What is Agrarianism?
What is Christian Agrarianism?

[Dateline: January 2007]

It is incumbent upon Christians to understand what agrarianism and Christian agrarianism is all about. I say that because the Bible is an agrarian book. It doesn’t speak specifically about agrarianism because it was inherent in the culture from which the book came.

Modern, industrialized life is a relatively new phenomenon in history. For thousands of years, even up to the early days of America’s founding, most people in the world lived within some form of agrarian culture. The closest thing to modern industrialism in biblical times was found in the ungodly cities and city-based cultures of the heathen peoples.

God Himself planted the first garden, showing Adam how it was done. Gardening and caring for creation was man’s original calling. Did God ever tell us to leave this calling? I may be wrong, but I do not think that He did. God calls His people to do many different things in His word, but every one of those things can (and, I believe, should) be done within the original agrarian mandate.

Jesus Christ was born in an agrarian setting (a manger is an animal feedbox or trough). His parables were almost all agrarian based and best understood by an agrarian culture. For example, references to sheep and the shepherd are understood by modern Christians, but a greater depth of understanding comes to those who have actually owned sheep and know their character.

I believe God is working in the hearts of many of His people in this time of history to bring them face to face with the reality of the ungodly industrialized culture in which we live. These people are realizing that the church of Christ has, in so many ways, taken on attributes of heathen industrialized culture. God is leading many of His fold, into a better understanding of what Christian-agrarian culture is.

Understanding is the first step to repentance, which is to say it is the first step to changing one’s worldview. Then comes a life change.

Am I saying you should change your lifestyle from what it is to a more agrarian-centered one? No I am not. I would never tell someone that. But if you seriously, earnestly, endeavor to understand what agrarianism is and, in particular, what Christian agrarianism is, I have a strong feeling that the Lord will convict you. And if you heed the conviction, your life will change. It may change gradually, in little ways. It may change faster and more radically. But it will change.

That said, the question in so many people’s minds is: “Well, what is agrarianism anyway?” Or, “What exactly is Christian agrarianism?”

I like to define Christian agrarianism as “Christianity lived within the agrarian paradigm.” A paradigm is an example, a pattern, or a framework. The only problem with my definition is that it does not explain what agrarian means. Well, I’ve come to believe that pure, undefiled agrarianism is, essentially, Christianity. How’s that for a circular definition?

The fact is, agrarianism and Christian agrarianism is, on one hand, simple, but on the other hand, it’s a very large concept to grasp. I think it is so large because we as a culture have strayed so far. Understanding the definition will require some reading, some thinking, and, of course, some prayerful searching.

Several men have written on the matter of agrarianism and Christian agrarianism. I think one of the better introductions to this subject comes from David Rockett. I suggest you read and consider the following articles by Mr. Rockett:

What is Agrarianism?  

Questions and Answers About Agrarianism 

The Prima Facie Credibility of Covenantal Agrarianism 

Creation & Community 

Howard Douglas King has written extensively and well on the subject of Christian agrarianism. His complete writings were once easily found on one website but that is no longer the case. You can, however read the following article which I think is very good.

The Biblical Basis of Christian Agrarianism

For a more “hardcore” discussion on the subject of agrarianism and Christian agrarianism, I recommend the next two essays by Michael Bunker. Keep in mind that I’m not endorsing everything that all the men I recommend in this blog have written. I’ve noticed that Mr. Bunker upsets some people with some of his writings. But, on the subject of Christian agrarianism, Mr. Bunker has written some thought provoking things that I believe are scriptural.

Agrarianism vs Urbanism

Towards a Biblical Agrarian Culture

Allan C. Carlson of The Howard Center is another Christian man who has written well of agrarian themes.

Then there is the little-known Christian-agrarian book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian. Rather than explain Christian agrarianism in great depth, the book presents a series of short, personal stories that serve to show the practical outworking of a Christian agrarian worldview in the life of one very common Christian man and his family. I am that Christian man.

I am a small fish in a big ocean, espousing something so incredibly simple, so biblically fundamental, and so contrary to the established norm that it comes across as newfangled and strange to the average modern churchgoer. Christian agrarianism is looked upon by many with great suspicion.

Is Christian agrarianism a cult? Is it a way to make money? Is it retreatist theology? Is it contrary to the great commission? No. No. No. And no. It is none of those things.

But don’t take my word for it. Read the above writings and judge for yourself what the “motivation” behind this movement is. If you do that with sincerity, I believe you will come away, not only with a clearer understanding, but, more than that, with a godly vision for personal, family, and cultural renewal.


Patti said...

Thank you for this post and your answer to my last comment! It does clear things up a bit for me. Quite a few people throw the word agrarian around and make it fit into what THEY believe, their paradigm if you will.their mind set.one definition of paradigm is A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline.
Sometimes when people explain things they don't use terms that people understnad. That is why Jesus used the themes He did in his parables,which were not all farm life based by the way,If you have a doctor talking to another doctor about a case, they will use terms that they both understand. If that doctor is speaking to a patient hopefully the doctor will use terms the patient will understand. So it is with the gospel and what we want to get across. The first time I heard the term agrarian .I went to the dictionary to find the meaning of the word. I found the meaning of the word was quite a bit different that what was being discribed in different blogs. Hence my confusion. I still think that using the term agrarian to discribe what your talking about is a misuse of that word,my opinion,I also dont' buy into the do or die philosophy put forth in some of the articles. Unless we want to be totally seperate,which I'm not sure we even could in todays culture,we really can't get on our soap box about this. I live in Amish country and even they shop at the local stores and bank at the local bank. It is interesting to watch simple?people buying the same made in China goods as the rest of the population.I point this out because some bloggers,not you,actually condem people if they espouse a different thought than theirs,Agrarian or die,while they type on their made in China PC and use factory made goods in their homes which some industrialized minimum wage person had to make.I do understand and mostly agree with the paradigm behind the Christian agrarian movement but I think that it has flaws,in my opinion.From what I have read it adds to the gospel and makes it complicated,it moves us away from a salvation based gospel to a,.God will convict you if you don't adopt an agrarian life view.. gospel.To me and once again this is just my opinion, it looks like someone took the liberal back to the land movement and slapped a Christian label on it.Quite a few eastern religions and the wiccan movement also preach agrarianism...Is eating a homegrown tomato better than eating a store bought one? yes..is our food chain in this country messed up? yes! Do we need to work to change this? again YES.. but my salvation does not depend on a tomato plant in my back yard........last post on this..promise:):):)

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Patti,

Okay, here are some thoughts regarding your comments...

Quite a few people throw the word agrarian around and make it fit into what THEY believe, their paradigm if you will.

Yes they do. And the same thing happens to the word, "Christian."

I do understand and mostly agree with the paradigm behind the Christian agrarian movement but I think that it has flaws,in my opinion.From what I have read it adds to the gospel and makes it complicated,it moves us away from a salvation based gospel to a,"God will convict you if you don't adopt an agrarian life view gospel."

Funny, I see just the opposite. I think the agrarian paradigm simplifies the gospel and brings everything into alignment. Agrarianism is about simplicity, humility, loving your neighbor and Christian charity. It is contrary to industrialism which is complicated, proud, self-centered, and against Christianity. Agrarianism is the outworking of the gospel. Jesus Christ and His redemptive work is central to Christian agrarianism.

"To me and once again this is just my opinion, it looks like someone took the liberal back to the land movement and slapped a Christian label on it.

The liberal back to the land movement had some things right. But, as a movement, it was not Christ-centered. There was no Biblical worldview, no cultural-changing mission to such a movement. It’s purpose was not to glorify God.

Quite a few eastern religions and the wiccan movement also preach agrarianism

That is true. As in all things of God, the enemy offers a counterfeit. Christian agrarians do not worship creation, they worship the soverign Creator, the God of Abraham, God the Father, who sent his son Jesus Christ to live and die as propitiation for our sin.

Unlike the godless, Christians care for environmental issues because they see it as a God-given responsibility. Unfortunately, that is often interpreted as "liberal." Fact is, Christians should be leading the charge for environmental responsibility, and many are now awaking to their need and responsibility to do so.

In the final analysis, it is impossible to pigeonhole Christian agrarianism based on commonly understood divisions within our society.

Carla Lynne Klimuk said...

WOW! I am impressed, Herrick! Very, very well articulated explanation...

I am going to link to this article instead of 're-inventing the wheel'... I get asked this alot and think you did a fine job explaining it.

Enjoying your writings,
Carla Lynne

Sheryl at Providence North said...

I equate Christian agrarianism with minimalism and self sustainability. It is more a dropping out of society and society's race to get yet a bigger house, a better car, more clothes, etc. etc. - a lack of the pursuit of material, worldly possessions. How many square feet do you really need? How many coats can one person really wear? How many starving people can you feed with the difference between a Jag and a Toyota? "The love of money is the root of all evil." Do you really watch over 100 TV stations?

Anonymous said...

I am a Pennsylvania Dutchman (aka. "Pennsylvania German"). Our culture and heritage is very firmly based upon Christianity, farming, self-sufficiency, family, and community.

Now, I didn't click on any of your links because I believe I've a good grasp upon the basics of Christian agrarianism, and I'm not much into the politics of it.

Agrarian practice was a very important way of life for the PA Dutch farming family, and not just in the way in which one planted their fields or cared for their livestock. If a family of a neighboring farm had a bad crop, or if an injury or death in the family left them in a bad way, food and workers were sent to help until the family got back onto their feet. No questions asked. No thanks needed. Appreciation was shown through the way in which that family served their own community when they were able.

And God was never far away from the thoughts and actions of these families, who raised their children to honor Christ through their self-sufficiency and caring for others selflessly.

So, as it is in the modern age for me, on .012 acres, we have vegetable gardens, chickens, 3 ponds, flower gardens, herb gardens, and even an outhouse. :) (No, we don't use it. It's a tool shed, now.)

Every day I am out in our little eutopia, I honor my heritage and I honor my Savior by noticing the little details in large mountainsides, and the big details in emerging crocus, and by making sure our three children understand and honor their place in this world through the ability of self-sufficiency and their duty to the community and God.

Too simplistic?