Towards an evangelical theology of the individual-in-community : a theoogical analysis and proposal

Rousseau, David Christopher (2016-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Within evangelicalism there has and continues to be a growing awareness of the seminal benefit of a theology of community. For some time now, there have been signs within evangelicalism of a growing dissatisfaction with the negative aspects of individualism that are not only evident in the culture in which it was formed, namely, western culture, but also in its theology which has resulted in a neglect of community as an essential aspect of the Christian life. While the importance of the individual as person before God cannot be minimized, this dissertation seeks a greater balance between the individual and community but is heavily weighted in the direction of community because of the perceived weakness described. Therefore, the motif of “the individual-in-community” has been chosen and the proposed research question in this dissertation is as follows: The theology of evangelicalism is being awakened to the concept of community as a significant thrust in scripture, so how can some specific and helpful loci of theology be revisited so that its captivity to individualism is challenged and its theology is more community oriented? Because the recapturing of this important emphasis on community is a perceived need evidenced by the reading of a number of evangelical theologians and commentators on this movement, this requires revisiting some of the major underlying concepts which have underpinned evangelicalism. This is being done from the standpoint that the body of Christ as a community is of greater theological importance than is generally realized among evangelicals in the main. While a fully orbed theology of the individual-in-community is beyond the scope of this project, certain key loci and specific aspects of these loci of theology have been chosen because of their perceived importance in strengthening an evangelical theology of the individual-in-community: the authority of scripture, the related doctrines of the Trinity and the imago Dei, salvation, and finally, the church. The intended and ultimate purpose of this dissertation is that it will have the effect of revitalizing an evangelical ecclesiology. The motivation, therefore, behind this dissertation has to do with the present state of evangelicalism as observed by western evangelical theologians primarily but not exclusively where the ethos of evangelicalism seems to be undergirded by a cultural captivity to individualism which blinds it to the enriching aspects of a community orientation in its theologizing and its embodied ecclesiastical life. This cultural captivity, as will become evident, inadvertently diminishes the norms of evangelical theology even in key areas that it purportedly elevates. Hence, in this dissertation the motivation is to pursue a study of certain key areas or strands of thinking within evangelical theology where reductionisms have taken place and a more robust evangelical theology is necessary, and where this added emphasis will bring about a strengthening of evangelical theology as it becomes more “community” conscious.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Binne die evangelikale teologiese tradisie was en is daar ’n toenemende bewussyn van die bevrugtende bate van ’n teologie van gemeenskap. Vir ’n geruime tyd is daar reeds tekens binne die evangelikalisme van ’n toenemende ontevredenheid met die negatiewe aspekte van individualisme wat nie net sprekend is binne die kultuur waarin dit gevorm is nie, naamlik die Westerse kultuur, maar ook binne sy teologie, wat gelei het tot ’n verwaarlosing van gemeenskap as ’n essensiële aspek van die Christelike lewe. Terwyl die belang van die indiwidu as persoon voor God nie verkleineer kan word nie, soek hierdie proefskrif na ’n beter balans tussen die individu en gemeenskap, maar dit leun sterk oor na die kant van gemeenskap, weens die vermeende swakheid soos beskryf. Die motief van "die individu-binne-gemeenskap" is om hierdie rede gekies en die voorgestelde vraag vir navorsing in die proefskrif is die volgende: Aangesien die evangelikale teologie begin ontwaak tot die bewussyn van gemeenskap as ’n sleuteltema in die Skrif, hoe kan sommige spesifieke en behulpsame loci in die teologie weer onder oë geneem word sodat hul gevangenskap aan die individualisme uitgedaag kan word en hul teologie meer gemeenskap-georiënteerd kan word? Omdat die herwinning van hierdie belangrike aksent op gemeenskap gesien word as ’n behoefte wat bevestig is deur die lees van ’n aantal evangelikale teoloë en kommentators van hierdie beweging, vereis dit dat daar weer gekyk sal word na die belangrikste onderliggende konsepte wat die onderbou van evangelikalisme gevorm het. Dit word gedoen vanuit die vertrekpunt dat die liggaam van Christus as gemeenskap van groter teologiese belang is as wat in die algemeen deur die evangelikale hoofstroom beskou word. Terwyl ’n omvattende teologie van die individu-in-gemeenskap buite die skopus van hierdie projek val, is sekere sleutel loci en spesifieke aspekte van hierdie loci in die teologie gekies, weens hulle waarneembare belang in die versterking van ’n evangelikale teologie van die individu-in-gemeenskap: die gesag van die Skrif, die verwante leerstellings van die Triniteit en die imago Dei, verlossing en uiteindelik, die kerk. Die bedoelde en finale doel van hierdie proefskrif is dat dit in werklikheid nuwe lewe sal gee aan ’n evangelikale ekklesiologie. Die motivering onderliggend aan hierdie proefskrif het te make het met die huidige toestand van evangelikale teologie soos waargeneem deur Westerse teoloë, primêr maar nie uitsluitend nie, waar die etos van evangelikale teologie skynbaar gebou is op ’n kulturele gevangenskap aan individualisme wat dit verblind vir die verrykende aspekte van ’n gemeenskaps-oriëntasie in sy teologisering en sy beliggaming van die gemeentelike lewe. Hierdie kulturele gevangenskap, soos dit sal blyk, doen onbewustelik afbreuk aan die norme van evangelikale teologie selfs in sleutel-areas wat dit na bewering sou onderskraag. Die motivering vir hierdie dissertasie is dus die bestudering van sekere sleutel-areas of gedagte lyne binne die evangelikale teologie waar reduserings plaasgevind het en ’n meer robuuste evangelikale teologie nodig is en waar hierdie addisionele beklemtoning ’n versterking van evangelikale teologie sal meebring na mate dit meer "gemeenskaps-bewus" word.

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