Seminary and the Simplicity on the Other Side of Complexity
Apr 26, 2009 by Don Payne | 0 Comments
Oliver Wendell Holmes reportedly once said, "I wouldn't give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity." A number of times I have used this quote with seminary students to describe one of the functions of a seminary education; to get at that simplicity on the other side of complexity.
Of course, that means going through the uncomfortable and sometimes unnerving process of complexity. Sometimes things become more confusing before they become more clear. Sometimes a new clarity is the result of a painful stripping so that what is true or truer can replace it.
I still believe that Holmes' statement offers sobering hope and vision as we move through life's perplexing experiences and seek to tether ourselves to the triune God who saves us through Jesus Christ. That's where my life is still tethered. Yet, I have discovered over the years that that lifeline constantly acquires barnacles that must be painfully scraped away. In many cases, those barnacles are assumptions and expectations that I have inherited and projected onto God. It can be difficult to distinguish the barnacles from the lifeline at first.
A few years ago one of our students, a man with a few more years of life than I, really latched onto my quote from Holmes. Over the course of his seminary education he said to me more than once that he was still looking for that simplicity on the other side of complexity. This forced me to realize that it's easier said than done and that I need to think more deeply about what that desirable simplicity really is . . . and what it looks like when we have it or have more of it.
How do you envision that? What has it been like . . . or looked like for you?