Saturday, January 16, 2010

Vincent Donovan on idols

A missionary facing an alien pagan culture, to be an efficient instrument of the gospel, has to have the courage to cast off the idols of the tribe, of the tribe he came from. There are many idols, but two which, I believe, particularly mesmerize the Western church, are individualism on the one hand, and love of organization on the other.

We consistently tend to interpret Christianity either from the individual or organisational viewpoint. The love of organization and power structures have led to our ideas of lord bishops and pontiff popes and national associations of the right and of the left and (especially since Vatican II) a plethora of meetings and chapters and synods and councils and committees. Individualism has its obsessions also: individual responsibility, individual morality, individual vocation to the priesthood, self-fulfilment, individual holiness and salvation. Individualism on one side, and organization on the other, with little room for community in between.

Without paying lip service to the idea, how seriously do we consider the possibility that Christianity is essentially directed neither to the individual nor to the organization but to the community?

Vincent Donovan in Christianity Rediscovered, page 73 (SCM Press 2001)


Jason Goroncy said...

So good to see that you're reading Donovan. This book had a huge impact on me, and I've lost count on how many copies I've given away.

Mike Crowl said...

So how do you feel about being within a particular system still?