Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year! New Thinking?

Read this last night from C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, and it relates well to my post yesterday.

"When you try to explain the Christian doctrine as it is really held by an instructed adult, they then complain that you are making their heads turn round and that it is all too complicated and that if there really were a God they are sure He would have made ‘religion’ simple, because simplicity is so beautiful, etc".

The key word here is instructed adult, right? I mean, when I first took a class on theology, I really did feel like my head was quite close to either exploding or imploding in upon itself.  It was quite uncomfortable. And, what's worse is I remember telling my theology professor, "Why does this have to be SO complicated?"  He just smiled, as if he had heard the same question at least a million times in his teaching career, and plodded along, carefully leading us through the what seemed like, to me anyway, treacherous volumes of Oden's Systematic Theology.  By the end of the class however, I was  quite appreciative of the professor and Oden, despite the mind-bending, boundary-busting, comfort-zone catastrophe experience that was Theology.  Theology is hard stuff.  I can assure you of that--it is hard work and it requires commitment.  I think I mentioned that yesterday.  Therefore the instructed adult in my realm of existence was my professor, and I realized how un-instructed I was in what I deemed the most important aspect of my life--God!  That was troubling to me.  So my course was set.  It became very important to me to let others know that there was a whole lot more to our understanding of God than we had been taught (not to say that I had not been taught valuable and important biblical lessons through our church and bible studies, etc).  It was just that there was more--alot more!

But what to do with this expectation of simplicity?

Simple.  I think in our culture we misunderstand this word.  Lewis does an amazing job of describing our perceptions of what we label truth and fact in Mere Christianity.  I actually had to go back and re-read a couple of paragraphs because when I reached the end of them, my brain almost said aloud, "Huh?"  There is nothing "mere" or "simple" about this stuff.  Most often it is our perception that things should just be more simple in order for us to understand them more efficiently.  Then, we could all move on to more practical things.

Remember the article I mentioned yesterday?  The one from the Barna Group, regarding the state of the Church in 2010.  Let's look at #3 on Barna's list:  Growing numbers of people are less interested in spiritual principles and more desirous of learning pragmatic solutions for life.  Barna writes the following, "Because we continue to separate our spirituality from other dimensions of life through compartmentalization, a relatively superficial approach to faith has become a central means of optimizing our life experience." 

Many things that we perceive as beautiful are really not simple at all.   The Universe, for example, is most definitely not simple.  Though science has made some strides to understanding the workings of the Universe, there appears to more unknowns than knowns, and none of the knowns are simple (Think: Quantum Physics).  So if we believe that God created the universe, why would we expect the Creator to be simple?  Now, let me clarify what I am not saying.  I am not saying message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not to be understood by any layman--normal, ordinary people like you and me.  The gospel is beautiful in its simplicity of engaging us in the revelation of truth and salvation in Jesus life, death and resurrection.  However, we should not stop there, right? I mean just because we see the simple beauty of the love of God illustrated in Jesus life and purpose to restore our relationship with God, does that mean that we should not dig deeper into understanding God even more?  That there is infinitely more to God than our initial engagement with Him.
Here's an example:  You meet someone for the first time. You like that person! They are witty, engaging and fun to be with.  You want to meet with that person again.  You find out more about them, suddenly there is another layer beneath that "witty, engaging and fun" layer, right?  The more you meet with that person the more you know them intimately.  You both share more and more.  Right off the bat, you realize that this person was exceedingly more than you first saw when you initially met them.  This is as rather simplistic (no pun intended!) illustration but I think it is an effective one.  Spend any amount of time in Paul's letters and you begin to realize that there is a whole lot more to this "faith walk". But that's for another time. :)

So is our expectation or perception of simplicity wrong?  C.S. Lewis might say "yes", but you really need to read the book to see his explanation.


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