Friday, September 01, 2006

The Plural You

With Adam Ellis and Matt Wilson in town taking their graduate course on the Prison Epistles, I've been privy to many of the conversations happening there as well as some of John York's teaching within the class.

One of the things that I've heard is the idea of the plural "you" in Greek. For instance, in the Philippians passage: 12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (2:12-13), the "you" and "your" there is plural.

One of the problems with the "regular" English language is that "You" can be both singular and plural (referring to both one and multiple persons, for you non-English afficianados). In the South, this would end up being "Y'all;" in the North, maybe "youse guys;" out West? Who knows.

The point is that this is not a singular passage, and most of Paul's You's are not singular; they're plural. One of the issues the contemporary church faces, and has been a part of causing in some ways, is an unreasonable focus on the individual. We've made salvation only a matter of making sure my own personal soul gets to heaven, and maybe I'll convince some others to go with me. The problem is as well that many of the praise and worship songs we sing are individually based. "I want to know you, I want to hear your voice." "Thank you for loving and setting me free, thank you for giving your life just for me." "My Hope is Built on Nothing Less."

Now, I'm not saying it's bad to sing those songs, but they strike me as much more devotional than suited for singing in a large group setting. I would love to hear us sing more songs like "Let Us Be You" and "Salvation Belongs to Our God." Songs that reinforce the need for community and the interdependence we have on each other. I feel that they should grow in frequency and the individual devotional songs should decrease.

Salvation is, in fact, an individual event, AND as Paul points out in that passage, a community event as well. He doesn't say, "Work out your salvations." Salvation is singular, but applies to the whole group. As we start to realize the importance of community, the theology of our teaching, whether from the preaching minister or worship minister, must continue to focus on communal worship. Worshipping God together, not simply as individuals gathered.


Jeffrey said...

good post and point. what do you think it means for a group of people to "work out" their salvation?

Phil said...

Jeffrey, that is an excellent question. I think it requires trust and understanding and rethinking what salvation means.

Jeffrey said...

so what are some thoughts you may have regarding what salvation means for the "plural you"? I realize the uncommon, and hence, controversial nature of this topic, so if you prefer to email me, or perhaps even hook up for coffee or something to discuss, I understand. ;-).

Jeffrey said...

woops, mistyped the mail link, here it is again:

Jeffrey said...

dang, sorry, the "mail to" link is correct in the preview, but not when published, anyway, there you have my email address.

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