Making Peace with the Bridge, for Now.

Like many of us, I’ve been longing for something beyond the “bridge illustration” to share the gospel (with others, and my children).  Something short, visual, clear, explaining the gospel in an appropriate way.  But of course, the more I learn and grow in the Kingdom the more difficult it is to summarize, especially when you have all these old, truncated ‘gospels’ bouncing around in your brain that you are trying to overcome (the gospel of sin management, the gospel of health and wealth, the gospel of going to heaven, etc).

But then Soren (8 years old) comes home from a church basketball camp yesterday super amped about the ‘bridge illustration.’  It’s all he can talk about.  He pulls out our white board and insists on drawing it out for us and explaining it to us (of course as a seasoned evangelical I’m filling in some of the forgotten steps and verses…).  So I had to step back and rethink my loathing for the ‘bridge illustration.’ (If you are not familiar with the ‘bridge illustration’ check it out here).

Making Peace

I guess this is something that I have know for awhile, but haven’t wanted to admit very loudly (or publicly).  The ‘bridge illustration’ really is a good presentation of the gospel, even if it is just part of the gospel.  I have seen the light come on for children and adults where they begin to understand what God has done for them in a deeper way.

And especially for children who are in the black and white stage of moral development, the ‘bridge illustration’ makes sense.  “We are over hear because of sin.  God is over there because he is perfect.  But in Jesus we can be with God again.”  It makes sense.  It is simple.  It helps them put in place a piece of their spiritual puzzle.

And it fits especially the intellectual development of children Soren’s age.  They haven’t yet reached the world of complexity and abstraction which causes the ‘bridge illustration’ to breakdown or be known as incomplete.

For Now

But the whole point is that children would grow up, and their faith along with them.  Too often we have adults who have prayed a prayer after hearing the ‘bridge illustration’ and 20 years later their faith is still at the same stage.  The problem isn’t in the ‘bridge illustration’ itself but the underlying theology of atonement which is exhausted in the illustration. Certain understandings of the gospel see the bridge not merely as an illustration, but the entire reality.  This leads to the spiritual immaturity and stunted grow of so many believers (which has led to my own discomfort with the illustration).

It is one thing to say that for “now” the bridge is a helpful and, dare I say, true explanation of the gospel.  But only for now.  Not for always.  At the beginning it is true, but faith must grow here and now, and not merely wait for heaven.  We can’t remain stuck on the level of the ‘bridge’ for our entire spiritual lives, just like Soren isn’t going to remain stuck as an 8 year old.

Bridge to the Kingdom, not merely Heaven

We for “now” I’m very pleased that Soren is excited about the bridge, that it has helped him organize some of the biblical stories and ideas that we have been brainwashing him with (ha).  But are already laying the ground work for that spiritual development.  After Soren explained about crossing the bridge in Christ and receiving eternal life (which that church of course links with ‘going to heaven’), I started to redirect from ‘going to heaven’ to ‘life in the kingdom’ here and now.  And I reminded him of the Lord’s Prayer, which we prayer everyday, and how it talks about God’s Kingdom coming to earth from heaven.  The goal is that Soren would come to know all that all those who cross the bridge in faith enter Christ’s Kingdom, which is now!

But filling that all out will come later, and through example, and prayer, day by day, year by year.  But for “now” the bridge will do.

For now.

11 Replies to “Making Peace with the Bridge, for Now.”

  1. That's a good word. I always have to remember that there may be a certain order to things. Case in point: a number of my youth in the past were all about changing the world, knew all the RED statistics, but didn't know anything about the Bible. Were their aspirations wrong? No. But were they sustainable? Did they come in the wrong order? Perhaps. Most of them have left the faith. I think it's okay that your son is grasping the transcendent implications of Gospel, though perhaps not the temporal ones. These things come in time, and perhaps, he's grasping them in the right order?

  2. It is good for children and people at a childlike state of development. But one of my fears is that many people will never advanced beyond a Sunday School level of understanding.

    And even a small child can understand that being with God (or, better, God being with us) means doing the right thing and doing justice, loving mercy, etc.

  3. Good thoughts. I too have been trying to find a good way to explain the gospel of Isaiah. I like the four circles presentation but think that it's not right for his current stage of developmemt.

  4. Jason,

    Yeah. God with us is what we really want to communicate.

    Juliet,

    I'm not familiar with the four cicles. What is that?

  5. Good words. My biggest bone with the BI has been the "getting to heaven" emphasis. Your simple addition to the illustration serves our kids and the church well: God crosses the bridge to get to us; God is all about "getting to earth." Thanks.

  6. yeah, i like that idea that God comes to get us, and bringing heaven to earth.

    maybe the illustration should be vertical instead of horizontal where we are being raise up to God and he is coming down to us, and discipleship means bringing heaven to earth.

  7. Not that it is unbiblical, but the bridge is not in the Bible. There is a chasm between Lazarus and the rich man but it is not appropriate. All in all I think one of the problems with a bridge is that it does not delineate the process well enough. The precipices are distinct but not the process.

    SO, how about a threshold illustration? It is biblical on many levels. Most cultures also have entrance ceremonies that make the analogy work on a deeper level. Also, many gates and doors have keepers and/or attendants. Jesus is the gate and gatekeeper in the Bible.

    I wish this were ancient times so that the upward progression into sacred space was still instinctual because I feel that would help. The raised nature of holy space was also a return to a primeval time(first out from the flood-waters). Maybe a stepped stoop? Who knows.

    Good luck. If you draw something up better than the bridge let me know.

    Thomas

Leave a Reply