Thursday, April 10, 2008

Brick Walls and Trampolines

I just finished reading the section in Velvet Elvis about the Brick Walls and Trampolines, which Terry referred to in this post.

Here are my thoughts:

Lets not discredit Rob Bell for using the virgin birth as his example for the brick analogy. He openly states on the very next page, "I affirm the historic Christian faith, which includes the virgin birth and the Trinity and the inspiration of the Bible and much more."

But the meat of the matter is his analogy of the brick wall and the trampoline. For those of you who have not read this section, the analogy is two parts.

Brick Wall: He is observing that many Christians' faith is brick-like. In other words, one belief is a brick, and each brick sits on top of another brick.
My take: In many ways, this analogy rings true. How else would we have so many different denominations? I think of it as a Lego brick wall. Presbyterians and Protestants might have very similar walls, with a few different colored bricks in the top, middle, and bottom. Some denominations' walls will have different shapes and colors than other walls, but hopefully most of the bottom bricks are the same. We can maybe even say that some of the bottom bricks are different shades of the same color.
Bell goes on to note that "walls" are often defended, and aren't necessarily encouraging for growth, but are more often used as boundaries. I think his analogy breaks down here. First of all, bricks work great if you are describing foundational truths, and how some truths are based on the truth of others. Bricks can also be used to build structures or shelter. Walls shouldn't be the first connotation when we think of bricks. I'm sure that there are many walls Christianity (the Christianity as humans have made it) has built, some good, some bad, some as shelter, but they are not all bad walls. Also, he is only describing the analogy when he says that the virgin birth is only a brick, and what would happen if it was removed? I tend to believe that the virgin birth is a bottom brick, but not the bottom. Christ is the cornerstone after all. If the virgin birth was removed, Christ would still stand and so would a lot of other bricks. (Notice the contrast from this post and my previous post, I still haven't figured it out, and probably never will. God is beyond my comprehension and I like him like that). But let it be said that I think the virgin birth is immovable, because it is so clearly stated in a book I believe is truth.

Trampoline: Here Bell is describing how some aspects of our faith serve as springs in trampolines. They help us understand things better and help us jump higher. Just like jumping simultaneously on a trampoline you can get a much higher "bounce" if you time your jump just right with your partner's landing. One example of a spring is the Trinity. The word trinity is not explicitly stated in scripture. But when we use that "spring" it brings to light so many other aspects of God that we would have had a harder time understanding otherwise. Bell states that springs are not what make up Christianity, but are what help us understand it better.
My take: The trampoline idea is great, but as with most ideas, could be potentially dangerous. Purposefully looking for new springs without discernment can result in a higher jump, but some of them could eventually jump you off the trampoline entirely. I realize I am further stretching this analogy to relate it to getting off course but I feel justified in doing so in light of Bell's stretching of the brick analogy into forming walls.

I also think that while something may be a "spring", it wasn't given to us by our constant thinking and questioning. A true spring is revealed to us by God. God may reveal it to us through our study of scripture, but it is definitely not a man-made revelation. Any not God given spring is definitely one that flings us off the trampoline no matter how subtle it may do so.

4 comments:

Terry said...

i guess someone should acknowledge Chad's post - which was pretty deep.

One of the other issues on Rob Bell (and I like Stevie's comment ;-) ) is the idea of constantly reforming of theology.

I guess we should be constantly looking at scripture and making sure we understand it in context and culture and make sure we have our theology down. The clear things are clear -- its when someone takes those clear things and trys to fuzzy them up and confuse folks that bothers me.

There are gray and silent areas in scripture that we can't be dogmatic about. For example what non-charismatic churches call the sign gifts: healing, tongues, prophesy (ie telling of future events); word of knowledge.

Many of non-charismatic churches added sections to their statements of faith in a reaction to the theology of secondary baptism or "baptism of the Spirit". We hold that you are baptized in the Spirit and sealed by Him when you accept Christ as saviour by faith alone in Him. Most charismatic churches and denominations say you can only be baptized in the Spirit when He comes on you and has you speak in tongues.

This is an area where I wouldn't be dogmatic about because there are separate interpretations that don't deal with the fundamental tenets of the faith -- the foundation as Chad states.

The statement of faith we have identifies us as a non-charismatic church. We don't condemn charismatics and I would never put God in a box and say he wouldn't use those giftings now -- he can do whatever he wants. We just need to be discerning. Even in the early days of the church it seems that these events were rare and for a specific reason to confirm the word of the Lord.

Richie said...

Bell's point is that "bricks" and the "wall" result in people being very defensive and abrasive, rather than inviting as one would be when jumping on a trampoline. What he's saying is that he'd rather someone be on the trampoline jumping (i.e. a believer exploring theology) rather than removing a brick and destroying the wall (i.e. not a believer and never desiring to be).

Go to books.google.com, search for Velvet Elvis then go to page 27 near the bottom for the explanation.

Do I agree? Partly, in the sense that the goal is for people to come to Christ and not to turn them away. But I also disagree partly, because you are in danger of introducing half-truths and lies into a body with "weak brothers" who may believe them and stumble. Ultimately, it underscores the importance of community within the church. You must know each other well enough to weed out bad teachers.

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