by Robert Brow  (   Kingston, Ontario May 2007


The word "model" is useful as a term for picturing something we want to understand or work with. Instead of incremental improvements, a model-shift occurs when there is a fundamentally new way of looking at things.

People had always thought the earth was the center of our universe till Copernicus (1473-1543) made the model shift to seeing the earth and other planets revolving around the sun. When Columbus (1451-1506) sailed west he took the risk of rejecting the flat-earth model. Slowly it became obvious the earth was a sphere instead of a plate. But an old model can still be useful for some purposes : Toronto or New York use the flat earth model for making a map of the city.

For centuries, wind and water had been used to provide energy, but James Watt (1736-1819) gave us a new model for a steam engine. This soon edged out wind power for ships, made the railways possible, and energized a vast industrial revolution. Orville and Wilbur Wright proved their model for a propeller driven plane could work. In 1930 Sir Frank Whittle registered a patent for a jet engine, but the government did not believe this could be air-born. It was not till 1939 that Dr. Hans van Ohnen, who had developed the idea independently, actually made a jet plane fly.  Now nearly all long distance air transportation uses jet propulsion.

James Watson and Francis Crick proposed (February 28, 1953) the "Double Helix" model for the structure of the gene, and this made possible the vast recent development in genetics.

In my own life time I have experienced the practical results of new models for the zipper in clothing, ball-point pens, computers, insulin for the control of diabetes, cataract surgery. In each case the model shift was first proposed, then tried, and eventually became a common reality in our lives.

This website is the result of my interest in model shifts in theology. I began with the study of world religions each offering a different model of the purpose of life. Conversion is a model shift from one to another of these visions.

In the New Testament there are dozens of texts indicating a shift to a Trinitarian model. God is not one in a Unitarian sense but a oneness of three Persons united in an eternal love which together invite us into that loving family relationship. That is a given in Evangelical theology. But this website has explored models for one church in each city, what happens the moment we die, the freedom God has in mind for us, the work of the Holy Spirit, the status of those who are not Christians, the way wrath works, and the basis of our eternal salvation.

I have indicated how I have shifted in these directions, but models are not a proof. They are only an invitation to "look at it this way." If a more plausible model is offered we must be open to consider it. I often get the objection "that is not what we believe." I respect that opinion, but I insist on the freedom to explore. It seems obvious that theologians can be wrong over many centuries, and I have no doubt some of my model shifts will need revision and correction.


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