"Covenant" versus "Relationship"

Historic orthodoxy (Catholic and Protestant) has recognized the basic mode of God’s revelation to and communion with Man in terms of the concept of covenant. The concept of covenant can be generally understood by observing the biblical accounts of God’s taking the initiative to bestow the knowledge of his being, personhood and attributes on his fallen creatures, announcing an unconditional promise to them, and at times presenting conditions for various reasons with various effects.

In nineteenth through twenty-first century American Christianity, however, the term most popularly utilized to represent God’s revelation to and communion with man is the term, “relationship.” The use of this term is detrimental to a clear understanding of God’s “relation” to man, because our use of this term generally grows out of the common romantic or humanly familial senses of the word. Furthermore, the fact that the term is utilized as opposed to “covenant” is evidence of the widespread lack of sound theological and biblical discipleship among American Christians, a group described by German neo-orthodox theologian (no, I don’t endorse “neo-orthodoxy”) Dietrich Bonhoeffer as “Protestantism without the Reformation.”

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