Forget ‘Personal Relationship’

Enough with this ‘personal relationship’ language, because it often misleads Christians and means something incredibly vague to pagans – I can also be cheeky and say that a relationship of enmity with God is also quite a personal relationship. I propose something like this: ‘God knows me, and I know him; he loves me as my Creator, my Father and my King, and he gives me faith to follow him all the days of my life. His goodness and mercy are my portion forever.’ Each of those statements is both clearer and more biblical than the stupid phrase ‘personal relationship’, of which I grow more tired every day.

The point is that God’s neither philosophy nor abstract worldview: he speaks, and his word’s fulfilled in the universe of reality. YHWH is a he, not an it: with him we can have an I-thou relationship. He exists objectively outside of myself, not as a law of nature but as the One who created nature.

But let’s face it: YHWH will always be radically Other, even when the Church is joined to him in mystical union, even when he comes in to us and ‘knows’ us the way that Adam went in to Eve and knew her and she conceived. Yes, I call out to God and he hears me; yes, God loves me more than my own father and mother; and yes, the height of this is that he bought me with his precious blood and after three days broke off the shackles of my death; but he is as high above me as the heavens are above the earth. Jesus is mine, but not mine to share; Christ lives in me, but he isn’t contained by me.

If you want to talk about what the Son did in becoming a man, talk about his love for us and his faithfulness to the covenants he’d made with Israel, even about numinous intimacy. Just don’t litter the air with such phrases as ‘personal relationship’.

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