6/12/2006

Another of Humanity’s Predicaments: Broken Relationships

The Good News that Conquers Our Predicament, part 6

To begin with, we must understand that God is an inter-relational being, having existed eternally in the Trinitarian Community — Father, Son and Spirit. The church fathers of the Greek Church called this inter-relationship “the mystery of perichoresis” (perry-co-RAY-sis). Deriving from the Trinitarian passages in the Bible, they described God as three divine persons loving the others in the Trinity with complete selflessness. In a constant “dance” (perichoresis is in the same word family as “choreography”) of mutual love and acceptance, each enveloping and encircling the others. Therefore, at the center of God’s character is relational love. In this eternal communal love, God did not need to create a world of humans in order to have relationship. Nothing compelled God to create, for God has always been in perfect relationship. But, in God’s grace, God made room in the universe for other kinds of beings. And God’s pinnacle of Creation, humanity, was uniquely created to have the capacity to reflect that relational perichoresis.

God created this planet specifically to hold life — God created plants and animals and birds and fish after their own kinds. And then, at the pinnacle of it all, God created humanity. God loves his entire Creation, but there is a special love for human beings, who are not created after their own kind, but more after God’s kind (“‘Let us make people in our image, to be like ourselves. They will be masters over all life—the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the livestock, wild animals, and small animals.’ So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them” [Gen 1:26-27]). God created humanity to be a community that would reflect his godly qualities into his Creation (the “imago Dei,” the image of God, in us). Mike Wittmer writes,

“God has given us godlike capacities…so that we might enter into three distinct relationships. It is these three relationships that are damaged in sin and restored in salvation. First…God created us in his image so that we might enjoy personal fellowship with him…Second, God created us in his image so that we might enjoy personal fellowship with others (“male and female he created them”)…Third, God created us in His image so that we might enjoy a right relationship with the rest of creation (“subdue” and “rule over” the earth).” (Wittmer, Heaven is a Place on Earth, [Zondervan, 2004], p. 81-82).

So, another way to explain humanity’s predicament is to say that the image of God in humanity is “cracked” (as Scot McKnight writes in Embracing Grace). Therefore, the relational capacity in humanity (in all three directions) has become deeply flawed.
“Theological textbooks will tell you that sin is “any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature.” This is right but just not right enough. Breaking God’s good laws is surely sin, as the act of Adam and Eve to eat the fruit is sin. But, sin is more than this and deeper than this. The reason such a textbook definition is not right enough is that it depersonalizes and de-relationalizes sin…Sin is a relational issue and as such transcends the legal issue. Infidelity is more than an offense of some contractual agreement; infidelity is the disruption or even destruction of a relationship… Sin is clearly the breaking of a law, but more deeply it is a violation of loving God and others. In short, the cracks in the Eikon are relational cracks.” (McKnight, Embracing Grace, pp. 48-50)


So, the FIRST predicament I presented in this series was that the FALL is cosmic—that ALL of Creation was meant to exist in Shalom. Shalom (quoting from Plantinga) is “universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight…the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight.” Shalom is the way things ought to be. But this universal Shalom was shattered by sin. Because of the sin of humanity, all of Creation is in need of redemption. Redemption needs to be huge because the effects of the Fall are huge. The reason Shalom continues to be shattered is because ALL of the Creation is in bondage, destroying the shalom between humanity and God, humanity with each other, and humanity with the rest of Creation.

So, here we have the SECOND predicament (though not really a distinct predicament, but related to the first): that these relationships are deeply damaged.

My point is this: I'm hoping to know and teach a Gospel that is true to Scripture - and the Gospel that I see in the Bible is COSMIC (big enough to redeem all of Creation) and RELATIONAL (getting at the root of the Fall—the loss of our relational capacities).

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Next: How the Kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus as the “Good News” offers the solution to these predicaments.

Links to the entire series:
1: Define the Predicament, and You Understand another Facet of the Gospel
2: Predicament #1: The Lack of Shalom
3: Evil Bondage in the Place of Shalom
4: EXODUS and the GOOD NEWS of FREEDOM in Paul
5: EXODUS and the GOOD NEWS of FREEDOM in the GOSPELS
6: Another of Humanity’s Predicaments: Broken Relationships
7: The Prophesied Kingdom of God
8: The Kingdom of God Restoring Israel from Exile
9: The Kingdom of God Healing Broken Relationships
10: The Kingdom of God and the Atonement
11: The Kingdom and the Mission of God’s People
12: What is my view of the Kingdom of God?


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1 comment:

Ted Gossard said...

Bob, Refreshing to read. Thanks.

This emphasis on relationship is so much more vital than I've really grasped. So obscured, so often in theologies (as when the emphasis is legal), I'm afraid.