What Can Be More Minimalist Than the Gospel? 

What Can Be More Minimalist Than the Gospel? 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

Minimalism is a term often associated with the arts and humanities. It can also be a term used to describe a lack of decoration or adornment in design. One notes that minimalism features everywhere today, from webpage design to people’s desire to live in tiny houses. Despite sounding like a paradox, I suppose one can make the case that minimalism is the ultimate form of refinement. Even Leonardo DaVinci allegedly proclaimed that simplicity is the art of sophistication.   

Since minimalism appears to be beloved, why is it so difficult to share the simple Gospel to a postmodern world? What could be more straightforward than the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Paul distilled it to three topics about Christ, even though each of those topics can fill volumes of their own accord (cf. 1 Corinthians 15.1ff). Yes, the Gospel, at its core, is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our salvation is contingent on symbolically reenacting His death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6.3-6). Indeed, the salvation plan is so simple that kids sing a song detailing those steps to the tune of “Pop Goes the Weasel.”  

Yet, when it comes to religion, complex human emotion appears to trump Divine simplicity. Ask Naaman. When told how to cure his leprosy, Naaman balked. The prophet told him to dip himself seven times in the Jordan River to cleanse his leprosy. Naaman stormed off. 

“Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’ Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” (2 Kings 5.11-12 NASB1995) 

Luckily, Naaman’s wise servants were not turned away by simplicity. They reminded their master he would do any great thing to cure his leprosy. So, why not just wash? (2 Kings 5.13) Similarly, I do not think that telling people to be immersed so that they can wash away sins and call on the Lord’s name (Acts 22.16) is a matter of complexity. It is simple. The stumbling block for those unwilling to obey is typically prejudices and fears. They think another way is better. Perhaps, this other way was taught to them by a dear, departed loved one. They do not want to “condemn” their relative by obeying the Gospel.  

However, obeying the Gospel is not an act of judgment. In rendering obedience, I am demonstrating a good conscience before God (1 Peter 3.21). We allow God to take care of the implications and trust, like Abram, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Genesis 18.25 NASB1995). No doubt, if that loved one who taught us something differently had the opportunity to be preached the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ, then they would have obeyed too.  

If time permitted, I could expound upon other areas in which human emotion overly complicates the minimalism of God’s Divine plan for items such as worship. Yet, as with the virtue I am extolling, minimalism, it is best to keep this focused and concise. We should not be surprised that God would make the most critical things, like salvation, simple for us all to understand. Minimalism, experts remind us, is user-friendly and accessible. That is why we like it so. And it is also why God, the Master Designer, set up things so that the simplest among us can gain wisdom from it (Psalm 19.7).  

Indeed, what can be more minimalist than the Gospel?  

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Necessary, But Not Essential

Necessary, But Not Essential

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

brent 2020

Brent Pollard

Has your job been deemed “essential” during our mitigation efforts against COVID-19? If not, you are likely either working from home or are facing a difficult financial situation as we await the reopening of our economy. Noting the choices made by certain people in positions of authority about essential and nonessential workers, however, makes this whole process of determination seem…capricious.

Mike Rowe, a man who made a name for himself doing the “dirty jobs” other people refused to do, stated his opinion was that there was no job that is nonessential. Appearing on a cable news program, he said, “Right now, there is this fascinating conversation going on on your network and all the networks, where we are making a distinction between essential workers and nonessential workers.” Rowe continued, “…there’s something tricky with the language going on here because, with regard to an economy, I don’t think there is any such thing as a nonessential worker.” 1

Rowe did admit that certain positions are greatly needed during a pandemic. Hence, we have greater need for a doctor now than a center fielder for a Major League Baseball team. “I just wanted to make the point that, when we talk about the economy, all work is essential,” Rowe stated. “Maybe it’s a distinction without too much of a difference, but in my mind, there is no such thing right now as a nonessential worker.” 2

Rowe makes a good point. For a healthy economy, every able-bodied person of age, must work. When person “A” earns a paycheck, he spends it in person “B’s” store. Person “B” can then provide for his own family. The property taxes person “B” pays allows person “C’s” child to go to school. In other words, the economy is something in which we all play a role, whether we appreciate our role within it or not. Yet, we see what happens when we purposely shut down a country to mitigate a virus. All the financial gains about which our country boasted for the last few years was wiped out in six weeks!

This isn’t a message about the economy or politics or Mike Rowe. It is rather about the harmful consequences we bring about by rashly judging what’s essential and nonessential without considering the bigger picture. When you have extra time, enter in the words, “baptism” along with “essential” and “necessary,” into your internet search engine of choice. I did. I found one page that proffered “101 Reasons Why Water Baptism is Not Necessary to be Saved.”

Fortunately, we have the book of Acts, also known as the “book of conversions.” Acts has many examples of people who, having heard the proclamation of the Gospel, submitted to baptism. It is a troublesome book for the one seeking to discount the necessity of baptism’s role in salvation. For this reason, such practitioners of a perverted gospel must say, “Baptism is an outward sign of an inward faith.” In other words, all these people were baptized to show their salvation rather than receive it.

Even if we only had the example of Paul’s conversion in the book of Acts, we would have enough reason to prove why baptism is not only necessary but essential. Paul was a man, made miserable by his newly acquired knowledge he was a sinner. He prayed fervently for three days. If one could “pray through” then Paul should have been able to have done so. And yet, when the preacher Ananias arrived, he saw the pathetic state that Paul was in and said, “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22.16). Did Paul not realize he was saved and needed only to perform a ritual to confirm his salvation? If true, Paul was the most miserable Christian about whom we read in the pages of the New Testament during those three days he prayed and fasted.

We might make a tough judgment call because of a virus and shut down certain sectors of our economy since we believe them less essential during a health crisis. Ultimately, though, we realize even those deemed “nonessential” do play an important part in our economy, as Rowe suggested. We need them if we are going to climb up out of this trillion-dollar deficit hole this crisis has made us fall into.

Likewise, people may capriciously proclaim baptism nonessential. However, one wanting total restoration to the innocence lost in Eden must also know a demon’s faith (James 2.19) is not only insufficient to save but fatal (Mark 16.16).

References

1  Shiver, Phil. “’Dirty Jobs’ Star Mike Rowe: There’s No Such Thing as a ‘Nonessential Worker’.” The Blaze, Blaze Media LLC, 2 Apr. 2020, www.theblaze.com/news/mike-rowe-non-essential-worker.
ibid.

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