[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Analogy with Blondin

by Matthew

Preachers often attempt to separate belief and trust by telling a story about Blondin, the famous tightrope walker who crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope. As with most preachers' tales, there are several variations (does anybody else find this irritating?). If anybody knows which is correct, feel free to tell us.

According to one version, Blondin crosses the falls on a tightrope and then goes along with a wheelbarrow. A man suggests that he carries someone in the wheelbarrow, but declines to volunteer. The other version I have heard holds that Blondin asks the crowd whether he could cross the falls with a man on his back. The crowd cheer that he could, but nobody volunteers.

The point of this story, according to those who tell it, is that those people believed that he could do it, but they were not willing to trust him. Thus, they had only an intellectual faith in Blondin's ability to get them across.

There are three problems with this analogy.

The first problem is that it is not certain that those people really did have even an intellectual faith that Blondin could get them safely across. Merely because they professed to have confidence in him, did not mean that they did. They had just been overawed by his feats and were in the excitement of the crowd. Perhaps they declined because their reasoning caught up with them. After all, they had not seen Blondin carry a person across, either on his back or in the wheelbarrow. They had only seen him cross on his own. Could they be certain that he had the strength or the balance to carry a person across?

Secondly, they might indeed have trusted Blondin to get them across. However, other factors might have deterred them. An irrational fear of heights, fear of being sick or the indignity of being carried.

Thirdly, the analogy does not fit with faith in Christ for eternal life. Blondin was not merely asking those people to believe in him, he was asking them to carry out an action. In contrast, when we believe on Christ for salvation, we are justified through our confidence in what Christ has done for us. The faith is in Christ's work. We are not saved by doing anything:

Romans 4
'2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

3 For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,'

18 Comments:

  • Matthew,

    What I hear is the many versions of the man who somehow ends up hanging from a cliff and an angel appears below him and asks, "Do you believe I can save you?" then "Do you believe I will save you?" then the angel simply says, "Let go!"

    With this analogy it is mostly what you listed as your third problem that bugs me.

    But today my Pastor told the story and completed it by saying to the church, Let go of the idea that you've led a good enough life. Let go of the idea that you can save yourself, and went on in that spirit.

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Sunday, April 16, 2006 5:43:00 PM  

  • Thanks for your thoughts.

    I suppose letting go of works as a means of attaining justification is only a passive trust. Once a person has apprehended the fact that no works can save them, but Jesus grants eternal life, they are essentially trusting in Christ.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Monday, April 17, 2006 2:46:00 AM  

  • Great thoughts Matthew. Perhaps faith would be better illustrated in this analogy as accepting the reality that there is already a solid bridge built by God right under your feet and the tightrope is only an illusion. ;-)

    By Blogger Kc, at Monday, April 17, 2006 5:31:00 AM  

  • Here’s a short excerpt from the internet discussing the same sort of analogy:

    [Quote]As a child and youth I was taught that in addition to my assent to the propositions that the Scriptures clearly assert are the only necessary and sufficient conditions for salvation that I must also do something more. This usually was presented in the form of an analogy. They said, “You can accept the fact that this chair will hold you if you sit in it but you must actually sit down on it to demonstrate your belief.” But even that is generous. It was not so much said that I must sit down to demonstrate my belief but that I must sit down to complete my belief. In some mysterious way I was expected not only to assert my belief in the saving propositions but also “sit down on the chair.” And I was never told exactly what that meant. In fact, no one could ever tell me what it meant because it didn’t mean anything that could be rationally described. And quite frankly, things that cannot be described rationally cannot be discussed! So I was left with the totally mystical notion that saving faith required a step that could not be described.[End Quote]

    http://home.insightbb.com/~nbdilling/FaithAndSavingFaith.htm

    By Blogger Solifidian, at Monday, April 17, 2006 7:03:00 AM  

  • Good thinking, Kc.

    Solifidian, thanks for sharing that.

    God Bless

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Monday, April 17, 2006 1:37:00 PM  

  • Amen, Matthew.
    What a work that require of us if equated with walking across a tightrope over Niagara Falls. (For me, it would be a work even if I was riding across in a Gondola ... because I am afraid of heights. :~) )

    By Blogger Rose~, at Monday, April 17, 2006 1:54:00 PM  

  • Hi Matthew,
    You have provided some sound thoughts here. I never have really analyzed that analogy before. You make some good points. Thanks for getting me thinking this morning.

    It would be terrifying for Rose just to watch me go over in a Gondola.

    brother John

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at Tuesday, April 18, 2006 4:04:00 AM  

  • Thanks a lot, John and Rose~.

    God's grace is open to those who fear heights too.

    God Bless

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Tuesday, April 18, 2006 6:28:00 AM  

  • LOL!
    I get terrified ... to the point of tears ... just when John cleans the gutters. I'm serious. (He fell off the roof one time doing that.) That is why his comment really made me laugh out loud.

    By Blogger Rose~, at Tuesday, April 18, 2006 8:31:00 AM  

  • There is something really neat about being on the roof. I personally enjoy it alot. I would like a few picnic's up there so I can get a great view of God's creation.

    Probably I need to go to the country a bit more I suppose

    By Blogger Shawn L, at Wednesday, April 19, 2006 6:04:00 AM  

  • Very funny, Shawn.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Wednesday, April 19, 2006 8:49:00 AM  

  • I was thinking about this some more. Is it good to compare something totally terrifying with trusting Christ - or is it saying that it is not terrifying for him who has faith? Isn't the unbeliever more indifferent to Christ than anything? IOW, is he scared to trust in Christ or is he indifferent to Christ? Most people I run into are the latter.

    By Blogger Rose~, at Wednesday, April 19, 2006 11:08:00 AM  

  • Good thinking, Rose~.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Wednesday, April 19, 2006 11:46:00 AM  

  • a lot to think about here and it seems a lot of people are mulling over it now! hope you all had a joyous easter! God's Grace!

    By Blogger Nunzia, at Wednesday, April 19, 2006 1:43:00 PM  

  • "Works! works! A man gets to heaven by works! I would as soon think of climbing to the moon on a rope of sand."

    George Whitefield.

    By Blogger Shawn L, at Wednesday, April 19, 2006 5:07:00 PM  

  • Shawn,
    Thanks for visiting! I miss your smiling face. That is a great quote! Bless you, brother. :~)

    Nunzia,
    Thank you, sister for stopping over here. You make some very encouraging comments.

    By Blogger Rose~, at Wednesday, April 19, 2006 5:43:00 PM  

  • Matthew said, "Once a person has apprehended the fact that no works can save them, but Jesus grants eternal life, they are essentially trusting in Christ."
    Rose said, "Isn't the unbeliever more indifferent to Christ than anything? IOW, is he scared to trust in Christ or is he indifferent to Christ? Most people I run into are the latter."

    I think Rose's comment compliments Matthew's, in another problem with this kind of analogy. The onlookers really had nothing to gain from their faith or trust. If they were on a collapsing or burning building and being carried across a tightrope by this man was the only way they could be saved the analogy might have a little bit more validity. I think people are indifferent because they do not see that they have anything to gain from trusting Christ. They do not see that their works cannot save them, if indeed they believe that there is anything to be saved either unto or from.

    This discussion reminds me of a message I heard when I was in high school. My friends' dad was speaking to a group at their family camp that summer and used Acts 16:31 as his text. He compared the King James Version to newer translations. The difference? One little word. In the King James (the version I memorized from most as a child) it reads, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved..." My New American Standard Bible reads, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved..." What is the difference between believing in and believing on? His point was the difference between intellectual assent (believing in) and finding in Jesus your hope of salvation (believing on).

    Food for thought :)

    Angie

    By Blogger The IBEX Scribe, at Wednesday, April 19, 2006 6:23:00 PM  

  • Nunzia, thanks.

    Angie, 'believing on' indicates trust. However, 'intellectual assent' can in fact involve trust.

    I trust that the mail will arrive today. This is because I have the knowledge that Royal Mail exist and that they are reasoanbly efficent. My knowledge of Royal Mail gives me a passive trust in them.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, April 20, 2006 12:57:00 AM  

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