Making Complex the Simple and Dreaming Dreams

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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.

2 Responses

  1. Good thoughts,
    This I believe was one of the problems of the Pharisees. They took a law and then looked it over and then started thinking about how it could and should be applied and all of the ways it could be abused and then they in writing the laws for those situations abused the very law they wished to keep.
    One simple line of law, became ten complicated lines of law.
    We have a tendency to make things harder than they should be.
    Sometimes we want to add depth, so we dig, even while the point and reality is really laid very shallow.
    This isn’t us listening to the text, but us listening to us.
    The gospel message was laid out simply in John 1, Jesus was born in the flesh to save mankind.
    Everything else points to that.
    Faith, repentance, baptism can be given extra depth, but they all point to one simple concept…Jesus the savior.

    1. We want something fresh and new. New is exciting. Fresh insights are intriguing even if not true. A lot of this comes from dissertation writing where you are forced to come up with something that has never been said.

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