The Hypothesis: Radical Individualism and the True Community


Yesterday I defined what this blog will be centered around — namely, the role of earthly systems in a heavenly context. I also mentioned that I already have my own particular worldview on these issues. But since I didn’t get too in depth as far as explicitly stating where I stand, I wanted to just take a brief moment to clarify my hypothesis on how earthly systems can best be used for heavenly purposes.

My hypothesis consists of two interconnected components:

  • Radical Individualism — Individualism has several definitions, not to mention several varying contexts. On this blog, Radical Individualism combines the fundamental core of traditional individualism (the pursuit of one’s own goals, plans, self-interest, etc.) with the principles of self-sacrifice Jesus put forth in the Gospels. The “radical,” then, comes in to play by turning traditional individualism on its head — for if we are to follow Jesus’ most radical commands (e.g. believe He died on the Cross, sacrifice our lives for others, give up our wealth for His name, etc.) we must assume a radical view of self-interest. Radical Individualism, therefore, promotes the idea that true self-interest is both rational and just, not because it is aligned with the individual, but because the individual is aligned with God.
  • True Community — True Community can be seen as the natural byproduct of Radical Individualism. If individuals are living lives of self-sacrifice and devotion to God (which is in their self interest), such lives will most likely prompt them to join with others and form voluntary and highly effective communities. The only reason the word “true” is even necessary is that throughout much of today’s society we have seen a perversion of the term “community” by those who think it means a forceful round-up of people for a common social goal. This blog differs by seeing community as a strictly voluntary outcome, where people join together based solely on choice and mutual interest.

The proper execution of these two components would result in the Remnant Culture — a culture formed by free individuals, each of whom is pursuing their own relationship with God successfully and coming together freely to accomplish community goals. This culture is not one defined by geography or ethnicity or tradition or political identity, but simply by the maximization of individual potential through heavenly eyes.

But how does this look in application? Each of us already has some sort of structure built around us. Everyone is born into a family of some sort, whether it’s out in a lawless wilderness or in a mechanized metropolis. The question for all of us then is not whether we have a society to impact, but how exactly we can or should impact that society. The concepts of Radical Individualism and True Community may sound good in theory, but how do we execute that theory properly? Without a clean slate to work from, is such a goal ever truly achievable?

If the answer rests in empowering individuals, as the theory holds, then it would seem the most preferable earthly system would be the one that simply empowers individuals. But it’s not that simple. We might all agree that individuals are born into unequal circumstances, but does that mean we all require different levels of empowerment? Does the person born into poverty need a bigger boost than the person born into great wealth? Does the person born into a broken home need more help than the person born into a stable family structure? In any case, should empowerment come from within, from others, or from both?

Every situation is different, which is why my viewpoint involves a mixed solution. I believe true and permanent empowerment comes from within, which is why personal salvation through Christ is the most sure-fire way to rise from difficult earthly circumstances (e.g. poverty, addiction, family conflict, etc.). However, even with salvation, we often need help from others, whether it’s simply needing advice on the first redemptive step or needing continuous love, mentoring, and healthy relationships. By looking at the broad array of human “success stories” it seems certain that redemption with God (or even with man) is not a one-size-fits-all process.

This is why I believe the answer to our redemption as a society is most likely not a one-size-fits-all solution. If it comes down to the choices of each and every individual, how much of an impact can a human system like the government truly have? Certainly it can forbid us from doing something “wrong.” Certainly it can provide our bread and water for us. Certainly it can educate and even “enlighten” us on certain matters.

But can it understand our personal situations, our dreams, and our vocational callings? Can it really predict and provide what we need when everything around us has failed? Can it have the permanent impact on us that our families, churches, and communities can? Can it change us in the same way an act of sheer voluntary love can? We are certainly called to empower each other in life, but is that goal best achieved by outsourcing the responsibility to the government, or by taking it up ourselves? It’s certainly easier to let someone else do the empowering for us; but, like most things that are easy, it has proven to be far from effective.

Which is why my hypothesis is this: The earthly system that promotes the most non-earthly human potential is the one that maximizes the most human choice.

I am eager to put this hypothesis to the test. I am eager to discover what such a society would look like, both in detailed theory and practical execution. I am eager to hear about why you agree or why you think I’m dead wrong, because maybe I am.

What are your initial thoughts? What is your best guess as to how our earthly systems can maximize the number of true individual relationships with God? What is your hypothesis?

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  • http://facebook.com/jurekryan Ryan

    Hey Joe, you should check out the Mark Barclay book “The Remnant Church” that we talked about a while ago. I think it would really compliment some of the things you've stated here. Great post!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=195700598 Justin Karstens

    You say 'The earthly system that promotes the most non-earthly human potential is the one that maximizes the most human choice.' I say 'The man who does not let his potential be governed by his environment or circumstances can achieve anything.'
    The whole 'promotion of non-earthly potential' would seem to work from your view point though. I don't think you hypothesis would work for me though. You and I don't share a common goal on that subject. Perhaps someone in the 'true community'?

  • A. C. Sunde

    Your hypothesis provides some interesting aspects for me to ponder. (“The earthly system that promotes the most non-earthly human potential is the one that maximizes the most human choice.”) So often when I read about some horrible evil perpetrated by one human being upon another (e.g., a child locked away for years; ghastly abuse), I look up and wonder why the Creator made man entirely autonomous in the area of free will. We are free to choose goodness and Truth, and just as free to choose evil. Of course, as any loving Father, He wants us to be His children and to come to Him of our own free will, nothing of coercion. But wouldn't Love eventually tire of so much evil and suffering, and opt for something easier? When we look at the Cross, we can see that the answer to that question is a resounding “No”. And so the recurring questionings take another round. I am intrigued by the layers beneath the words, “earthly system” and “non-earthly human potential”. The God-nature is the “non-earthly potential” that is hidden within every earth-born child of God, created in the image of the Eternal. Are you saying that earthly systems have an ability to promote the realization of that God-created “non-earthly” potential? What about the statement that Jesus made, “My kingdom is not of this world”? Is it possible that He was defining His “systems” and earthly “systems” as mutually exclusive? If so, how are we to “occupy until He returns”? Questions that open the conversation for more musings. Thoughts, anyone?

  • http://www.remnantculture.com/ Joseph Sunde

    Justin — You have a great point when you say: “The man who does not let his potential be governed by his environment or circumstances can achieve anything.” I think you're right from an individual perspective, and we see individuals rising up in governments across the world that are brutally oppressive. Individuals often rise above their circumstances — poverty, war, corruption — and succeed, which is the way we should all look at life. I definitely don't think living in a prohibitive Communist dictatorship is an excuse to NOT live your potential, whether earthly or non-earthly. The question is that human control of other individuals (as in a Communist dictatorship) can indeed impact it, whether it's by killing off those who disagree or simply stifling their economic output (as best they can, at least).

    This sort of ties in to A.C. Sunde's question about whether His kingdom and our kingdoms are mutually exclusive. A big part of me thinks they are, which is why I think it is PRIMARILY the individual we need to focus on (more specifically, the eternal component within the individual). However, even though, as Justin says, we as individuals SHOULDN'T be confined by our circumstances, it seems to me that societies have been much more productive (both in earthly and non-earthly contexts) when individuals have more control over their own circumstances. When the government, for example, has control over our lives in either direct ways (e.g. determining our occupation) or indirect ways (e.g. providing our health care), we are somewhat forced into a decrease of potential. Potential becomes more and more defined by what the State permits. This isn't to say that we cannot, or should not, rise above that definition.

    For example, in a Christian context, the church has thrived in America (I think) because of freedom of religion, a stable political environment, and a prosperous economy (to feed the poor, provide jobs, support missions, etc.). The church has not been so successful in welfare-laden Europe. But is this really either earthly system's FAULT? Or is it STILL the individual's? I would say in the end, if the Church isn't doing it's job, no matter what the circumstances, it is still accountable. But how do we see that accountability in earthly terms? Certainly God knows how to judge the Church and its circumstances better than us. This is where it gets REALLY tricky.

    In the end, my hypothesis is that human systems CAN promote a non-earthly kingdom because human systems CAN (although many don't) promote the individual choice to promote a non-earthly kingdom. This doesn't mean freedom of choice automatically builds a Christian society though. Japan, for instance, maximizes human choice in many areas but is a virtual spiritual wasteland. This is why it requires more than human choice, just like a good economy requires more than a “free market” (e.g., a stable political environment, a just judicial system, etc.).

    This is where the “culture” comes before the system. The system, therefore, is simply a more efficient means for the Remnant Culture to compete with opposing cultures — whether they choose to or not is ultimately up to the individuals.

  • http://www.remnantculture.com/ Joseph Sunde

    Justin — You have a great point when you say: “The man who does not let his potential be governed by his environment or circumstances can achieve anything.” I think you're right from an individual perspective, and we see individuals rising up in governments across the world that are brutally oppressive. Individuals often rise above their circumstances — poverty, war, corruption — and succeed, which is the way we should all look at life. I definitely don't think living in a prohibitive Communist dictatorship is an excuse to NOT live your potential, whether earthly or non-earthly. The question is that human control of other individuals (as in a Communist dictatorship) can indeed impact it, whether it's by killing off those who disagree or simply stifling their economic output (as best they can, at least).

    This sort of ties in to A.C. Sunde's question about whether His kingdom and our kingdoms are mutually exclusive. A big part of me thinks they are, which is why I think it is PRIMARILY the individual we need to focus on (more specifically, the eternal component within the individual). However, even though, as Justin says, we as individuals SHOULDN'T be confined by our circumstances, it seems to me that societies have been much more productive (both in earthly and non-earthly contexts) when individuals have more control over their own circumstances. When the government, for example, has control over our lives in either direct ways (e.g. determining our occupation) or indirect ways (e.g. providing our health care), we are somewhat forced into a decrease of potential. Potential becomes more and more defined by what the State permits. This isn't to say that we cannot, or should not, rise above that definition.

    For example, in a Christian context, the church has thrived in America (I think) because of freedom of religion, a stable political environment, and a prosperous economy (to feed the poor, provide jobs, support missions, etc.). The church has not been so successful in welfare-laden Europe. But is this really either earthly system's FAULT? Or is it STILL the individual's? I would say in the end, if the Church isn't doing it's job, no matter what the circumstances, it is still accountable. But how do we see that accountability in earthly terms? Certainly God knows how to judge the Church and its circumstances better than us. This is where it gets REALLY tricky.

    In the end, my hypothesis is that human systems CAN promote a non-earthly kingdom because human systems CAN (although many don't) promote the individual choice to promote a non-earthly kingdom. This doesn't mean freedom of choice automatically builds a Christian society though. Japan, for instance, maximizes human choice in many areas but is a virtual spiritual wasteland. This is why it requires more than human choice, just like a good economy requires more than a “free market” (e.g., a stable political environment, a just judicial system, etc.).

    This is where the “culture” comes before the system. The system, therefore, is simply a more efficient means for the Remnant Culture to compete with opposing cultures — whether they choose to or not is ultimately up to the individuals.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=195700598 Justin Karstens

    When it comes to the relationship between the government and individuals I take an extremely Libertarian point of view. I would agree with you in that context.
    As an atheist I cant say I really care about the church thriving here or there, but I would say that I tend to think it is the individual's fault. In the end the individual with the most lucrative idea becomes the system because someone will always jump on board, and two's a party (or so they tell me). This is why, in my opinion, many Americans only see our country as a 2 party system, why America is predominantly christian, and why the middle east/northern Africa is predominantly Muslim etc. etc.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=195700598 Justin Karstens

    When it comes to the relationship between the government and individuals I take an extremely Libertarian point of view. I would agree with you in that context.
    As an atheist I cant say I really care about the church thriving here or there, but I would say that I tend to think it is the individual's fault. In the end the individual with the most lucrative idea becomes the system because someone will always jump on board, and two's a party (or so they tell me). This is why, in my opinion, many Americans only see our country as a 2 party system, why America is predominantly christian, and why the middle east/northern Africa is predominantly Muslim etc. etc.

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