Simple Words


I have spoken of these matters in figures of speech, but soon I will stop speaking figuratively and will tell you plainly all about the Father. (John 16:25)

Read: Jeremiah 48:1-49:22, 2 Timothy 4:1-22, Psalm 95:1-96:13, Proverbs 26:9-12

Relate: I recommended a book to a friend once. Well, not once, I do that all the time for all sorts of friends. On this particular occasion, I recommended one of Umberto Eco’s books. Honestly I don’t remember which one, it was years ago. A few months later I noticed that book wasn’t on my shelf and tracked my friend down to see about getting it back. He told me that he didn’t finish reading it but I could have it back. When I asked if he didn’t like it, he said, “I’m not sure. I just got tired of having to look up every third word in the dictionary.” For a moment I was confused. I don’t remember the language being that difficult. A short while later I had a similar complaint on one of my early blogs (I was a consistent top 50 blogger back in the myspace days). This other friend said to me, “It sounds like you are saying something important, I am just not smart enough to understand what.”

I have been teaching, writing, and editing in one form or another for over a decade now but the real culprit for my 40,000+ word English vocabulary is my reading habit. I have read between 75-100 books a year every year since I started counting (and long before as well.) This isn’t just a habit I picked up as an adult. I read through the nine books of the Chronicles of Narnia in kindergarten. The first time I read through the Bible in a year, I started in first grade and finished in second. I promised myself then that I would never again use the King James to do it. With much reading comes many learned words and I have learned that one of my biggest struggles in writing is to say what I want to say as simply and succinctly as possible. The most important things must be said simply.

React: According to Dr Noel Vose, the greatest theologian of the previous generation, Karl Barth, was once asked by a student at the University of Chicago if he could sum up his life’s work in theology. Barth did not quote anything he had previously written. Although he was able to do so, he did not craft any theologically profound concepts on the spot. Instead he quoted a children’s song: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak but He is strong.”

Paul was another great theologian who tended to get a little verbose at times. He was going so long into the evening one night that one of the kids in the local youth group fell asleep, fell out the window, and died. Paul just walked down raised him up… and continued preaching all the way till morning. Peter, the guy to whom Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church.” said in one of his own letters, “Sometimes Paul can get a bit tough to understand.” When this long winded, hard to understand Paul wanted to get down to the brass tax, He could not have said it any clearer: “I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.” 

When Jesus said, “Soon I will tell you plainly all about the Father,” He was talking about the same exact thing that Barth and Paul point to. He was pointing towards the cross and the empty grave. There could be nothing more simple. There can be nothing more profound. If you want to know God, you do not need to dig into any deep theological treatises. They have their place but the nature of God will not be found through an abundance of verbosity. The true nature of the character of can be summed in two simple statements. God loves you so much He died for you. He is so powerful that even death could not keep Him down.

That’s it.


Dear God,
Your Truth is so simple that even the youngest child can understand it. Yet it is so profound that the greatest of minds cannot even begin to scratch the surface. Thank You for revealing Yourself with such simple words and actions that no one can ever claim to be unable to understand it. Help me to share the truth of who You are with equally plain speech. With every conversation in which You come up, help me to represent You well.

21 thoughts on “Simple Words

  1. I uuuh, totally get this. I am terribly guilty of too much. Especially when I am trying to preach a message that I feel has great profundity. Like my senior pastor always say, “keep it simple.” Thanks, I am preparing a sermon now, LOL.

  2. Pingback: Simple Words – remembertheprisonersblog

  3. “. . . the greatest theologian of the previous generation, Karl Barth . . .” Not simply “one of the greatest” but “THE greatest.” LOL I love it, and it delightfully reveals not only more about you theologically, but of your personality as well. Thank you for the chuckle woven into an otherwise great article! 😉 Blessings!

    • 🙂
      He’s not my favorite, Reinhold Niebuhr is. But I can’t think of another who has had more influence on the next generation both in theological and in church circles. Can you?

      • Yves Conger, Hans Küng, Albert Schweitzer . . . Perhaps? Of course, the first two were Roman Catholics and you may not be counting them among Christian theologians; after all, I don’t know how Protestant you are! 😉

        • Then if we want to be more culturally inclusive ~ that is, rather than being exclusively Western ~ we could also mention Sergius Bulgakov, Pavel Florensky, and Nicholas Berdyaev (who was an important influence in the life of Dorothy Sayers, which shows in her magnificent “The Mind of the Maker.)

        • I dont know enough about Congar to make an informed statement but a brief browse through his bio tells me he might make a top ten list… barely.
          I consider Schweitzer to be the generation before Barth. Although their lives roughly covered the same span. AS’s biggest impact was made early, just past the turn of the century where Barth didnt really appear on the scene until the thirties but once he did, he dominated it. Kung… isnt he still living? Wouldnt that make him this generation. The more I think about it, though, I think CS Lewis would really have to take the top spot. So I guess I was wrong after all.

  4. I can understand where your friend was coming from, but I see your point and how sometimes it is our perception of things! Thank you for your explanations!

  5. Ummm …. have you read much of Karl Barth?

    I’ve only read his ‘No!’ (response to Brunner) which I liked, his ‘Dogmatics in Outline’ and his ‘Evangelical Christianity’. The latter two I didn’t like so much. In the ‘Dogmatics in Outline’ it seems clear to me that he believes that ultimately all are saved (Christ is predestined to salvation and all are predestined to salvation in Him and through Him); the difference between the Christian and the non-Christian is that the Christian knows this. The short book ‘Evangelical Christianity’ seemed more like ‘the psychological problems of being a theologian’, which could more or less be taken as something of the ‘wretched man’ of Romans 7.

    There was something weird about his theology; his way with words and the strength of conviction helped obscure this.

    • Yes I have read Barth. His epistles among others. (Reading Church Dogmatics is one of my bucket list items I will probably never get to.) The short answer is no, Barth was not a universalist but some people can take some of his strong stance against the heresy of Limited Atonement in that light. Maybe when I am not on a bus typing away on my phone I will give a more complete answer.

      • I’d be interested in what you say about KB. I’m not exactly clear on what ‘limited atonement’ means – and in his ‘Dogmatics in Outline’ I didn’t see him explicitly stating that he was arguing against this. The logic of what he wrote, though, seemed pretty universalist to me.

Join the discussion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s