This blog is taking a longer to update than I thought, I apologize for leaving you hanging.
I'm a huge Rob Bell fan. Even right now as I find myself drifting away from religion and faith. Rob was one of the few "famous" Christians who I felt really kind of understood that god couldn't be boxed in, couldn't be sold in a nice, neat package with easily digestible answers. He made me think about the Bible and faith in a way that no one, except perhaps for Brian McLaren, ever did.
For example, in his book Velvet Elvis, Rob talks about Jesus and his earliest disciples. He talks about how every Jewish boy aspired to be a rabbi, and their goal was to get into temple training so that they could learn under a famous rabbi and become on themselves one day. However, most Jewish boys failed at doing so; therefore, after "flunking" Jewish school, they would return to their home and do the other thing they were trained to do: follow in the footsteps of their father, learn his trade, and ultimately take over his business. When Jesus meets James and John, Andrew and Peter, guess what? They're fishermen. They have failed. And now they're doing their father's trade. And then here comes a rabbi who tells them to follow him. It says they "immediately" followed him. I always thought that it was just because the command of Jesus was so strong, that they felt compelled to go. Rob explains that Jesus was basically giving them another chance, that even though they flunked, they were being invited to fall under the teaching and training of a rabbi, the ultimate rabbi.
I thought that was amazing and really cool back then. I still kind of do now, even though my thinking has changed on the reliability of the gospels and the stories about Jesus.
It was Rob Bell that started me down the path of wondering about heaven and hell and was heaven reserved for only a few while the vast majority was going to a place of eternal torment and suffering for crimes committed in a very finite amount of time.
Rob got a lot of flack for the content of his book "Love Wins." People accused him of being a heretic, of being a universalist. His church came under fire, and I believe if I remember correctly, he felt compelled to leave because of all the controversy. I thought it was ridiculous for two reasons: one, Rob was only theorizing. He was asking "what if" questions. He wasn't making factual claims. His main premise was "If God loves everyone, shouldn't love win in the end? For everyone?" Two, I get tired of seeing Christians jump on the "he's a heretic, burn all heretics" bandwagon. I appreciate that Rob Bell is willing to look at all sides of belief, not just the sides we are comfortable with or grew up with or make for a nice and neat package.
I remember reading a scathing review of Love Wins where the author of the review admitted that he hadn't even read the book yet. He was relying on what he heard from other people about it. Ridiculous.
Although this was probably the pinnacle of controversy, he has always had some modicum of contention with "traditional" Christian way of thinking. Even his first book "Velvet Elvis" had some points of conflict with people.
I'm thankful for Rob, because he has paved the way for rational thought and looking at christianity with a different, new lens.
I'm also thankful because his book Velvet Elvis gave me the idea for this blog.
He equates belief in Jesus like a trampoline. That the springs are the certain beliefs that people have about Christianity. His point was a good one - if one of those beliefs was proven to be true, and one of the springs was removed, would your faith be able to stand? For example, if someone proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth didn't happen, would your faith completely collapse or would it just be one spring that would be removed but the trampoline would still work?
I look at it a little differently.
I will agree with his metaphor about Christianity being like a trampoline. Only I would change what each part of the trampoline would represent.
I would say that the frame of the trampoline would be the beliefs within Christianity that there is no evidence for, that you have to just accept it by faith.
But the actual mat that you stand on (and hopefully jump on, I mean we are talking about a trampoline) isn't faith, it's the Bible itself. After all, isn't that where Christians get their faith? Isn't it the Bible that is the guide to the Christian life?
I don't know how many times when someone asked me about the churches I was a minister at, they would also ask if it was a "Bible believing" church. The Bible is everything to a Christian.
So what happens if we start removing the springs that hold up the Bible as the authority in a Christian's life, as the instruction book for how to live a good Christian life? What if we don't worry about the stuff that Christians believe that can't be proven, the stuff that a Christian can say you have to have faith in for it to be possible, and worry about what can be disproven?
The Bible is full of contradictions, of inconsistencies. It is full of confusion and of errors. Christians claim that it is the "inspired" word of God and that the writers of the books within it were divinely controlled. However, when four Gospel writers can't even agree on what happened when it comes to events involving Jesus, how can this be true?
One example (which I will talk about at great length when we start examining things): both Matthew and Luke give a genealogy of Jesus. Yet the genealogies differ. I've known this for a long time. But the explanation that has always been given is that Matthew is the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph (which doesn't make sense in the first place because Joseph isn't technically the father of Jesus according to Christians) and that Luke is his genealogy through Mary. I've heard preachers say that several times. Guess what? It isn't true. IT ISN'T TRUE. They are both going through Joseph. So why is that preachers say something that isn't true?
Is it intentional? Do most preachers know that what they are saying is B.S. but they know that the facts may cause doubt in the mind of their flock, and so they give this incorrect information?
Is it unintentional? Is it in an apologetics book that every minister has read, and so they are just passing on this fallacy without actually looking into it?
I'm hoping it's the latter, but I also know way too many preachers. And religion is often used to control others' thoughts and beliefs. To keep everyone in line.
More to that example at a later time.
The goal of this blog is to examine the springs of this trampoline. I may be accused of having a bias now that I doubt Christianity is the "one true religion." Believe me, I want it to be true! I was a Christian for 35 years. I was a minister for over 20 years. However, I don't think the Bible can hold up under the weight of scrutiny. To examine what the Bible says, who wrote it - hopefully from a non-biased perspective - is what I want to do.
Because I don't want this blog to be seen as a constant attack on Christianity and the Bible, I will make sure to give the Bible credit where it is due. I won't just bring up everything I research that is wrong with it, I will also give examples of where it is correct.
But I believe that taking out the springs that hold the Bible up in a Christian's mind (and heart I guess), we will be left with an unusable trampoline. The framework may still be there (unprovable doctrine and beliefs that there is no evidence of and have to be accepted in faith), but the "love letter" (full of verses that talk about killing man, woman and children and of eternal punishment) that was supposedly given to us by a divine being, the jumping mat of the trampoline, the very reason why a trampoline exists, will be unusable.
I hope you join me on this journey. Let's start removing the springs together.
(also found at www.christianityisatrampoline.blogspot.com)