Monday, September 19, 2005

Community vs. the Individual

Community is all the rage now days. Wright, and Dunn and other “New Perspective” scholars (following liberal NT scholar E. P. Sanders) have brought a decidedly communal aspect to the evangelical understanding of justification, insisting that justification is not just about individual salvation but about social justice, community, and the present in-breaking of God's coming eschatological rule upon the geo/political structures of the world. Similarly, Trinitarian theology is being rethought and applied in ways that are relatively fresh. And evangelical theologians such as Grenz, Franke, Olson, etc., have endorsed a post-foundational epistemology that emphasizes the importance of one's "interpretive community" in the process of knowing. For the most part, emerging churchers and post-evangelicals have followed these thinkers in their emphasis on the importance of community. Conservative evangelicals have been skeptical about all of this new emphasis on community, or at least at some of the means by which post-evangelicals have arrived at this emphasis, fearing that the worth of the individual is being sacrificed on the altar of the corporate. So what is a poor evangelical, neo-foundational, Augustinian boy such as myself suppose to think about all of this community speak? A couple of thoughts in favor of the new emphasis. . .

• First, the current emphasis on community is appropriate in light of Trinitarian theology. God is three as much as he is one, and if we are to know him we must know him in his divine community as much as in his individuality.

• Second, post-foundational thinkers such as Franke and the late Stanley Grenz have brought a necessary critique to evangelicalism's buy-in of classical foundationalism. Informed evangelical foundationalists had already abandoned classical foundationalism (being little more than epistemic Pelagianism) but post-foundational thinkers have helped to eradicate this overly optimistic paradigm. Our interpretive community (i.e., social location) does play a part in how we process data.

• Third, the “New Perspective” is right in certain elements of its critique of more traditional Protestant understandings justification. Though Piper, Carson and others have attempted to defend the traditional Reformed position regarding imputation and justification, I have not been convinced. (But I have little sympathy for the solutions of the “New Perspective,” I might add.)

But even as one who highly values Trinitarian theology, recognizes the significance of social location and its relationship to epistemology, and is likewise a critic of certain aspects of Reformed sotieriology, I’ve had an unsettled feeling about this new emerging/post-evangelical emphasis on community. Until recently I have been unable to put my finger on it, but I think I finally figured it out. Tomorrow (or whenever I can get to it) I'll try to unpack it.

3 comments:

The Cubicle Reverend said...

Glad to see you back, finally. Geeze, you have one kid and all of a sudden you fall off the face of the earth. Like having a kid is a big deal. By the way...

TAG, YOUR IT.

http://thecubiclereverend.blogspot.com/2005/09/grabbing-baton.html

David Nebraska said...

Gosh, you've even inspired me to blog once again. It's a maracle!

Gerald said...

Glad to see that you all haven't forgotten me.