Drs. Leighton Flowers and Johnathan Pritchett (along with a video from NT Wright) discuss the first century tribal or collectivist culture as it relates to our hermeneutic in approaching controversial passages regarding soteriology.
Dr. James Leo Garrett, an esteemed Southern Baptist scholar, wrote of a “Westernized hyper individualization” of certain biblical doctrines:
"From Augustine of Hippo to the twentieth century, Western Christianity has tended to interpret the doctrine of election from the perspective of and with regard to individual human beings. During those same centuries the doctrine has been far less emphasized and seldom ever controversial in Eastern Orthodoxy. Is it possible that Augustine and later Calvin, with the help of many others, contributed to a hyper individualization of this doctrine that was hardly warranted …?"
Let’s just be honest. We, as American Westerners, do tend to think everything is about us, the individual. We tend to read the text with an ego-centric bent. If someone tells the story of David slaying the giant, we see ourselves as the hero in that story and feel as if it is a lesson is about how we can slay the “giants” in our lives too. However, it’s much more likely that we are better represented by the Israelites hiding in fear while Christ, the actual hero of the story, slays our “giants.”
And when we read of God setting certain people apart for noble tasks, we can tend toward a self aggrandizing interpretation of those text by assuming God must have set us, as individuals, apart in a similar manner. For instance, how often have you heard someone quote, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit” (Jn. 15:16) to prove that they were individually chosen to be effectually saved?
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