Tuesday, September 25, 2007

book review, part 1--velvet elvis...springs

"This is where the springs on the trampoline come in. When we jump, we begin to see the need for springs. The springs help make sense of these deeper realities that drive how we live every day. The springs aren't god. The springs aren't Jesus. The springs are statements and beliefs about our faith that help give words to the depth that we are experienceing in our jumping. I would call these the doctrines of the Christian faith.

"They aren't the point."

It's an interesting idea he has here, relating Christian doctrines to the springs on a trampoline. A bit later, he contrasts this view with another view of doctrine.

"It hit me while I was watching that for him faith isn't a trampline; it's a wall of bricks. Each of the core doctrines for him is like an individual brick that stacks on top of the others. If you pull one out, the whole wall starts to crumble. It appears quite strong and rigid, but if you begin to rethink or discuss even one brick, the whole thing is in danger. Like he said, no six-day creation equals no cross. Remove one, and the whole wall wobbles."

Let us assume that he may be right in this--that some see Christian doctrine as something like a brick wall. Bell seems to think this view is inflexible, unlike the metaphor of the spring.

Let me ask another question--which metaphor is true, or at least closest to the truth?

Oddly, here is Bell's first comment about his family's trampoline.

"Several years ago my parents and in-laws gave our boys a trampoline. A fifteen-footer with netting around the outside so kids don't end up headfirst in the flowers."

I didn't immediate notice that when I read the above, but when I did, it reminded me of something I read in Chesterton's Orthodoxy.

"Those countries in Europe
which are still influenced by priests, are exactly the countries
where there is still singing and dancing and coloured dresses and art
in the open-air. Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls;
but they are the walls of a playground. Christianity is the only
frame which has preserved the pleasure of Paganism. We might fancy
some children playing on the flat grassy top of some tall island
in the sea. So long as there was a wall round the cliff's edge
they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the
place the noisiest of nurseries. But the walls were knocked down,
leaving the naked peril of the precipice. They did not fall over;
but when their friends returned to them they were all huddled in
terror in the centre of the island; and their song had ceased."

I found it amusing that Bell's trampoline has a net around it, like Chesterton's island had a wall around it. Not only that, but the wall and the net serve the same purpose--to keep those inside from falling off in their play.

A metaphor is only a metaphor, and shouldn't be taken too far. To say "X is kind of like Y" is not to say "X is Y". Perhaps Bell's metaphor is not entirely pointless, but I'm not completely happy with it, either.

I prefer Chesterton's metaphor of the wall in regards to doctrine. These are the unchangeables, the essentials, the basics that must be accepted as true.

The springs, then, would be the nonessentials. For example, the types of music a church chooses to play, types of services, styles of preaching, buildings, meeting times, and so on.

It could be said that, if Bell makes the mistake of trying to makes parts of the wall into springs, another mistake with its own long history is making springs into parts of the wall. Very true, which is why for now I'm not really going far into what I consider essentials. I don't necessarily agree that just because someone points out a mistake, it is then incumbent upon them to give a solution. If someone stops me and asks how far it is to a certain city, and I know the road they are on will not take them there, saying so is of some practical use to them, and if the person asking gets in a huff because I cannot show them what roads will take them there, then so be it.

But while I do not want to deep, here are some things I've noticed in regards to what was said in those sermons recorded in Acts.

Acts 2 records Peter's sermon at Pentacost. It is very long. Peter is speaking to people who already had a good idea of who Christ was, the works He did, and how He died(vs. 22-23). Verse 24 may even mean that they had heard about His resurrection, thought I'm not sure of that. Verses 29-36 lay stress on the resurrection of Christ and its significance. When the people who heard it asked how to respond, Peters call was for them to repent and be baptized for the cleansing of their sins (v. 38-39).

Chapter 3 has another sermon of Peters, after he and John were involved in the healing of a lame man at the Temple. Here he tells the people to "repent and be converted" (v. 19).

The incident of Philip and the Ethiopian is recorded in chapter 8. We are not given what Philip spoke to him, only that he "preached Jesus to him" (v. 35). When the Ethipoian man asked about being baptized, his response to Philip's question about belief was "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (v. 37). This seemed to have satisfied Philip, and God.

Chapter 10 if Peter at Cornelius' house. Here Peter mentions Jesus' works, death, and resurrection, and that "whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins" (vs. 34-43).

In chapter 13 is a sermon by Paul in a city called Antioch in a place called Pisidia. He was in a synagogue, and speaking to Jewish people. He gives a small bit history, building up to Christ, and then speaks again of His death and resurrection. Paul gives this towards the end, "Therefore let it be know to you, brethren, that through this Man (Jesus) is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses" (vs. 38-39).

Paul at Athens is in chapter 17. In that sermon, there is this statement, "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywher to repent". He also makes mention of Jesus being raised from the dead.

Paul before Festus in chapter 26 is not really a sermon, I suppose. Here Paul says that his message has been "that the Christ would suffer, that He woujld be the first to rise form the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish peole and to the Gentiles" (v. 23).

There was also Paul and Silas at Philippi, saying to the jailer "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved..." (16:31).

The life, death, and resurrection of Christ is stressed in most of them, with the emphasis seeming to be that those events really happened and are important to trusting Christ. Repentence is another theme, with it being central to the forgiveness and remission of sins. Belief in Christ is another important part of the message.

So we have those things that seem to be central to true faith--a belief in Christ and in the reality of the things recorded of Him concerning His life, works, death, and resurrection; and repentence for sins so as to be made clean of them.

These seem to be the basic, nonnegotiable things for true Christian faith, or to put it another way, these are the beliefs that are at the walls of the Christian life. To not accept these seems to be to not accept what God requires.

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