Saturday, July 21, 2018

"Christianity is a relationship, not a religion"

I don't know who first came up with that slogan. It's well-intentioned, and may occasionally be useful in some situations, but as a general adage it's a bad slogan. 

It's a rather feminine view of Christianity, which is not without merit if you're a woman. Up to a point it's okay for men contextualize Christianity in masculine terms and women to contextualize Christianity in feminine terms, although we need to distinguish what Christianity is from personal appropriation.

There are men who get fed up with God and leave the faith. There are other men who get fed up with God, but don't leave they faith. Despite their disaffection, they hang onto Christianity because, for them, Christianity is not first and foremost about a relationship but bedrock reality. Even if they're mad at God, their faith is based on evidence. They understand the stakes. They're in it for the long haul. Despite their alienation, their theology remains intact because they think it's true, and they have reasons for believing that to be the case. Disappointment with God doesn't change the evidence. And it doesn't make atheism appealing. They understand what atheism represents. 

Admittedly, a sense of emotional alienation is not a good condition for a Christian to be in. My point, though, is that if they thought Christianity is a relationship, not a religion, they'd chuck it. At this point, they don't want a relationship with God. But that doesn't dislodge their belief system or commitment. It's kinda like brothers who don't get along, but the bond remains through thick and thin. 

Many "relationships" are fragile. Feelings are fluid. A faith grounded in reason and evidence, while not indestructible, is more stable and dependable. 


  1. I first saw it in a Jack Chick comic about a Japanese WWII hero who became a christian after the war. He said it in response to the accusation that he had converted to a foreign religion.

    I used this saying in a sermon about how Christians should never worry about what their talent is. Christianity is a relationship; not a religion. As long as the relationship is on track. You don't need to worry about anything else.

  2. It seemed to be a favorite of Jimmy Swaggert . . .

  3. Interesting.
    Why are relationship issues only a "feminine issue" ? or why is that "a rather feminine view of Christianity?"

    You are right in that it is a shallow slogan, and one that can be abused, especially when accompanied by bad theology; (and bad worship songs, etc.) but it can be proper, even completely right & Biblical, when fleshed out with deeper theological and doctrinal explanation of what the essence of the issue is.

    The Trinity, the true God from all eternity past was in an eternal personal spiritual relationship. (John 17:5 with the other verses on the person and Deity of the Holy Spirit) - "God is Love"; "God is Spirit" and the 3 persons aspect of the Trinity point to relationship.

    The 3 persons in eternity past points to "relationship". God is relationship; God is personal; God is living. God is one in substance, nature, essence - One God; but 3 in relationship, persons.

    John 1:12-13 speaks of receiving Christ (receiving Him for all that He is - His character, person; all of Him for who He is - the eternal Word (John 1:1-5; 14), eternal Son (John 17:5), who became human to accomplish redemption for people from all peoples (Rev. 5:9; 7:9). This points to relationship. The Holy Spirit testifying with our spirit that we are children of God points to relationship. (Galatians 4:6 and Romans 8:16) That we are "children of God" by election and predestination and adoption points to relationship. (Ephesians 1:4-6) That the Son intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father points to relationship. (1 John 2:1; Romans 8:33-34; Hebrews 7, 9) That classic texts on foreknowledge point to relationship and knowing as in knowing a person in relationship speaks to this also. Romans 8:29, Jeremiah 1:5 (Foreknow is foreknowing as a person knows a person, rather than know a fact in the future; but not excluding that also, since God knows everything.)

    It would take explaining doctrinal truths and also the truth that God created man in His own image (both men and women) and that plurality within the one Adam (Genesis 1:26-28; 5:2 - there is a male "Adam" (human) and a female "Adam" (human) points to the plurality of personal relationships within the Trinity in eternity past.

    The idea of the slogan, that is was trying to communicate; is that the Christian religion is much deeper than a dry dead ritual of going to church and just out of rote mechanical ceremony, etc. of quoting the Apostles' Creed, and going through the motions on Sundays, etc. and only purely intellectual doctrinal religion without the Spiritual reality of the new birth and all that entails in growing and trusting God and persevering until we die; etc. and the Holy Spirit praying for us with groanings too deep for words, (Romans 8:26-27) etc. That also points to "relationship". "trusting God" each day in our spiritual life and growth points to relationship.

    The Relationship aspect of the Trinity has helped me explain that to former Muslims in discipleship and growing spiritually. I will say something like this, along with the full doctrinal teaching of the Trinity:

    "Only the true God, the Holy Trinity), can fill the void in your heart that longs for connection/relationship/knowing your creator (Pascal, Augustine, etc.) - because only the True God is the eternal relationship that is true, the creator, the truth, pure love (1 John 4:8, etc.), and pure spirit (John 4:23-24), who is also only ONE God. (Mark 12:29; I Tim. 2:5, Deut. 6:4-5, etc.)"

  4. your post here and my interaction reminded me of this recent article.
    There is an excellent recent article about the issue of the modern tendency of the "feminization of the church", which I thought really nailed that issue.