The basic theological question in “individualism vs. community” involves anthropology. The turning point is the nature of humanity. How does one conceive the quality of humanness– particularly in relation to the tension between individuality and community?

individual vs. community

The answer colors every aspect of theology from the nature of God to the nature of sin to the nature of the church.

Emphasis on individualism will see community as a threat to human freedom– the essence of humanity for individualists. The Trinitarian nature of God will have little significance. The church will be transformed from a salvific community to a fraternity of like-minded people seeking their own private salvation. Sanctification will be replaced by personal growth. Marriage and family will be viewed as avenues of self-realization and therefore dispensable when they get in the way. Sinning against God and community will be replaced by sinning against oneself. More self esteem will become the answer to sin. Forgiving others will be seen as good, not because it reflects the nature of God, but because it is “good for you.” Jesus will be transformed from the Messiah of the Kingdom to the savior of solitary individuals. The problem of evil, pain, and suffering will be framed as a learning experience for the individual. The individual will be viewed with infinite worth. The Holy Spirit will become the agent for revealing God “secret plan” to each individual for his or her personal success. Spiritual gifts will be made to serve the individual rather than the church.

A communal view, in contrast, will see community as the essence of humanity, the source of personality. That essence will be recognized as flowing from the Trinitarian nature of God which, in turn, will influence all of theology. The human need and desire for companionship will be viewed as rooted in the image of God within humanity. Humans will be acknowledged as having a communal nature just as God has a communal nature. Marriage will take on a deep religious significance. Men and women will be most human when keeping covenant. The isolation so common within individualism will represent the essence of sin– the loss of community. The nature of humanity will be shaped by the nature of community. The Fall will be recognized fundamentally as a loss of community. Fallen humanity will be seen as perpetuating the Fall through proliferation of fallen relationships. Salvation will be recognized as restoration of vertical community with God and the redemption of horizontal community between human beings. Since both communities (vertical and horizontal) intersect in the church, the church will be appreciated as having an indispensable role in salvation and Christian life. The Spirit’s role will be celebrated in His fostering of community. The eschaton will be the full realization of community between God and humanity.

— historeo.com

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