Thursday, July 9


By His Stripes Ministries shares the following thoughts about paradigms...

Someone asked Albert Einstein how a paradigm is formed and he responded with a story about monkeys...

A group of scientists placed 5 monkeys in a cage. In the middle of the cage was a ladder with bananas on the top. Naturally, every monkey’s first thought was to climb the ladder and grab a banana. Each time a monkey went up the ladder, however, the scientists soaked the rest of the monkeys with cold water. After a short while, any time a monkey moved towards the ladder, the others beat him. It did not take long before no monkey dared to go up the ladder regardless of the temptation.

The scientists then decided to substitute one of the monkeys. The first thing this new monkey did, of course, was to head towards the ladder. Immediately the other monkeys beat him up. After several beatings, the new member learned not to climb the ladder even though he never knew why.

Then, a second monkey was substituted and the same thing occurred. This time, though, the first monkey participated in the beating of the second monkey. A third monkey was changed with a similar result. Then a fourth was substituted and the beating was repeated. Eventually the fifth monkey was replaced. What was left was a group of five monkeys that never received a cold shower, yet continued to beat up any monkey who attempted to climb the ladder.

I imagine that if monkeys could talk and someone asked why they beat anyone who climbs the ladder, they would reply, “That’s just the way we do things around here.”

I can’t help but wonder how many of our modern “Christian” paradigms are not based in authentic, first-hand experiences with Jesus Christ, but instead, in traditions and second-hand teachings.

That’s not to say that traditions and second generation teachings are all wrong; but if the goal of Christianity is intimate, personal relationship with God, we also need to experience first-hand the love of God. Second-hand teachings and traditions can never replace first hand, experiential knowledge.

The reason we are so reluctant to examine our spiritual paradigms is because we have a tendency to view our theological framework (worldview) as a stone archway. If we remove a stone, even to examine it closely, we are in danger of our entire worldview collapsing. But pastor and author, Rob Bell, suggests that we view this differently (change our paradigm). Instead of our spiritual worldview being a stone archway, we might look at it as a trampoline, with our specific individual beliefs being the springs that keep everything balanced and in the proper tension. It is perfectly ok to remove a spring one at a time, hold it up to God’s Word, compare it to our real-life experiences, and discover what we actually believe and why. If, it turns out that what we were taught is accurate and meaningful and true, we put it back into place. But if it needs tweaking and polishing before we put it back on the trampoline, that’s ok too. In the mean time, the trampoline still functions fine.

It really is ok with God for us to seek authentic Truth and ask questions and search Scriptures for ourselves and develop a personal, real and intimate relationship with Him in the process.

Why are we generally so reluctant to examine our paradigms?

What is the problem if our spiritual paradigms are grounded more in religious tradition than relationship?


Aussie John said...


I must be a slow learner :)

Lance Johnson said...

Guy, you know I am in favor of doing church in a more simple way, but this posts misses the point of the issue by a mile. It is a cute story, but it is only relevant if we view the church as a solely human institution, which it is not. We must view the church from God's point-of-view and remember that the church does not consist of monkeys and scientists, but of believers who, unlike the monkeys, are lead (and have been lead) by a sovereign and actively working God through the all-sufficient Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. To paraphrase my friend Don, what makes us think that after 2000 years of the church floundering around cluelessly suddenly these men (referring to the proponents of the emergent church movement) finally got it right?

I have read the exerpts you recently posted from Choudhrie, Viola and Sweets, and Smith, and it appears they share a common problem. I want to be careful here. I do not want to mischaracterize the work of these men and I only know their works through what you have posted; I have not read any of their books. I am not saying they are not sincere believers or that their hearts are in the wrong place. That said, however, they all appear to give insufficient weight to the sovereignty of our holy God. They focus on what we, men, do with little regard for what God has done, is doing, and will continue to do through the church he established, has maintained, and is continuing to use in spite of its many failings. The sovereignty of God is foundational. The church is certainly less than perfect but it is what God made it. There is certainly room for reform and the church is often full of the unregenerated, but it is God's church and must be viewed as such.

As we continue to wrestle with the problem of how we are to be God's people in the twenty-first century we need to keep the lesson of David's relationship to King Saul in mind. God was not working through Saul at the time because of Saul's disobedience, and Saul was persecuting David to the point he had to leave Jerusalem and live "on the run" because Saul was actively trying to kill him. During that time David had the opportunity to easily kill Saul twice but did not. When urged by his men to kill Saul, David said, "'The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD's anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the LORD's anointed.'" (1 Samuel 24:6) I am not saying you or these you have quoted are trying to kill the church, but we must remember that warts and all, it is the Lord's anointed and we must tread very carefully.

WTJeff said...


I agree we should tread lightly, but we must tread. God's sovereignty can become an excuse for never examining the effectiveness of what we do. As Tim Kizziar has said, "Our greatest fear as individuals and as a church should not be of failure, but in succeeding in things that really don't matter." I'm NOT saying everything the church is doing currently doesn't matter. I am saying that without critical examination, this can become the norm. It will take both corporate and individual examination in light of scripture for us to be effective and productive in our knowledge of Christ.

GuyMuse said...


Sorry for the delay in getting back to you on your comments. Had a lot going on these past few days...

One of the authors you quote as having never read, Leonard Sweet, has a story in one of his books about a king who sends his sons out on a trip to observe a tree in a far away land. The first son goes out in winter and comes back describing the tree as withered and all but dead. The second goes on his journey, coming back to report the tree is covered with leaves and is beautiful. The third son comes back from his summer trip describing the sweet smelling blossoms. The final son comes back in the Fall bringing back sweet fruit plucked from its branches. The story ends with the wise king telling his sons they are all correct in their descriptions of the tree, but what was different was the season.

Sweet points out that, we too, must be careful in thinking our own interpretation of the Body of Christ is all inclusive. Like most things in our lives, there are "seasons" which bring perspective to our lives.

I would also add that WT Jeff has a good point when he says, God's sovereignty can become an excuse for never examining the effectiveness of what we do. One of my favorite quotes from Paul is 1Thes5:21 best voiced in Spanish EXAMINADLO TODO; RETENED LO BUENO... Examine everything carefully, hold fast to that which is good.

I believe the church has drifted far from her origins as left to us in the pages of the NT. To refuse to examine our current practices and beliefs is dangerous and becomes an obstacle for being the true church of Christ in today's world. The authors you refer to as having not read, serve, not as men who think they have "finally got church right", but more as prophetic voices to draw attention to areas that need to be addressed by a church who has drifted away from her origins.

GuyMuse said...

WT Jeff,

Excellent insights. I really like the Kizzar quote. You express well what I was trying to share in response to Lance's thoughtful comments. Thanks!

Lance Johnson said...

Just a few quick comments.

1. I too believe the visible church has drifted from what it should be.
2. I still maintain that the story of the monkeys misses the point. No matter what we think about the current state of the church, it has developed within the context of the work of the Holy Spirit.
3. We need to learn the lesson of the reformers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They did not reform the church by changing its structure and practice. They reformed the church by preaching and applying the true, regenerative gospel based on the substitutionary atonement of Christ. That resulted in a change in structure and practice. The problem with the church is sin, and the problem of sin is not resolved through a change in structure and practice.

GuyMuse said...


You are correct in saying, the 16th Century reformers did not reform the church by changing its structure and practice. They reformed the church by preaching and applying the true, regenerative gospel based on the substitutionary atonement of Christ. But I do not agree that these correct changes in theology resulted in a change in structure and practice. A lot has been written on Luther's realization that church structure needed to happen as well, but he feared than theological gains might be lost if too much was pushed all at once. I believe what is taking place today is "Part 2" of the 16th Century Reformation where structure and praxis are being reformed. Good observations, though--especially our old problem of sin standing in the way!

Lance Johnson said...

You are correct that Luther did not push the changes in structure because he believed the theological more important. The changes did happen, however. They happened because of the change in men's hearts as the true gospel was preached.

Guy, the problems in todays church have a similar root to the problems in Luther's day. They are theological and center on a weak soteriology. The result is a church full of the unregenerate.

GuyMuse said...


You write, the problems in todays church have a similar root to the problems in Luther's day. They are theological and center on a weak soteriology. The result is a church full of the unregenerate.

I am currently reading Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch's "ReJesus" where this is the principal theme of the book--the need to "reboot" Jesus back into Christianity as the foundation, source, center, all-in-all of our faith. Christianity-Christ=Religion, and religion is what is passing for Christianity these days. Good book. Get hold of a copy if you can.