Friday, August 14, 2009

The Simple Faith of Jesus

I knew a man who used to say that I was making the faith to complicated. He often complained about the complexity of things and pined for the "simple faith of Jesus." I was a young Pastor and his critique wounded me at first. Then, instead of apologizing, I began to challenge his notion of that "simple faith."

The Christian faith is anything but simple. If it were so simple, we would not need the aid of the Holy Spirit to believe nor would there be so many empty pews out there. We yearn for simplicity but we live in a complex world. My coffee pot does not have an on and off switch -- it has a control pad to set the timer, to program the unit, and, if you press enough buttons, to turn the brewer on and give me that cup of coffee I want.

We want a faith that is as simple as an on and off switch. We want a faith that is simple, quick and easy -- like all the cooking shows promise. But it ain't so! The faith is CLEAR -- so clear that a child can grasp it for salvation (at the prompting of the Spirit, of course). But it is also so DEEP that you can spend your whole life probing the depths and heights and breadth of the wisdom and knowledge and love of God and still hardly scratch the surface. That is the great mystery of the faith -- its clarity and its depth.

The same is true of Scripture. We call this doctrine the perspicuity of Scripture -- that it's meaning is clear. Luther put it this way in his "The Bondage of the Will."
All the things, therefore, contained in the Scriptures, are made manifest, although some places, from the words not being understood, are yet obscure . . .And, if the words are obscure in one place, yet they are clear in another . . . For Christ has opened our understanding to understand the Scriptures . . .

But Scripture is also deep. The fullness of its truth challenges human understanding -- in part because God's wisdom is limited to the vocabulary, experience, and intellect of humanity and a fallen humanity at that.

Apparently many Christians are content to know only the fringes of the faith, barely to scratch the surface of its depth. So say the polls so many take about the level of Christian knowledge that embarrasses every denomination and every Pastor (or it should). What is clear to us as children should invite, even compel us, to dig deeper. This is the fruit of the Spirit, too.

If you are like me, you have remote controls designed by people who have no clue to making things clear and obvious. But the miracle is that what I want the remote to do is clear when I have been taught and instructed (usually by my kids). So it is with the faith. It is clear to us when we have been taught and instructed by the Holy Spirit, through the means of grace which is His Word and through those who lead us through that Word.

Alas there is no simple faith of Jesus. But there is a clarity to that faith which even a child can understand under the tutelage of the Spirit... and there is a depth to that faith which invites and compels us as adults never to stop being a student of its Truth and of the Word that imparts that Truth (which is Jesus Christ).

No comments: