The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Friday, July 30, 2004
An Agrarian Take on Plowing In Hope

I just discovered a review/critique of my book by Howard King, who writes from from a radical agrarian perspective. (King wrote many articles for Patriarch magazine.) Here is the introduction to his article:

With the growing interest in a biblical theology of culture have come two irreconcilable theories. The one salient fact with which all must deal is that Biblical culture was agrarian -- and ours is not. There are only two alternative interpretations of this fact.

Modernists (in the broad sense -- I am not talking about theological liberals only, but anti-traditionalists of every stripe) explain this basic fact by ignoring the well-documented history of greed and the lust for power that shaped our modern world, and by claiming that the biblical agrarian culture was inferior to our own. They hold to a form of cultural evolution which assumes (but never proves) that the culture of the technological society is intrinsically superior to biblical agrarian culture. This seems self-evident to them, I think, because they share many or most of its ultimate values.

Biblical Agrarians, on the other hand, claim that our technological society is apostate and culturally degenerate, and that redemptive history will move us toward the goal of a restoration and perfection of the original decentralized agrarian social order, in which godly culture will flourish. These two theories are diametrically opposed.

Yet, a book from Doug Wilson's publishing house, Canon Press, called Plowing in Hope: Toward a Biblical Theology of Culture, by David Bruce Hegeman seeks to reconcile the two. This is a useful book, for it gathers together most of the data of Scripture that must be systematized in order to answer the question, "What is the biblical concept of culture?" It makes the fatal mistake, however of attempting to steer a middle course between the two opposite theories. This is appealing to those who want the best of both worlds, but it cannot be done with intellectual integrity. You cannot have the technology of the industrialized world without the pollution, the vice, the waste, the corruption, the warfare, the destruction of life that has always gone hand in hand with it. You cannot have an urban civilization without the agglomeration of wealth and power that have always motivated and dominated it. You cannot have the beauty of a world-wide garden and the peace of the rural countryside without the greater part of men living by subsistence farming. This book, by its failure to discern the conflicting formative and sustaining principles of urban and agrarian societies can only promote confusion."

Read more of King's article here.