Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The solution to individualism is community

joshgelatt.com: Newton on the problem of Congregationalism

My friend Josh posted a quote from John Newton’s collection of letters, Wise Counsel, that I found interesting. The point of the post is that many corners of evangelicalism are tainted with a radical individuality, a "me first" mentality. I understand the concern. Many Christians, or at least many church goers, are consumers who seek a congregation to become “members” of that fits their needs and wants: "What does this church have to offer me and my family?" Where I have trouble is with the proposed solution: submission to authority. While I agree with the danger of individualism, I question whether submission to a man who holds an ecclesiastic office is going to solve the problem. The perceived refusal to submit to authority is often bemoaned in certain corners of the church as a major ill in the church. I would argue that the true, underlying issue is that the church lacks love and fellowship in community, without which service, leadership and discipline cannot exist except as a mere external adherence.

The solution to radical individualism is not authority. The antithesis of individuality is community, not hierarchy. We don’t overcome individuality by elevating certain individuals to rule over the others but rather through selfless service and ministry to one another. It is only when the whole Body ministers and serves one another that individuality is overcome.

I have more thoughts on this for a later date (when I am less tired and puckish)

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1 comment:

Steve Scott said...


I agree with you that the solution is community. But a great danger arises in this solution. It is easy to confuse community with communalism, an ism that sets itself at odds with individualism, but creates a new ism within community. Authority can be abused, not only from leaders but from the community as a whole itself. Radical communalism can actually create and falsely label individualism by rejecting the individuals who obey God in their consciences.

I posted about this earlier this year: