Sunday, September 12, 2010

God is simple?

Today a friend asked me, "After you have went through all those tedious studies and it just so happen that one day God appears to you and tells you that He is actually very simple?"

I asked, "I don't get what do you mean..."

He replied, "What if God is just a simple being and resembles none of all that have been discussed in the theological circle by various theologians?"

I asked, "I still don't get your question. You have to explain what do you mean by 'simple'?"

My friend replied, "Simple in the sense that He is who he is as described in the Bible."

I still confused, "Okay, but what do you mean by 'simple'?"

He clarified, "Simple as in I don't need to read all the theological books to relate to God."

I replied, "In that case, then you mean that our relation to God is simple. But that is not what you meant just now. Just now, you said that God is simple. Now you are saying that our relationship to God is simple. Two are different. I still don't understand what do you mean by 'God is simple.'"

The conversation didn't end conclusively as our time ran out. From the conversation, I get the sense that my friend was trying to say that in depth and extensive theological studies are not necessary because God is simply what we learn from the Bible. But isn't that the problem? How do we get the idea of God from the Bible? I really, sincerely, wish that it is as simple as my friend supposed. (See Steven's latest post on hermeneutic, and you will know what I mean.)

Anyway, back to my friend's question: So what do you think, is God simple?


achorusofehoes said...

God is simple in the sense that we can read stuff people wrote about him in scripture in an understandable language (thanks to the tedious work of scholars), in human language that is. It's not a cryptic form of literature.

But that said God is not that simple in that it takes a collection of books to 'explain' what he did and what he is doing. If God was really simple we would have or scriptures in bullet forms and it would not be in the form that we would have to interpret them.

God is like the sea- you can name what you see by admiring the beauty of the surface but you could also surge deep and still find the depths of God as well.

I know my answer to this might be simplistic but i get it that God is simple and difficult at the same time. In fact we get a rich view of God through reflections of theologians that help us to understand him. How would we know how to come up with doctrines such as the trinity if not for the work of theologians grappling with the text of the bible?

Steven Sim said...

ppl always take the two extremes of either fideism, which may be a facade for idleness or ignorance or scholasticism, as if god resides only in our books and arguments.

Aquinas would say god is infinitely simple, and therefore infinitely complex. Penang Hokkien say LPPL :)
(I know you understand what Aquinas means-we used to say, god is "simple" but never easy to understand)

Steven Sim

Sze Zeng said...

Hi achorusofechoes,

Well said. God's initiative in revealing himself to us shows us that it is impossible for us to know him without him initiating it, and it is now possible that we can know him.

Sze Zeng said...

Steven, the attitude to evade the pursuit of God and his world very often comes under this sort of fideism ("God is simple, so no need to read so much or think so much").

What I find unacceptable is that this attitude is then being presented as a better way for one to relate to God, which I think my friend was trying to do.

SHWong said...

I made the same point in one of my blog post:

"This expectation that the Bible should be easy to read is an immense fallacy. Sure, God wants us to know him. But I can also say that God also wants us to know the world he created. Yet, we know for a fact that the world takes true hard work and exploration to understand. Physics, Geology, Astronomy, Sociology etc. None of this is simple when you want to go deeper. It is not in the failure of communication. The subject matter is deep and rightfully so. Why some Christians expect God to be simple is just confounding to me. I've been married for more than 7 years. I can't say I can predict everything (if even anything) about my wife. Good luck being simplistic about God.

The Bible is not simple because the subject matter is deep. And rightfully so. "

Sze Zeng said...

Hi SHWong,

It is good to hear from you. Well written post there. In the same way we don't take for granted our beloved family members, we shall not take God for granted in exchange for our laziness and flimsy knowledge of him.

pearlie said...

Simplicity is hard to define. And to say that "God is simple" begs the question, which is why it is important like what you did to inquire what it means exactly. In the end, like what Leonardo Da Vinci is quoted to have said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication" - it would mean that it is this very "simplicity" of God that we complicated human beings find it impossible to understand, and yet God still calls us to come to know him through his revelation in the Word.