Defining Relationship

Posted: August 11, 2015 in End of Religion, Your God Journey
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The name of this blog is The End of Religion: Unpacking the Difference Between Religion and Relationship. If you read the post entitled Read This First, you’ll get the gist of what this is all about, so I don’t have to repeat myself extensively here—but the essence of this blog is to unpack the statement “Christianity is not a religion—it’s a relationship.”

Although unpacking this statement and related issues will be the focus of this blog, and therefore the bulk of the posts will likely be directly or indirectly related to this subject, there are of course many other areas of biblical interest that I am passionate about that will eventually be made known.

So far, we have begun to explore and define what we mean when we use the word religion in this statement—for example, in the posts Defining Religion, and What Is Religion. So now we should probably begin to define what we mean when we use the word relationship is this statement as well.

The New Oxford American dictionary defines relationship as:

  • The way two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.
  • The state of being connected by blood or marriage.
  • The way in which two or more people or organizations regard and behave toward each other.
  • An emotional and sexual association between two people.

Although all of these definitions have bearing on this subject, the ones that concern us the most directly are primarily definitions number one and number three above—we are very interested in the way two people (or more) people are connected, and especially the way two or more people regard and behave toward each other—these definitions and the interconnected issues are of critical importance.

For example, in addition to the maxim “Christianity is not a religion—it’s a relationship,” there is another maxim that is extremely similar…

“The Church is not an organization—it’s an organism.”

Although this statement requires unpacking as well, it is not quite so enigmatic as the first. The key to this maxim lies in the distinction between the words organization and organism. As a matter of fact, it is the deliberate juxtaposition of these two words (and for that matter the words religion and relationship in the first maxim) that should arrest our attention.

The key distinction between an organism and an organization is that an organism is a life form (is alive), while an organization is not. Or we could say that an organism is organic, while an organization is inorganic (despite all having the same root word). An organism is alive and is derived from or related to living matter, while an organization is a structure or arrangement of concepts, objects, or people, that does not derive from living matter. The same can be said of how the words religion and relationship are used in the first maxim.

In the statement “Christianity is not a religion—it’s a relationship,” we mean that religion is a structure or arrangement that is not organic. It does not derive from living matter, it is not a life form (alive), nor does it impart life—whereas a relationship (in this context) is organic—that is, it derives from living matter, is alive, and imparts life.

We will continue to explore, develop, and refine these definitions during our journey from religion to relationship.

A couple of additional ideas to leave with you before I end this post…

Religion is a counterfeit of genuine relationship. As such it wants to be perceived as organic—that it derives from living matter, is alive, and imparts life—and therefore camouflages and disguises itself to make this seem so. But this is in fact a critical component of the journey from religion to relationship—religion, despite its appearances, is not organic, is not alive, and most certainly does not impart life (much more on this later).

The fountainhead and exemplar of all relationship is the Godhead—three persons in continual vital union and relationship. Furthermore, the purpose of the Godhead in creating humanity was to expand and share relationship with others created in God’s image. (Again, much more to come.)

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