Bear Grylls and the Simple Faith
Stephen Rockwell, GWC Faculty, Biblical Studies, New Testament, Greek
BSc Hons 1st Class (Sydney), LTh, BTh (GWC), MTh (Moore)
Ok confession time – I have an unhealthy adoration of Bear Grylls!!!! I mean, this guy is awesome – who doesn’t want to be him? (Well I admit, I don’t always want to eat the things he eats or drink the things he drinks, but apart from that, I’m in!). I first met Bear – yes we’re on first term basis – on the TV in his Man vs Wild series. My wife had just given birth to our first son and the series had just hit the airwaves. I remember vividly sitting there, watching him find water in the most unbelievable places, making fire, creating shelter, all whilst I was rocking my new born son in my arms, thinking to myself, “Son I want to be that kind of Dad for you! I want to take you on those kind of adventures. I want to teach you all of those kinds of cool, outdoor, adventure skills”. He and I would chat and dream together – well I would dream and talk, he would mostly coo and vomit. But it was bonding. Man and Son watching Man vs Wild. I loved it all.
Then I read Bear’s biography, Mud Sweet and Tears, and the obsession only increased. What a life, what an adventure, what a man! What a man! That’s what Bear is, he’s a man. A real man. An adventurous, capable, strong, determined, confident, passionate, yet tender and real and honest man. And the obsession continued.
Now I have four sons, and the truth is that the most adventurous thing that I do would be to leave the home without several spare nappies and wipes! The closest we get to the kind of adventurous life that Bear leads is only vicariously as my boys read through his kids book series Mission Survival.
Then I found out that Bear is a Christian, and I grew to love him even more – in a brotherly Christian manner now of course. He’s spoken publically about his faith often, sometimes on his shows, sometimes during interviews. Most recently in an article he’s gone public about his simple faith. And the main point of the article is exactly that – simple faith. It’s simple says Bear, it’s simple says the article. When he was a child, he just believed in God, that was obvious to him, and then he drifted away only to come back at some stage and ask the simple question to Jesus in a prayer, “Will you be that friend to me that you were at five or six when it felt natural?” It was no more complicated than that says the article. The rest is history as they say.
And isn’t that great. After all Jesus did say the same thing when he said “let the little children come to me … anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:14-15). So that’s all good and well. However, I fear that there is a danger here and the danger is this – it’s easy to confuse simple with simplistic. Sure the good news that Jesus offers to the world forgiveness of our sins through faith in his death on our behalf is simple, very simple, but not simplistic. And when we make it simplistic, there is a danger that we dilute it, change it, lose its profundity and walk away from it.
Because the truth is that the gospel message is at the same time both simple and profound. It is so simple that anyone can understand it, even a child, especially a child. And yet at the same time it is so profound that no one, even the most learned theologians in the world, can ever fully plumb its depths. Christianity’s core message is both simple and profound. The danger is that when all we do is focus on the simplicity, then we end up losing the profundity, and that is a real danger. One astute observer once commented that the Christians of the world who have focused on the gospels simplicity and ignored its profundity are starting to watch as the simple Christian faith they ascribe to slips through their fingers.
Bear’s right, Christianity is simple. But it’s not simplistic. We must never focus on the simplicity of the gospel in expense for its profundity, it is both, and we’d do well to always remember that. That means we must always receive the kingdom of God like little children in simple dependent faith, and yet at the same time, we must apply ourselves to understanding, to the best of our abilities, the profound nature of the message of the Bible.
 David Wells, The Courage to be Protestant. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008; pp. 212-13.