Friday, May 29, 2009

Religion, relationship, or something else?

One of the classic evangelical catch phrases is, "It's not a religion, it's a relationship." The point of which being to differentiate Christianity from a set of rules and instructions to get you favour with God and assert that Christianity is about knowing God personally. This is often an eye opening phrase for those who have a legalistic conception of Christianity. It is however quite misleading.

Firstly, Christianity most certainly is a religion, in that it is framework for making sense of life, or a world view. All world views are religious, even atheistic world views, and even the most undecided of agnostics will have a religious framework for making sense of their life. It is just human nature. But I guess strictly, while it contains a world-view Christianity claims to be something more than just a way of understanding life, the universe and everything.

Secondly, the word relationship is particularly unhelpful. In general we only use this term regarding personal relationships for boy-girl relationships that are somewhat fuzzy and undefined. "I'm in a relationship" generally means that one is romantically involved but not to the extent of being fully committed. Sadly this half committed, emotionally variable, type of relationship characterises many western Christians' relationship with God. They understand that they have a relationship with God but they are not quite sure where they stand. They sing love songs to God on Sunday, but during the week are never quite sure who or what they are really committed to. And when God seems to not be around as much, or to let them down, they wonder about calling the whole thing off.

In the Bible the relationship between God and God's people is not fuzzy and undefined. It is correctly understood as covenant relationship, that is a relationship clearly defined by a contract between both parties to which both parties are fully committed. It is the relationship of:

creature to creator
helpless to saviour
servant to lord
sinner to forgiver
slave to master
disciple to teacher
redeemed to redeemer
child to parent
wounded to healer

This list is hardly exhaustive, but I think it is a representative sample of appropriate biblical analogies. So does anyone know how we can work that into a catchy tag-line??

1 comment:

  1. sheep to shepherd
    downtrodden to victor
    poor to provider
    isolated to connector

    As you say, the list goes on...

    I've enjoyed what you have written. Of late, I have been getting rather frustrated with the "Christianity's not a religion" cliche.

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