SIMPLIFYING MATTERS

Gaylon Embrey

God planted a garden and there placed Adam and his wife. After awhile man built a city. Needless to say, life is more complicated in a city. Almost everyone I know is complaining these days about how complex the world has become. Once upon a time the problems of human existence were rather basic: food, raiment and shelter. The issues were not necessarily easier then, but they were closer at hand and therefore solvable. Today some of our most perplexing problems seem to defy solution, at least by ordinary people. When life was simple each community was pretty well self-sufficient. Folks grew their groceries, cut most of their fuel and even made many of their own clothes. They did not depend on the outside world for the means of their survival. Now of course the economic structure has become an international affair. Our livelihood may well depend on the actions of a handful of people far, far away; a few sheiks in the Middle East, a few bankers in New York. The political system by which our society functions grows larger and more sophisticated each passing year. It has now become too big to control. Even the good politicians who sincerely promise if elected to change it, cannot and do not. The tail wags the dog. People do not run the government, the government runs the people. One day it will all probably break up, or break down, and man will start over.

A similar thing has happened (and this is the point such as it is) to the Christian faith. Man has taken the religion of Jesus Christ and applied his wisdom to it, reworked and rearranged it, organized and reorganized it over and over again. The result is an immensely complicated ecclesiastical system, an entire network of Church systems in fact, run by a dedicated group of religious bureaucrats. The problem? In time all heavily organized religious systems become self-serving and static, unchanging, and as unmanageable as any political bureaucracy ever dared to be. It is the nature of large corporate bodies, religious or otherwise, to overpower and/or outlive their detractors. When a religious organization officially changes its doctrine or practice, as they all do sooner or later, there is very little a believer down on the pew can do about it. He is not even as well off as a citizen down on, the farm. The citizen can at least cuss the government. All the Church member can do is fuss. The policies are made by the policymakers at Church Headquarters. The system is out of his hands.

The Christian faith in its original form was remarkably uncomplicated. Paul repeatedly used the word "one" in Eph. 4:4-6. One is a pretty simple proposition. In New Testament times those who believed in the ONE God and His Son the ONE Lord Jesus Christ as revealed by the ONE Spirit in the Scriptures, submitted to ONE baptism that inducted them into ONE body of believers; on the strength of this ONE faith they lived in ONE hope, of heaven. These people were pretty self-sufficient. They were not tied to anything but the Lord and one another. They had no huge bureaucratic system to depend on, fuss about, argue over, wrestle with, or waste time and money on. They lived a simple life of faith in which they honored God and served their fellowman. Theirs was simple religion of the garden variety. What should ours be?