Reestablishing Biblical Families Within The Agrarian Paradigm

Scott Terry over at Homesteader Life has posted a link to a very good article by Rev. Brian Abshire. It begins...
Evangelical Christianity has never come to grips with the massive sociological changes resulting from the Industrial Revolution. Until that time, agrarian culture and values undergirded Biblical concepts of the family. However, mechanization, immigration, urbanization and rapid transportation radically transformed the entire Western world. If we are not aware of the sociological impact on the family, we have no objective basis to evaluate the changes that resulted. There is a real danger that we will accommodate ourselves to prevailing cultural norms, rather than Biblical ones. And hence, the Christian family becomes salt that has lost is savor.
To that I say, “Amen!”

A particularly perspicacious paragraph later in the article states...
In all this, the Church badly fumbled. Rather than influencing culture, we allowed ourselves to be influenced by it. American Christians eagerly grabbed at the promise of the “good life.” We sacrificed our families at the alter of a growing economy, good jobs, career progression and a house in the suburbs stuffed with toys. The industrial revolution was accompanied by the rise of antinomian and Arminian theology. Both heresies focused on the individual because both had no concept of covenantal living. Thus Christians were hit with a one two punch of deviant theology and a changing society. We’ve been staggering around the ring ever since.
Mr. Abshire does a great job of summing up the little-understood history of the destruction of the biblical family in America. As he points out, it happened when Christian-agrarian culture acquiesced to industrial culture.

The article goes on to offer several suggestions for “reconstructing the family” and they are all good. There is, however, one glaring omission.

Mr. Abshire correctly understands and states that agrarian culture and values undergirded the biblical family. This was clearly the case for centuries. But his solutions for reconstructing such families do not include a voluntary and deliberate return to agrarian culture. This choice to pursue Christianity within the agrarian paradigm is, in my opinion, an absolutely necessary element in the reconstruction equation. To ignore it is a huge mistake.

Can biblical families live and grow and prosper within the paradigm of an industrial culture?

Well, I suspect someone can come up with examples of such families. They, like Daniel in Babylon, are able to resist the pressures to conform to the ungodly dominant culture. But I’m persuaded by what I’ve seen that “Daniel Families” are very few and very far between. More often, Christian families are consumed by the dominant culture through syncertism.

And, though I may be wrong (without looking it up), it seems to me that Daniel was taken to Babylon by force. He did not choose to live there. I rather doubt any devout Jew of the day would. So why would any devout Christian choose to live fully within today's Babylonian culture?

Then there is the matter of Abraham and Lot and city culture (the closest thing to an ancient “industrial” paradigm) vs agrarian culture. Here is an excerpt from an essay I wrote awhile back:
...Abraham goes and lives his agrarian life while Lot goes and pitches his tent toward the city of Sodom.

Before long, Lot is seated in the gates of Sodom, which I understand to mean he was one of the leaders of the city. It appears that it was not so much the good land of the plain that appealed to Lot as much as the cities that were in the plain. Wicked cities. What is the final outcome? The cities of Sodom and Gomorra are justly destroyed. Lot, along with his wife and daughters, are rescued by angels. Mrs. Lot, so in love with her urban life, looks back and is turned into a pillar of salt. Lot’s two daughters don’t turn to salt, but it appears from their actions afterwards that they were heavily influenced by the ungodly city culture. Lot, a godly man by every account, made a foolish decision to leave the simple life of an agrarian herdsman and brought his family into the more "exciting" city. I suspect there were more "opportunities" there, more things to do, better entertainment. One can easily justify urban life on such grounds. But it was flat out wrong for Lot’s family to get involved in the culture of the city. That’s the way I read it. And I don’t think much has changed since then.
It is perfectly clear to me that the culture of the city and of the industrial world around us is at war with the biblical family. And I can’t help but think that it is folly to attempt to reestablish biblical families without separating from that culture as much as possible.

Historically speaking, agrarianism was the most “fertile ground” for raising biblical families. That has not changed.

You can read Rev. Abshire’s full article here: Reforming The Family



Robin said...

Oh boy. Thanks for this.

The Pilgrim Pundit said...

Ditto my man! Great and timely. I have been battling this paradigm in my mind for some time and it has just become much more clear. I hesitate to accept some folks' view of separatism as the highest calling of a Christian, but you have helped redefine it as simply a right outworking of our faith. I still struggle with folks using the word separation as a synonym for holiness. I know they are interchanged in many parts of scripture but am not yet comfortable with the current lack of sound exegesis on the subject. Anyway, not to be sidetracked... You have made me very comfortable in being able to defend the need to deliberately restructure the Church, socially, toward an Agrarian model. My hope is that, while doing so we may also reform our view of holiness. Bob

Agrarian Bible said...

Good point - that the agrarian model is the most agreeable context for the Christian family. Not everyone is there, of course, but hard times have a way of causing people to review their priorities. One thing in the second quote disturbs me - the writer calls the Arminian position "heresy". I see that word thrown around on blogs by Christians, but I don't think we all realize how serious that accusation is. There are many Christians who are Arminians, just as there are many Calvinists. We muddy the discussion by throwing labels around and calling each other names.

Jennifer said...

excellent post! i will be pondering this, and make sure that my husband reads it as well. very interesting points. thank you!

Mariah said...

Herrick, this is a great article. I live in the suburbs, but we practice our form of agrarianism as we can (vegetable garden, home cooking, make our own products, etc.). Like you, we have other day jobs where our co-workers know we are different (i.e. Christian). I think it is important to continue to minister with our lives and to be the light of the world rather hide from the world entirely, but nevertheless, we feel the challenge in raising our baby boy against the world.

Shawna said...

My Dad always believed this! He prefered to raise his family in the middle of a well-armed 40 acres. When my sister and I left the farm to attend college in the Big City, he praised our academic accomplishments, while praying fervently (and holding his breath a bit) for our protection, and always singing the praises of the simple life..hoping too lure us "home" to the farm.

I guess it worked! My sis and I both married, live on small farms, homeschool, garden, can...the whole shabang...and most importantly, our families follow the Lord.

One question I have encountered however, to our somewhat "separationist" approach to family life is, what about our call to evangelize? Certainly God must call his people to be salt and light in urban areas? Certainly there must be Godly people in big cities doing just that, no?

My dad agrees that there must be...but prefers that it not be his children or grandchild! LOL! What do you think?

Shawna in No. CA

PS: We love your blog. Thank you.

Bob said...

I think there's a lot of truth in what you are saying.

I also think a big problem is this: How does one un-do 40 or 50 years of industrial-corporate shaping of urban nuclear families, return to an agrarian society and still manage to keep people fed?

That's the stick I find myself chewing on. It's less challenging for my family and me personally, on what is still the semi-rural fringe of the giant ring of Houston suburbs.

But what about the million or so people between us and the center of downtown? How do they unplug from the industrial food chain? My best guess right now is, a few at a time.

Herrick Kimball said...

Thank you for your comments here everyone.

I would agree that calling the Arminian view heresy (and, therefore, those who believe it, heretics) is going a bit too far. I used to be on the Arminian side and I know a lot of sincere believers who hold to that understanding. In my case, I believed it because that was all I had ever known. When another understanding was presented to me it was an eye-opener.

The challenges of raising your son to follow Christ while living within an urban or suburban setting will get much, much more difficult as he gets older.

It is easy when they are young. It is a whole different story as they get into the teen years.

I blogged about this once and removed my essay the next day because it was so negative and harsh. Suffice it to say that I sent my oldest son to a Christian school in the city when he was 17 years old. In retrospect, that was a terrible mistake. The culture of the city has our children in its crosshairs.

Smart man, your dad.

I don't believe Christians are called to evangelize at the expense of their children's souls. There are plenty of unbelievers in rural areas who we can, through the life we live and the love we show, bless and evangelize. I dare say, the best evangelism is one-to-one; on a very personal level, as opposed to the mass evangelism approaches taken by many modern churches.

Millions of devout Christian believers throughout history have lived and worked and raised their families while holding to simple, quiet, family-and-community-based agrarian lifestyles. 1Thessalonians 4:11-12 comes to mind.

Having said that, there certainly are people who God calls to be missionaries to heathen cultures, which the cities of our own land are but one example. But we are surely not called to immerse ourselves in such cultures and give our children over to them.

I don't know how all those millions of people will unplug from industrialism's stranglehold. I suspect most of them don't want to and never will. But some will be called by God to extract themselves. Those who are given insight into the evils of the culture and feel called to get out, should do it. God always uses a minority to achieve his purposes, not the proud masses. The minority is typically a lowly and humble and weak "remnant people."

Thanks again everyone.

Kay said...

Amen Brother! We raised 2 sons on our 180 owned acres & 400 share-rented acres & a 30-head beef herd.

They both live on the outskirts of the city now but are hard-working, Christian men with an aversion to being too enclosed by people.

We continually wonder and are repelled at the actions of "city folk" we see on the TV. "Normal" actions such as fighting, arguing, crime, total reliance on the Gov't and lack of self-respect.

Thanks for sharing this.

I am linking your blog as a "Favorite" on mine.

vdeal said...


Great stuff there and a philosophy I have tried to live by. I notice you mention the excitement and entertainment offerings of the urban life. This is, in my opinion, a belief foisted upon many by the incredible amount of public relations firms hired to create these "excitements". Trust me, I can find just as much interesting and exciting pursuits in a day of hiking or several of backpacking or any other number of things that don't really require a modern urban setting. That being said, there have for millennia been urban areas of some sort where tradesmen and craftsmen (and women) have gathered to more efficiently ply their trades. The difference is what the Industrial Revolution haft wrought - unbridled growth and the accompaining personal desire for said growth - in money, fame and possessions. Sadly now, many are seeing that this isn't possible while many of us in rural agarian settings have known this all along.