How many of you have been told that “it’s not that deep?” How many times do people tell you that things are simpler than you try to make them out to be? Do you ever wonder what is so wrong with trying to figure it all out? Well, simple might be good enough, but good enough, just isn’t good enough for me.
This past winter, I attended a retreat with graduate students from Stanford, Berkeley, and UCSC. I wrote about the overall experience and promised that I’d write a little bit about the teaching. I really don’t know who Josh McPaul is or what he does, except that he is a ministry leader at UC Berkeley with ties to First Presbyterian Church (or perhaps he is a ministry leader at First Pres with ties to UC Berkeley). More importantly, his teaching, at the retreat, was intellectually captivating, and, in conversation, this guy is legit.
Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime;therefore we must be saved by hope.Nothing true or beautiful makes complete sensein any immediate context of history;therefore we must be saved by faith.Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone;therefore, we are saved by love.– Reinhold Niebuhr
He hands out, what could be, a research paper on complexity, the Psalms, accompanied by a number of secondary sources. The overall takeaway is that, in addition to being very simple, Christianity is (especially intellectually) very complex. With complexity in mind, peace that “transcends all understanding” arrives, I believe, when we can accept that complexity is ok (when petitioned to God). McPaul takes it a step further to quote Tolkein:
Tolkien stated in a letter: “Actually, I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’ – though it contains (and in a legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.