A review of Paul Dirks’ Deep Discipleship for Dark Days: A Manual for Holding Fast to What is Good.There are two kinds of war. First, the kind of war often described in history books. An army dressed in green uniforms faces off against another army dressed in khaki uniforms, and while carefully following the Geneva Conventions, the two armies fight it out until one side gives up, after which prisoners are exchanged and an honourable peace reestablished. The other kind, the default for much of world history, takes place when everything falls apart for no explainable reason. In this kind of warfare, tiny groups of combatants (too ragtag to be called soldiers) snipe at each other for, in some cases, hundreds of years. Meanwhile, civilization sinks into a morass of misery, starvation, endemic violence, ignorance, disease and despair. For what it’s worth, this second type of war, well-known on other continents, is increasingly likely to visit North America and may already be here.Meanwhile, the so-called preppers — you know, those people who fill their houses with staple foods, generators and defensive equipment — are ridiculed as conspiracy theorists while Christian writers churn out “feel good” inspirational books as though nothing has changed since the Second World War. It seems to me that for the church to survive, let alone thrive during the coming crisis, we need books by spiritual preppers. If we are to grow the kingdom of God in the coming years, we need to hear from people who realize that today’s troubles are fundamentally spiritual, and we need writers who equip believers to be victorious soldiers in today’s existential war.Fortunately, a handful of writers are indeed awake to the needs of the hour. Included among them is New Westminster, British Columbia pastor Paul Dirks, whose latest offering, Deep Discipleship for Dark Days: A Manual for Holding Fast to What is Good speaks powerfully to the spiritual needs of our day. Dirks knows what time it is, as his introduction plainly states."I want to prepare you for a coming cataclysm in which evil powers and principalities will unite in a singular purpose; in which pressure, pleasure, and persecution will bring the masses into subjection and in which widespread economic and societal upheaval will erode long-established traditions and structures."Does that sound to you like Dirks is in touch with reality? If it does, you will want to know what he has to say. But if you’re thinking he’s just written another book on the second coming, then let me clarify. He is well aware that Deep Discipleship sometimes comes off sounding “apocalyptic” (his word,) but this book is not about escapism. Rather, Dirks is concerned to prepare Christians to live through the awful times that lie ahead. He wants God’s people to survive what’s coming, and then be ready to rebuild church and society by employing, again in his words, “the normative, albeit radical, truths of living according to Christ’s commands.” (More on this further down.)But you ask, how does such high-level theorizing work in real life? Dirks is committed to the idea of tough people taking on tough times. He suggests, for example, that because there are no more new worlds to which Christians can flee, it may be time for God’s people to heed Jesus’ admonition to prepare for self-defence (Luke 22:35-38). But even more emphatically, he states that because the real battle is always spiritual, Christians need to be armed with the Word of God, wielding scripture as a sword to cut through the baffle-gab of manipulative lies to explain the continuing reality of sin and the eternal necessity for repentance and faith. Such plain speaking will bring persecution, of course, but that should come as no surprise. Jesus was persecuted for his bold speech and He expects his followers to emulate him all the way.Don’t bother complaining that Dirks is asking us to commit to a difficult life. He is convinced being conformed to Christ demands nothing less. “If they persecuted Christ as he exposed the world’s sins,” he writes, “the world will also persecute us when we expose theirs (Jn 15:20-22). This will be the reality for every person that takes up the sword of the Spirit—the Word of God (Eph. 6:17).”Dirks is himself a Canadian pastor and therefore aware of Canadian Christians’ reflexive submission to governmental authority. But in his view, we haven’t been imitators of Christ until we, like him, live and teach so as to expose public and private sin. Going along with the world in order to get along should become anathema to God’s people, he says. Instead, we, like Christ, should be ready to die while speaking up for the vulnerable of society.Think here of infants killed in their mothers’ wombs, euthanasia for the elderly and the chronically ill and generations of youths raised to believe they have no higher purpose than to satisfy their individual desires.Perhaps it would be helpful to summarize the subjects Dirks deals with. In Chapter 2 he addresses the entertainment industry’s baleful influence upon Christians. Chapter 3 addresses our godless education system that results in the kind of hive-mind that in recent days has caused many to thoughtlessly support efforts to eliminate Israel. Chapters 4 and 5 call upon Christians to rebuild the foundations of society from the ground up. There are questions we must answer. What is a man? What is a woman? What is a family? And we must answer them, not just in words, but in deeds, by being the man, the woman, and the family that God designed us to be. Chapter 6 is a call to discern and resist the demonic in modern life, while Chapter 7 (the last chapter — this is not a large book) is a call to link with allies who will stand with you in the fight to remain faithful to Christ.One of the best features of the book is the “Apocalypse-Preparation” check list found at the end of each chapter. I suspect you’ve almost never faced such stringent challenges in your life or heard them from a pulpit. For example, the list for Chapter 1 includes “Embrace adventure and struggle in your life. Be willing to sustain some wounds for what is most important.” Tough enough,” you say, “but doable.” Well try this one: “When you do not ‘win’ right away, do not back down. And if you have done nothing wrong, do not be cowed into apologizing for the truth.” To use the vernacular of our day, be a Monster for Jesus. Each list ends with a recommended scripture for memorization.As you read further, the demands in the apocalypse preparation lists just get tougher. At the end of Chapter 5 we get: “Resolve never to take part in a global digital identity program or to implant a technological device that will permit your surveillance.” He also challenges us to, “Build in such a way that you are independent from government money and fully free to pursue your project in ways that would most honour Christ.” This is an extraordinarily pointed message in a time when Canadians have already had their bank accounts frozen simply for expressing disagreement with government policy. I could share more of Dirks’ to-dos, but this review is already too long, and there’s one more point I need to make.I said earlier that Deep Discipleship is not just another book on the second coming. And that’s true. But the further into it you go, the more you realize that in spite of his disclaimers, Dirks is subtly, but truly invested in the kind of premillennialism that assumes history will end soon. He admits we cannot know the day of the Lord’s return and he highlights this in his book: “make no chronological predictions of Christ’s return.”He insists however — and here comes the critique — that we must “live ready,” because Christ could return at any time. He seems to have lost sight of the promise of Hebrews 10:12-14, in which Christ is depicted, not returning to rescue his downtrodden people but rather, remaining seated on His throne in heaven, waiting until all his enemies are defeated by means of his atoning sacrifice. Nor has he grasped the significance of the river flowing from the throne of God that heals the nations (Rev. 22:1-2). In other words, I wish Dirks had sounded a more certain trumpet regarding the hope the Bible attaches to gospel preaching (Hab. 2:14).Nevertheless, despite the concern mentioned in the previous paragraph, I love how Dirks prepares God’s people for the coming fight. His book is sorely needed for such a time as this.