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Christian Agrarianism: The New Gnosticism?

January 8, 2013

Definitions

A

grarianism simply refers to a social philosophy which values rural society as superior to urban society, the independent farmer as superior to the paid worker, and sees farming as a way of life that can shape the ideal social values. Wiki

When you tie the idea of “Christianity” to the philosophy of “Agrarianism” you get a slightly different twist on the definition above.

“We believe that the physical, spiritual and social well-being of mankind depends on a common understanding of, and commitment to, man’s most ancient, and only necessary, occupation” [namely, agrarianism]…. “One of the main reasons that we are in the mess we are in today is because we have neglected the simple Scriptural fact that God appointed man to be a tiller of the ground.” link

Just to quickly avoid any misconceptions, my goal here is not to attack or criticize agrarianism itself. I think that there is a lot of value in some of the philosophy that supports agrarianism, even going as far as saying that there are a lot of Christian values that would support the idea (in some sense) of agrarianism. The main point of this short essay is to discuss some of the problems that occur when this philosophy becomes the central point/belief in a Christian’s life.

One last comment before moving on to the next section. I hope that you saw a slight problem in the second definition that I listed (I bolded it for ya 😉 ). The problem is seen in the fact that Mr. King (who wrote that def.) says that the “physical, spiritual and social well-being of mankind depends on a common understanding of” agrarianism. NOT the Gospel. This is a definition that is given by a Christian but he seems to have placed so much value on the philosophy of agrarianism that it has taken the place of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I think that you will see this idea of “philosophical usurpation” as a constant theme when too much emphasis is placed on a human tradition/category.

Michael Bunker

Michael Bunker is a pastor/teacher that I have had some dealings with in the past and have reviewed some of his teachings concerning agrarianism. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a good bio but here is his main website if you are interested). When you listen to Bunker’s teachings, it quickly becomes clear that the idea that governs how he interprets scripture is not Christ and the Gospel but his philosophy of agrarianism. What happens in Bunker’s teachings is that he reads the idea of agrarianism INTO the scriptures rather than telling people what the passages actually say. Here are two common scriptures that he takes out of context in order to prove that we should turn away from industry and back to farming and other agrarian activities…

Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us.”

When you read these verses in their context, you quickly find that the preacher is using verses 9 and 10 to try and lay emphasis on the fact that “All is Vanity!” (vv 2). Bunker, however, takes these verses out of their immediate context in order to say that the bible teaches against banks, being on the electric grid, living in a city, working at an industrial type factory, etc. Instead of reading these verses to understand what they are actually trying to teach, he inserts his philosophy into the text… let’s take a look at another one…

Jeremiah 6:16 “Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”

The call in this verse to “look, and ask for the ancient paths…and walk in it” is referring to turning back to worshipping the One True God. The prophet Jeremiah is living amidst the people of Israel in a time where they have turned to False gods and the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob is calling them to repent and turn back to Him before he visits destruction of the nation of Israel for their sins (Jer. 6:19). What Bunker has done is to take a verse that is talking about the worship of God and turned into a command and says that God requires His people to turn from new paths (the system you and I live in now) and turn to the old paths (agrarianism).

The twisting of scripture doesn’t end there. I could probably continue on for quite a while if I addressed all of the bad uses of scripture that I heard, but I will stop after this one.

Luke 21:21 “Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it,”

When talking about this passage, Bunker said “Luke 21 is proof that we are to flee the City to the surrounding countryside.” Now in the larger context of this quote, Bunker has been discussing the biblical support for agrarianism and then moved on to talking about what he calls “Specialization versus Separation”. In this, he focuses his teaching on telling people that Christians shouldn’t live in cities or take part in a “specialized” career. However, if you understand anything about the context of Luke 21, both biblically and historically, you can see that Bunker is not making the same point that Jesus did. In Luke 21:21, Jesus was referring to a specific event that took place around 30-40 years later with the actual destruction of Jerusalem.

This is the type of teaching and bible twisting that is a common event in almost all of Bunker’s teachings. Why? I think it goes back to the fact that he has set a human philosophy above the Word of God and therefore all Scripture is subservient to his view of agrarianism.

The Connection to Gnosticism

Gnosticism is a very old heresy that taught that salvation is achieved through special knowledge. (if you want a more detailed def. and more info, you can go here and here). Only by understand this secret knowledge could you understand (and exceed) the revelation of the Scripture and it is only through this secret knowledge that you can truly obey God.

My assertion is that the teachings of Michael Bunker, concerning agrarianism, are reflective of what the Gnostics taught. Michael Bunker has clearly stated in his teachings that only those who are agrarians can truly follow and obey God. sermon

Here is some quotes directly from Michael Bunker that I think supports the idea of “Gnostic Agrarianism” and these statements should shivers down your spine…

“There are mysteries in the Bible that can only be understood by an Agrarian mindset”

“Only Agrarians have the proper foundation for proper theology.”

“Agrarianism is the only means by which man can truly obey God”

“Return to the garden in the physical and you will return to the garden in the spiritual.”

“It will be given unto us to understand spiritual mysteries when we put our hands in the land and the Bible in our minds.”

“You can read the Bible all day and not understand it unless your ‘hands are in the soil’.”

What’s the Point

There are two things that I am trying to convey to you throughout this post.

  1. To warn of False Teachers. Jesus clearly warns us to be discerning and to test to see if a teacher is a False or True Teacher (Matthew 7:15-16; 1 John 4:1-6). And if we have found a false teacher, it is our duty to warn the body of Christ while also praying and calling for the teachers repentance.
  2. To cause us to evaluate our own lives and beliefs to see if there are things that we are holding on to so tightly that we have allowed them to replace Christ and the Gospel.

It is probably really easy to look at your life and say, “not me”, but I think that we tend to be blind about these things and it would be good of us to reevaluate our lives and our doctrines to see if they are consistent with scripture. If you simply look at Bunker’s teachings, it will quickly become obvious that he is blind to his mishandling of Scripture and we could very easily land in that same position if the Gospel isn’t central…

1 Timothy 4:16 “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

  • Do you set works above faith when thinking about your position before God (Romans 3:28)?
  • Do you evaluate truth based on the feelings and emotions that you get or based on the Word of God (John 17:17)?
  • Do you make the head-covering (as biblical as that is) a matter of salvation or as affecting our standing before God?
  • What about the color of people’s skin and the accent in their voice?
  • Or is Christ and the Gospel the thing which has taken you captive?

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
Colossians 2:8

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One Comment
  1. I’m curious as to why you think Mr. Bunker is the only or main voice of Christian agrarianism. His views do seem a bit on the extreme side but I would say a more balanced view of Christian agrarianism is actually the opposite of gnostic-type spirituality which denies the bodily Incarnation of Jesus and the duality of spirit (being good) and matter (being evil) that has no root in a Biblical understanding of the world. Much of the Church in the West seems to have fallen into this lie – and my hope is that a kind of Christian agrarianism could be a corrective call to practice a more embodied faith – as well as begin to see Creation and our bodies as inherently good because they are created by GOD and He has declared that they are such. -shalom!

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