Sunday, September 25, 2005

Community vs. the Individual: Part 2

In my previous post, I affirmed the emphasis on community that much of post-evangelicalism (as well as the emerging church) has brought forth. Yet as I mentioned, something about it has troubled me. Here’s what I think it comes down to—-post-evangelicals tend to reject an Augustinian/Reformed theological paradigm, specifically regarding election and theodicy. This is turn, I believe, has led to an anthrocentric view of community.

There is within post-evangelicalism an emphasis upon the imminence of God that finds more continuity with traditional Arminianism (and now even Open Theism), than with traditional Augustinian/Reformed thought. Though probably not true across the board, it seems to me that many post-evangelicals find the transcendent and utterly sovereign God of Augustine and Calvin (as well as Luther and Edwards) to be tyrannical and little worthy of worship. So though post-evangelicalism rightly emphasizes community, I often feel that it has merely exchanged the broader evangelical anthrocentric emphasis on the individual for an equally anthrocentric emphasis on community. If so, not much has been gained.

Perhaps it is helpful, by way of analogy, to point out a similar tension which exists between the church and the world. Does the church exist for the sake of its members, or does the church exist for sake of the world? Evangelicals would tend to argue for the former, and post-evangelicals would tend to argue for the latter. But there is a third option—the church exists for the sake of Christ. The body exists for the head, and the watch care of the hands over the eyes, for example, is not simply for the sake of the eyes, but for the sake of the head from which both eyes and hands find their true identity.

In the same way, I believe that both the individuals and the community finds its significance in its typological relationship to God as person and God as Trinity respectively. We were created, both as individuals and as a community, to image forth the very nature of God (or so it seems to suggest here). We are self-portraits; living, visible images of the invisible, personal, communal God. In as much as we as individuals reflect the personhood of God, and as much as we as a perichoretic community of believers reflect the “shared life” of the divine community, we fulfill the purpose of each. The individual does not exist for the community, nor does the community exist for the individual—both exist for God. But when we forget this fundamental truth—a truth that is so absolutely central to Augustinian/Reformed thought, our elevation of community does not necessarily move us any closer to a correct ecclesiology. Perhaps the post-evangelical (and at times vehement) dismissal of an Augustinian/Reformed empahasis upon the centrality of God in all things has brought an unfortunate anthrocentric bent toward the post-evangelical emphasis on community.


David Nebraska said...

Gosh man, your on fire or something. It takes me like 2 days to read and understand each post and you keep putin' more out there each day. Dude, slow down. ;-)

Gerald said...

Don't worry. I'm running out of steam. This was just the over zealous sprint at the beginning of my blogging marathon. I'm settling in to a more modest pace now.