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Velvet Elvis

November 5, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

I’ve actually been done with Velvet Elvis since when I went to Haiti in September, and I honestly tried to avoid posting about it.  Unfortunately, I’ve run out of cool things to post about, and just want to spur some discussion.  

In the book, Rob Bell presents the concept that the Christian church has viewed faith and belief as a brick wall, where if you take out one brick, the entire wall crumbles.  He proposes to look at it like a trampoline, where one can remove a spring, and still be able to jump.  Sounds good, eh?  (I am not dealing with the issue of someone who is a non-Christian and wanting to become a Christian, but those who define themselves as a born-again believer.)  

Bell presents the idea that, take for instance the Virgin Birth of Christ, is not essential for someone to be a Christian.  While there is a fine line here to be walked, I can affirm that this is not the essential part for someone to be a Christian, as with the youth group we have been studying Romans and faith in Jesus Christ is what justifies someone and makes them righteous before God….nonetheless, I do have problems with this concept of things being a trampoline or a brick wall.  

If you have a brick wall, and take out the Virgin Birth, the wall will crumble, especially given that this seems to be a foundational belief that other beliefs are linked to.  If you have a trampoline, and remove this spring, you can still bounce…which is it?  

My problem with this view of a trampoline is simply this: if you remove the Virgin Birth, then you have logically removed the prophecies of the virgin birth from the Old Testament.  If you remove those prophecies, then why believe in other prophecies if they’re not all true?  If all of the prophecies are not true, then why believe in the Bible at all?!?!?  Why believe in a personal God, if he gives us a book that is not reliable?  And the list could go on and on.  To me, this appears to be almost like pulling a brick out of a wall, and the wall falling down.

Let’s look at it this way.  When I was younger, I had a cousin who we would spend Thanksgiving with.  It was great going over there because they had a trampoline.  One problem though was we had to avoid one side of the trampoline because it had a few springs missing…  Why would we have to avoid it though?  Because the weight of us would start popping the other springs!  (In fact, it wasn’t long after Thanksgiving that I understand the trampoline had to be sent to trampoline heaven because it was useless…)  Maybe it is just me, but I cannot see, nor agree, with Rob Bell’s idea that there are not essential parts that one should believe as a Christian.  It seems to be a very dangerous slope.

(I will point out that I would not judge someone as going to hell if they don’t believe that Christ was born of a virgin.  I am not saying that it is ESSENTIAL that someone have all of these beliefs in order to go to heaven, as I am not the one who knows their heart or can judge their spiritual condition.  What I will say though is that I do not understand how a wall or a trampoline can hold up whenever you remove such a huge part of belief.)

I mean, what happens whenever you take away the thought of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead?  Or what happens if you believe that the entire Old Testament is just a collection of fables that are there to prove a point?  Or what happens if you think that all roads lead to heaven?  Where do we stop?  Thus, I find Velvet Elvis (although it had tons of stuff I agreed with) to have some wrong concepts.  Christianity is not a pick and choose religion – it is a religion of complete surrender.  

 

SPECIAL NOTE:

I avoid politics on my blog because a.) I don’t know enough about policies and whatnot to post and argue and b.) I am a minister and feel that my getting involved with politics is useless, boring, and unnecessary and c.) I got tired of politics quickly.

Nonetheless, I would like to say this:  Congrats to President Elect Barack Obama.  I, for one, will be praying for our new President.  I will admit that I did not vote for him, nor do I agree with many of his views, yet he was chosen to lead my country.  In fact, I wish him the best of luck in office and hope that he does a marvelous job in leading this country to better days financially.  I honestly hope that he can go in and change the things that need to change, and keep the same those things that work.  

 

SUPER SPECIAL NOTE:

To Christians who feel as though World War III has just begun, that Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins books have just hit reality, or that the Apocalypse is just around the corner – please grow up.

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  1. November 5, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    I found Bell’s point to be that the Christian faith is a process. It’s not that he’s saying the virgin birth wasn’t true, just that you can have faith in Christ (justification) without believing that. Now, I would contend that if a person has true faith in Christ and has begun that process of growing in Christ, then he or she will eventually come to believe the things the Bible says to be true (namely, the virgin birth, etc.).

    Some Christians want to tell the unsaved that they must first become what it means to be a Christian (do all the right actions). Then, they can believe what the Bible says. Then after that, they can belong in the body of Christ.

    I think what Bell is getting at is that unbelievers can first belong (Christ meets them where they are), believe the teachings of Christ (justification), then become (sanctification, etc) conformed to Christ’s image.

    I’m just not sure the trampoline is the best example of that.

  2. November 5, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Oh and seriously, the way some Christians have responded to Obama’s election makes me think Christians are incredibly ignorant and believe whatever email is forwarded to them.

  3. November 5, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Well, that’s what I was saying about the point, too, Jacob. New Christians I’ll excuse, as we cannot expect someone who is not a Christian to behave like one, nor can we expect that once they become a Christian for their life to suddenly have a perfect theology.

    I just feel the argument was made from a basis of “seasoned Christians” having excuses to believe whatever type of doctrine and theology they want.

  4. November 5, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    Agreed. 🙂

  5. November 5, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    I haven’t read this book, so take my comments for what you will. (Thus, this uninformed opinion is probably a bad opinion. I have no idea what I’m talking about in reference to this book.)

    That having been said, based on your shortened review, I think that it is SOMETIMES problematic when you take general issues such as Bible doctrine and use simple metaphors to describe every single one of those issues. To use a metaphor to describe simple metaphors, it’s like lumping both lions and kittens in as cats. Sure, they both belong to the felidae family, but they also have distinct nuances and differences. Thus, are all Bible doctrines supposed to fall into one of these two big categories (necessary/not necessary)? If not, which ones do and which ones do not? Can a person justifiably make a case that some do and some don’t without offering a stance on the answer to that question? It’s easy to ask hard questions, it’s hard to provide solid answers to those questions.

    Just how much does a person have to know in order to be saved? Let the Word of God do the talking on that one, I know I’m not qualified:

    Romans 10:8-10 – “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

    Acts 2:38 – “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

    It’s obvious to say based on simple truths from the Bible that one doesn’t have to have a complete, perfect view of scripture in order to accept Christ and be saved. That’s where sanctification and discipleship come in, and discipleship in particular (I’m afraid) is all too often downplayed.

    PS – POLITICS!!! BLAH! How can you even put these two subjects together in the same post? 😀 The fact is, though, America has spoken, and we have a new leader. He should be respected as such. The world will not end, my voice is still valid, and there will be plenty of other chances to make my voice heard. I’m thankful for that, too.

  6. November 5, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    I haven’t read this book, so take my comments for what you will. (Thus, this uninformed opinion is probably a bad opinion. I have no idea what I’m talking about in reference to this book.)

    That having been said, based on your shortened review, I think that it is SOMETIMES problematic when you take general issues such as Bible doctrine and use simple metaphors to describe every single one of those issues. To use a metaphor to describe simple metaphors, it’s like lumping both lions and kittens in as cats. Sure, they both belong to the felidae family, but they also have distinct nuances and differences. Thus, are all Bible doctrines supposed to fall into one of these two big categories (necessary/not necessary)? If not, which ones do and which ones do not? Can a person justifiably make a case that some do and some don’t without offering a stance on the answer to that question? It’s easy to ask hard questions, it’s hard to provide solid answers to those questions.

    Just how much does a person have to know in order to be saved? Let the Word of God do the talking on that one, I know I’m not qualified:

    Romans 10:8-10 – “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

    Acts 2:38 – “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

    It’s obvious to say based on simple truths from the Bible that one doesn’t have to have a complete, perfect view of scripture in order to accept Christ and be saved. That’s where sanctification and discipleship come in, and discipleship in particular (I’m afraid) is all too often downplayed.

    PS – POLITICS!!! BLAH! How can you even put these two subjects together in the same post? 😀 The fact is, though, America has spoken, and we have a new leader. He should be respected as such. The world will not end, my voice is still valid, and there will be plenty of other chances to make my voice heard. I’m thankful for that, too.

  7. November 5, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Yeah Dan, as stated, we’re not talking from the view that these are unsaved people that must believe certain issues in order to be saved. But, one must admit that removing the Virgin Birth from Christianity takes a significant toll.

  8. November 5, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    So, the line between liberal and literal interpretation of the Bible has to be well-defined. That seems to be the real “Bell ringer” here. (Zing!)

  9. November 5, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    I think it’s safe say that the virgin birth is essential to Christian belief and removing it takes someone out of orthodox Christian belief. Both the Apostles and Nicene Creeds affirm the virgin birth and they are both very broad documents covering the essentials to Christianity. More so, like you mentioned, the Bible is clear about the Messiah being born of a virgin (Is. 7, Matt. 1) and the Gospels clearly indicate that Mary was a virgin (Matt. 1, Luke 1).

    Your analogy of the trampoline with the broken spring was very good, thank you.

  10. Shalena
    November 6, 2008 at 3:56 am

    I became a Christian fairly recently, and I can tell you that one of the things I came to realize is that the Bible is 100% true and accurate. Before conversion, I believed what parts of the Bible I wanted to, thinking that some parts were more reliable or probable than others. I doubted it in large part because I didn’t understand it. After conversion, as with many, the Bible came to have meaning I couldn’t have imagined before. I still wasn’t sure about believing some things, but then I was pointed to this verse:

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” John 1:1-2

    So in my understanding, Jesus is the Word, and the Word is the Bible. Therefore, if you believe Jesus to be everything he says he is, then he (since he is one with God) says he is the Word, which was given to us through selected people by God.

    Maybe that is an over-simplification, but I no longer doubt the Bible in any way. That is not to say I understand it completely, but I realize that God has put what is in there for a reason, so it is just up to me to find out as much as I can and to rely on the Spirit to guide me.

    I agree that believing every word of the Bible is not required to become a Christian, but I would think that it becomes much easier as growth occurs. I mean, if you can believe that God raised Christ from the dead to save you, how it is any more difficult to believe he caused a virgin to get pregnant?

  11. November 8, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    ” If you remove those prophecies, then why believe in other prophecies if they’re not all true? If all of the prophecies are not true, then why believe in the Bible at all?!?!?”

    Exactly. Now you’re getting it! 🙂

  12. November 8, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    That would all be true if you hadn’t left out on of the fundamental points of Rob’s message. The question is not a question of Jesus’ virgin birth, but of the meaning of the word “virgin.” In the times of the prophesy, the word had a double meaning. The meaning we use now, and the idea that a woman had conceived the child the first time she had intercourse.

    This isn’t a question of taking out a spring, but examining it. You can put it in your hand and notice that it bends and moves and is flexible. These traits are much different from those of a brick.

    Speaking of a brick, Brickianity is very dangerous. Not only do you have the instability of not being able to change your faith at all, but you have the irrevocable fact that when you have a wall, God is only as big as your wall. Along with that, you have people who are either “in” who believe exactly how you believe, so they fit in, or “out”: people who have different views than you.

    Also, i noticed that your cousin let you jump on his trampoline. Have you ever had a friend invite you over to run into his brick wall?

  13. November 10, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    Sox fan,

    I appreciate your comments.

    I do have a few questions for you, if you don’t mind. And if you’ve read Bell as much as you seem to have, then you surely won’t mind questions.

    -Are you implying that the authors of the Bible did not have an objective intent when they wrote?
    -Where does the opinion of the church fathers come into play for you? Is that a non-essential “spring” that we are supposed to “put it our hand and notice that it bends and moves”?
    -When you refer to “brickianity” and say “Not only do you have the instability of not being able to change your faith at all,” are you referencing sanctification? If so, wouldn’t you agree that the “brick” is not actually our faith, but doctrine? If that is so, then our faith (or spiritual life) is the thing that changes to come into accordance with God.
    -When you say that along with “brickianity” comes “people who are either ‘in’ . . . or ‘out’,” do you imply that there might be more than one way of salvation other than grace through faith? Also, considering the fact that the author of this blog said multiple times that Bell was referring to people who have already accepted Christ, do you actually think there are several ways of interpreting Scripture that can all be “correct”? If so, how do you justify this?

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