I appreciate people who can explain things simply. I have a hard time doing that. I don’t know if this is a deficiency in my own ability to communicate or if it is because of my worldview. On one hand, some people are extraordinarily good at putting complicated ideas into terms that even people like myself are able to understand. It seems like it is a type of skill that I should be able to learn or at least develop. On that hand, this certainly illustrates a deficiency in my own intellectual abilities.
On the other hand, I’m not sure if, even if I made my ideas as simple as possible, I could explain very many of them without recognizing their interconnectedness. They stand on their own, but at the same time, they are dependent on conditions that are developed in other parts of my mind.
As an example, many of you will know that I like the musical Hamilton. You may ask me why I like it. The answer to that is multifaceted. I enjoy the music itself. I enjoy history in general. I enjoy that it is an element of popular culture that is encouraging people to think about history.
I could go on, but I think you take my point. All of these reasons are true. They are things that I believe about that particular musical. They stand independently, but only when they are combined do they truly express the reason that I actually like the musical Hamilton. My liking it is not based on any one of the things, but it is a combination of all of them put together.
There could be a musical that was about history and brought people to the theater to learn about history. However, I might not like it if I didn’t like the music. Similarly, there are plenty of times I like the music, but I don’t particularly like the musical itself. It is all the elements coming together that bring about this appeal for me.
Most of you probably stopped reading already, but that is the struggle I have with trying to consider things simply. I could tell you that I like Hamilton because of the music. However, that’s not the answer to the question. It is part of the answer, and it is true, but it is far from complete.
A More Substantial Example
This difficulty is only amplified when we start to talk about things beyond my taste in theater. Consider my belief in Christianity. I know that there are plenty of simple answers that can be given as to why I am a Christian.
Most basically, I am a Christian because I believe that Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, died and rose again. That is true. However, I find that there are many more reasons why I actually am a Christian.
For example, I am a Christian because I believe in the historical evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. It is not just something I believe because someone told me it yesterday. Rather, I believe it is a historical event that actually happened based on the evidence we have. My first basic statement remains true, but discussing the historical reliability of the Gospel testimony takes time and adds a level of complexity to this explanation. However, it is all part of the package for me.
I am also a Christian because I believe that our worldview needs to explain why there is something rather than nothing. To take a page from Thomas Aquinas, there had to be a first cause. It makes scientific sense that our universe is a giant compilation of actions and reactions. If there is never anything to set that in motion, the entire system doesn’t make sense outside of some type of infinite regression.
There are plenty of worldviews that can agree with some type of God who started everything, and I suppose that you could even, by doing some strange mental gymnastics, affirm that Jesus died and rose again while simultaneously denying that there was any type of first cause. I don’t know how one would do that, and I may be setting up a straw man here, but I think it is hypothetically possible to affirm the historical resurrection and deny that there was a creator.
This simultaneously fits into why I am a Christian. It is another facet of the world that needs to fit into my worldview somewhere. It doesn’t necessarily comment on whether or not Jesus rose from the dead, but it does fit into the doctrines of Christianity. Rather than be my hypothetical person who denies the first cause while affirming the resurrection, I find myself to be a Christian because I affirm both of these things that are indeed a part of Christianity.
Or, to go one step further, I believe in the reality of evil in the world. I don’t know of anyone who disputes the existence of evil. Even if we don’t agree on right and wrong all the time, we all agree that there are certain things that are obviously wrong and evil. Again, this is another reason why I believe in Christianity. If Christianity did not acknowledge what is so evident in the world, then it would not be a worthwhile way of viewing the world.
So you see that my Christianity has a basic summary, but it also goes much deeper than that. It is a network of beliefs based on observations about the nature of reality. Reality is a complex thing, so it didn’t really surprise me that it takes a little bit of intellectual heavy lifting for me to explain my Christian faith. I wish I could outline that simply. I just have a very hard time doing that.
Why Complexity Is Okay
I’m afraid that this post is going to irritate some people. For Christians, like I said before, it is very true that our entire faith is based upon the fact that Jesus Christ, God’s son, died and rose again. We need to put our belief in Him to become children of God. That is very simple, and it is very true. Therefore, when I say that Christianity is complex, I worry that some people are going to say that I am adding layers to the Gospel that are not there. I am not trying to do that.
Instead, I know that people have very real questions and concerns about Christianity. They want to know why they should trust Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. They want to know how the universe began. They want to know why there is evil in the world. People build intellectual barriers, and sometimes they use them as a justification for hardening their hearts toward the call of the Holy Spirit in their lives. That is what we need to be prepared to help take down. They freely decide to reject the conviction of God based on what they think are valid questions and concerns. If we can help show the weakness of their objections to Christianity, they don’t have any shelter from God’s call. They have to then face up to the reality of a God who is calling them. They can’t hide behind questions they don’t believe can be answered if we are prepared to help answer those questions.
The only way then to be prepared for these questions is to have a deep faith. Of course, we try to make it as simple as possible. Obviously, I would like to be able to do a better job at explaining my Christian worldview in simple, direct terms. I am going to keep working on doing that because it is important. Very few people really are going to sit down with me and talk for hours about the numerous strands of evidence that I believe point towards the Christian worldview as the best explanation for reality.
That being said, there are times when we have to get deep and down to challenging topics. Reality, like I said before, is a complex thing. Many people are not going to jump on board right away and automatically affirm that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died for their sins and rose again. Instead, it might take a little bit of work. We might have to start out by explaining how the universe is incredibly fine-tuned. If we are relying on pure chance, our universe is radically improbable. However, if there is a designer, it is exactly the type of universe you would expect given the perfect balance of so many constants.
You may have to start by talking about how remarkable it is that the apostles were willing to go to their graves for this mysterious rabbi from an out-of-the-way town who reportedly rose from the dead. All of them faced severe persecution for their faith which implies they really had nothing to gain and everything to lose. However, they remained true to the end. At the very least, that indicates that they believed what they were saying, and being first-hand witnesses of Jesus Christ, they would have known if they were making the entire thing up. If it was their own fabrication, you wouldn’t really expect them to be going to the grave for something they knew was a lie.
It is hard to tell where these conversations might start and what type of answers we may have to have. That being said, we need to have a faith that has some roots. Yes, one indeed becomes a Christian by believing that Jesus Christ died for our sins giving us salvation and rose again conquering death. That is the fundamental belief, but there are obvious questions that people may have about each portion of the confession, and we need to be prepared to talk about them.
Coming full circle then, we really cannot just say that we are going to get a simple answer and leave it at that. The world is a confusing place, and there is a lot going on. Even greater than that, we believe in an infinite God. Try as we might, we are never going to comprehend everything about God; our finite minds literally cannot do that. That is not going to stop people from asking questions. Therefore, let’s try to be as clear and concise as we can be, but remember that it is okay to have a Christian worldview that is deep, comprehensive and interconnected. In fact, I would expect nothing else from a worldview that actually describes reality. An overly simple worldview would seem insufficient to me.