32 Simplicity: Christianity’s Missing Trait

The Bible in English has nearly a million words. Have you ever wondered why God would need so much space? Not only is this a surprisingly large number of words, but it’s a clue that Christianity is false. Why would a perfect god need a million words? Couldn’t he have gotten his message across at least as clearly (or more so) with a tenth as many words? Or even a thousandth as many?

Just a page or two of instructions would be enough to explain how to be a vegan. That’s a lifestyle with strict rules. Why would it be any more difficult for a perfect god to convey the core of its message in the same space?

For comparison, the U. S. Constitution was written by mere humans and has defined the government for several centuries. It has just 4500 words. The U. N. Declaration of Human Rights has less than 1800 words. The Humanist Manifesto, 800.

Pare away the fluff and think about the essentials in a perfect god’s constitution. It would share personal details about the supernatural: the number of gods, name(s), and relationship to each other if more than one.

It would make clear any non-obvious morality: slavery is good/bad, abortion is okay/forbidden, vegetarianism is mandatory/optional, and so on.

It would disclose what happens, if anything, when people die. If there’s a supernatural realm that we should know about, how does it fit with and interact with our own?

It would define the purpose of our lives. What should we be doing to satisfy the god(s), and what should we know about our future, if anything?

The Bible would look more like the work of an omniscient god by removing Abraham as the founder of the religion and then Moses as the founder and then Jesus as the founder. Imagine it without Old Testament violence, just-so stories, ideas borrowed from other cultures, contradictions, and an evolving message. The Bible is what a manmade religious book would look like.

Or look at the practice of Christianity today. Why is there a Bible Answer Man radio program, and why does GotQuestions.org boast that it has more than half a million Bible questions answered? Shouldn’t God’s message be so clear that there would be no questions to answer? Why are there 1600-page books on systematic theology—why would the study of a perfect god need this? Why is it so complicated? And why are there thousands of denominations of Christianity today?

The more elaborate the story, the more it must be explained. Did Jesus have a human body or a spirit body? Why is God behind so much death in the Old Testament? Why isn’t God’s existence obvious? Why does God initially care just about the Israelites but later decide to embrace the whole world? Why doesn’t the world look like an omniscient and loving god created it? What is the Trinity?

The Church convened 21 ecumenical councils over the last 2000 years to try to make sense of questions like these. “There is no god” would have been the most economical explanation.

Image credit: Cesare Nebbia c. 1585 (public domain) via Wikimedia


Just-so story: a story that explains the origin of something, such as why a place has its name or why we see a rainbow after a rain. Also called an etiological story.

Systematic theology: the organization of Christian teaching into categories—sin, angels, salvation, the Holy Spirit, and so on.

Ecumenical council: a convention of religious experts that resolves questions of Christian doctrine or practice.