Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Slipping back on individuality

“Through the call of Jesus men become individuals….
Every man is called separately and must follow alone.
But men are frightened of solitude, and they try to protect
themselves from it by merging themselves into the society
of their fellow-men and in their material environment.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship


A component of the quote has turned in my mind:

“merging themselves into the society of their fellow-men”

Bonhoeffer presents a logical progression that can be presented in sequence like this:

Man mingled with fellow-men, merged into mass >
Man called by Jesus >
Man answers call >
Man becomes individual.

It is a good and fine sequence.  However, my mind races to think of what occurs to man once he settles into a church.  Picking up the sequence at the last point we potentially have:

Man becomes individual >
Man mingles with fellow Christian men, merges into mass >
Man suffers detriment to God-given individuality >
Man is indistinguishable from mass. 

Do church going men seek to merge or blend in with other men at church to the loss of their individuality?  Do they do this because it offers the comfort of the mass that they left from? Do they instead hold to their individuality and stand firm for the gospel?  These are questions I continue to ask.  Certainly they are to be discerning within the church (Thessalonians 5:21-22 and this linked article).

While I am thinking this through I do note that Bonhoeffer’s history was one of opposition to his Lutheran Brethren who had, through silence, accepted so many negative social changes in Germany – where else were their individual voices?   

"Bonhoeffer knew that a church that did not stand
with the Jews was not the church of Jesus Christ
 and to evangelize people into a church that was not
 the church of Jesus Christ was foolishness and heresy"

I also note that a whole team must have been behind a belief that lapsing is not sin.  Why did a clerical or administrative individual not arise within the office to challenge that belief?


Note: all links good 11 June 2016, reviewed 3 March 2017

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