Friday, June 5, 2009

Have Evangelicals overemphasized how "personal" God is?

Evangelical Christians have revived in humanity an understanding about how personal God is. We have taught people to pray directly to God as if He were our friend, our brother, our King, our God. In fact, we even claim that salvation is found only in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

But have we gone too far? Have we overemphasized this to any harmful ends?

Have you ever run into someone who didn't believe in God because they felt that they didn't need Him? They felt like they could do just fine - they live and breathe and just don't see any real connection between life or success and a personal relationship with God.

I wonder if what these people need is a healthy dose of good theology. I wonder whether they need to be taught that God is not just another person (or three persons, as it were) with whom one can have a relationship, but the Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe. That He upholds the very fabric of space-time by the word of His power. That each second is a special act of Creation, and that what we call the laws of science are in reality simply the paths that God takes through Creation. That God doesn't weary and so has the tendency to do things the same way over and over again, but reserves the right to break the rules of the "system" just as the maker of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 reserves the right to "break" the "laws" of the system and make his skater do things like, you know, fly, and do thousands of kick-flips and stuff before landing.

Perhaps then they can be shown that it is a fact that they in reality cannot do a single thing without God. That their very existence and persistence radically depend on God in a way that He deserves gratitude and respect for. God's providence isn't immediately or obviously connected to His personality (hence cometh Deism), and I wonder if we are ignoring it in favor of harping exclusively on Personality.

Surely belief in the personality of God sets Christianity - especially Evangelical Christianity - apart from many other worldviews. And surely it is important to believe in it, and to act on it by engaging God in a personal relationship.

I am just wondering if there might be a more strategic place to start when evangelizing, like Creation and Providential Sustenance.


  1. Like you said, God's personal nature is unique to Christianity. The Creator of the universe became a man and dwelt among us! So we don't want to neglect that. However, I think properly understanding that personal relationship is key.

    Poor evangelism would be to tell someone they need to have a personal relationship with Jesus. Truthful evangelism would tell someone they already have a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe, and it's not a good one.

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  3. "Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they especially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong is enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we." - G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

  4. dude, louis. i tried to describe something along the lines of this about a year ago to your mom, and she looked at me like I was crazy. Thanks for the validation.


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