Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How to Deal With Paradox

At the crux of every Christian paradox is God.
The more I learn about the Bible and truth the more I find truths that at first glance contradict each other.  I find that so much of what is true is in tension with itself, so that to present some truths simultaneously almost certainly results in seemingly contradicting oneself.  As I considered these paradoxes and why they exist so rampantly and why it seems that in the reality of time and space and human wisdom they cannot dwell together equally true every moment of the day, it occurred to me that it was because, at their very root, these things dwell outside the realm of natural everyday existence.  The truth of these paradoxes, and the resulting tension, lies in and can only be understood through the very nature of God.  The supernatural acting upon and interacting with the natural makes the natural seem....unnatural.
I then realized that there are only three possible responses to Christian paradox:
     1) Discount it as untrue nonsense that is implausible.  People who do this are seen as the "world".  Because they have rejected Jesus as God they are left in their sin with no glimpse or understanding of God. Unable to grasp salvation that depends upon works but has no basis in works, a man who is simultaneously 100% human and 100% God, or a loving God who created the world with the intention of sending people to Hell, they simply reject Christianity all-together.  Individuals who deal with Christian paradox by simply marking it off as untrue foolishness subscribe to the wisdom of the world, which God's wisdom surpasses.
     2) The second possible response is blind "faith".  People simply take these things to be true, they see contradictions in Scripture that they neither have the desire to understand nor the courage to reject.  They are Christians because they are and accept what is handed to them because they do.  We typically see these people as "nominal" Christians, but one quickly sees that this approach leave one alarmingly short of God.  Rather than seeing God, rather than pursuing God through truth, they are satisfied to have truth and leave God out of the picture.  Like the demons in James they affirm that there is a God, they affirm truth, but they know neither the Way nor the Life.  They are lukewarm.  They feel no tension resulting from conflicting truths, they have no problem with affirming the deity and humanity of Christ but at the same time they have no explanation for how these can exist together.  However, in order to "believe" two things that are entirely opposite, one must either be crazy or actually believe neither of them at all.  If you feel no tension resulting from contradictory concepts then you do not fully subscribe to those concepts as true.  While the first group at least had the wisdom of the world, this group has no wisdom at all.  And on the last day God will say, "Away from me, I never knew you" because they were so quick to "accept" truth without ever taking the time to know and love God, who is at the root of all truth.
     3) The third response to Christian paradox is to search it out.  Things in Scripture that make no sense, such as the unity of heart and mind, or the very nature of our covenant being simultaneously new and old.  The third group of people dig into these things and cry out to God for an understanding of these things because they are not satisfied with anything that leaves them short of knowing God.  They love God so intensely, and desire Him so fully, that they are not satisfied with truth, but rather look past it and into The Truth.

This leaves me to wonder if we should even teach the answers or solutions to the great paradoxes of the Christian faith, or whether we should rather, like Scripture and the apostles (Luke 24:25-27; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31) only teach Christ's suffering and glory, clearly presenting the paradoxes that exist, and then leaving it up to the hungry and the thirsty to find the God of all wisdom and truth and to worship with their faces to the ground.

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