Man’s Relationship with God: Personal and Impersonal Perspectives

For a class on Christian Philosophy in my M.Div program at Southern Seminary, James Sire's The Universe Next Door was assigned reading. I greatly enjoyed reading it and in fact I recommend it. In this post, however I merely want to mention a point I found helpful. In the discussion on theistic existentialism, Sire points out some of the positive contributions it made to theology and Christian thought. Existentialism of the Christian variety was largely a reaction to the dead orthodoxy of European state churches. Soren Kierkegaard and later neo-orthodox theologians such as Karl Barth were reacting to the cultural captivity and stagnancy of the churches of their day. If we are not careful it is possible to become dead, captive to culture, or both, and there are more ways to do this than one can imagine. For instance, it is easy to depersonalize the Christian faith into a mere system of dogma rather than a living faith based on a real interaction between a real God and a humanity longing for relationship. This is not to set theology in opposition with personal piety, they are both absolutely necessary. Sire includes the chart below to help one view basic concepts of the Christian faith from both the perspective of the personal and the impersonal (Sire, 131).

One can see the appeal of both perspectives, particularly the personal. The Scriptures include both perspectives as well, and I think place the emphasis on the personal. There's nothing new here but much to remember.

Depersonalized Personalized
Sin Breaking a rule Betraying a relationship
Repentance Admitting guilt Sorrowing over personal betrayal
Forgiveness Canceling a penalty Renewing fellowship
Faith Believing a set of propositions Committing oneself to a person
Christian life Obeying rules Pleasing the Lord, a Person
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