Relationships and Intimacy in the Modern World
When talking about the relationships that characterize the Christian life, I wonder whether both our language and concepts of relationship have been weakened in a manner that makes it hard to appreciate what these things mean any longer. God’s revelation of his presence in and through a community that shares a deep and strong common life is not the same thing as that presence experienced in the ersatz ‘community’, where feelings of mutual belonging are often substituted for the fact. Similarly, the gravitational pull towards forms of religious expression focused upon intimacy, sentimentality, and romantic attachment may be a result of the fact that our relational palette has been considerably reduced by the character of modern life, as all close relationships start to become subsumed under the generic category of ‘intimacy’, and we no longer can relate to the forms of worship and piety that were meaningful in societies with a richer and finely differentiated relational matrix.
How We Forgot What Sonship Means
As our understanding of the relationship of sonship has been transformed as society has changed, and we read modern notions of sonship back into the scriptures, one of the effects is to infantilize our understanding of our relationship with God. Being sons of God becomes associated with passive emotional attachment detached from active discipleship. This infantilization encourages the loss of the place of the mind and the marginalization of the virtues of the mature person (courage, strength, self-discipline, self-sacrifice, etc.) within our understanding of the Christian life. Sonship becomes an almost entirely internalized concept of felt intimacy, rather than an outward looking concept of representation and commission. It becomes a private bond, rather than a bond that is lived out in a manner that is essentially visible to the whole of society. It can also become a narcissistic connection, rather than one that celebrates the broader familial bonds within which it includes us. It can become detached from the context of entering into inheritance.