Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What Happens in Vegas . . .

The view from my hotel room
Part two of my business trip is Las Vegas. It's my first visit to "sin city," and for a Christian this place can be a tad bit uncomfortable. But before I start moralizing let me admit that, in a spiritual sense, I've been to "sin city" many times and felt quite at home there. It is remarkable to see the crowds of people pouring into Las Vegas. They come here looking for a thrill, some exciting and new experience that will cover the sadness and monotony of human life. And there obviously is a temporary pleasure in much that goes on here. Immorality, greed, and selfish hedonistic excess are worshipfully embraced while the living God is rejected categorically. I heard a story about a street preacher on the Las Vegas strip who was viciously punched in the face by a passerby a couple of days ago.

I remember a time in my life when I delighted to spend hours in selfishness, lust, and forgetfulness of God. I recall times when I tried in vain to numb the pain of my fallen humanity by thowing myself into wretched debauchery. I remember feeling a violent anger toward those who told me the truth and called me to account. In my flesh, this is all still present. But thanks be to God for His transforming grace! So, my trip to "sin city" has turned out to be a reminder of what I was - and in some ways still am - in my sinful self. But it is also an encouraging proof of the potency and availability of grace.

In the faces of those who come here to indulge in various vices, I can see myself. These faces bring thoughts of my depravity, but they also preach to me about mercy. For the One Who saved me can certainly save other sinners as well. He can change anyone. Blessed be His name.
That street preacher is probably rejoicing that he was able to suffer for the sake of Christ. Perhaps the one who attacked him is repenting today. Are we rejoicing and repenting, too - or just moralizing about the sins of others?

Thursday, July 24, 2008


I'm visiting Indianapolis, Indiana on business. Just down the street from my hotel, I discovered what appears to be a great church. I attended the midweek theology study (how many churches nowadays have theology studies?). Pleasant Heights Baptist Church was filled with friendly people who helped me stay connected to godly fellowship while on the road. A refreshing oasis in the midst of my sojourning.

Here's an excerpt from the church website:
What then does someone need to do to know Jesus, be forgiven of sin, and live for God? What you need to do is pray to God, admitting that you are a sinner deserving of Hell. You need to confess (agree with) Him as Lord and, believe He is alive (was raised from the dead) and that His death covered your sins. You need to repent of your sins, and bank everything on Jesus, giving up any claim on your life by surrendering to Jesus and His authority. God WILL have saved you if you have done these things!

If you have done that, it was only because God worked in you to make it happen! He sought you out and loved you, and you are now His child!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

C.H. Spurgeon's Paradoxical Calvinism

Here are two quotes from Charles Spurgeon I recently came across:

"That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory; but they are not. It is just the fault of our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other. These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring." (New Park Street Pulpit, 4:337)

I'm no hyper-Calvinist
"Men who are morbidly anxious to possess a self-consistent creed, a creed which will put together and form a square like a Chinese puzzle, are very apt to narrow their souls. Those who will only believe what they can reconcile will necessarily disbelieve much of divine revelation. Those who receive by faith anything which they find in the Bible will receive two things, twenty things, ay, or twenty thousand things, though they cannot construct a theory which harmonizes them all." ("Faith," Sword and Trowel, 1872)

In my Arminian days, I considered Spurgeon to be an arch-enemy and possibly a heretic. Now, he has become like a dear friend!

Recently I realized that every argument I had against Calvinism in those days was really about "hyper-Calvinism," not the balanced doctrine presented in the Bible, in the early church councils and by the 16th century reformers. I believed Calvinism presented a God who was unloving, who hated sinners, who arbitrarily chose some for salvation and predestined others to hell. Calvinism seemed to suggest that man is not responsible. It was a loathesome system of doctrine, though I could see that it explained some Biblical texts in what seemed to be the most plausible way. Yet it seemed to ignore other passages entirely. Or worse, its proponents explained those passages away and stripped the Word of God of its power.

It seems that the Arminians on one side and the hyper-Calvinists on the other have both fallen into this trap.

A few years ago I was privileged to attend a sermon series by Brad Bigney of Grace Fellowship Church in Kentucky. Each week, he would lay out a long, thick rope across the front of the church auditorium. On one end of the rope he attached a sign that said, "Human Choice," and on the other end was a sign reading, "God's Electing Love." The middle of the rope ran through a box covered by a black curtain. On the front of the curtain was a sign that said, "MYSTERY." Then this man, whom I considered to be extremely Calvinistic, explained how we can hold to both ends of the rope because Scripture teaches both. Suddenly I was set free. I realized for the first time that I could become a Calvinist without throwing "whosoever will" and human responsibility off the back of the truck. But far better, my eyes were opened to a God more loving, more sovereign, and more amazing than I had ever fathomed.

Only the dog sees the paradox
These days I am a thousand times more grateful for what God has done in my heart. I realize that it is a work of grace and electing love that saved me. My choice was involved, but behind my choice was God's everlasting grace and sovereignty. I can't explain how it all works, but I know this for certain: God did it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Through Him Who Strengthens Me

This is part of a letter I recently wrote to a friend concerning the paradox of human inability and divine enablement . . .

We're looking at two verses:

John 15:5 - "Apart from Me you can do nothing."
Php 4:13 - "I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me."

You are pointing to the "I can." I am pointing to the "through Him." It is not negative, but quite the opposite. It is supremely positive, but it places ALL the positivity IN CHRIST, not in self. One who knows he can do nothing in himself calls upon Christ for help and relies on His grace and power. He gives God the credit for everything good, and none to himself.

Many will say it is only a matter of semantics, but I believe it is more significant than that. It is a matter of emphasis in which one intentionally gives God all the glory. Soli Deo Gloria - to God alone be glory.

The very fabric of our culture with its ubiquitous self-esteem dogma is to focus on the "I can" part. But the "I can" in Scripture is completely dependent on the "through Christ". All of our good work is dependent on His work, and it is done in response to His work. It is not original or meritorious or done by our own intrinsic ability. No ability can exist apart from Him.

One who has seen God's greatness and his own comparative insignificance tends to speak this way. Like Isaiah, "Woe is me! I am undone!" Or like the apostle John, who fell down "as a dead man" - it was only Christ's touch that raised him and enabled him to be like a living man again.

God is the SOURCE and the FULFILLMENT of all our good works, and He receives all the glory
Now, to touch briefly on the context of John 15, doesn't Jesus say in verse 8, "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit"? Could it be that the "nothing" in "apart from Me you can do nothing" means "nothing that bears the fruit that glorifies My Father"? Here again we have the glory of God as a focal point, do we not?

Finally, take a look at Paul's statement in Php 4:20 - "Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen." Whatever "I can do . . . through Him" is subject to this, and the way I speak of my works will reveal WHO it is I am glorifying.

May you be enriched by His grace, and glorify Him in every good work.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Humble Orthodoxy

The following is from

What is humble orthodoxy?

Humble orthodoxy is a commitment to believe, live, and represent biblical truth with humility.

Believe. We believe that God has revealed Himself in Scripture and that His revelation reaches its culmination in the Person and work of Christ on the cross. God’s truth in Scripture should not be redefined or reinvented. Our role is not to redefine truth but to receive God’s truth.

Live. We believe that the truth of the Gospel transforms not only what we believe but how we live. Biblical truth doesn’t merely inform us, it introduces us to a person who changes us.

Represent. We believe that the gospel demands humility from those who represent it. We want to represent the truth not merely as those who are right, but as those who have been rescued.

Forget reinvention. Embrace a humble orthodoxy.

Here's a link to a whole page of related resources:

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Interpreting Biblical Paradoxes

Okay, here we go . . . a few thoughts on hermeneutics (the art & science of Biblical interpretation). Future posts will give examples of how to do this. But let's start by laying out a few principles for dealing with the challenges of Biblical paradox:

1. When you find yourself confronted with two clear teachings in the Bible that seem to contradict one another, it's often helpful to view the two teachings as the extreme ends on a spectrum of truth. Settle it in your mind that you will affirm both because both are taught in God's Word. Whatever conclusions you draw from that point on must fall somewhere between the two ends. You cannot deny either of them.

2. Start from what's clear and work from there into what's not clear.

Balance is hard to achieve but worth striving for
3. Prayerfully and carefully, study your Bible to find out if either side is emphasized more strongly or consistently than the other.

4. Pay close attention to the ways in which the two teachings relate to one another in Scripture. For example, there is a paradox concerning faith and works, to the extent that some have said we are saved by faith AND works. But Scripture as a whole is very clear on this point. It teaches us that good works grow out of faith, that faith comes first and is the ground from which good works spring. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone. Works are an evidence of this salvation, not the way to it. This approach upholds the balance of Scripture without denying any of the Biblical teaching on the subject.

5. Note what the Bible DOES NOT SAY about these truths. Be wary of thinking dogmatically in areas where God has not spoken. Biblical silence speaks loudly.

6. Weigh both sides and be diligent to keep them in balance. This will take time and prayerful study, but keep working at it. If you don't, you may end up believing and saying things about God that are just plain wrong.

Here's a great illustration of the need for balance and the value of paradox:

Salt, like good theology, is formed by properly uniting very different elements
"The element sodium is a silver-colored metal that reacts so violently with water that flames are produced when sodium gets wet. The element chlorine is a greenish-colored gas that is so poisonous that it was used as a weapon in World War I. When chemically bonded together, these two dangerous substances form the compound sodium chloride, a compound so safe that we eat it every day - common table salt!"
Thanks to for this information.

We can think of Biblical truth in the same way. If we affirm that Jesus is only God and not man, we perpetuate a poisonous heresy. If we say He is only man, we betray the faith. But if we defy our own logic and believe what the Bible says - namely that He is the God-Man Who shares both complete humanity and complete divinity - we enjoy the salt of a balanced Biblical orthodoxy.

A Point of Clarification

Just to be sure no one misunderstands my intention, I want to make it clear that I'm not proposing EVERYTHING is paradoxical. There are many areas of clear truth in Scripture where paradox is not an option. For example, the Bible clearly teaches that faith in Christ is the only way for a person to be saved from sin. The Bible says God created the world. The Bible says Jesus rose from the dead. There is no "other side" to these truths. They are simple and clear facts from the Bible. Nothing in Scripture calls us to balance them or hold them with any degree of uncertainty. Quite the opposite - we are commanded to believe them with absolute confidence. There are 2 sides to every coin, but not all truth is coin-shaped. Every coin has 2 sides, but not all truth is coin-shapedSome truth is one-sided and deserves to be treated that way. However, when some of the most important truths taught in the Bible are placed side by side, they can only be perceived by the human mind as paradoxical. THEOparadox is nothing more than a call to treat as paradox those things which cannot be adequately explained within the limits of human logic.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Feel free to respond to what I've written above.

Please be charitable. If you disagree, do so with grace. Keep your words positive, focused, and on-topic.


How do we respond to paradoxes?

When faced with a paradox, there are several common responses:

1. Agnosticism/Skepticism - Simply throw up your hands declaring that nothing can truly be known and then go do whatever you like. Leads to a life of depravity and godlessness. This is not an option for Christians, since God has given us clear teaching and expects us to take it to heart.

2. Imbalance - Choose one side of the paradox and emphasize it until the other side is forgotten or overlooked. Leads to extreme dogmatism. This is not an option for Christians, since it requires us to ignore or explain away portions of God's Word.

3. Rationalism - Attempt to explain and solve the paradox by using complicated reasoning and relentless logic. Leads to pride (and possibly insanity!). This is not an option for Christians, since God opposes the proud.

4. Faith - Embrace both sides of the paradox. Accept that you are a finite being with a limited intellect. Believe that God has given both sides of the paradox for His glory and your good. Don't wait until you understand everything, but fall down adoring before the ONE Who does understand. Leads to humility and worship. This is the only real option for Christians who are faced with Biblical paradoxes.

This is not to say that we should never attempt to understand how things work or develop theories of how paradoxes might be solved. When approached humbly, such reasoning can be of great value. However, it is foolish for anyone to think he can FULLY explain the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, the virgin birth, or the relationship between God's sovereign election and human choice. These issues have been debated by great minds thoughout history - and they're still not fully explained.

Here's what we need to remember:

The moment we stop worshipping God, we begin to go off course. Do not trust the reasoning of your mind when you are not humbly aware of your finiteness and focused worshipfully on God's greatness. Come back to Him and be captivated by His wondrous grace again, then begin to think deeply. This is the safe course of theological reflection.

What is Theoparadox

This is a blog dedicated to exploring the idea that paradox is an essential element for any genuinely Biblical thinking about God. There is much in Biblical revelation that is beyond human understanding. It may not be that God's nature, character and ways are too complex, but that they are quite simple and WE are too complex! This is why we are called to approach God with humility. I hope this blog will provide food for thought and help you move toward a deeper worship of the Sovereign One who IS LOVE. I pray that this worship will express itself in thoughtful admiration of WHO HE IS as well as deeds of service done in grateful response to WHAT HE'S DONE for us on the cross. We'll explore some of the classic paradoxes in Christian theology (and maybe some lesser known paradoxes), as well as the implications of God's self-revelation - and we'll do some devotional Bible study, too.

Some of these articles will search out the senses in which particular seemingly contradictory statements can be validly made. For example, we might look at the ways in which both of these concepts are true:

P1 All events are foreknown and decreed by God.
P2 Prayer is essential and effective.

Both statements are Biblically warranted and undeniable. The apparent contradictions our minds produce from them may or may not be resolvable. But we will gain insight and a better understanding of God's Word as we compare Scripture with Scripture and explore these matters. I pray we will be increasingly motivated toward grace-inspired, faith-born obedience through the studies done here.

Thanks for checking out THEOparadox.
Soli Deo Gloria - to God alone be glory!

PS - if you're still wondering what "THEOparadox" is, it's a coined word made from THEOS (the Greek word for God) and PARADOX (seemingly contradictory truths that cannot be harmonized using human logic alone). Essentially, "Theoparadox" is a call to Biblical humility and worship.
What exists in two dimensions may be logically impossible to build in three

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Biblical Foundations of Paradox, Mystery, & Irony

Following are some of the Scripture verses and passages that form the Biblical basis for a theology that deliberately and gratefully embraces Biblical paradox, mystery & irony. Note that there is much here of the sovereignty and greatness of God, and much of the weak, helpless state of fallen man. Throughout Scripture, God's knowledge is consistently presented as complete and limitless, while man's knowledge is always viewed as limited in both scope and depth.

Known & Unknown, Revealed & Hidden

From these passages, it is clear that there are some divine matters that can be known, and some that cannot be known, either because God has hidden them or because man is incapable of discovering, explaining or understanding them. It is also evident that some matters which are hidden to unbelievers are revealed to believers. They are understood only by faith. The Scriptures are remarkably candid in what they place beyond the reach of human intellect - and in what they maintain as absolutely certain and knowable for believers.

Paradoxical Irony & Paradoxical Mystery

To define the terms a little further, some Biblical paradoxes fall into the category of paradoxical irony, while others are deep paradoxical mysteries. The ironies are meant to be understood and resolved, but the mysteries cannot be fully explained. For example, Jesus ironically declares: "He who loses his life for My sake will find it." To the world this is utter foolishness, but believers who have surrendered their lives to the Lord find it both sensible and encouraging. Christ's teachings and Paul's writings are brimming with incredible statements like this. The words often seem impossible on the surface, but they point to deeper, underlying truths. These sayings are not ultimately mysterious. On the other hand, there are facts which the Scriptures clearly state but do not fully explain. These mysterious teachings will always remain partially incomprehensible to our fallen minds, no matter how much effort we put into explaining them. The incarnation and the two natures of Christ fit squarely in this category, along with many other key doctrines of the Word of God (if you doubt this, try to explain the virgin birth using human logic alone). Those of us who happily embrace Reformed theology are accustomed to wrestling with very mysterious matters such as the relation between God's hidden will (the "will of decree") and His revealed will (the "will of command"). Historically, there have been endless attempts to reconcile sovereign election and human responsibility, divine causality and the origin of sin, divine goodness and the existence of evil, universal love and limited salvation, etc. Some very worthy possible explanations have been offered, but none of them are complete. It is a grave mistake to stop wrestling with these mysteries, as God has ordained them with the intention that they should continually amaze, overwhelm and conquer us. We should not be surprised that our mental capabilities are too small to fully explain these matters. Rather, we ought to be shocked that God's wisdom and grace have allowed sinful human beings to understand SO MUCH of them. In view of our creaturehood and inherent depravity, it's a miracle that we can understand ANY of God's truth.

Skepticism & Apparent Contradictions

Skeptics have filled their books with supposed contradictions from the Scriptures. Many of these "contradictions" are the result of grasping at straws and failing to understand the context or content of the Bible. Some simply require historical or archeological clarification, or possibly a better understanding of Biblical cultures and customs. Some apparent contradictions result from overlooking the vocabulary used in the original languages, when two different words in the original are translated into the same English word. A small amount of study can easily resolve these. However, we must acknowledge the existence of a few verbal contradictions that call us to meditate on the words of Scripture and discover why the Holy Spirit inspired the words to be written as they were. See this series of posts for an example of this. There is not a single apparent contradiction in the Bible that cannot be resolved to a satisfactory extent by a thoughtful, prayerful Christian.

Christ's Teaching

The words of Christ are of special importance, as much for what they leave unsaid as for the things they reveal. They are filled with what is commonly called "rhetorical paradox" (a literary device which is designed to make the hearer think, and usually makes sense after a bit of contemplation - I like to call it "paradoxical irony"). This is a somewhat different matter than the wider logical paradox inherent in doctrines such as the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, and the relation of divine sovereignty to human choice. But one amazing fact about Christ's teaching is this: the Only One Who could explain the divine mysteries never did so. Instead He spoke in paradoxes and parables, to such an extent that in John 16:29 His disciples said, "Lo, now You are speaking plainly and are not using a figure of speech."

Paul & Mystery

Paul's use of the term "mystery" (Greek MUSTERION) is worth mentioning, but we will not deal with it extensively here. Suffice it to say, the oft-repeated and classic definition for MUSTERION as "something once hidden, now revealed" does not fit every use of the word in the New Testament. There may be more "mystery" in MUSTERION than some scholars are willing to admit. With 27 occurrences in the New Testament - and describing such important subjects as the faith, Christ, the Church, the Gospel, and God's will - this concept is worthy of further study.

Test Everything, Hold onto the Good

The following verses are offered without further commentary, in the hope that you will study them in context and in the original languages. A sincere effort has been made to use only those passages that can be properly applied to the discussion of Biblical paradox. However, if you find that I have misinterpreted something or misconstrued the intent of a verse, please use the comments to let me know.


Deuteronomy 29:29 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.

Job 9:10 [Job speaking of God] Who does great things, unfathomable, And wondrous works without number.

Job 36:26 [Elihu speaking] Behold, God is exalted, and we do not know Him; The number of His years is unsearchable.

Job 37:5 [Elihu speaking] God thunders with His voice wondrously, doing great things which we cannot comprehend.

Job 42:1-5 Then Job answered the LORD and said, "I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted . . . Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know . . . I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes."

Psalm 131:1
O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me.

Psalm 139:1-6 O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

Psalm 145:3 Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised, And His greatness is unsearchable.

Proverbs 20:24 Man’s steps are ordained by the LORD, How then can man understand his way?

Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.

Ecclesiastes 8:16-17 When I gave my heart to know wisdom and to see the task which has been done on the earth (even though one should never sleep day or night), and I saw every work of God, I concluded that man cannot discover the work which has been done under the sun. Even though man should seek laboriously, he will not discover; and though the wise man should say, "I know," he cannot discover.

Isaiah 40:28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.

Isaiah 55:8-11 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth, and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

Jeremiah 17:9-10 The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; who can understand it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.

Matthew 13:10-17 And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" Jesus answered them, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.’ But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Mark 8:17 And Jesus, aware of this, *said to them, "Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart?

Mark 10:23-27 And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, "How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!" The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." They were even more astonished and said to Him, "Then who can be saved?" Looking at them, Jesus said, "With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God."

Romans 11:33-36 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

I Corinthians 2:1-16 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, "THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM." For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man. For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE SHOULD INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ.

II Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

Eph 3:8 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ.

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Is There Logical Paradox In the Bible?

I occasionally visit other blogs and comment on posts that are of interest. Sometimes these comments are met with comments from others who disagree. What follows is a response I wrote after some point/counterpoint that occurred in one of these situations . The discussion was about whether or not the Bible contains logical paradoxes. This was written to an earnest brother who used Scripture and some weighty theological sources to argue forcefully against my viewpoint. The full context is at this link.

Thanks for this well-reasoned response. I really enjoy this type of discussion and spend a lot of time meditating on these topics.

It is obvious that you are well read and of a scholarly disposition, probably much more so than I am. I rejoice that God's grace and truth are dear to you.

Before I disagree with anything you've said, I want to affirm that it is great to have you on the same team as a fellow Reformed thinker and engaged student of theology. I believe that we're discussing a disagreement that takes place within orthodox, historic Calvinism. So, I'm glad we can discuss this issue "brother to brother" in Christ. I appreciate the gracious spirit that is evident in your response to my comment.

I actually don't know too much about Van Til, and did not mean to imply that I agree with everything he said. I'm pretty sure I don't. My point in bringing up Van Til vs. [Gordon] Clark was simply to show that there are two different streams of thought. You and I probably won't come to agreement on this (just as they didn't), and I think that's okay. You're a good representative of the Clarkian position, and I hope I am a faithful representative of those who embrace Biblical paradox.

I don't see any difference between saying, "we can understand everything God says (to us)," and saying, "we can understand logically everything God reveals to us." Either way, my point is the same. If we agree that there are some things God has kept hidden, it follows that there may be some things God has only partially revealed to us - and as a result our logic falls short of grasping them. I believe Clark and some others have created a false dichotomy of "completely hidden" truth and "completely revealed" truth. Why can't there be anything in between, truth that is only partly revealed? Why insist that everything revealed can be understood logically? Even if we were to concede that all the things revealed are fully revealed, don't we still need to acknowledge that man's fallen mind - even after salvation - is lacking some of what it needs to fully understand the ways of the omniscient and exalted God? Again, this is not the same as saying God is illogical, or even that Biblical revelation is in any sense irrational - only that some things revealed in the Bible are not revealed enough for us to make perfect logical sense of them. Sure, we can develop a logical argument and make a good case, but don't we run the risk of doing violence to the text?

What I'm saying is that we simply don't have enough light or the right kind of eyes to make strict, logical sense out of certain matters that are implicit in Scripture (e.g. divine sovereignty and human responsibility). Because of this, some things do SEEM contradictory to us - not because they are inherently illogical but because our logic is inherently insufficient. I'll have to respectfully disagree with Gary Crampton on this point. I have read Crampton's article before, and I concluded that he is overreacting to Neo-orthodoxy's mish-mash of bad theology paraded under the false banner of "paradox." Admittedly, I'd rather have his view than theirs.

As to I Cor. 14:33, you probably know I'm going to say it doesn't technically apply to this discussion. It refers to church services that are out of order, where various people are trying to give prophetic messages at the same time. It's disorder, not mystery (or even logical paradox), that is decried by the Apostle Paul. There are many other places where mystery is directly applied to our knowledge of God (Romans 11:33, for example).

If you're interested, there's a great article about paradox and mystery at Tony Byrne's blog:

I think Byrne strikes a great balance on this.

Finally, I agree most heartily with the following quotes from C.H. Spurgeon:

"That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory; but they are not. It is just the fault of our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other. These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring." (New Park Street Pulpit, 4:337)

"Men who are morbidly anxious to possess a self-consistent creed, a creed which will put together and form a square like a Chinese puzzle, are very apt to narrow their souls. Those who will only believe what they can reconcile will necessarily disbelieve much of divine revelation. Those who receive by faith anything which they find in the Bible will receive two things, twenty things, ay, or twenty thousand things, though they cannot construct a theory which harmonizes them all." ("Faith," Sword and Trowel, 1872)

. . . thanks again for the iron sharpening discussion. I probably can't say much more than I already have, so I'll leave it here. Feel free to put in the last word, and I'll read it with interest. I know we will both agree unreservedly that this is our earnest prayer: may the knowledge of God increase, and may He be glorified greatly in the hearts and minds of those who read our words. Amen.