Below is text from a dear friend's blog. He asks a very crucial question to which I have responded.
I found this blurb associated with a Bible teacher's resume: "a passion for helping people grow in an intimate relationship with God through the study of His Word."
Two questions (and their related questions) come to mind:
Is the study of God's word the only way of growing as a Christian? Is that the only way one can help Christians grow?
Is "an intimate relationship with God" the goal of Christian growth? What does "an intimate relationship with God" mean? What does it look like?
What do you think?
Here's my response.
1. The study of God's word is not the only way of growing as a Christian? If that were true then Christian growth would be very difficult if not impossible for the illiterate Christian, the Christian for whom the Bible has not been translated, etc. The way we help our brothers and sisters toward Christian growth is to lead them into the fellowship of the Trinity. We lead them into that communion as we lead them toward Bible study and meditation, prayer, fasting, confession, partaking the sacraments, suffering, etc. Truly our Christian life comes from partaking of Christ (John 6.33, 52-58). I believe the evangelical infatuation with Bible study as the catalyst for spiritual growth betrays an Enlightenment influence. Bible knowledge is quantifiable. If I can recite for you summaries of each NT book, I have certifiable evidence that I am “spiritual.” This is a notion of spirituality that is void of mystery. When we embrace mystery we are free to let Jesus' words in John 6 speak for themselves. I cannot verify to my congregation how eating bread and drinking wine imparts Christ and his eternal life unto them. But I believe because that is where the Church has led me.
2. I struggle with the notion of “an intimate relationship.” First, it sounds to me a bit perverted. In his Prayer, Jesus invites his followers to join him in praying to God as Father. So as I link in faith to Jesus and his family of those who obey God (Mark 3.35), I become a member of God’s family as a brother of Jesus and son of God. Therefore, the NT instructs me to relate to Jesus as my brother and God as my Father (Rom 8.15-17; Gal 3-4). Not a relationship I would refer to as intimate.
The notion of an intimate relationship also sounds very individualistic. When the NT speaks of Christian growth and maturity it most often refers to the growth of the Body not just one member (see Eph 4.16). Therefore, my individual growth is only important insofar as it contributes to the growth of Christ’s Body the church. St. Paul states very clearly that spirituality is strictly connected to relationships in the church (1 Cor 3.1-4), relationships that are necessary for my growth and maturity.