christianity theology

Old Stuff – Biblical Individualism Redux

Number 7


From Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship, Chapter 5 (Discipleship and the Individual):

“Through the call of Jesus men become individuals…It is no choice of their own that makes them individuals: it is Christ who makes them individuals by calling them. Every man is called separately, and must follow alone.”


“He (Christ) stands between us and God, and for that very reason he stands between us and all other men and things. He is the Mediator, not only between God and man, but between man and man, between man and reality”


“The call of Jesus teaches us that our relation to the world has been built on an illusion…now we learn that in the most intimate relationships of life…direct relationships are impossible…Between father and son, husband and wife, the individual and the nation, stands Christ the Mediator…We cannot establish direct contact outside ourselves except through him, through his word, and through our following of him. To think otherwise is to deceive ourselves.”


Some of my friends responded to the first post by defining individuals in light of how the Godhead expresses individualism — perichoretic harmony.  That is, we are individuals only in the sense that we commune with God and others, much like the expression of perfect union and communion found in the Trinity.  This idea, however, was somewhat lacking for me because I had a hard time understanding how redemption of humans through the atonement of Christ applied to that conception.

Most people with whom I have discussed this topic understand that the community of believers derives the concept of community from the community expressed in the Trinity, but I haven’t ever encountered a serious theological framework which applied the cross to community.  More succintly, how can sinners like us experience the community of the Godhead?  I think Bonhoeffer’s discourse on individualism expounded deeply on the doctrine of Christ mediatoral relationship as the means by which we enter into communion with God as well as other individuals.

I guess what I am thinking is that community cannot be properly seen in any way other than through the lens of Christ the Mediator. The Trinity is indeed a picture of what biblical community ought to look like, but it cannot be experienced outside of the individual redemption of a person. Christ alone is capable of creating the community of believers though His atoning blood on the cross.  Bottom line, our individualism, as I am seeing it, is not defined by relationship to others, but in relationship to Christ, which necessarily translates to others.

Do you think this is too individualistic of a picture? If so, can you give me some help with respect to Atonement theology which provides some explanation for how individualism is defined?

By Todd Engstrom

Although I was raised in the church and had a knowledge of God, I didn’t embrace Jesus until I heard gospel preached and lived out by some Young Life leaders. God has proven faithful and good to me since that day, even in great suffering and loss. I have learned to treasure Romans 8:28 as a wellspring of hope and truth.

God has blessed me with an amazing wife (Olivia), three sons (Micah, Hudson and Owen) and a daughter (Emmaline). Growing up in the northwest, the thought never crossed my mind that I would have four children who are native Texans. Despite landing in the south, I still watch Notre Dame games with my children every Saturday in hopes they will land at my alma mater.

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