Posted by: Shawn Ragan | January 15, 2009

Is Salvation Individual?

The Rublev Icon

The Rublev Icon

One of my struggles as a pastor, and in my own Christian walk, was that of community.  Many people I talked to shared some of the same struggles – where was the sense of community that they recognized from the pages of the New Testament.

We went through, in our Men’s Ministry, the DVD series by John Eldredge, Wild at Heart: A Band of Brothers.  This video series highlighted the need for men and women to live in community, and, in a sense, to struggle and strive together.  I took three different groups through this series, and none of them formed a band of brothers.  Earlier in my ministry, we did “Prayer Accountability Partners.”  Few showed up for it, and after a year only my partner and I met (something we did until he passed away a year and a half ago).

Many of the problems in the church we faced were problems with the lack of community.  Some people did not feel like they belonged…some in truth were not welcome…some felt they belonged but it was more a sense of entitlement (this is my church) than it was a sense of community and belonging to one another.  Others probably felt a sense of community, but based on my experience and pastoral counseling, it was not many.

Many recognized the need for community…hopefully more than just a social club…but the fruit was just not growing on the tree.

Don’t get me wrong, there were people I was close to, and I had friends in my former Protestant faith.  I was good friends with some of them, and still am.  I am in no way meaning to demean or belittle those relationships, because they are real and valuable to me, and I know they are to others as well.  But the faith…the corporate life…was not really about community – koinonia.  Salvation and life was individualistic…

In our journey eastward, we found something else, we began to see and realize koinonia in a way that we had not experienced before.  I began to see that all of these things we had been trying to force, through programs, minsitries, small groups, etc. came naturally in the Eastern Christian life.

Why that is goes back fundamental and vast differences between Eastern and Western Christianity.  Fr. Stephen Freeman posted a blog on this subject and he wrote, as an Orthodox Christian and spiritual father, far better than I ever could, and he says all I would say and more.  If you want to understand more about Christian community and what it is from the Ancient Eastern Christian worldview, and whether or not salvation is an individual issue or not, please read his blog:

“Salvation in a Cloud of Witnesses” by Fr. Stephen Freeman

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Responses

  1. A great thing to ponder, especially for us here in the west.

    I feel very much the individualist, but in my understanding, God is making us into something fashioned after himself…in His own image, to borrow a phrase. So what is He like?

    At the very center, He is Triune – One in Three, a “plural unity”

    Every mistake heresy makes about the Trinity has a related error about the Church, about the Bride of Christ; and and heart, there are two:

    First, we in the west prefer to “divide the essence” and split off into individualism, schism and all the rest of it. “Leave me alone, hand; as an eye, what need have I of you?!”

    At other times and places, we have seen our identity in Christ as corporate, no individual following or decision required. We “confused the persons” into one amorphous blob.

    what does perfect Christian community look like?
    Beats me, I’m a throwback to the Christian housholds of the 1970’s. But I know that the more it looks like the Holy Trinity, the closer we are to getting it right.

  2. I agree…that is why I started the post with the Icon of the Holy Trinity.

    In Eastern Christianity, the Holy Trinity is not just a dogma or intellectual idea, it is a way of life…a way of living. We live the Trinitarian life, and in that life the reality of the Trinity is seen even more.

    Fr. Stephen’s blog post deals with this quite a bit, and as you said, errors made about the Holy Trinity affect the life of the Church…and this is true with so many doctrines…this is where the idea that orthodoxy (right belief) leads to Orthopraxy (right practice) and vice verse, errors in doctrine and belief lead to errors in practice.

    Thanks for your comment!


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