Summer Institute 2013: How to Follow Jesus When You Cannot Kill the Beast
From July 31 to August 3, 2013, Gutenberg College held its Summer Institute, “How to Follow Jesus When You Cannot Kill the Beast.” The Institute centered on a paper written by Gutenberg tutor Dr. Jack Crabtree in which he claims that American culture is quickly, and inexorably, becoming an anti-Christian state and then explores what it will look like to exist as a follower of Jesus in the emerging hostile society and how believers can prepare for such a future. Institute participants received a copy of Jack’s paper in advance, and Jack presented a synopsis of the paper during the first session of the Institute. In subsequent sessions, Gutenberg tutors and others in the Gutenberg community presented responses to Jack’s paper. After each presentation, a lively dialog between presenters and participants ensued. The Summer Institute, in the spirit of Gutenberg College’s approach to education, was a conversation about ideas and their consequences.
The Summer Institute sessions were recorded, and these recordings are available on our website. Most of the presenters also wrote papers that served as the basis for their talks, and these papers will be available on the website as each is ready for publication. Below is a brief summary of the papers and talks (in presentation order) so that you can see the general outline of the Summer Institute conversation before you delve into its parts by following the “Paper” and “Audio” links.
Jack Crabtree asserts in his introduction that America has reached a state of unprecedented hostility to the Good, and that hostility is becoming entrenched in the very institutions of American government.
In part one, he explores from whence this hostility to God has arisen. He argues that there is a cultural power in modern America that seems to transcend the power of individual Americans. He calls it “the Beast.” He proceeds to analyze the cultural dynamics that give power to the Beast, identifying five human and cultural realities from which its power stems: (1) Americans, like all depraved human beings, manifest a lust for affirmation by others. (2) There exists a widespread social perception that there is a class of people in America who are morally, intellectually, and/or socially superior. (3) There exists a set of values and beliefs among this superior class that functions as their religion. (4) The values and beliefs of this superior class religion spread throughout American culture through the palpable promise that anyone who adopts these values and beliefs can count himself a member of the superior class. (5) There is readily available propaganda in modern American culture that serves to remove any rational reservations that individuals might otherwise have to the self-contradictory and irrational system of ideas that constitute this official, elitist religion of the superior class. Jack finishes part one with a historical analysis of the “orthodox” religion of the superior class and analyzes the various social-political reactions to it that have occurred.
In part two, Jack outlines five possible reactions that a follower of Jesus might make to the current state of American culture. He proposes that only one of those reactions seems appropriate to our current situation—namely, that we accept the fact that it is not God’s intention to save America and that we pursue individual lives of faithful obedience to Jesus.
In part three, Jack explores, some of the practical ramifications of his assessment that there can be no realistic expectation of America’s changing course. He explores what our priorities must be, what important steps we must take to prepare for the challenges ahead, what changes we must make in our expectations and relationships, and what changes to our structures and institutions would be appropriate.
[The analysis in part two proved challenging for some readers. Much of the confusion resulted from not understanding that Jack was using familiar labels in a rather unconventional way. The audio files of the discussions that ensued should help to clarify his use of labels.]
Dr. Jack Crabtree is a tutor at Gutenberg College; the director of Gutenberg’s McKenzie Study Center; the author of The Most Real Being: A Biblical and Philosophical Defense of Divine Determinism; and co-author of The Language of God: A Commonsense Approach to Understanding and Applying the Bible. He earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Oregon.
Charley Dewberry traces his journey to understand what Jack Crabtree means when he equates Contrabiblicism and Leftism in his paper, “How to follow Jesus When You Cannot Kill the Beast.” Charley discusses Jack’s definitions of Contrabiblicism and Leftism, examines Jack’s categories, and arrives at an understanding of what he believes Jack is claiming. Charley also observes that a major key to understanding Jack’s paper is questioning what really hinges on equating Contrabiblicism and Leftism.
Dr. Charley Dewberry is the dean and a tutor at Gutenberg College and also a working scientist in the field of stream ecology. He has authored two books, Intelligent Discourse: Exposing the Fallacious Standoff between Evolution and Intelligent Design (2006) and Saving Science: A Critique of Science and Its Role in Salmon Recovery (2004). He earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Oregon.
Earle Craig springboards off Jack Crabtree’s paper, “How to follow Jesus When You Cannot Kill the Beast,” and argues that the Bible teaches that all human beings, except Jesus who is God incarnate, are all beasts, incurably hostile to God. Therefore, American Society, the American Government, and even the American Church are hotbeds of rebellion against God. He contends that the task of each individual human being is to face into his rebellion and prepare himself for the final judgment, where Jesus will advocate for God’s eternal mercy on his behalf if he has been authentically repentant during his existence in the present realm.
Earle Craig is a Bible teacher in Southern California and a member of the Gutenberg College board of governors. He earned his M.S. in electrical engineering from Stanford University and his M.A. in theology from Fuller Seminary.
“The Gift of Clarity” by Ron Julian
Paper and Audio
Ron Julian offers three critiques of Jack Crabtree’s paper, “How to Follow Jesus When You Cannot Kill the Beast.” First, he disagrees with the paper’s assertion that cultural hostility to the gospel should lead us to be increasingly pessimistic about evangelism. Second, he questions the paper’s suggestion that a reading of history should lead us to be pessimistic about cultural and political engagement. Third, he suggests that the paper’s use of the word “leftism” is confused and perhaps untrue. An addendum revisits these questions in the light of clarifications that emerged at the Summer Institute where Jack’s paper was discussed.
Ron Julian is a tutor at Gutenberg College, the author of Righteous Sinners, and a co-author of The Language of God: A Commonsense Approach to Understanding and Applying the Bible. He earned his M.A. in religion from Reformed Theological Seminary.
Chris Swanson discusses how the distinction Jack Crabtree makes between religious and intellectual commitments based on whether a person is willing to consider contrary evidence is not as black and white as it may first appear in Jack’s paper, “How to Follow Jesus When You Cannot Kill the Beast.” To explore the distinction, Chris examines the nature of our commitments and how they are formed. He concludes that they are formed by a “fitting together” of evidence, assumptions, and judgments. Furthermore, he concludes that this process of “fitting together” is completely reliant on our assumptions; they cannot be ignored and are, in fact, necessary to come to any knowledge at all. Given the nature of how knowledge is formed, Chris goes on to explore some complexities of deciding whether a commitment is religious or intellectual.
Dr. Chris Swanson is a tutor at Gutenberg College. He earned his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Oregon, where he also did post-doctoral research.
David Crabtree does not directly address Jack Crabtree’s paper, “How To Follow Jesus When You Cannot Kill the Beast,” but he deals with an issue that is closely related and personally challenging. He talks about the difficulties of maintaining sound moral values in a culture where those values are constantly under attack. He begins by briefly reflecting on his experience of the moral and cultural decline that he has observed over the course of his life. He contends that the dramatic changes that have occurred in our culture over the past fifty years have left us in a situation where morality is “up for grabs” and that this morally confused culture constantly presents challenges to Christian moral values. These challenges can be positive or negative, which he illustrates by using the evolution in his thinking about homosexuality over the years. Finally, he illustrates the difficulty of steering a straight moral course on a day-to-day basis, contending that most decisions are not clearly right or wrong and yet the sum total of those decisions betrays one’s values more clearly.
Dr. David Crabtree is the president and a tutor at Gutenberg College, and he is a co-author of The Language of God: A Commonsense Approach to Understanding and Applying the Bible. He earned his Ph.D. in history from the University of Oregon.
“Eschatologists Agree That The End of Human History Is Fast Approaching, But Maybe It Isn’t” by Toby Johnston
Paper and Audio
Toby Johnston contests the theme of epistemological pessimism in Jack Crabtree’s paper, “How To Follow Jesus When You Cannot Kill the Beast,” and questions whether the Book of Revelation and the analogy of the Beast are the best tools for understanding this current age. Toby offers a brief history of the last thirty years of culture war between the political conservatives and progressives, and he maintains that the political alliance between the Republican Party and Evangelical Christians has been corrosive to the truth of the Bible and suggests this alliance is the real Contrabiblicism. He closes with a brief summary of the belief system of what he calls the “orphans of the Culture War.” Here he advises hope and optimism in contrast to what he describes as Jack’s “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel pessimistic” perspective.
Toby Johnston is a writer and award-winning poet and also works as a Business Employment Specialist for the Oregon Employment Department. He earned his B.A. from Gutenberg College, and his senior thesis on Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and McIntyre was concerned with philosophy as it pertains to morality and existential commitment.
“Following Christ After Christendom” by Tim McIntosh
Paper and Audio
Tim McIntosh claims that Christendom has ended: that time in American history when culture and politics supported (or at least didn’t obstruct) the church’s mission is over. In light of this momentous cultural event, non-believers no longer hold central Christian ethical tenets. McIntosh contends that, given this profound change, Christians should rethink and reorganize their lives in an effort to remain faithful to God.
Tim McIntosh is a tutor at Gutenberg College. In addition to teaching writing to Gutenberg freshmen and sophomores, he is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and actor. He earned his M.A. in theology from Reformed Theological Seminary.
“Response to the Responses” by Jack Crabtree
Jack Crabtree responds to the responses to his paper, “How to Follow Jesus When You Cannot Kill the Beast.”
Copyright August 2013 by Gutenberg College.