A Thought About Communitarian Ecclesiologies

Source: http://tinyurl.com/3c5nkpp

Communitarian approaches to ecclesiology and Christian practice are, I think it hard to deny, becoming more popular among sophisticated Protestant thinkers. But I wonder if the lessons that were learned in the Reformation are not being forgotten in the process.

For example, magisterial Protestantism put great emphasis on the responsibility and right of the individual to interpret scripture, and on the correlative importance of the obedience of the individual to their own conscience above all else. This was pitted directly against attempts by the Papacy to unlawfully bind the consciences of Christians.

While it was not unknown in days previous, in our own day the need for authority to be held accountability by those beneath it is impressed upon us constantly. The applicability of the lesson of the Reformation has spread beyond the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to all states, as well as other kinds of authorities, like those of the business world and the family.

But I wonder if, in the desire to avoid that dreaded “individualism”, Protestants are not ignoring the potential for abuse by the “majority” or “the congregation”. It is indeed possible, in the end, that those in the right can be in the minority, even in spiritual communities of equals.

(No, I am not violating Godwin’s Law in the use of my picture; I am of course not saying communitarian Protestants are Nazis. My only point is that the Nazis were widely accepted by Germans, and even had a church that claimed to be Christian full of supporters, and so the “discernment of the community” is no absolute┬ábarometer of right and wrong.)