In a classic passage in his Psychology (I, 479 f.) William James lamented the existence and persistence of the universal and the structured in the thought of his day, and longed for a world-view that would focus attention upon particulars and concretes. Had he lived until our day, he would doubtless have been more than satisfied with the contemporary emphasis upon the particularistic, the individualistic, and more especially the relational.
Relationalism is without doubt a reaction to the depersonalization and the alienation of our time. But like most reactions, it tends to be extreme. Many feel that we are being caught up in a maze of irrational and irresponsible interpersonalism in which relation and interaction replace all forms of structured thought and behavior.
Many are accepting uncritically the so-called relational theology. One is tempted to wonder whether this acceptance is not too largely the result of reaction—a product of an age of sloganeering, of grasping at any formula that sounds plausible.
It seems to me that the so-called relational theology strikes squarely at the heart of important theological matters, and that its implications for these matters are not often articulated. Space does not permit a discussion of its implications for the biblical view of revelation. But there are also profound issues at stake in relationalism for the Christian understanding of man, the biblical understanding of Christ’s atoning work, and the biblical norm for ethical behavior.
There is constant and studied resistance in our time to any view of “human nature” as a fixed and constant thing. It is frequently asserted that the “image of God” as biblically understood involves nothing structured ...1
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