The Communitarian Option [Cont.]
Examining "The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self" [Pt.6]
[Continued from Pt.5]
§VI. Birds of a Feather
We noted in our last article,communitarianism claims to be a '“third way” between classical liberalism and socialism/collectivism. Within the realm of political ideology and praxis, in other words, it serves the purpose of synthesizing antithetically opposed ideas and practices. This synthesizing function of communitarianism is not surprising given its dependence upon and affinities with Hegelianism, Marxism, and Postmodernism. The range of subjects and practices to which communitarianism can be applied as a synthesizing agent is, however, much broader than merely politics, seeing as it begins with a criticism of the modernist self whose mark of distinction is the primacy of reason.
Communitarianism, in other words, does not simply address the sub-species of ethics known as politics, it also addresses metaphysics and epistemology, giving it wide ranging applicability, and thereby qualifying it as a worldview. This is partially reflected in RTMS, but can be seen even more clearly when we look at many of Trueman’s colleagues and institutional organizations. While Trueman’s association with communitarian colleagues and organizations does not prove that he is a communitarian, it serves as additional evidence of the extent to which his thinking aligns with that of the communitarians.
1. The Gospel Coalition
Carl R. Trueman has been an active contributor to The Gospel Coalition for at least twenty years. The Gospel Coalition is an organization purporting to be
…a fellowship of evangelical churches deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures.
They exist in order to address two opposing movements in evangelicalism, as their founding document states.
We have become deeply concerned about some movements within traditional evangelicalism that seem to be diminishing the church’s life and leading us away from our historic beliefs and practices. On the one hand, we are troubled by the idolatry of personal consumerism and the politicization of faith; on the other hand, we are distressed by the unchallenged acceptance of theological and moral relativism.
This is to be achieved in part, they argue, by Christians engaging culture “for the common good.”They argue as follows —
It is not enough that the church should counter the values of the dominant culture. We must be a counter–culture for the common good. We want to be radically distinct from the culture around us and yet, out of that distinct identity, we should sacrificially serve neighbors and even enemies, working for the flourishing of people, both here and now, and in eternity.
This social engagement “for the common good,” additionally, encompasses a socialist model of economics, as they further explain in the Foundation Documents.
Regarding money, the church’s members should engage in radical economic sharing with one another—so “there are no needy among them” (Acts 4:34). Such sharing also promotes a radically generous commitment of time, money, relationships, and living space to social justice and the needs of the poor, the oppressed, the immigrant, and the economically and physically weak.
The gospel opens our eyes to the fact that all our wealth (even wealth for which we worked hard) is ultimately an unmerited gift from God. Therefore the person who does not generously give away his or her wealth to others is not merely lacking in compassion, but is unjust.
We must work for the eternal and common good and show our neighbors we love them sacrificially whether they believe as we do or not.
Among the works he contributed to The Gospel Coalition, one finds the promotion of communitarian “third way” thinking as it relates to historiography,anthropology, and the Reformation. TGC’s commitment to communitarianism is evident in many of its writings, and in its consistent promotion of the work of Charles Taylor which itself is evidenced in TGC’s publication of “Our Secular Age: Ten Years of Reading Charles Taylor.”
2. Rod Dreher
Rod Dreher is the author of the bestselling book The Benedict Option, which critiques the culture of the West in a manner nearly identical to that of RTMS, and offers a solution that is also indistinguishable from what we read in RTMS. Dreher writes —
…the Enlightenment project cut Western man off from his roots in tradition, but failed to produce a binding morality based on Reason alone. Plus, the Enlightenment extolled the autonomous individual. Consequently, we live in a culture of moral chaos and fragmentation, in which many questions are simply impossible to settle. [Communitarian philosopher Alisdair] 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.
The Benedict Option’s underlying communitarianism can be found throughout his later book Live Not By Lies, as Dreher echoes the same ideas about capitalism, consumerism, and individualism that we have already seen expressed by Trueman.Dreher writes —
As radical individualism has become more pervasive in our consumerist-driven culture, people have ceased to look outside themselves for authoritative sources of meaning. This is the fulfillment of modern liberalism’s goal: to free the individual from any unchosen obligations.
…in contemporary capitalism, cultural memory is subordinate to the logic of the free market, whose mechanisms respond to the liberation of individual desire.
With the advance of consumerism and individualism, we have built a social ecosystem in which the function of the family has been reduced to producing autonomous consumers, with no sense of connection or obligation to anything greater than fulfilling their own desires.
Dreher subscribes to Eastern Orthodoxy, which has long embraced communitarian social principles.He also is not merely a friend of Trueman, who became a supporter of the Benedict Option in 2016, but also wrote the foreword to RTMS.
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3. Tim Keller
Tim Keller is the founder Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, the writer of several best selling books,and co-founder of The Gospel Coalition. Like Trueman, Keller has a long history of supporting and endorsing various social, political, and economic views that are virtually indistinguishable from those articulated by Marxist ideologues. When called out on this several years ago by many independent Christian authors, Carl R. Trueman was one of the more prominent voices who rose to Keller’s defense. While he does have much in common with Marxism proper, and can rightly be identified as a cultural Marxist, Keller’s writing often promotes ideas foundational to, and constitutive of, communitarianism.
4. Rosaria Butterfield
Rosaria Butterfield is probably best known for her conversion story in which “hospitality” plays a major role. Her book The Gospel Comes With a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World (Crossway, 2018) underscores the need for Christians to create hospitable communities in the home for the sake of witnessing and serving unbelievers. In and of itself, this is not a problem. Butterfield’s understanding of hospitality, however, has its roots not in the Bible but in postmodern philosophy and feminist theology, as I’ve explained elsewhere.Butterfield promotes the use of hospitality as a means of deconstructing the categorical distinction between Christian life and community and that of the world, in particular that of the LGBTQIA+ communities of which she formerly was a part.
5 & 6. Russell Moore & Albert Mohler
Russell Moore and Al Mohler have a long history of supporting communitarianism.Their support for RTMS has been explicit since its publication, further underscoring the level of agreement between them and Trueman is this regard.
[Continued in Pt.7]
Whereas Hegelianism and Marxism have an eschatological goal and, therefore, synthesize theses and antithesis in a linear fashion, postmodernism allows for a random synthesis of opposed ideas and systems of thought. This is perhaps most evident in the postmodern synthesis of high and low culture, but can also be seen in the postmodern blurring of boundaries between various literary genres (e.g. the magical realist novels of writers like Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel Garcia Marquez) and academic disciplines (e.g. Jacques Derrida’s combined use of philosophical and literary theory).
“The Gospel Coalition — Foundation Documents,” The Gospel Coalition, 2011, https://media.thegospelcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/20161257/TGC-Foundation-Documents-2020-Final-5-20.pdf, 4.
ibid. (emphasis added)
ibid., 12. (emphjasis added)
ibid., 12-13. (emphasis added)
ibid., 15. (emphasis added)
See Trueman, Carl R. “What the Left and Right Both Misunderstand About History,” The Gospel Coalition, Aug 3, 2018, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/historical-schemes/.
See Trueman, Carl R. “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self and How the Church Can Respond,” The Gospel Coalition, Feb 25, 2020, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/rise-triumph-modern-self-church/.
See Trueman, Carl R., et al. “Lessons from Luther’s Stand at Worms,” The Gospel Coalition, April 18, 2021, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/luther-stand-worms-anniversary/.
See “‘Our Secular Age: Ten Years of Reading and Applying Charles Taylor’: A New Book from the Gospel Coalition,” The Gospel Coalition, Sept 20, 2017, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/our-secular-age-ten-years-of-reading-and-applying-charles-taylor/.
“Benedict Option FAQ,” The American Conservative, Oct 26, 2015, https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/benedict-option-faq/. (emphasis added)
Live Not By Lies (New York: Sentinel, 2020), 33.
See Wood, Nathaniel. “Orthodoxy, Capitalism, and ‘The West’: Is Orthodox Christianity Stuck in the Past?”, Public Orthodoxy, April 30, 2018, https://publicorthodoxy.org/2018/04/30/orthodoxy-capitalism-and-the-west/. The strain of communitarian thinking can also be found in the works of Eastern Orthodox philosophers. For instance Christos Yaanaras levels similar criticisms against classical liberalism and individualism in his works The Inhumanity of Right (2021) and The Freedom of Morality (1984).
See Trueman, Carl R. “Eating Locusts Will Be (Benedict) Optional,” First Things, June 1, 2016, https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2016/06/eating-locusts-will-be-benedict-optional.
See “Bio,” Timothy Keller, https://timothykeller.com/author.
See Saul, Judd. “Tim Keller,” Enemies of the Church, https://content.enemieswithinthechurch.com/wokepedia_article/tim-keller/; Williams, E.S. “Keller’s Marxist Sympathies,” The New Calvinists, https://www.newcalvinist.com/kellers-political-motivation/kellers-marxist-sympathies/; Kauffman, Timothy F. “Workers of the Church, Unite!: The Radical Marxist Foundation of Tim Keller’s Social Gospel,” The Trinity Foundation, https://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=301; Brunton, Jacob. “The Theological Problem With Tim Keller’s So-Called Social Justice,” For the New Christian Intellectual, https://christianintellectual.com/the-theological-problem-with-tim-kellers-so-called-social-justice/.
See “Tim Keller: Marxist Change Agent,” Pulpit and Pen News, Oct 16, 2018, https://pulpitandpen.org/2018/10/16/tim-keller-marxist-change-agent/; Brown, Toni S. “Tim Keller — The Marxist,” Jude 1:4, http://judeonefour.com/the-marxist; Engel, C. Jay. “Is Tim Keller a Marxist?”, Sovereign Nations, Oct 10, 2018, https://sovereignnations.com/2018/10/10/tim-keller-marxist/;
See Trueman, Carl R. “Is Tim Keller a Marxist?”, Modern Reformation, Oct 8, 2018, https://modernreformation.org/resource-library/web-exclusive-articles/the-mod-is-tim-keller-a-marxist/; Trueman, Carl R. “Dear Comrade,”, Mortification of Spin, Nov 14, 2018, https://www.reformation21.org/mos/podcast/45009; and Jordan Steffaniak, Brandon Ayscue, and Carl R. Trueman, “Karl Marx and Marxism with Carl Trueman,” London Lyceum Podcast,
[N.B. — In the above podcast interview, Trueman misrepresents the critiques of Keller’s Marxist thinking by discernment bloggers and concerned Christians. This indicates that he was being expressly dishonest in either one of the following two ways — 1. If Trueman read the critiques of Keller, he would know that they were not unsubstantiated slanderous attacks on his friend; 2. If Trueman had not read the critiques of Keller, he would not know their content and, therefore, could not honestly state that they were unsubstantiated slanderous attacks on his friend. In either case, Trueman blatantly lied to his interlocutors about the content of the criticisms of Keller.]
See Keller, Timothy. “A Biblical Critique of Secular Justice and Critical Theory,” Life in the Gospel, https://quarterly.gospelinlife.com/a-biblical-critique-of-secular-justice-and-critical-theory/; “The Sin of Racism,” Life in the Gospel, https://quarterly.gospelinlife.com/the-sin-of-racism/; “Justice in the Bible,” Life in the Gospel, https://quarterly.gospelinlife.com/justice-in-the-bible/; “The Challenge of University Evangelism,” The Gospel Coalition, June 20, 2017, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-challenge-of-university-evangelism/; “Tim Keller’s Sermon After 9/11,” The Gospel Coalition, Sep 11, 2021, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/tim-kellers-sermon-9-11/.
See “Russell Moore’s ERLC: Change Agents of the United Nations,” Pulpit and Pen News, Feb 20, 2015, https://pulpitandpen.org/2015/02/20/russell-moores-erlc-change-agents-of-the-united-nations/; “Wikipedia Correctly Notes Russell Moore is ‘Christian Democrat and Communitarian’”, Pulpit and Pen News, Sept 18, 2018, https://pulpitandpen.org/2018/09/18/wikipedia-correctly-notes-russell-moore-is-christian-democrat-and-communitarian/; White, Randy. “What Southern Baptists Can Expect From Russell Moore and the ERLC,” Worldview Weekend, April 8, 2013, https://www.worldviewweekend.com/news/article/what-southern-baptists-can-expect-russell-moore-and-erlc.