Blog Church, Lion in Babylon, and Rabbit Fur
Remembering Well (or Why History Isn't Dumb)

The Reassuring Certainty of Paradox

Churchsign_1 Elton Trueblood once said that "[i]f a man wishes to avoid the disturbing effect of paradoxes, the best advice is for him to leave the Christian faith alone."  I take great comfort in this, not because I believe that God is pure mystery to us but because God is ultimately incomprehensible to us.  Indeed, God is much like my cat: Some things have been revealed -- the necessity of food, his need for 20-22 hours of sleep each day, and, well, other cat things.  But behind the whiskers, in the deep recesses of his brain, I don't really know what's going on.  OK, so it's a bad analogy in many ways, but the point is that God is not completely knowable by us.

Consider for a moment any of the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith.  Begin with the Trinity.  Can you reconcile a being who is, at the same time, three distinct persons and yet one?  In the words of the Westminster Confession, "[i]n the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity."  That is paradox -- a seeming (but not actual) contradiction.  In reality, if we could comprehend like God comprehends, we would see the non-contradiction.

Or take the doctrine of the Incarnation, whereby we affirm that Christ is both fully God and fully human.  Just thinking of the possible ramifications of this is mind-boggling and raises a host of other questions, such as how he can be finite like us, limited in knowledge, and yet have the foreknowledge of God? One cannot provide a simple answer or, indeed, much of any answer to such riddles.

In this, as I say, I am comforted.  It reminds me that God is really God, that is, that for all that He has revealed to us, all that is necessary for salvation and the life of faith, He is ultimately incomprehensible.  I mean, a God should be that way, don't you think?  Else He's not much of a God.

It also confirms the authenticity of Scripture, that is, it must be true because if you were making up a religion, you certainly would attempt to make things clearer so we wouldn't have so many disagreements among ourselves.  I mean, I would (but won't, as religions can be nasty businesses to be in).  Indeed, a kind of guidebook with life decision maps and clear positions on all the issues would be helpful, rather than this collection of cobbled-together stories, parables, poems, and prophecies (or is that Poems, Prayers, and Promises a la John Denver, may he rest in peace) that we have to figure out somehow.  But God didn't do that.  He left a Book that gives us all we need and yet requires our constantly bringing it before Him for understanding, that requires us to continue to seek Him even after we are found.

You know, I don't have to understand it all.  My knowledge of God and His world might be a drop in a thimble, maybe, but no more.  And doubts need not worry me, either, as what He has told me is enough for life this side of Eden.  Flannery O'Connor had it right:

When we get our spiritual house in order, we'll be dead.  This goes on.  You arrive at enough certainty to be able to make your way, but it is making it in darkness.  Don't expect faith to clear things up for you.  It is trust, not certainty.

So, I am reassured by the certainty of paradoxes, the incomprehensibility of God, so when I say Almighty I mean it.  After all, He's really a Lion, not a cat, right? And we all know felines have a mind of their own.  At least this one's all good.  Of that we can be certain.