The Simplicity of Complexity

Have you ever stopped and asked, “How does this work?”  I’m not talking about a philosophical grasp for meaning or the awkward question you ask right after you’ve broken up with someone.  I’m talking practically.  Have you ever asked that question about your car?  Have you ever asked that question about your cell phone?  Have you ever asked that question about your television?  The internet?  Your computer?  The radio?  Your remote control?  If you start that process regarding any one of those topics, you’ll soon be rummaging through the medicine cabinet for something to soothe the migraine you’ve given yourself.  “Honey, where’s the strong stuff?”  We are finite beings.  Quite frankly, we don’t really know how anything works.  You’ve come to realize how little we actually know if you have a toddler.  At some point you just have to say, “Because that’s the way it is.”  While this ends the barrage of “whys” from the backseat, it doesn’t put a stop to them standing proudly, and quite undefeated, at the forefront of our minds.

And yet, we use these items and benefit from them without ever asking or understanding how they work.  It’s interesting how little we really need to know to operate them and reap their advantages.  When you begin to break down the ins and outs of how a computing system works, it’s astounding that a three year old can use it, let alone unlock the iPad, find the app for their favorite game, open it, and play it without someone with a PhD. in Computer Science dictating every step to them.  Think about the intricacies of what makes an automobile run.  And yet you can operate it without even knowing how to read or write.  This doesn’t detract from the complexity of these things, but it certainly speaks of our willingness to be content with complexity and, even more, how accessible some complex things are.  On the other hand, despite the simplicity of using these complex things, there is still some effort we must put in.  Even though the remote control is simple to use (yet complex to understand), throwing it at the television won’t make it work.  There are some things we need to define in order to say we used the remote.

[One of the teaching methods of Jesus and rabbis of his day (and today) is called kal v’homer literally meaning “light and heavy.”  Rabbis would often use this method of teaching in their parables.  They would use an illustration that applied a certain truth in a “light” way and, usually coupled with the phrase “how much more”, apply the same truth to a “heavy” matter (Matt. 12:9-13; Luke 11:11-13; Luke 12:24-28).]

How much more complex is the Triune God than a car, cell phone, television, or computer?  How much more, then, should we be willing to rest in the complexity of the Almighty?  How much more accessible is He?

I don’t have to understand the Trinity to experience its benefits and be blessed by believing.  I don’t have to understand the Humiliation of Christ to believe in it.  Any attempt to explain these things or any number of other things about God isn’t Christianity.  It’s a theory about Christianity.  Christianity isn’t all the detailed hypotheses of the theologians.  While they are helpful, that is not Christianity.  While the manual for your television is helpful, reading it doesn’t constitute watching TV.  But, Christianity certainly is something like accessing the internet is something.  There’s a requirement of sorts.  There are definitions.  We can’t dance an Irish jig after tasting a nice oatmeal stout whilst boldly declaring, “Look at me use the internets!  I found a map on The Google!”  It has to be defined by something.

Christianity is, “God exists in Trinitarian form,” (John 1:1).  Christianity is, “The infinite God became a finite man named Jesus,” (John 1:14).  Christianity is, “Though Jesus was human, He never sinned against God or others,” (1 John 3:5).  Christianity is, “Jesus was humiliated and his death served as atonement for sin,” (1 John 4:10).  Christianity is, “Though he died, Jesus physically rose from the dead three days later,” (Matt. 28:1-10).  It’s complicated.  It’s complex.  It confounds reason.  And yet resting in and embracing the complexity is simple.  Chesterton said, “[R]eason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite.  The result is mental exhaustion. . .To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens.  It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head.  And it is his head that splits.”  “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it,” (Luke 18:17).

This is Christianity.

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