I have a theory; one that regular followers may very well have guessed but which I will come out and explicitly say now. Relationship is the key to theology. Let me explain.
It starts with God Himself. As I’ve talked about before on this blog, God’s freely chosen Triune nature establishes God, in and of Himself, as a relational being. This must be foundational in our understanding of the universe and how reality works. God, without involving anyone else, just as He is, exists as relationship. Now, if you don’t understand relationship as a theological term, then his Trinitarian nature becomes somewhat confusing and inapplicable; but when you start looking at theology and reality through this lens of relationship, then God’s relationality becomes a really big deal.
Why, well, because it forms the foundation of how God created and how He interacts with that creation. I wrote a whole chapter on this in my thesis, and have uploaded parts of that to the blog (look in the sidebar “Relationship in Genesis 1-5”), so I’ll just hit the highlights here. I think that the way God chose to create is telling. God didn’t just create individual beings, individual, unconnected pieces and then set them off to live individual, unconnected Lone Ranger lives. He created us to live together in this vast interconnected web we call the universe. Everything from stars, to planets, to bacteria, and even pebbles exist as integral parts of the environment in which God has placed them. Every member, every piece of creation can only function well as it relates correctly with the other pieces of its eco-system; and when all members of creation correctly relate to all others, that is called Shalom. God is a relational god and He created us to be relational people.
Further, God has chosen to relate to humans and to humanity. He could have left us on our own to wander through life as best we could, but He didn’t. He chose to commit to us. He chose to make Himself known to us. He chose to walk with us through all the worst consequences of our choices. Nowhere is this more evident than in the incarnation and crucifixion of our Lord. In the person of Christ, God descended to live as one of us, to experience all of the hardships of human life, to be tempted, and ultimately to die to heal the breach in relationship between God and humanity.
So we have a relational God, who created relational people, and who has chosen to enter into intimate and committed relationship with those people. Now we can look at other areas of theology and see them through this lens of relationality. Heaven is defined as a state of pure, unhindered, and intimate communion with God. This communion has always been God’s desire. It is why He created us, it is what Sin robbed us of, and it is what Jesus is saving us to. Communion is the Mission of God. Sin is relational entropy, as I’ve claimed here before. Righteousness is the practical means by which communion is formed and sustained. Every area of theology, from eschatology to hamartiology, ecclesiology and all the other -ologies may be seen through this same lens of relationality.
As we pursue this course, however, it seems to me that relationship, or communion (relationship’s more theologically weighted synonym), is the glue that brings together all aspects of theology into one meaningful whole. It is the one idea that can unify the disparate field of theology.