I think that the phrase that Christianity isn’t a religion but a relationship has reached peak cliche status. To the point that it means almost nothing given the contexts the phrase is used in.
There is one fundamental area where it does shine drastic insight. This area is the nature of our relationship with God. The nature of how we relate to God.
In this video, Paul Vanderklay lines out two ideas about God. One is an idea of God as being an entity but not really a person. This god as an idea is handy in rationalizing the world in which we live. The second is the idea of God as a personal agent. This video actually discusses some philosophical areas that I don’t want to get into here. But, it explains two concepts that are often held about God and thus our relationship to the two concepts.
Now, what do we view God as? Is God the moral ideal of humanity? Is God a concept of goodness that grounds us? Is God a metric of comparison for judgement and correction?
Let me bring it down a little. When I was a teenager in youth group, my view of God was one that was really a structure for being able to know who I was. I saw the characteristics of God from the Bible and compared myself and others to that ‘standard’. I based my self worth both on how I matched up to that ideal and how I related in juxtaposition to other people. How much better am I then my friends, is a question I often visited.
This is God #1 as Paul describes in the video. It is a concept of God that just helps us relate to the world in some arbitrary way. And there are a lot of different ways to view God through this first aspect.
The second aspect of God is less held then number one. Virtually everyone has a concept of God that is akin to aspect number one. Even scientists who are trying to find the unified theory of physics would fit their idea of physical reality into a sort of God, though they may not call it God. They could say reality, purpose, the causal agent, or any of number of things and maybe hitting on the same idea of God aspect number one but in different headings.
God aspect number two, or God #2, is God beyond a concept of orientation but also a person of sorts. For Christians, this is more what we picture God as being. A person like agent (obviously more than a person but that sort of relationship). An entity with emotions, plans, thoughts, opinions. One that is able to communicate and be communicated with.
When Christians talk about our touching points with God being more a relationship than an intellectual ascent, this is what we are talking about. God is more than a concept of how the world works and a source of arbitrary meaning; He is a person (although not merely in the human sense).
Bringing it down again, God #2 is someone we can pray to. Someone we can trust. Yes, we make sense of the world through God, but not as a group of concepts or ideas, but as a person who has chosen to speak to us.
My intentions for this article aren’t very lofty. I just wanted to present something that has been on my mind. I suggest looking into the videos that Paul puts out. He talks about philosophy and religion- and somethings that are happening in the intellectual realm relating to the two.
He is doing a really good work with helping Christians (and others) to better understand the current discussion where religion and philosophy are. Here is his Youtube channel.