Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Simplicity of Christ vs. the Understanding of Theological Sophisticates

Guest post by WJC

It really should not be a big surprise that we have a situation emerging within the FG camp in which men who are theologically sophisticated, well educated, trained in the scriptures and in positions of spiritual leadership, are defining and requiring some rather complex propositional truths as fundamental requirements that must be heard and understood by the lost in order to receive eternal life. The unsaved must not only believe in the object of our salvation - Jesus - for eternal life but must have an understanding of the basis by which Jesus is able to save us. This is a rather sophisticated intellectual process that is required and I would like to draw your attention for a moment to some parallels that I think might be instructive.

Imagine for a moment with me that we are part of the mass of Israelites who are wandering in the wilderness and you and I have just experienced a horrifying plague of vipers which have suddenly come into our encampment and we along with countless others have been bitten by these poisonous reptiles. We are getting sicker by the minute and hundreds lie dying when the word comes around that Moses will raise a bronze serpent on a pole in the middle of the camp and if anyone will just look at that bronze serpent he or she will be healed from the bite of the vipers and will not die… Suppose I said to you: “Now listen Joe, I don’t get it - this doesn’t make much sense – we just have to look at a bronze serpent on a pole and we will recover and live? What could that possibly have to do with our condition and our recovery? There has to be more to this story… We need to know where Moses got this idea. We need to know how this can possibly work cause I’ve never heard of such a thing… Maybe the heat is getting to Moses so let’s go see if we can get the scoop on what’s behind this bronze serpent on a pole thing!”…

Now if you’re honest you are probably thinking how ridiculous! Just look at the bronze serpent and then if you must you can check into the details later dude!! I would submit to you that the Israelites probably didn’t have many if any of the details. All they likely knew through that bleary mental fog and the searing pain that was spreading to the nerves of their dying bodies was that Moses said to look at the bronze serpent and whoever does will live – and that was enough…

What I’m getting at should be clear. We are living in a day when just as they did in Jesus day, some of our most learned and best religious men can complicate and obscure the grand simplicity of God’s plan, purpose and mission. If there is one thing that the scriptures and our experience should teach us - it is man’s natural propensity in his intellectual arrogance and pride to create clouds of sophisticated arguments and requirements that replace the magnificent simplicity of God’s wise plan. We see this very notably in Lordship theology and now we see a similar mentality emerging within the FG camp. I would suggest that it is spawned by the same spirit which wars against the mind of man to blind his understanding of the simplicity of God’s saving grace. It is the same spirit which permeated the legalism of the Pharisees of Jesus day and blinded them to who He was causing Jesus to ask them repeatedly “why don’t you believe me?”…

Much like the admittedly ridiculous example in my story we have a group of theological sophisticates who say that without a full understanding of the basis for how Jesus is able to save men the lost cannot be saved – i.e., reduced to the bare minimum, just looking to Jesus in faith for eternal life is not enough. Despite the clear parallel that Jesus gives Nicodemus in John 3 between the simple look of the Israelites to the bronze serpent in that wilderness camp for life – to believing in him for eternal life.

Even though Jesus alludes to His future crucifixion Nicodemus would not have understood that detail – only that Jesus was saying that He was here, visibly for all to see much like that bronze serpent was so that “whoever believes in Him, may have eternal life.”