Making Complex the Simple and Dreaming Dreams

It takes a lot of work to take a complex idea and make it simple. It takes relatively little work to take something simple and make it complex. Disorder comes more easily than order…chaos is the natural course of a broken world. Entropy doesn’t just affect physics and thermodynamics. Entropy affects communication. Order takes discipline. Disorder doesn’t require discipline or discernment because disorder happens more naturally than order. When you take something that is complex and make it simple, you have to be selective. You have to be intelligent enough and familiar enough with your subject matter to know what is essential/core and what is not and then be disciplined enough to include or leave out information based on which one it is. If you don’t understand that or don’t take the time to consider it, complexity increases even when the initial subject is quite simple. That is one of the things that makes Tom Wright such a phenomenal scholar. He typically writes academic tomes on various theological topics and then later writes on the same subject on a more popular level. There aren’t many people who can do what he does with an eye for what to include and what to jettison as you boil everything down to its core components.

One of the things we over complicate is the gospel, the good news about Jesus. I had a dream the other night. Missy and I had been discussing the complexity of various theories of atonement right before bedtime. In my sleep that night I dreamed I was in our church auditorium. In the middle of the stage a large red brick fire place had been built and it went straight up through the ceiling. To my right were two Chinese international students and they were asking me questions about baptism. As I explained baptism to them I told them that the baptistry was right through the front opening in the chimney. The problem was the opening was less than a foot high. So I got down on my hands and knees to see through to the baptistry and noticed there was a locked door on it. But there was good news. I knew right where the key was. I walked out of the building to another building and up to a second floor. I had to go all the way to a back corner room and in the ceiling there was a covered opening, like an air duct vent. I opened that up and it opened to a tunnel but I was too large to get in. One of our college students was there with me, all of a sudden, and I had him go up to get the key. I left him with his job but there was one problem. Once he got in there to the end of the tunnel the key was under a combination lock and he didn’t know the combination. A lady from church did and she shouted it up to him. And that is all I remember.

The dream was about how complicated we can make the gospel. This doesn’t distract from the accuracy of views on atonement. But I do wonder if sometimes we get overwhelmed by complexity rather than encouraged by simplicity. No wonder we struggle to share the gospel. You have to explain and properly use words like ransom and propitiation and penal substitution rather than just talk about Jesus and what He has done for us! It can be as complicated as you like to make it but a wise person, a caring person, will boil it down to its most simple components and tell as many people as possible the simple message of the gospel.

Broadening Our View of Gospel and Salvation

The term for gospel as a noun only occurs in Matthew and Mark about a dozen times. It doesn’t appear in Luke or in John. It doesn’t show up again until Acts 15:7. The verb form (to preach or proclaim the good news) does show up a few times in Luke and the early chaptersContinue Reading

How God Sees You

I cannot begin to tell you how many times I wish my kids could see themselves as I see them. They are so loved. They are so cherished. They are so blessed. I can’t fathom loving them any more than I already do. But from their perspective it is impossible to see these things toContinue Reading

Five Reasons You Need to Read The Old Testament

The more I study the New Testament (NT), the more I understand my need to study the Old Testament (OT). The Jesus’ story is a story of two testaments, not one. The Gospel is best understood when one has some comprehension of the whole Bible in order to get the full meaning of what isContinue Reading

What Does it Mean to Grieve the Holy Spirit?

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” – Ephesians 4:30 Ephesians 4 starts off with a discussion of unity. Paul makes it very clear that it is the Holy Spirit who unites us in Christ, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearingContinue Reading

Bible Study Tip #8 – Study in Community

There are very few, if any insights from scripture that I have gained in isolation from other people. Most of what I have learned from scripture I have learned in community. This community is first and foremost my immediate and personal community of family and friends. This community is, secondarily, also the community of scholarlyContinue Reading

Bible Study Tip #7 Rely on the Spirit

The Bible is the word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Tim 3:16). The Spirit helped write the words that we have and the Spirit has full comprehension of the meaning of what the Spirit has communicated to us through the Bible. So the Spirit helps on the “speaking” end of the conversation.Continue Reading

Bible Study Tip #6 Not Every Word in the Bible is Something to Live By

Did you know that not every word in the Bible is something we should live by? You have to pay attention to who is speaking. You have probably heard someone say in your lifetime “God doesn’t hear a sinner’s prayer” and point you to John 10:31. That is what the text says. But you haveContinue Reading

Bible Study Tip #5 – Getting to Know the Bigger Story

The Bible doesn’t read like a typical continuous or chronological story. It just isn’t organized that way and that can be very confusing when you start studying the Bible. Think of the Old Testament in three sections: The story (Genesis-Esther), wisdom and poetry (Job-Song of Songs) and the prophets (Isaiah-Malachi). If you read Genesis –Continue Reading

Bible Study Tip #4 Which “Gesis” Do You Need?

No, not Jesus…Gesis. I am talking about exegesis and eisegesis. I know this doesn’t sound like beginner material but let me assure you that you need to have a handle on these terms if you are going to be a student of the scripture. The reason I believe understanding the ideas behind these two termsContinue Reading

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