Thursday, January 4

Trampolines vs. Brick Walls

One of my best Christmas presents this year was a copy of Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis. This is an excellent book. I finished it by Boxing Day and don't really have the time to list all the great points it made. One helpful image Bell uses (on pp. 22-28) is the picture of the doctrines of the Christian faith as springs in a trampoline, rather than bricks in a wall.

Springs aren't the point of the trampoline - jumping is. Springs help you jump. Springs can stretch when examined, pulled about, whatever. In fact, their stretchiness is kinda the point. If they weren't stretchy they'd be rubbish springs and useless for jumping. The springs are very important but they aren't the whole deal.

Bricks, on the other hand, are very different. Try to take out one brick or 'stretch it' and it's liable to crumble; and with it the whole wall. Bricks are the point of a wall - their purpose is to be immovable and impenetrable. Mess with them at your peril. The other thing about walls is that they exist to keep us in and/or keep others out. For it to keep doing this job (one I don't think Jesus spent a lot of time on) it must be defended, kept immovable. So you end up talking about how right your bricks are, because without them the wall comes down and the whole endeavour ("brickianity") is lost.

As Bell puts it, "you rarely defend a trampoline". No, you jump on it - and invite others to come and jump too.

It strikes me that the trampoline image is more faithful to the early church fathers. These guys had this tremendous experience of living in the way of Jesus Christ - the experience of "jumping" - and developed the doctrines of the Christian faith (the springs) which best described what they knew to be true. And we should learn from them and use the springs they developed as long as they are still good for jumping. But the doctrines weren't originally the point (although it seems like they quickly became more "brick-like"). Following Jesus was the point.

Because, as Bell puts it on p. 27, "God is bigger than any wall. God is bigger than any religion. God is bigger than any worldview. God is bigger than the Christian faith".


Blogger Jamie said...

I've been thinking about this some more this week as part of my sermon preparation on "Being a Welcoming Church". How about the image of a wall versus a well (the alliteration helps for preaching - my Dad taught me well!)

Wall - the point is to keep it solid, unmoving and keep people "in" or "out".

Well - the point is to drink, and invite others to drink and be refreshed. The well needs to be kept connected to the source of water, and can't be allowed to go stagnant.

There's a farming analogy here (nicked from Frost and Hirsch, "The Shaping of Things to Come" p. 47ff.) In some farming communities, fences or walls are needed to keep the animals in the right place. But in more rural communities (like South African game reserves or the Aussie outback), people/animals don't need to be "walled in" because they will naturally congregate around the well.

Good stuff, eh? Applies to theology and church practise. And a free preview of my next sermon...!

P.S. thoughts on this thread may well end up in said sermon. All help appreciated!

1/15/2007 05:10:00 pm  

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