The Radical Society

Radicalism is on the rise. As noted by Senior Academic Fellow Jonathan Pugh of Newcastle University, the phrase “radical politics” [1] in our day describes activism that targets and subverts the root (Latin: radix) of reigning public distributions of power, wealth, and social standing.

The radical movements that have become frequent subjects of American news headlines (The Alt Right,[2] Antifa,[3] Black Lives Matter,[4] and even the so-called Boogaloo Movement[5]) are not so much organized political groups as they are loosely affiliated groups of anarchic political actors who have banded together to express common social grievances. Insofar as the most visible expressions of “radical politics” in 2020 seem predominantly social (or, antisocial) in nature and concern, such movements are not identifiable as political institutions per se; rather, each of these groups or movements is best characterized as a “radical society.”

This term may be new to some, but what association comes to mind when you see it? If “radical society” flashes across your screen, what do you think of it? Is it a violent organization or movement seeking to upend the world as you know it? Is it the State, with its increasing power over the root concerns of your life? Is it the Academy with its holistic goals of education and character formation? Is it the Church with its responsibility over your spiritual instruction, discipline, and worship? Or is there something more fundamental to human experience as God has created it?

What each of these movements, relations, and institutions have in common is a referential basis in the one true “radical society” presented in the earliest chapters of Scripture: the family. American Presbyterian minister and evangelist Samuel Davies (1723-61) characterized the family (understood as a household) as “a radical society from which all others are derived.”[6]

God created Adam with a sociable nature. The first man was born ready-made for society. In fact, his not good condition was made very good only when Eve was brought forth from his side as a suitable and similarly sociable helper. God said as much in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Thus, the Creator of the heavens, the earth, and all that in them dwells is also the Author of mankind’s sociable nature, as expressed principially and most emphatically in the “radical society” of the family.

If the family is truly the “radical society,” then all aspects of social morality are based in filial relations. Certainly, each of us is under obligation to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27) as individuals. While “the great and foremost commandment” (Matt. 22:38) has implications for our corporate or social behavior in relation to God Himself, we must not skip over what Christ annexes to the command. Applying Leviticus 19:18, Christ authoritatively commands all men everywhere, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). Such a directive is explicitly and irrefutably social, and is fulfilled first in the arena of the home.

Having seen that mankind’s social nature lays upon all men everywhere an obligation to social religion, such is the case that your very humanity must oblige you to family religion, for the family is the first society which God instituted among men. All other societies - church, state, marketplace, academy, and even those wretched associations bound by bloodshed and violent radicalism - are essentially branches which grow out of the root of the family unit. Therefore, it is in the family that corporate devotion - social religion - began, and it is here in the family that it ought to continue until Christ returns.

There will come a time when family relations will be abolished (Matt. 22:30), but until Christ consummates His everlasting kingdom in the new heavens and new earth, Christian families are to be what Samuel Davies calls “nurseries for heaven.”[7] The Christian family is tasked to raise up a godly seed to testify to God’s covenant mercies and grace for generation after generation, with the expectation that heaven will thereby be populated by an innumerable multitude drawn from every tribe, tongue, and nation (Rev. 7:9), bringing great glory to Christ the King (Prov. 14:28).

The means by which the family is to produce citizens for that better country (Heb. 11:16) are ordinary and indispensable. They are simply prayer, instruction, and praise. At the very least, families must corporately approach God in humility and gratitude, making supplication for all that is needful for faith and godliness, gleaning from the Scriptures His instruction for the same, and rendering praise in song for His bountiful grace. Whether your family is large or small (perhaps just a husband and wife), these means are privileges intended to fit you together for everlasting blessedness in the full enjoyment of God for all eternity.

As our political and cultural society continues to absorb the assaults of so-called “radical politics,” consider the vast importance and prospective delights of that one true “radical society.” How glorious will that great family reunion be in heaven, when we all as the family of God gather together in never-ending praise to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? Cultivate the roots of that heavenly society now such that you will be able all the more to enjoy the reality which will commence when Heaven and Earth meet in the Person of Jesus Christ at His glorious return. Give heed to the “radical society.”

Zack Groff is Director of Advancement & Admissions at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Related Links

"A Worthy Goal" by Oliver Allmand-Smith

"Was the Nuclear Family a Mistake?" by Justin Poythress

"Review: How the West Really Lost God" by D.G. Hart

"Family Worship and Its Benefits" by Jason Helopoulos

Adoption, edited by Jeffrey Stivason

Family Worship by Donald Whitney


[1] Jonathan Pugh, “What is Radical Politics Today?” in What is Radical Politics Today? ed. Jonathan Pugh (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 2.

[2] Note The Philadelphia Inquirer’s recent coverage of one Alt-Right group’s presence at a recent political function featuring Vice President Mike Pence, here:

[3] See Nate Hochman’s analysis for The Dispatch here:

[4] For a point of reference, see Vox’s recent interview with Professor Michael Kazin of Georgetown University for one favorable appraisal of BLM as a social movement in need of greater organizational structure to achieve particular political ends:

[5] See the Washington Post’s recent alarm-ringing article here:

[6] Samuel Davies, “Sermon XXIX: The Necessity and Excellence of Family Religion,” in The Sermons of Samuel Davies in Three Volumes, vol. 2 (Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1854), 82.

[7] Ibid., 84.

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