Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings

Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings

“We Need Truth More Than Simplicity”

Categories: Midweek FR articles, preaching, theology

Occasionally, I hear preachers and religious teachers talk about the importance of keeping the message that we teach simple. And there is a sense in which that’s right. Paul apparently thought it necessary to keep the truth simple enough that it could be clearly understood, and so he said that Christ had sent him into the world, “to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (1 Cor. 1:17) Just a few paragraphs later, he continued the same thought, noting how his speech and the concepts in it were not the lofty, esoteric discussions that one would expect from the philosophers of his time: He just taught Jesus and all that comes with knowing him (cf. 1 Cor. 2:1-5).

But all Bible teachers need to be aware that there is a difference between Paul’s ideal of simplicity and the ideal that we repeat regularly. I have heard many modern preachers and teachers advise that, “You need to preach down at the kids level,” or “Y’know, people can’t process as much as you think they can; you should simplify everything as much as you can,” or “I have one very important philosophy about how to preach and teach from God’s word: ‘Keep it simple!’”

Yet that isn’t what Paul was saying. Paul’s priority wasn’t just to simplify the message at all costs. Paul’s priority was 1) to preach the truth in all of its power and 2) to do that in such a way that people could understand it (cf. “power” in 1 Cor. 1:17 & 2:5). When our first priority in teaching is simplicity, truth necessarily gets moved to a lower priority. And we know this is possible because we’ve probably all heard sermons or classes in which the truth was so simplified that it was no longer true.

So our goal is teach the truth with clarity. Often, the simplest explanation of that will be the most helpful, but only when it retains all of the truth. If God has revealed a complex truth, then we dare not simplify it to the point of corrupting it. And yet, if there is a way to communicate complexity clearly, then let’s try our best to not overcomplicate it. In both cases, our first priority and our “one very important philosophy about how to preach and teach from God’s word” should be: Teach the truth.

- Dan Lankford, minister