Word Wednesday: “Ta Thung” and “Koinonia”

The first part of our “word Wednesday” feature is taken from the collection of letters written by “Eutychus” (“and his kin”, and published under the title Eutychus and His Pin, Eerdmans, 1960) – aka Edmund Clowney – for Christianity Today.

KoinoniaUnder the letter title of “Ta Thung” Clowney has a penetrating note on the meaning of Christian fellowship. What is “Ta Thung” and what does it have to do with Christian fellowship – koinonia? Read on, my friends.

O, and “Eutychus” wrote this after a trip to the crowded beach, to help set the background for some of the language:

The charm of the beach is equaled only by the subway in achieving the modern ideal of ‘togetherness.’ Even the Iron Curtain is no screen against togetherness. The Chinese Communists call it Ta Thung, ‘the Great Togetherness,’ a phrase from the classics describing a legendary golden age. Ta Thung can also mean ‘great similarity,’ a remarkably apt term for the drab, mechanized uniformity of totalitarian togetherness.

…Too often togetherness is confused with the Christian ideal. The notion of heaven which masses lounging saints on a golden strand can be forbidding to a man fresh from the seashore. Dante saw unending proximity as one of the torments of hell.

What makes comradeship a delight, and a great host inspiring? Not that they are together, but what they share together. Christian fellowship is koinonia, a sharing in the blessings of God. Christians are together with one another because they are together with Christ.

Without this relation to the Giver and Meaning of life, togetherness is only crowded emptiness. Men surrender their personal freedom to the packed prisons of mass society and the modern state in vain flight from loneliness – and from God. We find one another when we are found of Him, and join the singing saints in the Ta Thung in Christ (16-17).

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