Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Roughed Individualism

Rugged individualism is an American tradition.  It can also make its way into the Christian church.  There is a tendency to want to go it alone spiritually and not to depend on anyone else.  This affects our view of evangelism and discipleship; I can look on it as doing my ministry and my building up my disciples.  We can see spiritual gifts as belonging to us, to be used for our purposes.  This can become particularly dangerous when it comes to theology.  It can encourage people to have their own interpretations simply to be their own man.  This can result in eccentric conclusions, whose chief goal is to be different.  Now I do not want to oppose all unusual positions; I have a few of those myself.  But being different to be different can drive you into extreme positions.  Along with theology, the same approach can also also be used regarding practice, particularly the conduct of the worship of the church.  People can come up with new ideas regarding this just to be unique.  This result is fads that crop up briefly only to be swept away by the next fad.

 When we see this error, there is a danger of leaping to the opposite extreme and embracing conformity. This can take the form of conformity to the society at large or to a specific group within the society.  Often this can be connected to a strong leader, either past or present.  Conformity can ostracize anyone who does not follow its position on all matters, whether theological or practical.

But the Christian position is that Scripture is the authority (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16,17; Acts 17:11).  The problem is, it can be interpreted by our individualistic opinions or our prior commitments to conform.  Therefore Scripture needs to be interpreted starting from itself, based on its own emphasis.  To do this, it is best to start from the fact that we are sinners saved by the grace of God (Romans 3:23-31; Ephesians 2:1-10; Colossians 2:13-15). This applies to us both individually and corporately.  If we are sinners we need to avoid relying too heavily on our own reasoning (1 Corinthians 3:18; Isaiah 55:9; Proverbs 3:5,6).  Nor should we trust in our own ability to accomplish things apart from God (Psalms 127:1,2; John 15:5; Romans 7:18).  Therefore we should approach questions carefully, considering the viewpoints of others, not being willing too easily to assume that what we think, whether individually or corporately, must be correct.  Also we should avoid a false humility that holds we cannot know anything for certain.  We are told that if we trust Christ, God is at work in us to guide and direct us (John 16:13,14; Colossians 1:28;29; 2 Corinthians 3:18).  But growing in Christ takes place over time, and it is a mistake to conclude we have arrived (Philippians 3:12-16; Galatians 5:16,17; Ephesians 4:13-16). So we need to be cautious and to carefully evaluate ourselves and our pet theories against the truth of Scripture.

1 comment:

  1. Greetings from Southern California.

    I added myself to follow your blog. You are more than welcome to visit mine and become a follower if you want to :-)

    God Bless You, ~Ron