Made for Community

Posted by in Ecclesiology, Political Theology

The Triune God is a community of persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Trinity is one and yet many. Adam and Eve were made in the image of the Trinity, “according to Our likeness”. Certainly the imago Dei constitutes several things, but at least it connotes the priority of community for man. After God made Adam and placed him in the garden, He declared it was not good for man to be alone. So He gave Eve as a helper to Adam. The text of Genesis 1:27 says, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them”. Thus male and female are the image of God.

Furthermore, God declared that it was not sufficient for man to be alone. Commenting on Genesis 2, Rich Lusk argues, “Apparently Adam’s pre-fall communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was not enough. God made man for more than fellowship with himself. To be complete, to be satisfied, to be fully realized as a creature made in God’s image, the man needed fellowship with other humans.”[1] That is not to say that in an ultimate sense God is not sufficient for man. Rather, God designed man to be in community with others and not Himself only.

As John Zisoulas and others have pointed out, to be a person in the truest sense is to be in community.[2] The term “person” in contemporary English is often understood to mean an “individual”. In the Greek Fathers, the word hypostasis or persona is understood in terms of a shared existence. Personhood is ontologically basic to God’s being. Put differently, God’s essence is person. For Zisoulas, God is not first a substance and then existing as three persons. Rather, God’s being coincides with God’s personhood”.[3] God is Himself community. Also, for humans created in God’s likeness, to be a person is to be in community. Humans only fully realize their personhood by being in communion with God and others. Man was made to imitate God in this way.

From a sociological perspective the inescapability of community can be easily noticed. From the beginning, a human being’s very existence is dependent upon a communal activity. Conception and nurture require another’s presence and involvement. A human does not come into this world as an isolated being, but instead as a person with a family history. Even a human’s ability to communicate and function in the world assumes a communal influence. Leithart, following Rosenstock-Huessy, says, “Our children only speak in the first person after they have been addressed in the second person; our children develop a consciousness of self after and through their consciousness of others; infants develop a sense of personal identity because we talk to them using names they didn’t chose.[4] From the beginning, humans are deeply dependent on others for life, knowledge, and well-being. Community is woven into the very fabric of life.

Sinful man has thwarted a proper desire for community. Instead of sharing in the life of the other, he has sought to distance himself and usurp the other. The solution to this problem is not, as the modern political theorist thought, a social contract that protects mine and thine. Rather, the solution is the one new Man into which men from every tribe, tongue, and nation are being incorporated. The Father was pleased to reconcile all things in heaven and on earth to Himself through Christ in the power of His Spirit. Christ has restored man’s relationship to God and neighbor. In the Eucharist, believers participate in one another in the Body of Christ. The redemption of the world includes the restoration of the imago Dei. The Church, having the first fruits of the Spirit, spreads this redemption to the ends of the earth. She is the center of Christ’s kingdom in the world, bringing peace and reconciliation through Word and Sacrament.

[1] Rich Lusk, God Is Not Enough, (accessed   October 3rd, 2012).

[2] Miroslav Volf, After Our Likeness (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998) 75-88

[3] ibid 75

[4] Peter J. Leithart, The Baptized Body (Moscow, ID: Cannon Press, 2007) 9