Michael Battle1offers some useful observations on Christian living.
Battle focuses on the cultural distance between the first century and modern Western culture. His key insight is in challenging Western ways of describing Christianity in individualistic terms, something totally foreign to the way Jesus taught His disciples how to live. For Battle, it’s not whether one has a “personal relationship” with Jesus– it’s whether one has a “communal” one– the point being that Christianity is worked out in community, not in isolated individuality. The soteriological implications of a communal relationship with Christ are more telling than the claim to a personal relationship because the former bears witness to the latter.
His assertion rings true.
Scriptural calls to discipleship and even martyrdom are incommensurate with Western preoccupations with individual wholeness and well-being. Death is not the worst thing that can happen to a Christian. Moreover, Western Christianity needs to get over the idea that an individual’s private experience is the sole criterion for being a Christian.2
As Battle says
Iit looks too much like a special-interest group of self-interested individuals. Baseball Christianity– the idea that all one needs to do is to verbalize a formula for salvation– is a superficial understanding of what it means to live a Christian life.2
Battle’s answer is to understand the church as the primary agency for living the Christian life.
The implication is that personal spirituality is suspect unless it is realized in relational terms with one’s neighbor.
1Michael Battle is Provost and Canon Theologian of the Cathedral Center of St. Paul in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.
2Michael Battle, “How Should We Live,” Essentials of Christian Theology, William C. Placher, ed. (Louisville, KY: 2003), 280-295.