A New L'Abri?
Mere Christianity - Off the Grid - Experiment stage
This page is basically going to serve as a type of "diary" in case you're wondering why it's a little bit all over the place. :o) Moreover, the whole site is being revamped (from an old website I ran) just to offer a little greater insight from our FB page that started more as a fun/comical "off the grid" test for self, family and friends but has really prompted a lot of Q&A from people? One thing that hit me as I finished my last big post-graduate project coupled by an insane 2020 was the words of Hank Hanegraaff (the bible answer man podcast) when he said about himself:
"I have defended truth and have a head-full of knowledge but I wasn't really experiencing the life Jesus talked about in John 10:10... When I was in China I saw Christians who didn't have a head full of scholastic knowledge but they personified Christ in a way not of words but of their countenance. So I was flying back from China during one of these trips and I was staring off into the clouds wonder: 'Am I even a Christian???' A head-full of knowledge but was I really experiencing the reality of Jesus Christ?"
- Hank Hanegraaff
To be blunt, the Bible tells us that most Christians are unsaved. Before you get too upset (like a person just diagnosed with cancer but not wanting to hear it) hear me out... Numerous passages throughout Scripture reassert the notion that most people will choose to enter into the "wide gate" leading to eternal separation from God (ex: Matthew 7:13). Again - this is something everyone will have to figure out for themselves but in a nutshell that is the "why" behind the entire notion of "L'Abri off the grid".
Similar to Francis Schaeffer (as he described in True Spirituality), I have never doubted the reality of God though I did not grow up in a Church going home; with almost 20 years in apologetics, debates with atheistic groups, etc. I am more confidence of the truths of Christianity than ever but (like Hank) I have pondered if I am truly experiencing this reality? In a similar vein, Japanese artist Makoto Fujimura summarizes much of the motivation behind what we're experimenting with here in his new book Art + Faith, when he asks: "What if the entire Bible is a work of art? If it is our journey to know God requires not just ideas and information, but actual making, to translate our ideas into real objects, concepts and physical movements. God cannot be known by sitting in a classroom, or even in a church taking in information about God. What if we all began to trust our intuition in the Holy Spirit's whispers, remove our masks of self-defense, and create our true identities hidden in Christ beyond the darkness? What if our lives are artworks re-presented back to the Creator?"
Like wise, Edith Schaeffer summed this up "holistically" in her book The Tapestry (again - in regards to what we're doing or hope to do the answer is "we have no plans" we're just relying on God to unfold as we follow) when she stated: I can't say too many times, we had no idea there was ever going to be a work called L'Abri nor did we have any blueprint as to what kind of answers were going to be given to a stream of people. We had no dream, vision, or even desire or determination to have an open home. We were simply living a day at a time - this is why we find it so hard to explain to some person with a notebook who asks us: "I am going to start a work like L'Abri. Could you please tell me how?" There simply is no 15-minute outline of "How to." We had simply been led through prayer to a step of reality in asking that his life and work be a demonstration of the existence of God. This step seemed extremely foolish to any friends looking on. It was a step into what seemed total disappearance. (The Tapestry pages 305 & 393)
This is harsh, but we must recognize that most churches acknowledge that they do adhere to "cheap grace" (grace without repentance; Christ without the Cross) because they are scared to death of seeming to add anything to Christ's finished works. You can be a follower of Christ without "following Christ" or experiencing a transformed or "conversion" life at all. This is cheap-grace and if we read what Scripture says about most will take the easy though not "Christ-ian" road. (Matthew 7:14) By simply deluding someone to a Gospel of comfort that may lead to damnation is no Gospel (let alone "Good News") to anyone. *The immediate reaction is: "So you think you earn your way to Heaven?!?" This simply shows their ignorance. Grace is Free but it costs you everything. This is the beauty and yet mystery of the beautiful and free Grace given by God.
Sunset (above) and the creek next to the cabin - along with placement on an aerial map (below) where you can see no houses anywhere and miles of woods directly in front of our location.
Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. - Jeremiah 6:16
Directly from our FaceBook Page with added details to the left:
What in the world are you doing???
- In a nutshell this is somewhat of an experiment at this stage. I will try and bullet it but both the short and long descriptions will be ever-changing with time I'm sure as we live & learn along the way. (Honestly this is just a fun experiment at this point but at it's heart I think there could be a lot more. :o)
- Please visit: www.Labri.org to understand where we're going with this at a much larger and more experiential as well as intellectually vigours level.
- I think we can all agree that we need to simplify our lives. The world seems very sick right now but this is not an attempted retreat by any means. I have lived on a small farm as well as New York City so this isn't some "retreat from society" attempt; instead it is an attempt to get something back that seems almost on the verge of being lost today. Not just existentially but something seems out of balance and hopefully we can have a place a "L'Abri" (French for shelter) ready before we reach the boiling point.
Is it ironic that as a country we have never had more wealth and affluence but suicide rates are higher than they were during the Great Depression, the World Wars, the Cold War or any other time in history? More money, that new car, the extra 1000 sq ft on your house, etc. won't solve your problems; it my in-fact add to them?
- I was born in 1978 so I'm the GenX guy that went through ups/downs and all-around (like most of us); and though I grew up on a farm I knew only a fraction of what my parents did about the farm (b. 1952) and they much less than their parents (b. 1905/1908). Though I have advanced university degrees, make a lot of money in corporate America, lived in NYC for some time, etc. I have come the realization how money/stuff is a poor replacement for "living" life. This is much more so for those saying they are followers of Christ.
I have spent almost 20 years in the area of apologetics (attaining degrees, workshops, writing, etc.) but apologetics has its limits. The truth of Christianity today has never been stronger and any supposed "new" arguments by atheists are the same warmed-over arguments proven wrong centuries ago as Louis Markos traces in his book Atheism on Trial. The three other books are my own and while I will incorporate apologetics as needed that is not at the heart of what we're trying to do here. Our Apologetics Museum and Art Gallery will hopefully be incorporated to help show you the truths historically, philosophically, scientifically and aesthetically but living out Christianity as "true-truth" (as Francis Schaeffer would have called it) is on the experiential side. It is this side we hope to hone in on here.
- After several books, debates, speaking engagements, advanced degrees, etc. (specifically over the last decade) I have zero doubts on the intellectual integrity and truth of Christian theism but that is only half of the battle. Though we have been blessed by operating an apologetics oriented biblical history museum (www.NWABibleMuseum.org) as well as a coffee shop and contemporary art gallery (www.post-postmodern.org) we only have 2 of 3 bases seemingly covered on the holistic truth of Christianity. The other is the experiential aspect of truly following Christ not our "401k" and this is what we are attempting to now do. *Not to elevate ourselves by any means, but to point to Christ and Him alone. (In the words of Francis Schaeffer: "We are as concerned for living as we are for thinking and from the beginning the concern has been that the truth is as much exhibited in everyday life as it is defended in discussion. We do not do this perfectly of course but depend on the Lord to bring forth a measure of reality in our daily life."
Don't judge Christ by Christians as we are all fallen and weak. Instead look to Christ and then see if the Christian or Church is truly following Him. If you are a Christian and you are not suffering some persecution you should ask what you're doing wrong? (https://www.openbible.info/topics/persecution)
- Not to throw stones, but too many churches and Christians still follow church-ianity not Christianity. The church I attend (Fellowship, Rogers Arkansas) is a very good biblical church and the people are a blessing but the church itself started from humble beginnings and now has millions of dollars in their bank account and operate enormous buildings that cost a fortune to maintain (especially through the current COVID lifestyle). Does this make good biblically exegetical or Christ-centered sense? What would it look like to truly follow Christ and trust the Holy Spirit more than our 401k today before the "watching the world" that is skeptical, if not hostile, to Christianity today? We have lost something and I simply can no longer be content just to live with it? Obviously I don't have the answers that's what I'm trying to figure out with this "experiment" but I know there is a big disconnect to serving grande lattes in the church lobby and what I read in Acts or see in the various other underground and persecuted churches throughout the world. I don't seek persecution by any means but nonetheless something is missing...
- There have been perhaps four main emphases in the teaching of L'Abri and although we are not any type of official L'Abri outpost we do like their model as we have worked with and visited with them many times before:
- First, that Christianity is objectively true and that the Bible is God's written word to mankind. This means that biblical Christianity can be rationally defended and honest questions are welcome.
- Second, because Christianity is true it speaks to all of life and not to some narrowly religious sphere and much of the material produced by L'Abri has been aimed at helping develop a Christian perspective on the arts, politics and the social sciences etc.
- Third, in the area of our relationship with God, true spirituality is seen in lives which by grace are free to be fully human rather than in trying to live on some higher spiritual plane or in some grey negative way.
- Fourth, the reality of the fall is taken seriously. Until Christ returns we and the world we live in will be affected by the disfigurement of sin. Although the place of the mind is emphasized, L'Abri is not a place for "intellectuals only".
- We are as concerned for living as we are for thinking and from the beginning the concern has been that the truth is as much exhibited in everyday life as it is defended in discussion. We do not do this perfectly of course but depend on the Lord to bring forth a measure of reality in our daily life.
ABOUT THE "CABIN":
- Looking at an old book given to me titled "Ozark Log Cabin Folks: The way they were" I see just how different the world of the 1940s looked. Not good, not bad, just different. Neighbors knew one another and relied on each other often times though the richest of them (financially) was probably poorer than the poorest of us today.
- We've never had so much materially today but at the same time have never been so miserable as hate, anger, discrimination, suicide, loneliness, etc. are higher than they were during the great depression. The irony is telling as is our doubling-down of buying even bigger houses, more boats, cars, and crap we absolutely don't need.
- What's ironic is the starting point of our "cabin" (which is really just a 2-story building from Lowes) is that people talk about how "primitive" it is, when in-fact it would be one of the nicest homes around a mere century ago.
The nice part is (likely phase 2) we could easily house maybe 50 people in campground type setup; we have enough large tents that we could house this many quite easily. Moreover we have a large enough move-screen/projector that we could comfortably learn together with 5 people or 50 without too much difficulty? (More to come but Lord willing with or without the larger 1500 sq ft building we can be a place of spiritual and intellectual preparation similar to L'Abri.org combined with VOM.org for the present as well as the future)
- The building as-is could house about 8 people (snuggly); but the real goal is to work out the kinks, pitfalls, and shortcomings with family and friends and then add a very simple (metal building) 5-room 1500 sq ft building next year as well root cellar, garden, and a few other pieces as we grow the 70 acres in which we reside. *The second building set to be built May 2021 and hopefully fully finished by December 2021, will be twice as large.
- If the experiment works well then we should be able to support a number of people here that needs a "reset" on seeing the truths of Christianity. This will be thru "living" and experiential NOT church preaching or anything of the sort since organized religion is a large part of the problem for many who have perhaps left or become disillusioned by the faith. ***If you want to understand how this would work we are closely affiliated with Francis Schaeffer's L'Abri so I would suggest you visit their site at www.Labri.org to have a greater comprehension than I can do justice to here.
THIS SOUNDS WEIRD:
- It is kind of weird if you mean "different" but you need to understand how upside-down this thinking is especially if you are Christian (and please note just like L'Abri I truly hope you will visit us even if you're not Christian). Like I said, I am no rocket-scientist but I have written and spoken quite extensively on the truth of Christianity so I'm not just some nut job (well maybe I am...) ;o)
- I also work at America's largest company but I know that could end at any point. Moreover they are working us to death... One guy died of a heart-attack so they named one of our meeting rooms after him... Do you see how twisted this is??? (lol) What I am doing now is considered "weird" but working yourself to death so you can buy more "stuff" you don't need is considered "healthy" and worse yet it is deemed "normal" even for the Christian?!?
- Over a decade ago Barna did a research project titled "Un-Christian" where they found that self-proclaimed Christians are just as immoral and unhappy as non-Christians. Do you realize how unbiblical this notion is? The watching world cannot tell the difference between the Christian and non-Christian today which is literally insane... (Matthew 7:13)
- I have worked with the persecuted church for about 15 years now and it helps remind me how beyond blessed we are though we bitch and complain about everything it seems. Imagine having a large "N" painted on your house to designate you as a "Nazarene" (Christian) and thus an infidel who can have your property taken, children sold into slavery, raped, etc. Or throughout China where you can be imprisoned merely for having a bible study; so forgive me if I have no tolerance for those (Christian or non-Christian) who spends the vast amount of their time (between their grande lattes) complaining about how bad they have it.
- One thing we sometimes do on Saturdays or Sundays is have a small worship service in a cave someway off from the cabin; just to remind us how the early church as well as the underground/persecuted church through the centuries have had to worship (no stain glass or mega church here (or in the Bible). #Laodicean
THE ARTS and ECOLOGY?
- Artists welcomed! The artists I have worked with often live very minimally so we are hoping to bring a form of "Walden Pond" to our artist residence to give them the air to breathe and creativity to write. Make poetry great again! :o)
- Similarly we are very efficient on energy, water, and the environment. So have about as much "trash" in one month here than we did in a single day in normal suburbia. Similarly we use a fraction as much electricity, water and everything is compostable. So again - practice what you preach I always tell my non-Christian friends who are self-proclaimed environmentalist while we use a fraction of the resources they do as stewards of God's world. Skip buying the pin or taking the selfie showing how woke you are and actually get your hands dirty.
We have partnered with American Survival Co. (seen on Discovery Channel) as well as the Christian Herbalist to better understand and appreciate God's creation. It's ironic that most diseases (like scurvy) can easily be avoided with vitamin C which is not only found in most fruits such as oranges. But did you know that pine-needles properly steeped will provide 3-5 times MORE vitamin C than oranges? It truly is amazing how much God provides within His own creation to cure us if we take the time to listen and learn. This coupled with a greater understanding of general revelation (seeing God's presence in every aspect of life) is another area we strive for.
- We also invest on expanding the living space for wildlife and are currently exploring options to reintroduce some wildlife (ex: quail) back into their natural habitats. (As long as I have a job I will continue to hopefully reinvest and buy deeper into the woods not for "personal property" ownership per se, but as one of our neighbors recently decided to clear-cut about 100 acres of their woods, I am just wanting to protect this from happening any more). Time will tell...
Ecology, the arts and culture care all fit together like a glove. As the noted theologian NT Wright commented in the Foreword to Mako Fujimura's latest book Art + Faith: A Theology of Making: "Mako challenges the overrationalist reductions both of skepticism and of some types of Christian expression and apologetics. Though apologetics is crucial to the truths of Christianity, the way forward, insists Mako, is not primarily intellectual even though the artists can match the philosophers and theologians stride for stride. 'God the Artist communicates to us first,' he insists, 'before God the lecturer'. Western culture has been increasingly dominated by left-brain rationalism while in fact our brains are designed to work best with the right-brain leading the way and left workign out the details."
THAT IS ABOUT IT -
- What could this look like? Check back as I really don't know but if you're thinking: "cultish" that's the furthest thing from the truth depending on how you define "cult" of course. If anything I feel like I'm getting out of the cult of working myself to death so I can buy more crap I don't need, 401k and all the other nonsense. It may just end up being a place for me to reset but if it expands the best mirror I can think of would be L'Abri (www.Labri.org) so if you think Labri is cultish then you probably will this as well and I would encourage you to take the blue pill as 99.9% of us always will.
- Could be crazy as I am somewhere between a Tyler Durden and Francis Schaeffer so should be a great learning experience either way. ;o)
Christianity encompasses the whole person and the whole of reality. That is why the experiential part is such a necessity and one that I myself need badly in the chaos that is the 21st century - coupled between the nonsense of politics, riots and corporate America - America has become an odd mix of Christians most concerned about material gain and what Bonhoeffer called "cheap grace".
We need a new generation of poets and writers; perhaps we can help serve as a type of "Walden" for the next CS Lewis? Stranger things have happened.
"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"
- Psalm 133