Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Understanding the Role of Relational Factors in Christian Spirituality

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Understanding the Role of Relational Factors in Christian Spirituality

Article excerpt

Researchers developing multidimensional models of relational quality have largely neglected to consider the potential role of relational spirituality in their models. Recent relational spirituality models have emerged predominantly from a psychodynamic framework. The current study of 385 Christian adults was designed to expand the understanding of the associations between spiritual and relational dimensions. A principal components analysis of 10 measures of spirituality produced two components accounting for just over 50% of the variance. The components were labeled Positive Relationship with God and Instrumental Relationship with God. A second principal components analysis of 7 relationship scales resulted in a single component accounting for 55% of the variance and seemed to measure negative relational quality. This component was labeled Negative Relationships with Others. Using component scores, a multiple regression analysis was then conducted in which the two spirituality components were used to predict relational quality. The two spirituality components accounted for approximately 35% of the variance in the relational component. Theoretical and practical considerations are discussed and areas for further research are recommended.

Despite the longstanding interest in dimensions of interpersonal relationships and the more recent, though profound, emerging interest in spirituality, surprisingly little attention has been directed toward the relationship between these two important domains. The inherently relational nature of spirituality has been largely neglected in model development. It seems reasonable, even likely, that relational dimensions present in horizontal (interpersonal) relationships (e.g., trust, intimacy, attachment, etc.) may also he meaningfully applied to vertical (spiritual) relationships. At the present time, very little is known about associations between religiousness/spirituality' and relational functioning.

Relationship Functioning and Connections with Spirituality and Religion

Many people throughout history have claimed to have a relationship with God, and this is evident across many religions and in both historical and contemporary religious doctrine. Hill and Pargament (2003) stated: "to know God is, according to many traditions, the central function of religion. Systems of religious belief, practice, and relationships are designed to help bring people closer to the transcendent, however the transcendence may be defined" (p. 67). Hill and Hall (2002) argued that people live fundamentally within the context of relationship and reasoned that the quest for the transcendent or sacred involves a search for relationship. Thus, it seems to some that horizontal relationships might be connected in some way to a vertical relationship (with the Divine). Hill and Pargament illustrated this principle by stating "the primacy of human relationships is articulated by most of the world's religions through some variant of the Golden Rule (e.g., caring, love, compassion), and the vehicle for enacting these relationships within most religions is the religious congregation" (p. 69).

In this same context, Hill and Pargament (2003) highlighted philosopher Martin Buber's (1970) belief that "the relation to a human being is the proper metaphor for the relation to God" (p. 151). Buber further commented that both the concept of God and the concept of self are relational. Philosopher Dallas Willard (1999) has suggested that people are designed for communication with God. This notion of a relational connection between humanity and the Divine is not new to people of various religious backgrounds. In fact, Willard argued that, from a Christian perspective, an intimate friendship is as available with God as it is in other close personal relationships. Hill and Hall (2002) emphasized that, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, people are perceived as capable of establishing and maintaining a relationship with the Divine. …

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