Tom Pittman's WebLog

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2008 October 31 -- Relationshipism

On this, the not-quite 500th anniversary of Luther's 95 Theses, I offer a new challenge in the same spirit of Luther's original. Roman Catholic theology had outgrown its basis in Scripture, and Martin Luther called it back. Today his heritage (Protestantism) has again outgrown its basis in Scripture.

I call this new deviant form of Christianity "Relationshipism" because its proponents want to insist that "Christianity is a relationship, not a religion." When I ask them for Scriptural support for this idea, they do not mention John 15:4. I would have expected that one, but if this is such a central teaching of the Bible, it's only one verse out of more than 30,000. "It's all through the Bible," they say. Chapter and verse, please. Then they get silent.

Perhaps a dozen verses, if you push them hard enough, could be about relationships. A larger number mention some kind of relationships incidental to what they actually teach, but it's not what they are about. For example, if I wanted to tell you what computers are all about, I might mention a keyboard or a mouse, but those are peripheral to what computing is all about. The computer is not a keyboard, it is not a mouse. They may be connected to the computer, but they are essentially irrelevant to what the computer does.

The Apostle Paul makes an analogy between parts of the body and various spiritual gifts. The parts of the body are connected to the Head, and it is the Head (Jesus Christ) who tells them what to do. An ear does not cease to be part of the body if it cannot see like the eye. The point of the chapter is not connectivity, not relationship, but function. Some people were insisting that everybody had to speak in tongues, and Paul is saying "Wait a minute, the Body needs different functions. Some people do this, some people do that, but God decides, not you or I."

Christianity is all about God. It's not about me, not about warm fuzzies somebody calls "relationships", but God. God is Holy. God is God; you and I are not gods. God decides what is true and what we should do and believe, and if we don't like it, that's tough. It really is, eternally, but that's not the point.

The pastor of the church I attend, like most pastors in America, is a relationshipist. However, he is rather more honest than most, and he reads his Bible. Several times in the past year his sermon was essentially what I just said, "It's all about God." This pastor apologizes a lot when he preaches this topic, because it is not Relationshipism. It doesn't fit with what Relationshipists want to believe. It is what the Bible teaches, and he knows it. Most Christians in America don't.

Relationshipists, like Catholics and Mormons, confess Jesus as Lord and believe in their hearts God raised him from the dead. So like Catholics and Mormons, they are "saved" by the Apostle Paul's definition [Romans 10:9]. Correct theology is not a ticket to Heaven -- if it were, all of us would be lost -- only the finished work of Christ on the Cross does that. But if Jesus is Lord, wouldn't you want him to define what is important for us to believe? I think so.

Corrected 2014 April 29


The arguments (For and) Against Relationshipism
The Counterfeit Religion of Relationships, comparing Relationshipism to 1+2C
It's Not About Love, Handel's Messiah got it right
A Case Study in Moral Ambiguity
Relationships, concluding that people mean "affirmation" by that word
God of Truth, a draft of what might eventually become a book
Men Are from Mars, a list of specific Thinker/Feeler differences
The bottom of my home page, a challenge to do something about it
Getting Men into the Church through Apologetics, what one church is doing about it
Thinker/Feeler Distinction (October 27 blog post)
Complete Blog index
Index of Essays