It’s not that simple.” This phrase is a commonly used argument to chip away firmly held convictions. You voice your convictions about the Bible and God’s plan of salvation and someone tells you, “it’s not that simple.” They usually mean what you believe is simple and therefore unacceptable. Often the phrase is used to create an atmosphere of intellectual ambiguity. In today’s postmodern world, such ambiguity is a warm blanket to cover those who wish to hold on to their own uncertainty.
Firmly held beliefs are often dismissed as simplistic in a complex world. Truth is considered elusive, subjective. Sophistication requires us to search for “nuanced” positions. To nuance means to make shades of color. When someone wants to nuance the truth, they want to avoid a black and white statement of truth. Gray is the most desirable dwelling place for some folks these days. Many people feel more comfortable asserting what they don’t know than what they do. As Christians we need to avoid arrogant presumptions, but we also need to avoid arrogant omissions of the plain truth spoken in Scripture.
A music teacher stood before his class and struck a tuning fork. The sound echoed through the room. “That is an A,” the teacher said. “It is A today. It was A five thousand years ago, and it will be A ten thousand years from now. The soprano upstairs sings off-key, the tenor across the hall is flat on his high notes and the piano downstairs is out of tune.” Striking the tuning fork once again he concluded, “That is an A.”
When it comes to God, some people don’t want to hear the tuning fork. God knows everything that will ever happen before it occurs, right? But we are told, “It’s not that simple.” The Bible is God’s holy and inerrant word to us. Again, we hear: “Not that simple.” Jesus is the Messiah and Savior, fully God and fully man. “Not that simple,” some protest. We must confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead in order to be saved. “Not that simple,” some say, in all earnestness. Those who die apart from Messiah will face certain judgement. And again we are told, “It’s not that simple.”
The Apostle Paul saw this coming: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
Paul predicts people’s inability or unwillingness to hear truth. He describes a peculiar, pathological condition called “itching ears” whereby people determine truth as a matter of subjective opinion rather than objective revelation. They don’t listen and decide what is true; they decide what they are willing or unwilling to accept as true, and select teachers who support their personal commitments. They make themselves the measure of who should teach them, and what teaching is acceptable.
People get intoxicated with heresies and novelties and faddishness. “Whenever Biblical faith becomes unpopular, ministers are sorely tempted to mute those elements that give the most offense,” says John Stott. But when we refuse to sugar-coat certain doctrines we must be prepared for the results. We will be told, “It’s not that simple.” We will be told that we are narrow-minded, simplistic, intolerant. That is the price of sticking to the truth. But the price of nuancing truth is far greater.
Imagine driving down a highway where you encounter a sign that reads, “Dangerous curve ahead.” You could slow down, maintain the same speed or speed up. Whatvever you do, you can’t nuance the truth of that sign or what will happen if you ignore or reinterpret it. Or what about a traffic light? As you approach, do you question whether the red is the right shade to cause you to halt? Do you hesitate when you see green because it is too dark or light a green?
I am afraid that many are ignoring the plain signs of Scripture. The gray area is growing into a dense fog that blinds people to the truth. We have no liberty to invent a message we find more comfortable to proclaim or to otherwise nuance the truth. It is our responsibility to communicate the word that God has spoken. We are to love it, to proclaim it, to lift up our voices without fear of disfavor and boldly make it known. It is just that simple.