Individualism and the Church

The objective understanding of church fellowship as pulpit and altar fellowship stands in sharp contrast to the subjectivism that followed in the wake of Schleiermacher. For the latter fellowship arises from below, by the banding together of like-minded religious individuals. This fellowship as religious sociability or camaraderie creates the church. Everything is topsy-turvy here. The individual comes first, the church second. Fellowship as human inter-personal relations defines the nature of the church rather than being derived from the prior nature of the church and understood therefore as common participation in the church’s goods. The results of such thinking, incubated for over a century in sentimentality and secularization, are today everywhere in evidence as a full-blown pathology: the church and her fellowship are expected to abdicate their own spiritual priorities, and to make themselves useful instead as emotional “support-groups” competitively servicing the “felt needs” of autonomous individuals/consumers, who in turn pursue their own inalienable rights to self-determined “self-fulfillment”. In such circumstances, and under the lash of pragmatism, it becomes in principle impossible to distinguish any longer between services and circuses, edification and exploitation, faithfulness and fraudulence, love and lunacy. (Kurt E. Marquart, The Church and Her Fellowship, Ministry, and Governance, Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics, vol. IX, pp. 45-46 [emphasis added].)