Coping with the Bibleís Paradoxes
The Bible is filled with paradoxes. Most of us concede this truth in simple faith. We are seldom compelled to "think about it" very much. But, those who reject the existence of paradoxes are willing to think. In fact, they often think their ways to disbelief of the Bible. Also, among believers, the inability to genuinely embrace a paradox has led to divisions over doctrine that may not warrant divisions. For these reasons, it is worthwhile to consider how we might respond to those who struggle with the paradoxes of the Bible. Why do paradoxes abound?
A paradox in the Bible is two truths that appear to contradict one another. For example, does the Bible teach:
We choose Christ or He chooses us? (John 15:16/Revelation 22:17)
Our will is key or Godís will is key in completing our salvation? (Philippians 2:12/Philippians 2:13)
Our power is key or Godís power is key in the work of His kingdom? (Colossians 1:28,29a/Colossians 1:29b)
A Salvation by free grace or a final judgement of deeds? (Ephesians 2:8/Matthew 25:31-46)
Of a Savior Who is God or One Who is man? (John 1:1/Hewbres 4:15)
T.L. Hunt suggests, "Öparadoxes enclose infinity for finite minds." In other words, how can the infinity of God be grasped by tiny and finite human minds? It cannot be, of course. So, the Bible teaches us in "bite-size pieces." Biblical paradoxes only exist from a finite point of view. God understands them all quite clearly. Irreconcilable lines of thought which can never intersect in the realm of human logic do intersect somewhere in the air over our heads. A house has four sides, but we cannot see all four sides at once. Yet, we never conclude that the sides we cannot see do not exist. We even concede that God can see all sides simultaneously.
It is for this reason that any person who desires to teach the Bible to others should pursue a holistic understanding and love for all of the Bible, not just his favorite parts. Even the severe parts are essential to the full picture. God wears many names in the Bible. It is human nature to develop a preference for some names over others. Iíd rather think of God as a Father than a Judge, but each name contributes one aspect to the whole of God.
I react somewhat negatively when a person refers to his "favorite way to think of God" or his "favorite Bible verse". This may be an overreaction, but it is rooted in the many times I have thwarted my own growth by latching onto such favorites. When my finite mind selected favorites, I almost always failed to give other essential parts of the whole their due.
When I concede that paradoxes are essential for finite minds, I lament the divisions among Christians all the more. Many distinct movements within Christianity are founded in manís unwillingness to accept by faith both sides of a paradox. Is it really surprising that so much division among believers has more to do with man being proud in the finiteness of his mind when he should stand in awe of the manifold majesty of God? Accepting paradoxes by faith may sound simplistic to some, but it is a path to greater unity. Modern dogmatism is as silly in Godís eyes as the dogmatism of Jobís "friends":
"Who is this who darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.
"Where were you when I laid the earthís foundation? Tell me if you understand." - Job 38:2-4
In no way do I suggest that we must see ourselves as one with anyone who professes Christ at any level. Fruit matters. Some differences are irreconcilable. Many who wear the name of Jesus do not even believe the Bible any more. But, if a man views the Bible as God-breathed, if he embraces Jesus as the only atonement with the Creator and if his faith results in the same practice and obedience as my own, I choose to see him as my brother.
© by R. Karl Crouch, 551 Abbeyville Road, Lancaster, PA 17603