Christianity is a personal Relationship with Jesus: part 2

I am taking a couple of weeks off for action, I need to know people are reading this blog please let me me hear from you. If you want this blog to continue.

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Let's remember in part 1 established that the christian walk is both an individual relationship with God 1x1 and membership in a body of Christ. This  is not a contradiction   because it is a body, a collective made up of individuals who have personal relationships with God. The idea that we only have a relationship with the church can   be a big excuse not to do what we know is right but to use membership in the group to shield us from personal responsibility. Of course it can also be used by the leader of the group to take control of the lives of individuals and abuse power.

I am specifically addressing the article by  Chad Bird. [1] I do not know anything about brother Bird but I do know that he uses a set of flimsy arguments to defend his position. Let's examine them. I am not accusing him   or his group of anything but he makes some strong statements I think his view on this subject is wrong,


Bird says:
Christianity is about a church relationship with Jesus.
I know this runs contrary to what many modern believers think. And even desire. In an age when we are more isolated than ever, when our worlds often shrink to the size of a phone screen, talk of community sounds like a radical departure from the norm. 
It's also a veg and meaningless term because you are not having a relationship with Jesus if your relationship is limited by the  group. You are actually just having a relationship with the leader of the group that's especially true in this age of shepherding and other authority heavy doctrines.


It is. But the norm of the Christian faith is not isolated believers, little islands of spirituality, but a continent of Christians banded together by the Spirit. We are baptized into one body, the body of Jesus. Our so-called personal relationship with Jesus is indeed with his person—his body of which all other believers are a part. Fingers don’t have a relationship with Jesus apart from the hand, the hand from the arm, the arm from the shoulder, and so on.
He tries to interpose the group in place of Jesus himself on the pretext that the chruch is Christ's body. There two problems here: (1) Bodies are made up of members Paul makes that clear,we are members (cells really) we have to start with out own relationship of recovery salvation and giving our lives to Christ before we are in  they body so the personal relationships is fundamental to the group. (2) He is really speaking of the mystical body of Christ which is the collection of all of those who belong to Jesus,  living and dead. But, we don't meet with them on Sunday. Our individual lives are bordered by man made groups called "churches" that ca be anything from regular boundary people to horrible cults but they usually tend to be ordinary people. When you start making the group the thing you become subject to a group dynamic and wind up usually serving the leader of the group, Bird is putting his own leadership above that of Christ in the lives of his members.

Even when we pray, we pray communally. Indeed, the only prayer Jesus taught us to pray begins, “Our Father,” not “My Father.” No one ever prays alone. We pray in Jesus, through the Spirit, to the Father, in a vast concert with all other believers. Me-and-Jesus prayers are impossible. There are only us-and-Jesus prayers—“us” being that innumerable throng of saints from the foundation of the world until now, whose unheard voices join ours in an ongoing prayer to our Father.
Of course no one prays alone we pray to and with God but Bird seems to be elevating his own leadership to a position where he takes the place of God in the life of the individual. He seems to think that the one from of relationship (membership in the group) outweighs individual relationship or is contradiction to it and is inane. We are not praying to the church, there is no passage that says our prayers pass trough the church  or that they are heard by the church. It does say there is but one mediator between God and humanity and that is Jesus not the church or the minister or anyone else, (1 Tim 2:5). I already covered in part one the concept that prayer is individual and it is expected that we pray in private 1x1 with God.(Matthew 6:6) "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." I find it extremely suspicious that Bird seems to be trying to debar private prayer.
When we read the Bible, we read communally. Think about it. The Bible you read—the book itself—is a communal product. Translated, printed, bound, and sold not by us personally but by others.We read, often unconsciously, with the voices of preachers, teachers, and parents from over the years guiding our knowledge, assumptions, and beliefs. And, ideally, we read the Scriptures with others. In groups, in classes, with an eye to the wisdom of the past and the voices of brothers and sisters studying it with us.
No when I read the Bible I read it by  myself. My books are not  living people I use my Greek lexicons but they are not alive. The printer and the President of Zondervon never show up at my house for Bible study. I find it disturbing that he wants to prevent individuals from studying and thinking and praying on their own, 

Above all, however, Jesus calls us into a living, active, worshiping community that regularly gathers around his gifts. We are washed into his body on the stream of baptism. We eat the communal meal of his body and blood. We sing together, pray together, confess together, grieve and heal and eventually die together. He gives us pastors. He gives us brothers and sisters in the faith. He gives us children to teach, elders to emulate, and even less-than-likable people to love as those for whom Christ died.
That's all good but no reason why we can't also do other,  The individual relationship  is prerequisite for membership in the church. These are two sides of the normal   Christian life they are not contradictions of each other. 
Christianity is not a solo endeavor. Not a private relationship between Jesus and me. As the Lord formed Israel in the Old Testament as his people, forged together into a body by his covenant, so he has formed the church in the New Testament as his people, washed together into a body by baptism.
Yes it is first and foremost a private relationship with one in winch we reach out to others and in which we play out that relationship in the company and solidarity of others who also know Jesus. These are not mutually  exclusive. 

Thank God it is this way. Heaven forbid that I should have a personal relationship with Jesus. For I know what would happen: I would end up, in my mind, reshaping my personal Jesus into a strikingly familiar image: the image of me.
As it is, Jesus is reshaping us into his image, in the church, surrounded by others, all of whom together, communally, are the one body of Christ.
No Jesus is not reshaping you the leader of your group is reshaping you into his image not Christ's you are not speeding time alone in prayer with God,you are not listening to the still small voice.


[1] Chad Bird, "Christianity is not about a personal relationship with Jesus," blo: Chad Bird (April 26, 2017)




Comments

douglas eddy said…
Yes, it's a personal relationship that can be shared and bless others as well.
Joe Hinman said…
hey man ,thanks for your comments tell me more.
james hobbs said…
Hello, thank you Mr Hinnman for your great blog which is very informative and educating for people like me! it is clearly mentioned as you say in scripture and it must be the case that we have a relationship with God that is individual and personal and together with others,it is a bit of both, 99% of the time Christians as individuals aren't with other Christians as even going to church every week only amounts to a couple of hours a week with the rest )!99%) of the time we are not in church we are individual Christians carrying out personal relationship with God alone! We don't suddenly cease to be Christians when we leave the church for the rest of the week!I don't think this means we treat God like a buddy it does mean we acknowledge him in our minds as we go along each day with thankfulness and our thoughts on others(and animals and environment) and their needs.God now's that most of the time our lives are spent on our own that is just life but we look forward to fellowship with others when it does happen. J Hobbs.
Joe Hinman said…
Thanks James I appreciate your views. One thin you reminded me of that i forgot to use, Jesus says out spirit calls to God saying"aba father," Aba was Aramaic I think, it meant'Daddy.' It was an informal "buddy" kind of name for God. So we do have the most intimate buddy relationship with God. Of course it's all metaphor. you can[t be too literal but that does not make it unreal.

We should respect our father so calling my fahter Daddy did not mean I didn't respect him.
JBsptfn said…
Wow. It's nice to get some friendly comments this time, huh Joe? You usually have to argue with some atheist on every entry.
Joe Hinman said…
yea it's great
im-skeptical said…
Do you recognize a pattern? Stick to making claims about God, and I generally don't argue. Make false scientific claims, and the scientist in me begs to differ.
Joe Hinman said…
you have an un undergraduate understanding of science and a childish understanding of religion. Talk about can;t think think outside the box you can't find the wall of the box.

circular reasoning and begging the question. never know when you;ve lost an argument,
im-skeptical said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
im-skeptical said…
You are impressed by your own ad hominem attacks. Think they make you sound intelligent, do you? Me - not so much.
Joe Hinman said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Hinman said…
ok let me put it back on a positive note One thing I admire you for Skep is that you are always ready to contrite something,and you are very knowledgeable.
im-skeptical said…
I appreciate the comment. I'm not seeking praise, but I would very much like to have lively debates, and keep things on a friendly note.
Joe Hinman said…
agreed! I am on vacation now from blogging. I am working to getting my next book out. That will give you plenty to argue about.It's called God, Science, and Ideology.

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