the weblog of Alan Knox

Keep it Simple Stupid

Posted by on Jan 6, 2009 in definition, discipleship | 5 comments

Almost everyone has heard of the K.I.S.S. principle: “Keep it simple, stupid”. Of course, we only apply it to those things that appear to us to be more complicated than they should be.

But, have you thought about how the K.I.S.S. principle can be applied to theology? Think about it. For the most part, when it comes to God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the church, etc. Scripture usually uses very simple analogies and examples. Sure, there are a few difficult and complex issues, but most of the “hard parts” deal with living out the simplicity, not with complex items.

For example, instead of defining God, Scripture simply speaks of him as creator, protector, provider, king, father, etc. And what about Jesus? He is savior, master, shepherd. The Holy Spirit is helper, teacher, guide. And the church? The church (a word which itself is a simple designator for an assembly of people) is family, followers, beloved, brothers and sisters.

But, instead of attempting the hard work of living according to this simple designators, we tend to analyze, classify, define, and make complex. Of course, if we spend all of our times making things complex, then we feel like we’re doing something important. If we right books and articles and even blog posts analyzing and classifying, then perhaps we don’t actually have to live it.

In fact, the earliest formulated creeds were quite simple: “I believe in God the father, the maker of heave and earth.” But, two thousand years later, we’re not satisfied with simple statements like this. We must define exactly what it means for God to be father and creator. And, if someone doesn’t agree with our analysis or definition – even if they agree with the simple statements of Scripture – then we label them as a heretic. (It’s a good thing we don’t burn or drown heretics today, or there would only be a few people still living.)

Think about the amazing complexities that Christians have attached to the simple concept of “salvation”. It is no longer enough to recognize that Jesus is savior – that he has rescued us from our own sinfulness and eternal punishment – now we have to agree on the hows, whys, whens, etc. If someone doesn’t agree with all of our complexities, then we question their salvation.

Why can we not “Keep it simple, stupid?” Perhaps, if we learned to keep it simple, we would learn just how difficult it is to live the new life of salvation. Of course, if we ever did this – if we ever actually tried to live the simple life – then we would have to learn to listen to the Spirit instead of relying on our own complex analyses and definitions.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 1-6-2009

    Imagine that. Listening to the Spirit and letting him guide us instead of relying on our own infallible knowledge and brilliant theology, or at least those of our pastor. What a novel idea. You think it could work?

  2. 1-6-2009

    Alan and Mark,

    Complex theology keeps people at bay. It says hey I don’t have to follow this simple command found in the middle of Colossians chapter 3. I was just talking with a brother last night about this very thing.

  3. 1-6-2009

    Excellent thoughts, Allen! (Not bad for a PhD student…not much simplicity in that journey is there? :>)

    It seems the calling of God for us to rediscover the simplicity of faith in Jesus is to easily drowned out by the clamor of the crowds for the newest "thing" and an insatiable yearning for significance in the eyes of man.

    I like your writing, at least what I have read so far.


  4. 1-6-2009


    Yes, it could work, if we could stop leaning on our own understanding and actually trust God.


    You’re probably right. Our complex theologies make life seem “simple”.


    Yes, simplicity doesn’t always “sell” or “publish”.


  5. 1-7-2009

    Every “priesthood”, whether religious or secular, looks to have a language not understood by the non-initiates so as to increase one’s importance upon joining or being inducted into the priesthood.

    I guess we are all guilty of this from time to time.