Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Fun of Faith

Thursday night, Glen and I are going to an event at Biola University, "Can a Christian Be a Darwinist? A Theistic Evolution Debate." I can't wait! I love this kind of thing. This presents a great opportunity for me to think through what I know of God. I like big questions. I LOVE big questions. It makes my faith walk alive and joyful. Rob Bell, a pastor in Michigan, paints a great word picture (actually two) that present my perspective.

Rob Bell expresses some awesome thoughts on faith in Velvet Elvis: For some, faith "is a wall of bricks. Each of the core doctrines for [some] 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...Remove one, and the whole wall wobbles...I affirm the historic Christian faith, which includes the virgin birth and the Trinity and the inspiration of the Bible and much more. I'm a part of it, and I want to pass it on to the next generation. I believe that God created everything and that Jesus is Lord and that God has plans to restore everything...the brick wall becomes the sum total of beliefs, and God becomes as big as the wall. But 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."

He uses word pictures of building a brick wall or jumping on a trampoline to compare different perspectives on personal faith in God. The trampoline mat represents God and all that He is. The springs represent our doctrinal belief and understanding of God as humans. "Springs hold up the mat -- but they aren't God." A spring helps "us understand, but they are a means and not an end. We take them seriously, and at the same time we keep them in proper perspective." We can take a spring out and look closely at it, talk about it, probe it, and ask about it. The spring bends and moves. A spring is connected to the mat in a strong way with plenty of room to move and adjust. Those springs bring us to a "fuller, deeper, richer, understanding of the mysterious being who is God."

The point that I enjoy is that faith is more of a trampoline than a wall of bricks for me. As Rob Bell says, " brickworld: you spend a lot of time talking about how right you are. Which of course leads to how wrong everybody else is. Which then leads to defending the wall. It struck me...that you rarely defend a trampoline. You invite people to jump on it with you...I am far more interested in jumping than I am in arguing about whose trampoline is better. You rarely defend things you love. You enjoy them and tell others about them and invite others to enjoy them with you."

So I know longer avoid the questions. I hug them. For me to truly follow a living God, I need questions and my faith has room for them. I need to look closely at "springs" any chance I get. A question reminds me I don't have all the answers. Questions open the door for me to see beyond myself and focus on a big God. There is more to know. Central to a healthy faith for me is the gift of questioning God. I am polite, of course. Permission to question grants me freedom. And joy in my faith follows. I love the "I was just wondering, God..." moments in my journey. It keeps me thoughtful of the mystery of God.

Rob Bell continues..."a trampoline only works if you take your feet off the firm, stable ground and jump into the air and let the trampoline propel you upward...and so we jump and we invite others to jump with us, to live the way of Jesus and see what happens...[faith] becomes less and less about talking, and more and more about the experience we are actually having."

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