Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. (Psalm 150)
If you’ve been reading my blog over the past few years, you have noticed that I like to dive down rabbit holes—be they psychology and philosophy, language and literature, or just the news of the day. Like Alice in Lewis Carroll’s famous tale, the rabbit hole offers a quick and convenient pathway into an enormous Wonderland of ideas. Of course, it always takes a lot more to climb out of the hole than it did to dive into it!
The rabbit hole for me today was the relationship between simplicity and truth. Let me explain. For centuries, philosophers and physical scientists have understood that making something complicated doesn’t usually make it any better. The famous “Occam’s Razor” principle, first proposed by the 14th-century English Franciscan friar William of Ockham (don’t let me get started on why it isn’t “Ockham’s” Razor!), suggests that the simplest explanation is usually the best one. This has caused quite an academic stir over the past six centuries, as subsequent philosophers have tried to define the connection between what is simple and what is true. One recent attempt to explain the relationship was offered by Kevin Kelly, a professor of philosophy at Carnegie Melon University who writes, “Simplicity does not point at or reliably indicate the truth but, rather, keeps inquiry on the cognitively most direct path to the truth.”
Truth may be deep and complicated and elusive, but if we ever hope to find the truth, the best way is usually the simplest one. In other words, go ahead and jump headlong into that rabbit hole!
Psalm 150 is the last of the collection of ancient songs we call psalms. In the original Hebrew language, they are known by a much “simpler” name, Tehillim, which literally means “praises.” Fittingly, the last of these songs is all about “praises.” The psalmist repeats the imperative to “praise the Lord” thirteen times in this short song. God should be praised everywhere, in every way, by everything, all the time! It’s that simple! The writer doesn’t try to explain why God deserves our praise; he doesn’t delve into the mystery of God’s omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence; he doesn’t offer any reason for any of it! Instead, he provides a elegantly simple pathway toward a truly incomprehensible truth…that somehow, amazingly, we are known by God and that God wants to be known by us.
Don’t get me wrong. God isn’t simple. We can’t begin to understand God by trying to make him easier to grasp. As the Apostle Paul reminds us, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments and his paths beyond tracing out! (Romans 11:33). And yet, the path that leads us toward this “unsearchable” truth is profoundly simple. Praise Him! We begin to understand by diving into the rabbit hole. God is “unknowable” but He wants to be known. And He has always provided a way.
On the eve of his betrayal and crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples felt lost and confused. They didn’t understand why any of this was happening…they didn’t know what they were going to do. The truth was beyond their comprehension, but it wasn’t beyond their grasp. The way forward was simple. Jesus told them, “I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Any other path—any other WAY—no matter how elaborate or complicated or intuitive, won’t lead you to the TRUTH or to the LIFE you desire.
The simplest path to the Father is also the only one! It begins with the way of praise; it leads us to the truth of Jesus Christ and it brings us to the real life that only he can give. He is the way, the truth and the life. He is our Living Water. Keep it simple. Praise Him! And stay thirsty, my friends!
Lyrics (Jon Guerra)
Lord, I’m tired; tired of highs and loud displays. Speak simple truth and I’ll respond with simple praise. Holy, holy, holy—I’m learning how to say those words without duplicitous taint. I reach for mercy. I reach for kindness. I reach for simple praise. Lord, I love you more than I know how to say. Speak simple truth and I’ll respond with simple praise.