Getting the Questions Wrong

Once upon a time, many moons ago, someone asked, “What’s the bare minimum that a person would need to believe in order to be saved?”

Some of us, myself among them, were silly enough to venture an answer to that question. I have since repented.

There are two problems with this question, one exegetical and one practical. The exegetical problem is that the Scriptures never answer the question directly, which makes it very difficult to substantiate a “Thus saith the Lord” answer — which, in this case, would be the only answer worth fighting over. An answer based on theological reasoning isn’t out of the question — logical consequence is fair game in theology — but difficult, in that it’s easy enough to put forth an answer, but very hard to rule out competing answers. Thus far, nobody’s in any danger of decisively winning that argument.

But the practical problem with the question is the real clincher: why would you want to give anybody the bare minimum? Where does the Bible suggest giving no extra? No matter what you think the bare minimum is, you will find very few, if any, biblical passages that present only your bare minimum content. Meanwhile, there will be many, many passages that present additional (from your perspective, “extra”) content, and even more damaging, a number of passages that leave out something you regard as essential.

But over here in the real world, we don’t aim to convert anybody to a minimum understanding. We want them to get all of Jesus that they possibly can. We want them to know Jesus, and the more of His word we can give them, the better.

4 Responses to Getting the Questions Wrong

  1. David Bell says:

    This reminds me of just about the only thing I remember about Gordon Clark’s Faith and Saving Faith, which was his comment, “But even if a minimum of propositions [everything was about propositions to him] could be listed, below which number justification were impossible, it would still be the wrong question with a perverted outlook.” But actually, I think it was mostly your writings from several years ago that have helped me reject the “bare minimum” idea and I thank you for it.

  2. David Wyatt says:

    Amen bro. Tim I actually couldn’t agree more. This entire bare minimum concept always caused things to get more muddy in my view rather than clearer. More mechanical and less relational. Anyway I’ll stop and just say amen.

  3. Tim Nichols says:

    Thank you, David! Always a pleasure to hear from you!

  4. Tim Nichols says:

    I had forgotten that Clark makes that qualification. Thank you for the reminder, David!

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