Submarine Church

Continuing my ruminations on the church and change, I ran across a great quote — a Chinese proverb: If you wish to know what water is, don’t ask a fish.


The proverb points out what should be obvious. The fish is completely immersed in water. It is dependent on water. Water is so much a part of what it is that to ask about the nature of water is to ask a question that borders on the absurd.

I remember Bill Cosby’s comedy routine about the difference between a philosophy student and a phys-ed major. The philosopher goes around asking questions like, “why is there air?” Dumb question, says the phys-ed major. Every phys-ed major knows why there’s air. There’s air to blow up volley balls with; blow up basketballs with.

Air to the phys-ed major and water to the fish are merely the environment of living. We swim. We breathe. And we blow up volley balls.

As we live in the community of the church, we experience a similar phenomenon. Questions about the government or traditions of our congregation seem needless to us. To ask seems absurd, irrelevant or worse, rebellious. Yet, those on the outside who see us swimming about might reasonably ask us about the water. And then we might reasonably ask ourselves if we should continue swimming or start walking.


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