Individualism and Collectivism

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1. Compare and contrast individualism and collectivism as discussed in Estep: ch. 9. Humans are designed to cultivate both individualism and collectivism – let me explain. Both are good if used appropriately. The problem is when either is used exclusively, to the abandonment of the other. As individuals, humans are expected to grow and mature; a person accepts Christ individually. On the Day of Judgment, humans will be held to account for their actions and behaviors individually. It is this aspect of individualism that is an inherent part of a healthy person, and it is what God intended to be the case. Jonathan Kim in the Estep textbook refers to the “I-consciousness” to refer to the individual aspect of faith. The extreme use of this can be unhealthy for Christians – like the solitary monastic communities that have developed over the centuries. From that, we have seen examples of homosexual behavior practiced in secret

At the same time, God expects us to operate collectively. The Christian faith is one of community. Any quality ecclesiology will emphasize the necessity for Christians to fulfil many of their faith commitments in community with other Christians. Much of the Bible emphasizes the communal aspect of Christianity – a great deal of the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) illustrates Christians in community with other Christians or evangelizing non-Christians. Much of the Apostle Paul’s instructions were to Christians in community. In our textbook, Kim refers to the “We-consciousness” to refer to the collective aspect of Christianity.

Another way to view this would be the categories created by H. Richard Niebuhr in his well-known book Christ and Culture. All five approaches of contextualizing Christianity within a culture have their place but not exclusively one approach should be used at all times. Jonathan Kim placed a helpful chart in our Estep textbook that summarizes all five approaches. I will make a comment about each of...
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