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    Book Club: The Roots of American OrderChapter 5

    March 21, 2012 by Brandy Vencel

    Chapter Five is called The Genius of Christianity, and it details, first, the life of Christ and then the life of His Church during the decay and fall of Rome. If any of you are not very familiar with the life of Christ, this chapter offers a fine synopsis.

    I was particularly interested in the portion of the chapter that covered Saint Augustine of Hippo. It made me want to dust of my copies of Confessions and The City of God and give them another go. It is possible I am finally mature enough to read them.

    After the sack of Rome, many wanted to blame the “new religion” {Christianity} for the demise of the eternal city. Augustine, however, replies that there is nothing new under the sun:

    for from Adam’s fall, before cities existed, man has been corrupt. Every age, suffering from violence and fraud, complains of its tribulations; but if we read history, we perceive that the humane adventure is a chronicle of disasters. In every age, society has been relived only by the endeavors of a few people moved by the grace of God, and has been made tolerable and constrained to relative peace from time to time only by the compulsions of the state–though the state itself shares in the general corruption.

    Rome had fallen…for want of order in the soul.

    I live a small life. In a world where people try and tell you that “you can change the world” and “you can make a difference,” where everyone wants to be a star–well, frankly, it can start to seem like you aren’t doing enough, or doing it right.

    But lately I’ve noticed that it is the small things that matter, and the ordering of the soul, and of my family, is actually the place where it all starts. This is my guess on why Scripture emphasizes the personal and family lives in the qualifications for elders of the church. It isn’t because elders need to present some sort of perfect front for the world to look at so much as order is, first of all, personal. Disorder within never produces true order without out, while order within often allows for survival in the midst of external chaos, keeping a person from being swept away by the winds of faddism and novelty.

    We fall apart from the inside out, do we not?

    Yet there is hope.

    The soul may be restored to order through divine grace.

    Augustine’s solution, during a very chaotic time in history, and while living a life personally fraught with danger and disaster, was quite simple and timeless:

    Order your soul; reduce your wants; live in charity; associate in Christian community; obey the laws; trust in Providence–so will we find order…and so will we come to know that service of God which is perfect freedom.

    Will this matter? When the world seems to crumble around us, will it even matter that there was “order in our souls?”

    The answer, surprisingly, is yes.

    The reason I’m surprised is because I expected the answer to be yes because of an eternal consequence. In other words, yes, because God still cares, because God will reward it in heaven, because God sees and values it. We live for Him, after all.

    I didn’t expect to be able to say that yes, it matters right now.

    But order preserves.

    This week, I read R.C. Sproul Jr.’s insightful answer to the question of why God destroyed Sodom. He explains that there are two views {and I’m sure you can guess which is the traditional view}, that the people there engaged in perversion, or that the people there failed to engage in hospitality. I can’t say it better than he did, so I’ll simply quote him here:

    I’m afraid they both seriously miss the point….A more careful look at the story tells us why Sodom was destroyed. It was destroyed not because of the evil of the unbelievers. It was destroyed because of a lack of a remnant…

    Remember Abraham’s careful conversation with God, his virtual negotiation for the city of Sodom. Would God spare the city if there were fifty righteous there? Forty-five? Forty? Finally God agrees that He will spare the city for ten. But Abraham could not find even ten. Don’t miss though what might have been. This dark and evil city would have been spared had there been but ten righteous people. Despite the perversion, despite the scope of the evil, the city would have been spared for just ten righteous.

    I’m not advocating the idea that God deals with every corrupt civilization the same as the way in which He dealt with Sodom and Gomorrah, but I do find it interesting that ten ordered souls were all that stood between the cities of the Plain and their destruction.

    And they didn’t have it.

    The order or disorder in individual souls decided the fate of nations that day.

    It’s possible it could matter again in the future.

    Or now.

    When we order our souls, and when we help our children and our loved ones order their souls {and we accept their help in ordering our own} we contribute to the world here and now, to our churches here and now, to our cities here and now.

    If you recall my list from before, here are the things that we can do:

    1. Deepen society’s religious understanding 
    2. Find a ruler who leads by his good example and not just his words 
    3. Teach and engage those who will listen 
    4. **NEW** Reform and order our own souls. {see here for quotes that also affirm this; Plato and Augustine agreed on this}

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    3 Comments

  • Reply Pilgrim March 23, 2012 at 3:13 am

    I too am being convicted that the small things really do matter – much more than I previously thought. I appreciate your point about why it matters TODAY and not just for the future. I am having to lay down the cultural lie that we should make a “difference in the world” through some great movement or work. I am trying to embrace the fact that I am changing the future by raising my kiddos. This conversation about order being so crucial is helping me get a better idea of how I can help prepare my children – especially for a future that will probably look so different from our own experience. It also encourages me to help my kids to continue to find joy in the small things instead of trying to encourage them to “be somebody”. I want them to realize that they are somebody – created by God – and that mastering themselves is so important. Proverbs 16:32
    Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts March 25, 2012 at 3:06 am

      I don’t know about you, but I find so much hope in the fact that little, personal things are powerful! This book is really encouraging me. 🙂

  • Reply Go quickly and tell March 21, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    I, myself, may just now be mature enough, as you say, to read Confessions and/or City of God. At least, I own them and can refer to them. Even if I dont read every.single.word., I can still count Augustine as a friend.

    My heart was restless until I rested in Thee….

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