Occam’s Razor and the BOD

Occam’s razor is the problem-solving principle that states “Entities should not be multiplied without necessity.” William of Ockham was a Franciscan friar, scholar, and theologian. The principle of Occam’s razor has been applied to religion, science, and mathematical theories. It is helpful in developing theoretical models or for narrowing down choices between two (or more) different possibilities.

One justification of Occam’s razor is a direct result of basic probability theory. By definition, all assumptions introduce possibilities for error; if an assumption does not improve the accuracy of a theory, its only effect is to increase the probability that the overall theory is wrong.

What if we applied the principle to our denomination? While Christianity is about multiplying the number of people that witness the gospel, the organization of the church may have been multiplied without necessity. Not in its reach but in its structure. Or perhaps the organization has been multiplied contextually for the time it was in but is in need of a more simplified structure in its current time. 

Simplifying however, will cause a dramatic increase in the number of assumptions that the organization’s members will have. Who is accountable? Who claims responsibility? How can we maintain consistency? Do we need consistency?

Therefore we sit in paralysis of our own making. We are caught between a bureaucratic multiplication of details and the hope of a streamlined order full of possibilities – even many possibilities for failure. It feels like Sophie’s choice multiplied with an infinite number of other choices along with it. 

To be clear, I have my own ideas and thoughts but each one comes with assumptions. So I sit in the Catch-22 of Occam’s razor when applied to the UMC Book of Discipline. Its a hot mess. 

But God is in the mess cleaning business. So I pray. I think. I dream. I wait. The Holy Spirit is working. May our eyes be open to it.

Until Everyone Hears,

What are your thoughts?