Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Should you say "Individual" or "Person"?

I would like to call to your attention a recent post by Taylor Marshall and begin with my own comments.

I think the below post by Taylor Marshall hit the nail on the head. When you look at the condition of our society – it explains a lot. We are focused on ourselves instead of seeing ourselves as part of a whole, whatever the whole may be: family, faith community, neighborhood, citizen, etc. An infant is by nature focused on her/himself and rightly so. Am I being fed, am I warm,  am I clean, am I being loved? As they grow older they learn about relationships, sharing, not hurting others physically or emotionally. Then in the teens another turn to the “me”, away from family and toward peers. Dating and love brings the focus back to others – at least one other. Than children are the focus. For the large part, I think this lasts until the 50s. We then turn our attention to others and try to be of some service.

Society has relapsed to an infant’s focus. No longer do we ask what is good for all of us, but what is good for me. This is seen in so many ways. To answer Taylor’s question I am a person.

Here is the beginning of Taylor's post:

Should you say "Individual" or "Person"?

By Dr. Taylor Marshall

Has anyone ever called you a "bright individual" or a "gifted individual"? What does that word "individual" mean? It means "undivided one." Stop for a moment and consider this, you "undivided one." Isn't "undivided one" a strange way to refer to people?

Referring to people as "individuals" became common in European languages after 1600, especially in English. It's a feature of the so-called Enlightenment.

Recall that the Enlightenment was that so-called Era of Light after the so-called Dark Ages of Christendom. For historical reference, the Enlightenment after the state establishment of the Protestant Reformation and ended with the bloody guillotines of the French Revolution...

The Enlightenment posited that the nation is divisible. The Church is divisible. The city is divisible. The town is divisible. The family unit is divisible. Even marriages were divisible. However, the person is not. He or she is triumphantly individual.

The problem, you see, is that viewpoint becomes a very individualistic way of looking at reality. Now all major intellectual shifts succeed after linguistic shifts have become previously established. The debate over the definition of "marriage" is a contemporary example. The move away from person to individual signified the enshrinement and idolization of the human individual. Man truly became the measure of all things.

You can see how the Reformation paved the way for this kind of language. To be an Enlightenment Christian all you need is yourself and the Bible. That's it.

We traded in the old communion of the saints and the universal fellowship of Christendom of previous centuries for that new shiny title of individual. Denominations will divide, but the believer never will. And so the individual believer trumped everything.

Read the rest of the post here.