Not So Simple

In Christian RealTalk by Antwuan Malone15 Comments

Not So Simple

Life is complicated. We want it to be simple, but it just isn’t.

Some of us try boil life down to some basic essence, but it doesn’t work. It may make life temporarily easier to digest, but the complexity never changes. We could tell a baby when they’re born that life is simple, that all they have to do is keep breathing… and we’d be right and wrong at the same time.

We want the same thing for Christianity. We want the Bible and the Gospel, even Jesus, to be simple and straightforward. Easy.

But they aren’t. And it’s time we quit trying to tell ourselves they are.

I’ve heard hundreds of sermons about how simple the Gospel is, and about how people over-think and over-analyze God and the Bible. And at some point, I’d shake my head every time I’d hear the statement.  Were these people in the same fight I was? Reading the same book? Talking to the same people? Struggling with the same doubts? Apparently not.

The truth is, even now, I struggle with concepts in the Bible and how they fit into my everyday life. I know there are simple ways to present the gospel as a starting point. But staying there and refusing the maturation and progress that challenges to and from scripture facilitates, is like telling a first grader how easy math is while teaching them to add two and two on their fingers. Maybe that basic, foundational principle of math (addition) is easy, but that child has no idea how the other math principles will complicate themselves, and how math teaches people about life both with and without numbers.

Like two and two, there is an element to Christianity that is fundamental and basic. Namely, we sinned, we should die, he died, we can live. Sounds simple enough.

Until.

Until someone starts asking why’s and how’s. Why did Adam and Eve sin? Why do we sin? Did God tempt us? Wasn’t their sinning all a part of his plan? What kind of God would do that? How much control does God have anyway? Couldn’t He have just forgiven them?

And why death: to Adam, to Sodom and Gomorrah, and to seemingly innocent people who weren’t his “chosen?” Why a chosen people at all, doesn’t He love everybody? Why’s He choosing sides? What’s this thing about the Bible promoting slavery and stoning kids as punishment along with people caught in adultery? Why do we celebrate Goliath’s death? Didn’t God love Goliath too? Why, or why not? Why Jesus? Why to a virgin? Why is Jesus outside the church most his ministry? Why is he fighting the established religion? Why did He die? Why does it matter how he died? How could he be raised? Was it a trick? Why didn’t He show himself to everyone instead of a few? Why does He need to “come back,” wasn’t He here already? Didn’t He say “it’s finished?” What’s finished? If he did raise,  why not just let everyone know who He was, what He’d done, so they could love Him and we could all live happily ever after? Why Satan? What the heck is the rapture, and again… isn’t God in control? Does that mean He’s the cause of everything that’s ever happened? Am I a robot?  What’s pre-destination? And on and on…

We can start,first, with being honest with each other about our own doubts and fears.

We can initiate some of these difficult conversations instead of always reacting to them.

We can encourage the expressing of ideas and principles, no matter how wrong or right they are. Because they are the very discussions that can lead to quality discussion about God’s truth.

Complicated.

In fact, let’s just face it. Jesus was complicated, often difficult to understand. Jesus challenged his disciples continually, speaking in parables and riddles (at least in their eyes) about who He was, this Kingdom of God, and so on. Jesus confused the religious groups of the day. Jesus was far from simple.

There is a reason Paul had to write letters to the churches. They had issues.

What is my point?

I suppose my point here is, we can’t settle for simple. We as Christian must be about pushing ourselves and each other, even intellectually. Jesus said we should love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Yes, we should serve the oppressed, needy and poor, and we should exhibit God’s care and love to everyone we know. But that love can also be extended through an intellectual avenue to address a sort of mental poverty that we should be ready to address almost as readily as we are ready to address physical poverty.

We must challenge and wrestle with the scriptures as they reveal themselves to our generation. We can’t run from difficult topics and conversations in the name of “keeping it simple.” Sometimes, complication thrusts itself upon us whether we like it or not. And our lack of preparedness to defend the gospel make unprepared soil for the gospel seeds to take root in.  In a world so full of truth seekers, and so full of  pseudo-truths to choose from,  we must be ready to engage in conversation true seekers are having on and in platforms where they hold court.

We can start,first, with being honest with each other about our own doubts and fears. We can initiate some of these difficult conversations instead of always reacting to them. We can encourage the expressing of ideas and principles, no matter how wrong or right they are. Because they are the very discussions that can lead to quality discussion about God’s truth.

Look at Jesus. He’s both able to save a Samaritan woman by a well, and to confound Nicodemus, a scholarly Pharisee. Jesus was able to converse with people on whatever intellectual level they made available to him.

We can do the same. And it begins with dispelling this idea of gospel simplicity as a sort of home base and encouraging a forum of ideas where God can change hearts through the tension of our doubts, challenges and fears.

Question of the Day?

Do you think the Gospel is simple?  Do you feel that engaging in “more difficult” conversations is a waste of time?

Check out Laura’s blog post on a similar topic! : Simply Complicated

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Antwuan Malone is a Ministry Director at ELEVATE Young Adult Ministry (elevateministry.net) where empowers young adults toward Christian leadership. He is passionate about seeing young adults take their place in church history by drawing near enough to God to hear his call on their life, and courageously living in obedience to that call.
15 comments
Josh Kelley
Josh Kelley

Well said, sir. It was CS Lewis that said it is the simple religions that are probably wrong; if God is indeed infinite, we should rather expect him to be just a little out league. Dovetailing off of what laurawachowiak said, Christianity it "simple enough." Simple enough that a child can understand and follow, simple enough that an adult knows that he can be forgiven and accepted. But it will keep even the greatest scholar busy trying understand and apply it. Josh Kelley www.RadicallyNormal.com

MartijnLinssen
MartijnLinssen

It is simple, really. The bible has to be convoluted and complicated or otherwise there would be nothing to preach and teach. It has to uphold the control and command structure so the church can keep on sucking the life out of mortals It is all very simple if you look at it from this PoV: the Church took the rebel Jesus and turned them into a martyr for their movement. Church-Jesus 1-0, game over Everything else is a reflection of Jesus' pure Buddhist-like teaching and the distort of the stories so Jesus could fulfill the prophecies of the Jewish bible (now the old Testament) Church-Jews 1-0, game over Hence the confusion - because it's a con-fusion. Jesus would turn around in his grave if he only knew

Russ Pevoto
Russ Pevoto

Excellent post, Antuwan. Not everyone can go to a seminary, but a good theological education is the basis for loving God with all your mind. I love how actually complex the four Gospels are, how complex and messy church history is, how complex systematic theology is, all of it. I would reccomend J. P. Moreland's book "Love Your God with all Your Mind." Also, a theology textbook called "Faith Seeking Understanding."

@ScottinBangkok
@ScottinBangkok

Agreed. "Simple" is often used as an excuse, to excuse us from thinking. Another angle: The gospel is a WHO not a WHAT. The core of the gospel is a person. And what a person! Paul did not write: "And I know what I have studied and am persuaded that I'll be able to recall that which I've committed unto memory for that day." He wrote, "I know WHOM I have believed and am persuaded that HE is able to keep that which I've committed unto HIM against that day.

James
James

I don't think the Gospel is simple nor necessarily "pure" (it doesn't tie up into a nice, neat, little bow). However, what helps is not trying to understand the Gospel in isolation from the rest of the Bible. Jesus just didn't make things up because it suited him. His source material was the Books of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. If you want to understand the Gospel, you have to study the Bible...all of it. I agree that we are often fed a line that the Bible is simple and we are presented with the same series of "canned verses" from Pastors and Bible Teachers, probably both because it would be hard to provide more "meaty" teaching and because a lot of Christians don't want to be challenged (who does?). However, we've seen that when the disciples of Jesus decided to be lazy he rebuked them sternly, not to be mean, but to get their attention. He knew they were capable of so much more. He knows that about us, too. The real tragedy is that the Bible, worship, and faith can get pretty stale and boring if you don't challenge yourself and go the extra mile to try and learn more. Christians say they want to get closer to Jesus but you can't do that just by wishing for it.

Rob
Rob

Maybe "pure" would be a better word than simple? thanks for the post.

laurawachowiak
laurawachowiak

I totally agree with the point that you are emphasizing here! I think that the Bible is, as I say, "simply complicated", with clear concepts and commands, but sometimes the questions why and how complicate those simple concepts. I believe that Jesus calls us to have childlike faith so that we can diminish these complicated "how and why questions". We can never make faith or religion 100% simple, and in order to fully claim our faith we must talk about the questions we have and our fears and doubts. As you say, it is necessary to discuss these issues so that we can make the truth of scripture more clear and understandable. I think you may appreciate one of my posts, simply complicated, http://laurawachowiak.com/2011/04/27/simply-compl....

@LazyChristian
@LazyChristian

I don't think the Gospel is simple, but I think it's clear. It's not easy to follow, but that's not because the meaning is muddled. I hate being human! Makes everything more difficult.

@MarkBBAguirre
@MarkBBAguirre

Yes, I read this book my freshmen year in college and it change my worldy perspective to a biblical persepctive of how to love God with all my mind. Reccomend to all mega church members!

@antwuanmalone
@antwuanmalone

Thanks for the comment Russ. I'll look into those books. I've heard of Mooreland, but not of that particular book.

@antwuanmalone
@antwuanmalone

Exactly! The whole "well, the Bible said it, I believe it, that settles it" concept will only take us so far. Great point about WHOM, too! Thanks for the comment!

@antwuanmalone
@antwuanmalone

Agreed. Wholeheartedly. There is a reason the book is 66 books big, and not because everything works out neatly. We should accept the challenges as opportunities, instead of shunning them in the name of simplicity. Thanks again James!

@antwuanmalone
@antwuanmalone

Loved the post! Very cool. Let's see if we can get some others to check it out too. :)

@antwuanmalone
@antwuanmalone

Ha! Me too. Thanks for your comment! Are you a blogger too?