The Reductionistic Tendency

It is obvious to all who may have read these posts that I am way off the mark of the goal I set to write every month. I can only apologize and say that life is very busy, and I have not been as diligent as I had hoped. Some who read this may wonder why I would even do it. I am convinced writing is an important skill that must be honed as a thinker and teacher, even a simple, uneducated one like me. I am a student first and a teacher second. I hope you will bear with me and critique me where needed, whether in content, style, or mechanics.

In the previous posts, I have been dealing with academic study for Christians as indispensable to our growth. In the last post I gave examples of how understanding the Bible requires some intellectual expertise but that it isn't complicated, it just needs to be instructed, embraced, and modeled. I would like to continue in this theme and explain a few more fallacies that we see in our day in the evangelical-American Church.

From my perspective, there is a reductionistic tendency in the teaching and preaching ministries of many churches. One example of reductionism is in our understanding and communication of the gospel. In our attempts to get it across, we often lose the real gospel, replacing it with one more palatable, more attractive. In our efforts to "win people" to faith in Jesus Christ, we want to make the message as simple to understand as possible. This can be a good thing. Good teachers are usually tasked with taking complicated material and making it simple for the learner. But there are some inherent dangers here in reducing the all-important message of the Gospel to the point that the hearer doesn't understand the import of it. As is usually the case, there are unintended consequences to shortcuts. Our goal should be to be as simple as possible without ever approaching over-simplification. The most obvious and critical example of this is when the gospel is shared with the plea to "believe in Jesus as savior" so as to escape hell and go to heaven without any mention of the requirement to repent or without any mention of the costs. Another example is when one assumes the Great Commission was given to go and make such a plea without any consideration or careful study of what the commission actually stated, "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." (emphasis added)

Another example is when pastors or teachers make such statements as, "the Bible only contains two things: how to be saved and how to live after you're saved." Is this an accurate statement? Is the Bible written to do only that? I'm sure this is an example of what I mentioned earlier, a well-meaning comment by those trying to make difficult literature and ideas more simple to the hearer but resulting in unintended consequences. The problem is that such reductionist statements communicate a man-centered reading of Scripture. In fact, they usually lead to an excuse not to even read the Scripture. After all, if that is all that is there, and the hearer already "believes in Jesus" and knows how to live morally, then why read it? Even the dreaded error of moralism, plaguing American Christianity, is born out of such thinking, and modern day Pharisees are the result.

My conviction is that weak teaching leads to weak thinking resulting in weak, anemic Christians. Churches that reap these unintended consequences are often left with a generally outwardly moral but self-righteous group of people who are actually devoid of any real, holistic understanding of the faith or of the Bible. Many of them are serving a small god who is there to "take them to heaven when they die.” But this is not the God of the Bible and it is not "the holiness without which no one will see The Lord," that the Bible reveals. As the old proverb teaches, we should never be too quick to take the easy road, sometimes the worst of evils lies in the path most traveled. I pray we at Covenant Baptist never reduce the Holy Bible in any way to fit our "needs", but that we seek The Lord in it that our true need be met - that of knowing Him and being rightly related to Him. We will explore this further next time.

Ever learning,


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