Biblical Complexity Reestablished
"Then Job answered the Lord and said: 'Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.'”
In the previous short we talked about Reestablishing Biblical Simplicity. In contrast to this, another way in which we have contempt upon the things of God is in having contempt upon His complexities, mysteries, and uniqueness. An immediate problem in talking about reestablishing biblical simplicity in such a short form is that danger of many minds approving a different error to which they are partial, and that is the error of oversimplification.
Sadly, today the church on one hand is easily distracted from that in which she should be most simple; she tries to reinvent the things of God rather than realizing that her very life is in walking these ancient roads God has set before us. “Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” (Jer 6:16) Yet on the other hand she is also often found to be lacking in the depth she is meant to have. I do not doubt that most people are enamored with the thought of having wisdom and depth; the trouble is they often think they possess it when they don’t. The sign of this is most clearly being wise in your own eyes (Prov 3:7, Rom 12:16), and this is most often an indication that the wisdom we have is from the world and not from God. Meaning, we do not have true depth but a counterfeit.
Within this, however, is the trouble of people oversimplifying great truths and complexities in order to grant the person a sense of control. There is sin within man that looks to cast off the simplicity that God lays before them, and yet at the exact same time, man grasps at a simplicity that comes from his own fallen mind. Out of this heart he demands that God and man fit within his own view rather than expecting himself to fit within the truth. It is rigid and cruel and expects to see the world through a sinful narrowness, a heart that demands things to be a certain way. This demanding is great arrogance, it is wicked contempt upon God and it is great harm upon our fellow man.
Biblical complexity is demonstrated so clearly within God’s Word. God is undeniably strange, doing one very unique work and then something completely different elsewhere. In one place He floods the world and saves Noah in an ark with two of all the animals in the world, later He has Moses turn the Nile into blood (Ex 7:14-25), after this He rebukes a prophet using an angel and a speaking donkey (Numbers 22:29), He has Samson kill 1,000 Philistines with a jaw bone (Judges 15:15), He causes an ordinary Jewish woman to be chosen as wife to a foreign king in order to thwart a political plot of genocide against the people of Israel (Esther 7:6), and far later He sends His own Son to die upon a Roman cross. Or, looking at the natural world, we see incredible uniqueness in God’s creation. To date there are 60,065 different species of trees in the world. While all of these are trees, they would have different growing requirements, different climates, and certainly all produce something different. Or look at all the different species of animals from a house cat to a zebra, a humpback whale to a lady bug, a sloth to a polar bear, or a cow to an octopus. I mean, have you ever seen a superb-bird-of-paradise, a king vulture, or a sage grouse? God is undeniably strange and complex.
The trouble for us is that we do not trace two things within the Bible at the same time: the uniqueness of God/His strangeness and also His absolute and definitive clarity. That He is vast and mysterious and yet He is incredibly clear and makes His commandment firm and unchanging. The error is in opposing either of these things, having no respect either for the differences God makes or for the sameness and simplicity He clearly defines.
This is seen within man: as we are different, so we are also the same. It’s a great sin to deny either of these. People are all very different and yet are often proud and deny us being the same. We all share the same nature, all created in the image of God, and yet all too easily we act superior to others. What man fails to understand about humanity is that we are distinct, like different branches on a tree, and yet we are also completely the same. We are one, as being of the same tree. The sin of man against man is in denying this, either in denying people being distinct or in using their distinction as an attempt to keep them outside of greater things.
We see the first in man having contempt upon people being different. We’ve heard the horrible accounts of how people have sought to change people’s culture or demeaned people for being disabled, or we’ve had various forms of sexism, classism, racism, ageism, etc. We also see this where people can’t understand that different circumstances mean different needs and expectations. An overall sinful rigidity within people that comes from their sin nature and yet all too often they think religion supports it.
The other side of this is where we see that people are different and yet then seek to remove that which is fixed and same about us all. We are all commanded to repent and believe the Gospel (Acts 17:30), that is why we respect a culture for being different from ours, and yet we do not tolerate anything that is sin within it nor draw back from spreading the Gospel in said culture. That is why we respect different abilities in people and yet we do not fail by allowing these to mean a lack of godliness, repentance, and faith in a person, to whatever degree they are able to walk in it. We respect differences and at the same time we do not deny our sameness: that all are called to repent and believe the Gospel. Our error is in ever removing this for any person simply because of certain differences. This is a very misplaced “pity”.
The trouble today is that many people begin to see this “narrow-mindedness” and they turn to be “open-minded”, but again, they fail to be faithful to God. They simply turn from one type of sin to another, rather than walking in righteousness. Turning from a certain, sinful, narrow-mindedness, they fail to keep a right narrow-mindedness. One in which we recognize that the road before us is narrow (Matt 7:14). Realizing the sin within man’s form of narrow-mindedness is very different from accusing God of the same sin and casting off His right commands about such things. The world today is full of this: seeing how wicked men have misused religion, they try to use this as grounds for accusing God and right religion in order to cast it off.
The error of wrongly pursuing complexity is when we see how forceful and harsh we’ve been in our view, but we go to be more “open-minded” and fail to maintain right biblical simplicity, keeping to things we are never to remove—maintaining true religion. Realizing that the sin of oversimplification is very real, we should not allow the devil to trick us into using the repentance of this to trick us into trying to remove that which is of God and firmly fixed by Him. We maintain that which is of God while repenting of that which opposed Him in the first place. We must learn how to keep both in order to walk rightly with Him.
The world says that it is right to deny the existence of one God, to cast off His commandments, to open wide the laws of God, and to live by our own ideas of good precisely because they hate the sin of denying the complexities around us, and yet they cast off that which is biblically fixed and simple. They call this open-mindedness and try to demand God’s people to walk in it. Are we going to obey the commandments of men or the commandments of God (Matt 15:9)? The failure on our part is that we lived in such a hateful way towards others before, having no room for people’s sufferings, differences, nor for the mystery of God. And yet we act as if we were never guilty of this in the first place all while walking dangerously into a wrong form of “open-mindedness”. We are tricked by the world’s feigned repentance into just a different type of sin.
As we walk away from oversimplification we must learn to also maintain right biblical simplicity, keeping to true religion. We must not be tricked by the world to walk in the broad road (Matt 7:13) simply because of one certain sin that we hate. It is only in being faithful to God’s word that we will find the true and right balance within these things. As we learn to reestablish biblical simplicity we must also reestablish biblical complexity, realizing that our contempt for both of these things comes from a sinful heart. And we can not correct either of these things by simply taking up their opposite. Both of these are sinful, both have contempt upon God and do harm to our fellow man. Both of these are two major ways our sin flows within and both are in need of correction in us. We must learn how to embrace God’s simplicity and yet allow Him to be deep and complex, and learn true wisdom that understands the complexities of His creation while maintaining holiness and submission to His will.
October 30, 2020