Introduction

In recent decades, Christian theologians and apologists have found it helpful to describe the Christian faith as a “worldview” in order to explain how Christian beliefs impact one’s perception of the world, other humans, and God. [1] Ministry endeavors like Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project have done much to popularize the notion of worldview for many Christians and have helpfully clarified the core tenets of a Christian worldview. [2] While secularism tends to divide the world into religious and non-religious viewpoints with a tendency to privilege the latter as free of bias, the language of worldview has proven itself useful because it reveals that everyone—whether religious or not—possesses a worldview that rests on (often untested) conclusions about the nature of the world.

In this essay, I want to suggest that, if we are not careful in how we explain and invite others into the Christian worldview, we might unintentionally short-circuit their formation into a Christian worldview. [3] Although recent publications on worldview have helped American Christians think more Christianly about their world, it does not necessarily mean that these same people are fully living in the Christian worldview.

Let me explain why I think this is an issue worth addressing. While many people in the United States currently categorize themselves as Christians or attend a Christian church, troubling research over the past decade has suggested that many self-designated Christians are actually living as if they were on the periphery—or even outside—of the Christian worldview. In their study of the religious beliefs of American teenagers, Christian Smith and Melinda L. Denton observed that despite teenagers’ affirmed allegiance to particular religious traditions, teenagers by-and-large articulated a form of faith they dubbed “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.” [4] What the researchers generally discovered is that, although teenagers attended Christian churches or self-identified as Christians, they had departed from some of the important tenets of the Christian faith.

“We need to not only identify the intellectual and philosophical differences between worldviews, but also invite people into a way of life that is the natural result of a Christian worldview.”

For example, consider how people who were categorized within “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” viewed God. When the researchers summarized the beliefs about God according to “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” they describe them as “a belief in a particular kind of God: one who exists, created the world, and defines our general moral order, but not one who is particularly personally involved in one’s affairs—especially affairs in which one would prefer not to have God involved. Most of the time, the God of this faith keeps a safe distance.” [5] In fact, according to this subtle, yet pervasive worldview in America, “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.” [6] In other words, most assume that God is, at best, only concerned with our intermittent problems and otherwise remains disconnected from one’s daily life. In sum, for many Americans, God is nothing more than a divine absentee father who no longer desires a relationship with humans, nor do his believers seem to have much of an interest in relating to him. [7]

Smith and Denton’s study reveals the need for theologians and apologists to explicate the claims of the Christian worldview cogently and precisely because without them, the distinction between Christian theism and an imposter like “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” might be blurred or lost altogether. As a result, I certainly applaud the efforts of these apologists. However, I believe we must go a step further and not just identify the intellectual and philosophical differences between worldviews but invite people into a way of life that is the natural result of a Christian worldview. Smith and Denton have discovered the unfortunate reality that most Americans believe God is uninterested in their daily lives, and we can conclude these same people darken the doorways of America’s churches too. Based upon their research, my fear is that, though we might have people in our churches that can intellectually assent to the major tenets of the Christian worldview (God created the world, God has redeemed the world in the person of Jesus Christ, there is life after death, etc.), they may in fact be functioning like deists and not Christians. [8] These people who intellectually assent to the Christian faith, but functionally live like deists, I am going to call “functional deists,” for though they purportedly assent to Christianity, their actual lifestyle mirrors that of deism.

It is my contention that “functional deism” is a tragic paradox and represents the abortive failure of someone being formed in the Christian worldview. It is tragic, for the Christian worldview invites one to nothing less than an intensely personal, enduring relationship with God. Anything less constitutes a malformation of the Christian faith. By the same token, it is a paradox, for the intellectual resources are in place for such a relationship, but, for whatever reason, the full reality of living in the Christian worldview has not been attained. In this essay, I will argue that several key elements of the Christian worldview—God’s Triune nature, the biblical story of God’s dealings with humankind, and the Christian view of the afterlife—mandate nothing less than a view of God who longs to be relationally engaged with human beings. If we are going to inhabit these intellectual commitments of the Christian worldview fully and take them to their logical conclusion, this can only be done by living in a vibrant, consistent relationship with God.

God as Triune

Beginning with the Trinity might seem like an odd place to start. After all, the teaching flummoxes many Christians and most feel inadequately prepared to explain it to others. However, I believe that the doctrine of the Trinity has a lot to tell us about the very nature of God and his inherent desire for relationship.

Probably the most telling aspect of any worldview resides in its description of “prime reality” or what the worldview identifies as the most basic foundation for everything else that exists. Some worldviews, like naturalism, believe prime reality consists only of matter and energy since there are no spiritual realities like God, souls, or angels according to this particular worldview. Other worldviews see a divine, spiritual being as the foundation of reality that creates the world we presently inhabit. Among the worldviews that affirm a divine being as prime reality, Christianity is unique in its understanding of the divine as Triune.

“Anyone who has ever tried to explain the Trinity to a young child can understand why deism’s simpler and less complicated view of God would be appealing. However, jettisoning the Trinitarian view of God comes at a steep price, for the doctrine of the Trinity reveals that God is inherently relational.”

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity affirms that there is only one, unrivaled God in the world, but this one God exists as three equal, yet distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In this formulation, God’s very nature is thus a unity (oneness) of diversity (three-ness). I will not venture into a defense of the doctrine here, but will simply note that it was forged out of the church’s assiduous desire to understand how they could maintain the oneness of God displayed in the Old Testament (i.e. monotheism) and still affirm the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit. To date, the doctrine of the Trinity has been the best attempt at holding all of these conclusions simultaneously.
To be sure, other worldviews like deism have a less convoluted view of God. According to deism, God is a singular being and not Trinitarian. As a result, there is no need to explain how the three divine persons are distinct from each other and yet still only one being. Anyone who has ever tried to explain the Trinity to a young child can understand why deism’s simpler and less complicated view of God would be appealing. [9]

However, jettisoning the Trinitarian view of God comes at a steep price, for the doctrine of the Trinity reveals that God is inherently relational by nature. Simply glancing at the names ascribed to the persons in the Trinity affirms their relational nature. For example, “Father” and “Son” are relational terms that can only be used because of their relationship. [10] The Father can only be the Father because the Son exists, and the Son can only properly be called the Son because the Father exists. The Father and the Son thus exist in a mutual relationship where both depend upon the relationship for their identity and yet by participating in the relationship, they shape the identity of the other person. To put it another way, the relationship between the members of the Trinity is not a voluntary one that they could dissolve at will like most of our relationships. Rather, the relationship within the Trinity constitutes the very way in which God has chosen to exist. If those relationships were severed, God would cease being what he is.

In Jesus’ High Priestly prayer in John 17, we get a glimpse of the relational connections that exist within the persons of the Trinity. In the prayer, Jesus asks that his followers might experience oneness “even as You Father, are in Me and I in You” (John 17:21). This particular passage reveals the unity or oneness of the divine persons. They exist “in” the other person, which demonstrates that they are not wholly separate, isolated persons, but persons that are interdependent and interpenetrate each other’s being and identity. This relational union among the Trinitarian persons means that God’s manner of existence is a state of continual relationship within the members of the Trinity, and God cannot exist otherwise. [11] The doctrine of the Trinity thus affirms that God’s very being is relational, existing in an eternal state of relationship between the three persons who constitute the one God. What is more, since God exists in this state, he is able to impart this same relational quality to the world he creates, but we will say more about that later. [12]

When the worldview of deism jettisons the Trinitarian nature of God, it also rejects God’s relational way of being. Because deism discards the doctrine of the Trinity, it is not difficult to see why deists view God as relationally uninterested in his human creatures, for he is no longer an inherently relational being but a divine recluse content to play solitaire by himself. In contrast, the Christian view of God believes that God is relational by nature, and this is captured most excellently in the doctrine of the Trinity.

Creation and Covenant

God, according to the Christian worldview, does not limit his relational pursuit to those with privileged membership in the sacred Trinitarian club. If we turn to the biblical story, one of the means by which God reveals himself according to the Christian worldview, we see that God invites his creation to participate in the intimate relationship shared among the members of the Trinity. [13] Throughout the Christian Bible God’s pursuit of humankind is depicted in many ways, but I will concentrate on two here.

First, God’s desire to relate to human beings can be seen in the opening chapters of Genesis. In Genesis 1:27 it says, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.” [14] Throughout Christian history, theologians have offered various explanations of what it means to be made in God’s image. [15] I have always found Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s analysis helpful here. According to him, what it means to be made in God’s image is not that humans possess some special capacity like reason or moral reflection but that humans share with God a similar “mode” or manner of existence, which he identifies as being in relationship. [16] In other words, the very relational way of being that is true of God as a Trinitarian being is also true of humans. Ultimately, to be made in God’s image means we were made to be in relationship with God, others, and the created order.

“The biblical story is really the story of successive covenants God initiates with his people. Christian theism would encourage us to see behind all of the scientific realities of the world a loving and gracious Creator who continues to live and relate to his creation.”

Even if one rejects Bonhoeffer’s interpretation of the image of God, it is hard to overlook the ways in which God is relationally present with Adam and Eve in the garden. On the day of the fateful Fall, the Lord God is strolling “in the garden in the cool of the day,” something that appears to be have been an ongoing practice and reveals God’s desire to relate to his human creations (Gen. 3:8). [17] Unfortunately, Adam and Eve’s desire to transgress the divine command in order to become “like God” ruptured the intended relationship between humans and God. Still, in spite of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, God is the one who makes the first move towards reconciliation. He comes to the garden, not with harsh accusation but with a question: “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9). It is an invitation to relationship, which the cowering humans can only answer out of fear and shame. Sin, though, does bring a curse upon creation and distances humans from God. Nevertheless, God remains the initiator here and throughout the divine-human drama of Scripture.

Second, though human sin frustrates the relationship between humans and God, it never stymies God’s relational pursuit of humankind. Throughout the Old Testament, God enters into relationships with his people through various covenants, which reveal God’s relational commitment to his creation and his desire to preserve it from sin’s corruption. With Noah, he covenants to never destroy the world again (Gen. 9:8-17). With Abraham, he promises to make his family into a great nation, to give them the land of Canaan, and to bless the entire world (Gen. 12:1-3). God’s covenants, which promise blessing and life to human beings and the world, undo the threat and curse of sin by which human beings have jeopardized creation and themselves. In fact, Old Testament scholars have observed that the only reason why creation and humanity are sustained in the early chapters of Genesis is because God continually re-infuses his creational blessing through entering into covenants with people. [18] Humans seem intent on running pell-mell towards destruction, but God’s covenants pull them back from the brink of annihilation.

In the covenant at Sinai, God enters into one of the most elaborately developed covenants in the Bible with numerous stipulations. From today’s standards many of the commands contained within it seem archaic. However, the central core of the Sinai covenant establishes expectations for Israel’s relationship with God. [19] In sum, God desired exclusive relational loyalty from his covenant partners, which is captured in the very first of the Ten Commandments: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exod. 20:3). God desires absolute fidelity and commitment. It is not hard to see why the prophets would later use marriage as a metaphor for the covenantal relationship since YHWH desired the same exclusivity from his followers as a husband and wife mutually expect from each other (e.g. Hosea 1:1-3:5). The use of the marriage metaphor indicates that covenants were not simply contractual agreements, but verbalized expectations to sustain the ongoing vitality of the divine-human relationship.

Without wanting to over-generalize, the biblical story is really the story of successive covenants God initiates with his people. Even the biblical canon has been divided along covenantal lines: Old Testament and New Testament find their divisions based upon the different covenants contained therein. The New Testament begins with the Gospels about Jesus because Jesus’ death and resurrection usher in the era of the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-4). At the Last Supper sayings, Christ indicates that his death acquires the forgiveness longed for in the New Covenant. When Jesus passes the wine at his final meal, he states, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22:20). Such statements indicate that Jesus’ death and resurrection have inaugurated a new basis upon which humans and God can now relate since God has dealt with the barrier of human sin.

“God desires absolute fidelity and commitment. It is not hard to see why the prophets would later use marriage as a metaphor for the covenantal relationship, since God desired the same exclusivity from his followers as a husband and wife mutually expect from each other.”

To summarize the point briefly, the biblical storyline that begins with creation and shows God’s continued commitment to his creation in covenantal relationships reveals that God is active and concerned about humanity from its inception. Throughout humanity’s long-chequered history God has pursued humanity by initiating with them relationally and by covenanting with them for their preservation and blessing.

To put this into comparison with other worldviews, the Christian worldview believes only a gracious God who has remained relationally involved with his creation makes our current existence possible. Our existence is not, as naturalism would say, simply a result of fortuitous events and perhaps some uncanny ability of living things to adapt to their surroundings. Nor is our existence simply a result of natural processes that God implanted in the natural order long ago, as deism might suggest. While Christian theism would not deny that God established the natural order or that he gave living things the ability to adjust to their surroundings, it would encourage us to see behind all of the scientific realities of the world a loving and gracious Creator who continues to live and relate to his creation.

Afterlife

Thus far we have seen that Christian theism affirms God’s relational nature, which is exhibited in the Trinity and in his past history with humankind as recorded in the biblical texts. At this juncture, I would like to turn our attention toward the Christian view of what happens after death, for worldviews do not merely inform us of where we came from but they also inform us of what, if anything, happens after death. Unfortunately, there is a lot of bad thinking when it concerns the afterlife in America, and some of this has influenced those in the church. The Christian notion of the afterlife is not simply that humans are immortal, as if we continue to exist past death in some kind of isolated, spiritual state. Nor is the Christian view of the afterlife the cartoonish caricature that we become little cherubs, play harps, and float on clouds forever. Rather, the Christian view of heaven anticipates restored and deepened intimacy with God.

A few key texts help light the way. In Revelation 21, the Apostle John gives us a glimpse of the afterlife in one of his visions. He writes, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:1-2; NASB). In this passage, John is describing God’s restoration of the world. We should not miss how John describes the people of God as “a bride adorned for her husband.” A few verses later, he also calls them “the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:9). In both cases, John employs the metaphor of marriage to describe the afterlife. In so doing, John establishes the afterlife as a relational experience between God and his people, and he chooses the most intimate relationship of all to capture the intimacy envisioned, a marriage.

“For the Christian, the afterlife is the fulfillment and consummation of humanity’s deepest relational desires to be known and loved.”

It is no accident that Paul likewise uses relational intimacy to depict the afterlife as he anticipates it. In 1 Corinthians 13:12, he compares our current experience of God with that of the life to come: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know (ginōskō) in part, but then I will know (epignōsomai) fully just as I also have been fully known (epegnōsthēn).” [20] Paul observes that God’s knowledge of us is absolute in the present, but our knowledge of him is incomplete because we now only “know in part.” Only in heaven will we finally reciprocate with the same degree of intensity and completeness as God directs toward us now. [21] Then we “will know fully.” Then we will fully participate as equally knowledgeable partners in the divine-human romance. Together John and Paul provide us with a robust picture of the afterlife that is not simply the absence of pain and death or even the reunion with loved ones, but the gift of a new capacity that allows us to relate to God more fully.

Returning again to John’s vision in Revelation, not only does the image of the descending “bride” suggest a new level of relational intimacy, this marriage is also cast as the intended fulfillment of God’s former covenants. In Revelation 21:3, John writes, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne; saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.” The refrain “they shall be His people, and God himself will be among them” is the covenant formula that appears throughout Scripture and is used frequently to refer to the divine-human relationship established by the covenant. [22] Its usage here indicates that the afterlife constitutes the climactic fulfillment of God’s relational pursuit of humanity. The human sin that had ruptured previous covenants and earned God’s punishment will be eradicated in the future state. Thus, God’s desire to relate to humanity reaches its zenith in the afterlife when human beings become fully transformed and willing participants in the relationship.

The relational dimension of the afterlife again distinguishes a peculiarly Christian view of the afterlife. It is not simply that we receive rewards at the pearly gates or that we get to meet the people we love and miss, though that will be part of the experience. Nor is it that we eventually lose our personal identity as we fade into the sole being and substance that pervades the world as in a monistic worldview. For the Christian, the afterlife is the fulfillment and consummation of humanity’s deepest relational desires to be known and loved.

Conclusion

Thus far, we have investigated three of the commitments within the Christian worldview and all of them have pointed to the very same conclusion: God is a relational being, and he desires to be in relationship with humans. The doctrine of the Trinity reveals that God is relational by nature with the members of the Trinity and that God cannot exist outside of this relationship. This same relational way of being then spills over onto God’s creation inviting them to participate in the relationship the divine trio enjoys. We see evidence of this divine invitation demonstrated in God’s manifold covenants and his choice to initiate relationship in spite of human sin. Finally, even the end of the story, as the Christian worldview understands it, culminates in a mutually fulfilling relationship between God and humans. From the small portion of the Christian worldview that we have sampled, we can safely conclude that God, according to the Christian worldview, is not an aloof father figure but a relational person. Moreover, he has imploringly offered the invitation for relationship throughout history, an offer which will be consummated in the afterlife.

“Many today are not living in this reality even though they may assent to Christian beliefs. Many live as if God were the all too common deadbeat dad.”

Certainly the intellectual resources are in place to sustain a way of living life that is rooted in a persistent and enduring relationship with God. If Smith and Denton are correct, though, many today are not living in this reality even though they may assent to Christian beliefs. Many live as if God were the all too common deadbeat dad. The reasons why people do not live in light of this reality are manifold. Perhaps it is a failure to deal with past disappointments with God. Perhaps the comforts of our world have inoculated us to our deeper spiritual and relational needs. I imagine most people’s reasons are unique to their individual stories and experiences. Nevertheless, as ministry leaders who desire to shape and form others in the Christian faith, it is imperative that we invite people, not just into a belief system, but into a way of life that has a loving, relational God at its center.

Footnotes
  1. James Sire offers the following definition for a worldview, which I have adopted as well for the purposes of this essay: “A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) that we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.” James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, 5th ed. (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity, 2009), 20.
  2. The amount published on worldview in recent decades has become voluminous. Among the collection are the following: Ronald H. Nash, Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992); Michael Palmer, ed., Elements of a Christian Worldview (Springfield, Mo.: Logion, 1998); David K. Naugle Jr., Worldview: The History of a Concept (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002); David Noebel and Chuck Edwards, Thinking like a Christian: Understanding and Living a Biblical Worldview: Student Journal (Nashville: B&H, 2002), David S. Dockery and Gregory Alan Thornbury, eds., Shaping a Christian Worldview: The Foundation of Christian Higher Education (Nashville: B&H, 2002); John MacArthur, ed., Think Biblically!: Recovering a Christian Worldview (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2003); J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity, 2003); James W. Sire, Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity, 2004); Francis J. Beckwith, William Lane Craig, and J.P. Moreland, eds., To Everyone an Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity, 2004); Mark P. Cosgrove, Foundations of Christian Thought: Faith, Learning and the Christian Worldview (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006); J. Mark Bertrand, Rethinking Worldview: Learning to Think, Live, and Speak in This World (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2007); Michael W. Goheen and Craig W. Bartholomew, Living at the Crossroads: An Introduction to Christian Worldview (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008); Douglas S. Huffman, Christian Contours: How a Biblical Worldview Shapes the Mind and Heart (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2011); Philip G. Ryken, Christian Worldview: A Student’s Guide (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2013); James N. Anderson, What’s Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2014).
  3. I am not suggesting that any of the authors of the worldview movement are intentionally or even unintentionally deficient here. Some may fault me for setting up a straw man here since those writing on worldview would certainly see a relationship with God as an essential part of the Christian worldview. My contention is not with the proponents of the worldview movement but with the patterns that Smith and Denton have identified in American spirituality, and I make the assumption that this is truer of the churches in America than some would like to admit. If Smith and Denton are right about how the average American relates to God, then, as I suggest later, we might have a good deal of “functional deists” who can intellectually assent to the tenets of the Christian worldview without actually living out all of its implications.
  4. Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 171. “It is not so much that U.S. Christianity is being secularized. Rather more subtly, Christianity is either degenerating into a pathetic version of itself or, more significantly, Christianity is actively being colonized and displaced by a quite different religious faith.’”
  5. Smith and Denton, Soul Searching, 164.
  6. Smith and Denton, Soul Searching, 163.
  7. Using James Sire’s approach to deism, “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” would fall within the “warm” deism category since it shares much more in common with Christian theism than other versions of deism that would reject beliefs like the notion of an afterlife. Deism casts a wide net, which might explain why some could self-identify as Christians, though closer analysis reveals stark differences. For a thorough analysis of the variations within deism, see Sire, Universe Next Door, 47-65.
  8. In the worldview of deism, including the popular version of “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” God creates the world and then abandons it to run on its own. As a result, God is no longer relationally connected with humans or his creation. In this worldview, there is still a belief in God, but he is no longer a God of love. He is just the God of natural order.
  9. On a recent car ride, my wife and I started to explain the Trinity to our 3-year old daughter. She tracked with the conversation for a little while and then signaled her exasperation by throwing up her hands and exclaiming, “Ugh!” It is challenging indeed!
  10. Within academic discussion on the Trinity, there are differences on how the Trinity is understood. While some theologians have identified the various persons of the Trinity with certain internal, psychological realities within God that exist as separate hypostases (i.e. self-consciousness, love, etc.), it is difficult for this view to affirm the distinction between the divine persons at all (i.e. Anti Social Trinitarianism). Such a view undermines the notion of God’s being as relationship. In my opinion, a view which sees the three persons as distinct persons is essential in affirming the relational ontology of God. For essays explaining the positives and negatives of each view, see the various essays in Thomas McCall and Michael C. Rea, eds., Philosophical and Theological Essays on the Trinity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).
  11. This does not mean that God’s essence is in flux. Zizoulas summarizes the Greek fathers’ notion of the Trinity in this way: “… God is unmovable in his substance but constantly and eternally moving in himself as person: in relation to himself as Trinity, and outside himself towards creation in his relation to the world.” John D. Zizioulas, “Relational Ontology: Insights from Patristic Thought,” in The Trinity and an Entangled World: Relationality in Physical Science and Theology, ed. John Polkinghorne (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 150.
  12. John D. Zizioulas, Being as Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1985), 17.
  13. Again, John 17:21 shows that the Trinitarian unity welcomes human participation.
  14. Biblical quotations are from the NASB throughout.
  15. Don Thorsen has separated the various views into three categories. The structural view believes that humans have some attribute that they share with God and distinguishes humans from the non-human world. The functional view sees the image as something humans do or perform. Finally, the relational believes that what makes humans like God is their ability to live in relationship with God and others. See Don Thorsen, An Exploration of Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010), 130-2.
  16. Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1-3, ed. John W. de Gruchy (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997), 65. Bonhoeffer believes the image is not to be understood as an analogia entis (analogy of being) but as an analogia relationis (analogy of relationship). For support for this conclusion, one can look to Gen. 2:18, where the only thing wrong with the original creation was that the human being was alone.
  17. Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 192.
  18. Rolf Rendtorff, Canon and Theology: Overtures to an Old Testament Theology, ed. and trans. Margaret Kohl (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 128-9.
  19. This relational exclusivity is likely what resulted in the Israelites’ unique monotheistic perspective. See Jon D. Levenson, Sinai and Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible (Minneapolis: Winston Press, 1985), 56-70.
  20. When Paul speaks of the “knowing” that will be true of the eschatological future, he uses an intensified form of the verb “to know,” which our English translations fail to capture. As a result, I have transliterated the Greek here. The differences highlight the increased “knowing” that will occur in the afterlife, which cannot be had in the current age.
  21. Paul, after all, thought God’s love for humans was extremely intense. See Romans 8:31-9.
  22. Jer. 30:22; cf. Exod. 6:7, Lev. 26:12, Ruth 1:16, Jer. 11:4, 32:28, Ezek. 36:28, 37:27, among others. For more on the covenant formula in Scripture, see Klaus Baltzer, The Covenant Formulary: In Old Testament, Jewish, and Early Christian Writings, trans. David E. Green (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1971).