Join the Counterrevolution—Friends of TGC

Biblical generosity has been central to the renewal of the church’s witness in the past. As I’ve written elsewhere, the time is ripe for radical generosity.

For the month of June, generous friends of TGC have offered a $50,000 all-or-nothing match for new giving through July 1.

In addition to funding our Relief Project for Africa, our goal is that 200 new friends of TGC would partner with us by becoming a Sustainer ($25–$50/month), an Associate ($100/month), or a Steward ($250/month). Your first month’s gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar. One-time gifts of $300 or more are eligible for the match as well. To thank you for your support, we’ll send you a copy of either The Gospel as Center or Blind Spots.

If you’re able to give at our strategic Patron level ($25,000), we are also asking the Lord for three more Patrons in order to reach our goal of $600,000 in annual support for 2015.

As you faithfully serve Christ in your community, we’d be honored if you financially partnered with us in promoting this counterrevolution—a Christ-exalting, city-embracing Benedict Option. As we magnify Christ and his gospel, he will use us to shine as lights in the world “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation” (Phil. 2:15).

Dead Dogs

As I reflect on God’s work in the lives of faithful brothers like Titus Matthews, I’m reminded of G. K. Chesterton’s quip in The Everlasting Man about the strength of Christianity these last 2,000 years. “Time and again,” Chesterton noted, “the Faith has to all appearances gone to the dogs.” But each time, “It was the dog that died.”

Or to use the words of Christ: “Take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).


Additional Giving Information

  • It’s easiest to make your gift online, but there are also other ways to make your gift.
  • If your church is interested in getting involved through giving, please complete this form.
  • To read more about the ministry of The Gospel Coalition, I encourage you to read Tim Keller and Don Carson’s invitation for your partnership, our 2014 Annual Report, and executive director Ben Peays’s recent Executive Report.
  • We also remain nearly $20,000 away from reaching our goal for our relief project for Africa, Prosperity? Finding the True Gospel. This major theological famine relief project addresses prosperity theology around the globe, but in particular in Africa. All donors who give to Prosperity? will receive a digital copy of the book when it’s complete.
  • If you have questions about giving, contact Dan Olson, director of advancement, at [email protected] or 612-460-5402.
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