"A personal relationship with God"--that's one of those phrases you hear a lot in evangelical circles, and for most of us I suspect it's a phrase with positive connotations: it refers to the highly personal way in which we are saved by, and interact with, a being who is otherwise out of our league (if you will) by infinite orders of magnitude. But it's also one of those phrases that starts to seem a bit strange the more you think about it: what are the dynamics of a personal relationship, and what do those dynamics look like when they occur between an almighty Creator and his creations?
At the Strangely Dim blog, Dave Zimmerman is asking these questions, and offering some good insights into the idea of a "personal relationship with God," and why that can be a troublesome phrase. From his post:
...we bring a lot of baggage with us to a phrase like "personal relationship with God." Our understanding of who God is affects our approach: Is God the author of evil? Is God impotent or indifferent in the face of evil? Is God likeable, impressive, praiseworthy, approachable?
Our understanding of what comes with a personal relationship affects our take on the idea too. If I've been hurt over and over again in my personal relationships, the last thing I might want is to get personal with someone who controls the weather and steers comets. If my personal relationships have been with really boring people, I might imagine a personal relationship with an infinite being as infinitely boring. I might take my worst experience in personal relationships and expand it to a cosmic level, and decide that I'd rather do without, thank you very much.
Dave then uses a Bible story I've rarely seen discussed much--a conversation between David and Bathsheba--to illustrate how the dynamics of our personal relationship with the Creator might work.