brick walls, toyotas and trampolines…

I once owned a Toyota pickup.  First I had an 86 with a 4 cylinder engine.  Then I sold it and bought my father-in-law’s 89 with a V6.  It had a much nicer interior, and in all honesty, it ran a little better.  The only problem was the gas mileage.  I got about 15 miles to the gallon on a good day.  I sold it before I moved to Canada, though.

I’ve been reading Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell.  I haven’t gotten very far, but I can already see all of the controversy that this guy has caused.  He suggests that there are two ways of looking at God/Christianity.  (I’m sure that he would agree that these aren’t the only two ways, but these are the two ways that he gives.)  One way is a brick wall.  Each brick represents a specific doctrine and if any one of those doctrines is removed, it compromises the entirety of the wall.  He cites the example of a Creation apologist who said that to deny the literal 6-day creation is to deny the Resurrection.  Thats a pretty big jump, and while denying the literal 6-day creation will certainly lead to implications in other areas of theology, it wouldn’t necessarily lead to faithlessness.  I know very Godly people who are theistic evolutionists.  I disagree with them, but it doesn’t affect the whole of their theology.

The other thing Bell suggests is a trampoline.  The actual jumping surface represents God and our relationship with him while the springs represent specific doctrines.  The doctrines hold the rest in place, but, like springs, they are flexible.  And if one breaks or is removed, it doesn’t compromise things that much.  Its when you start taking them all and throwing them out that things get tricky.

Now I understand his point and agree that the brick wall view just doesn’t work.  And I realize that this is just an analogy and isn’t meant to be perfect or explain everything.  And the trampoline idea fits his point better than what I’m about to say.

But I think that in view of Christianity and the way it relates to different doctrines or theological views a much better analogy to use is one of a car, or, specifically, an 80’s-early 90’s Toyota pickup.

In Upstate South Carolina and Western North Carolina, these trucks are all over the roads.  Aside from my own, they get better gas mileage than big trucks, are more maneuverable than big trucks, are relatively inexpensive, are easy to work on, and last forever (its not unusual to for trucks that are in good condition at 250-300 thousand miles.)

I think of theology this way.  We all have Toyota pickups.  Our relationship with Christ is the engine.  Our doctrines and theologies are the parts.  Some of our parts need replacing.  Some of them just need to be cleaned up.  Some of them don’t need replacing but we replace them with something a little different anyway, and our truck doesn’t run quite as well as it did before.  Some of us refuse to change any parts, even the spark plugs, so our truck is almost dead, and is unlikely to take anyone anywhere.  Some of us still use a carburator even though it would run much cleaner if we’d just modify and install EFI.  Some of us have modified ours to run on deisel, some bio-deisel.

Some of the parts it doesn’t really matter whether we use a third party or a certified toyota part.  For some of the parts it matters quite a bit that we use the exact part.  Some of us have the old body style, some of us have the new body style.  Some of us even have Fourunners.  They look different, have a different wheel base, but its the same truck.  Some of us have 2-wheel drive and can’t go all the same places as someone with 4 wheel drive can.  Some of us have 4-wheel drive, but its broken.  Some of us try to replace the engine with a camry or celica engine and lower the body and wind up not having a truck at all, but a car that looks like a truck.

The point is, until we completely gut the thing and just end up with a shell and then try to make it into something its not, we still have the same truck.  Some of them run well, some not very well.  Some run great while one that has vastly different parts runs just as well.  The point is, they’re all the same truck, and while its good to make sure that everyone’s truck is running well, the really important thing is that it runs.  One day, we’ll all know which parts are wrong and well get all the right parts and our trucks will run perfectly.  But for now, we need to do the best we can to make sure our truck runs and that our neighbor’s truck runs.  And we can continue to work on them for the rest of our lives.

Thats just something I thought of.  I’m sure it has a few kinks.  Tell me what you think.

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5 thoughts on “brick walls, toyotas and trampolines…

  1. I really like the analogy. It works. It works well, in fact.

    I also really liked Velvet Elvis, but I think the trampoline analogy doesn’t work as Bell hoped it would. Or perhaps it works really well, but needs further development — a trampoline, after all, still has to have some legs to stand on that cannot be replaced, else it falls to the ground and becomes completely useless.

    But I like Toyota trucks better.

  2. The thing that I really like about the trampoline analogy is when he says you are supposed to defend a wall. But a trampoline, you just invite people to jump on it with you.

  3. Yeah i liked your illustration.

    I thought Bell’s book was a great conversation starter and caused us to think about what we believe and why?

    I agree that each of us may see things differently, but if we both see Jesus and desire to make much of Him, we have a lot right with that alone!

    The problem is when we give up the key biblical truths that completely destroy our vehicles and others as well… We need to be able to move and not pollute the air when we move, if you catch my drift. Rick Mckinley once said that you can study God completely in his parts, but miss his being all together! I wonder what’s more important sometimes, Knowing God or knowing His parts? And could you still know the true God well, if you had some of the parts mixed up?

    Alas, this conversation can become very difficult!

  4. I think your analogy is better.

    I’m not as critical of the trampoline analogy as I used to be because even in the Reformed thought that I generally adhere to, we see different expressions of doctrine. Those springs are allowed to flex. Inviting people to jump with you carries the spirit of freedom that Christ bought much more than defending a wall: that sounds like arguing with people for the sake of feeling smug at the end of the debate.

    I still have an issue or two with Bell, but those stem more from the way he’s decided to present his message and how it could be misinterpreted than with what the message actually is.

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