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A Theology As Big As Austin (part 3)

June 13, 2008

This is part 3 of ‘A Theology As Big As Austin’ which are my reflections on Bakke’s reflections from A Theology As Big As The City. Remember, these are reflections, not theological papers, so consider them first drafts.

Previous posts can be found here:
A Theology As Big As Austin (part 1)
A Theology As Bis As Austin (part 2)

Bakke’s Reflections on Individuality and Community
“We work to value the biblical contributions of both Greek and Hebrews (or Catholics and Protestants) at a time when rampant individualism threatens the West and an exaggerated view of cultural rights sustains oppression in much of Asia.”

My Reflections on Individuality and Community
Individualism says ‘me first’, or even ‘me only’. The rampant individualism in the West that Bakke spoke of only grew stronger after the publication of his book. Commercials use it to sell their products, self-help books have taken over the bookshelves as we seek to improve ourselves without submitting ourselves personally to others critique, everyone feels victimized by someone else, the suburbs continue to grow rapidly and we pick up and discard employers, churches and relationships based on their usefulness to our happiness. And no one is allowed to tell you that you are wrong. But yet, we can tell everyone else that they are wrong. Even where I see ‘community’ being built, it is often built and strengthened around maintaining everyones right to believe, do and pursue what they like. As long as you can find a community that agrees with you on many things, then you wont’ have conflict and you can join together without fear. While this certainly does not describe everyone, everywhere, these things are certainly spread to varying degrees across the US.

One of the things this shows us is the pride of men and women. The need to be independent, to be self-determinant, and to place blame on others when they fail or are challenged. These are all effects of the fall of man and the sin nature that still dwells within us. This continual pursuit to make oneself happy is like a hamster spinning on the wheel constantly.

The gospel of Christ calls us to community. Community with God, with one another and to be in community with those outside the faith. This community is grounded in the triune nature of God, where God eternally coexists in three distinct persons with distinct roles, but yet equal in essence and glory. Our being created in the image of God teaches us of our own distinctness with distinct roles, while also being equal in essence and coexistence.

For those who are in Christ, we are the body of Christ, meant to live interdependently with one another. Sharing our resources, talents and lives, while also sharing our burdens. One of my favorite passages in scripture is Proverbs 27:6 “faithful are the wounds of a friend”. This is beautiful because it means that when a friend rebukes/corrects me with humility, that it is a faithful cut that is for my good, for my growth and maturity. Ultimately it is for the greater worship of God and it is for my good. One of the rich descriptions we are given in the scriptures is one of family, that we are a new family with one another, that we are in a new blood relationship that works on an entirely different relationship economy than many other friendships. We are continually to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good works, to encourage one another, and to participate together on the mission that God has called us to.

We are also in community with those outside of the faith. The City of Austin is a wonderful city that on first look doesn’t look like such an individualistic community, but when you study it, you see many examples. For instance, the ‘we live in Austin, now close the doors’ mentality. The ‘we need services for homeless, just not in my backyard’. The burgeoning suburbs and their giant homes that promote isolation. The celebration of relativism and pluralism is probably the largest indicator of individualism. Whatever ‘you’ believe is ok. As long as it doesn’t disagree with me that is. Self-determination is as strong here as anywhere. We have an opportunity to be changed by the gospel, to understand our new identity as family and to embrace it.

We can invite others into our homes and our lives. We can welcome the stranger, the hungry, the naked and the oppressed. We can share our lives with them, our resources, our stories and we can share our God with them in hopes that they will see the gospel more clearly, and turn to Christ.

It is when we find ourselves choosing ourselves that we miss the gospel and show our sinful tendency toward self-determination and our trust in this world to satisfy. And it leaves others battered along the road. Community is hard. People are messy and they will fail you, they will gossip at times and they will sometimes rebuke/correct you while themselves in sin or without merit. But it is far better than the individualism that we have a tendency to slide toward. If you are not in a community of Christians that care for one another, submitting themselves to God and to one another, we invite you to join us at Soma Austin. We don’t have it all down yet, but we are seeking to humbly submit ourselves to the journey.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Adam permalink
    June 13, 2008 9:02 pm

    Good words. Thanks for your boldness in writing this. You greatly encourage and challenge me in many areas of my life. We are stoked about our move. See you in a few.

  2. June 18, 2008 1:05 pm

    Kudos on the post! It’s all too easy to look at someone else’s issues first but neglect our own…which is selfish/prideful. And selfishness/pride are two of things that break down authentic community. So I guess for us to build genuine community with others we have to address are internal problems as well. (perhaps even 1st)

    Anyhow, thx for sharing your thoughts…enjoying this series!

  3. June 18, 2008 1:59 pm

    Micah, thanks for stopping by and for the encouragement. I am not the most regularly poster, but I am working on #4 soon. Do you live in the Austin area? Maybe God is calling you to move to east/south Austin so you can participate in a little church plant down here 😉

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