This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations I serve.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Sailing Analogy

I do not sail. I have been sailing maybe a couple of times. But I hope I know enough to make the following analogy:

When attempting to guide a sailboat across a span of water to a particular destination it is only rarely that a straight line is maintained. Rather, the captain has to account for the movements of the currents and the wind. This means that in order to make progress in attaining the goal, the boat has often to move in different directions. Thus if the rudder and sail are set in specific ways in one part of the journey, these must be continually adjusted in order to keep the boat moving towards the desired goal. To keep the rudder and sail in the same position when the conditions have changed is counterproductive. Not only will progress towards the goal cease, but the boat itself might capsize.

The church is also on a journey towards a goal which is the Kingdom of God. In order to keep moving positively towards this goal when the conditions are continually changing it is necessary to change the navigational tactics. In short, if we left the rudder and sail exactly where Calvin set them, we might be faithful to Calvin, but we would no longer make progress towards our goal. In Calvin's day the wind and the current and other seascape factors were configured in a particular way. Today that configuration is completely different. Therefore, the boat must configure its steering capabilities differently.

The church has always done this. Each generation has a set of challenges that are different from the generation before. It has to come up with its own answers in order to keep the ship headed towards the goal. It takes into account what it has learned along the journey.

To be faithful to our Christian forebears does not mean uncritically mimicking their approach. It means having the same goal and managing the navigation so that this goal remains our destination, even if the way the boat is managed, and even the immediate direction in which it is going, is very different. The point is whether we are attaining the goal, not whether we are in perfect imitation of our forebears' tactics.

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