Soong-Chan Rah on individualism

I have been thinking that individualism is a form of idolatry in our world today. It is about fashioning God our the image of the “I”. Individualism allows us not to take responsibility of corporate actions and social evils. It gives us the excuse not to love our neighbour as ourselves. It makes us think that it is okay to be selfish.


In his book The Next Evangelicalism (Downers Grove: IVP, 2009), Soong-Chan Rah skilfully describes what individualism looks like. Here are a few quotes from this great book.

In an individual-driven theology, individual sin takes center stage. Individual sin leads to a sense of personal guilt: I, the individual, did something personally wrong and I feel guilty about my actions. I am responsible for my personal, individual actions and nothing more. Therefore, I can personally confess my sins and be absolved of my individual sinfulness and my personal feelings of guilt. Because the individual is only responsible for an individualized and personal guilt, there is no sense of shame for corporate actions that are also expressions of human sinfulness. (p. 40)

Our reduction of sin to a personal issue means that we are unwilling to deal with social structural evils, and this reduction prevents us from understanding the full expression of human sinfulness and fallenness. (p. 40)

However, lacking an understanding of corporate sin, we are unable to feel, perceive or understand the impact of the shame of corporate responsibility. (p. 40)

Our excessive emphasis on individualism keeps us from dealing with the implication of corporate sin—it exonerates us from addressing corporate sin that may be evident in our social and political engagement. (p. 41)

Satan has been able to create a social system of injustice that ultimately demeans the value and worth of the individual. We are so busy trying to justify and deny the reality of personal, individual prejudice that we ignore the larger issue of a corporate shame that arises from a structural, systemic evil. This reduction of sin to a personal, individual level ultimately hinders the fullness of the gospel message. (p. 45)