A Relational God - 2  

Posted by Ben in

This series grew out a conversation that I had with my good friend, Kelcey, last night. The conversation started as discussing the book, The Shack, and grew into a conversation about what it means to be a relevant Church in the 21st century. Oddly enough, this brought us to the question of why it is that there is no 100% solid foundation in experience for those outside of Church (or even inside) to understand God as true and revelatory in relation.

My answer remains the same and I believe it is due to mixed messages. That is, you have two different Christians who claim to have a "relationship" with God, and each live their life VERY differently from one another. Inevitably, there will be those who claim a close, intimate, powerful "relationship" with God, who live and look nothing like Jesus, God incarnate, actually lived and looked like. These two competing messages get filtered through a scientific, often reductionalist, rationalist mindset, which understands the very fact that our minds can convince us of anything we like.

Therefore, to those outside the church, it's nothing more than two people's minds convincing them of what they'd like and attributing god to it. Likewise, for those in the church, we hear "relational" language, and wonder why we don't have a vibrant "emotional" relationship with God the way that we'd hope/expect/do have with friends and family.

Thus, this conversation/series arose as I suggested that this whole situation exists in the Western Church because we have very much misunderstood, in individual terms, what it means to have a "relationship" with the all-powerful God of the universe.

I believe I should start off by clearing the air and qualifying that statement. I believe we have a view of our "relationship" with God that much resembles our relationships with friends or, another often used metaphor, our spouse. While these are ok thoughts, the ideas that surround them and get planted in our "theology" of relationship are maybe a little misplaced.

Lets begin our examination with the Old Testament:

I suggest that our ideas of relationship derive from God's interaction and relationship with three very key figures in the Old Testament:

Abraham - Moses - David

And that God's interaction with the Prophets personally builds upon that theme, owing a great deal to God's interactions with Elijah and Ezekial specifically.

(I have not forgotten Adam, we will get back to him in a later post)

Genesis 12-17 is full of personal interaction between God and Abraham. It is hard to look at Genesis 12-17 and say "It is not Biblical to believe I can have a living, active, one-on-one relationship with God."

There are 2 things which need to be pointed out and discussed concerning Abraham, and that will be the topic of the rest of this post.

1) If we take an Orthodox Jewish stance and say that Moses wrote the Torah sometime around 1200 BCE, we'll be required to grant that God's giving Moses information which is 800 years old, and is probably not giving him every detail, nor is He giving it to Moses in an all-encompassing fashion. This just simply wouldn't make sense. If we take a more moderate view of inspiration, and grant that God is in fact the one giving inspiration to human writers who are writing down the Torah about 1200 years after the events.

This means that when it says that God "spoke" to Abraham, or that God personally took Abraham outside and showed him certain things, there is no reason to require that it took place in exactly this way. It is 100% possible for the story of YHWH choosing Abraham and telling Abraham about this, is 100% true, without it being as face-to-face as the text seems to say it is. It's a story, it needs to be treated as one. A true story is still a story.

2) Even if that is simply too liberal for some people, another important point needs to be made. God's interaction with Abraham has nothing to do with Christians today, or even followers of YHWH after Abraham. Abraham's response is of course the model (Romans, Galatians, James), but the interaction itself is for a specific purpose, one which we have no part in today.

That purpose was the creation of a covenant people. God's interactions with Abraham are specifically for this purpose, and that purpose has found it's completion in the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. Therefore, there's no reason to think we would have this type of interaction with God as Christians 4,000 years removed from Abraham.

The same thing can be said of Moses, and this will complete the conversation of Moses and Abraham. Each are significant players in God's divine plan of establishing a covenant people through whom he would bless the world and save the world. This is not in any way expected as normative in the Scripture.

Now, as a primer for previous posts. It may seem as though I will do a lot of deconstruction up front. It may seem that I believe we can have no authentic relationship with the God of the universe. That's not the case. I'm simply attempting to deal with the major ideas, people, and texts, so that we can move towards a conclusion.

A Relational God - Pt. 1 - An Introduction  

Posted by Ben in , ,

Who is God?

Who am I?

These are naturally two questions which start off any conversation about A God of relationship, or how it is that God deals with us in relationship.

Once we have answered these questions, we are left ironing out this next most crucial question:

How is it that God deals in relationship with us. Why does He seem to deal differently with some than others. Is there credibility to the claim that some people make that they "heard from God?"
What is the nature of God's dealings with me? In what way does God love for, care for, and desire me. In what way is my relationship with God personal?

These next few blogs in this series will be a search through what the Scriptures say about these issues, using my hermeneutical approach of viewing the Word of God as a grand narrative, interacting with a God who interacts in human history. It will deal with certain genres of writing in the Bible and certain writers... attempting to deal with the major concepts and ideas which lead us to a God of personal relationship.

We will examine together what the Bible really says about it, and whether or not we can really have a "personal" relationship with God... and what that even means if we can.

I want to end this post by starting you off with a question to think about, and it will be the main idea and assumption we will be working through/against throughout this post.

Is God a god of individual personal relationship in the Western, American, individualistic sense? Can one have a relationship with God without others (and I don't mean sustain one, I mean have one at all)?

One reason this begins to be such a big deal is this, is being a Christian really about having a "relationship with God" (in the sense we normally say this) at all?

Please comment and voice opinions to get us started.