Well, the ecclesiastical discussions continue in full force between Clifton and Tripp (and others). I, for one, am glad to see it! James has made some great comments in regards to postmodernism and the Church. Clifton continues to establish important discussion parameters. And Wayne Olson fired up a great discussion after he critiqued western ecclesiology in his 1/28/03 article "Greek Skepticism, the Counter-Reformation, and the Protestant Dilemma." I have little to add to what has already been hashed out so far by them, but here are a few of my general thoughts in regards to the discussion:
I think it is absolutely critical to note there is a world of difference between the words "personal" and "individual." This distinction is so critical it can't be overstressed, especially in an increasingly atomized, fragmented society. The Orthodox understanding of "personal" implies an organic communal experience. In fact, one may dare to say that there is no such thing as an "individual" experience of ANYTHING, let alone ultimate Truth!
Since humans are made in the image of God, we are, by nature, communal creatures. We define and experience our entire life by living with others. And we, as C.S. Lewis said, "stand on the shoulders of giants," in that much of what we take for granted as Christians is based on the synergy of the revelation and grace of God on one hand, and the work of the Apostles, Martyrs and Church Fathers on the other. Here is where 1 Tim 3:15 comes into play. Because for the Christian, there is only one Truth: Jesus Christ. And not just "any" Jesus, but the one who has revealed Himself to us fully in and through the Church; the pillar and ground of truth! Therefore, to have a "personal relationship with Jesus" implies and absolutely necessitates connection and integration into "the" community (1 Cor 12:12).
This "personal" experience of truth is not found merely in a set of doctrines that one chooses to believe. It is not a philosophy or ideology that one gives assent to. It is not a set of magical "rituals" one goes through. It is not a self-help seminar that offers emotional fulfillment through entertainment and platitudes. It is not found by reducing Christianity to its bare "essentials." It is not a community of people who "affirm" one another's individual, subjective, atomized "spiritual journeys."
However, it must be "individual" in that each person uses their free will in all humility and freedom, while at the same time (and here is the paradox!) living a self-sacrificial life of repentance as part of the community (the Church).
But then again this is the same 'pericorisis' (mutual indwelling) life of the Holy Trinity; totally and fully free as three distinct Persons, yet totally and fully submitting and defining themselves in light of the Other.