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!

Monday, September 01, 2008


The following is an excerpted portion of the testimony of A.S.A. Jones, a former hard-core skeptic who became convinced of the truth of the Gospel through an understanding of Biblical paradox (and, obviously, a sovereign work of grace). I have highlighted some portions in bold text for emphasis. I probably don't need to add this disclaimer, but lest anyone should think otherwise: this is NOT an endorsement of the philosophies represented by Friedrich Nietzche or Zen Buddhism. I believe Jones is using these as illustrations, not recommended reading. You can read his entire article here.

"A paradox is that which appears to contradict, but upon closer examination, really does not . . .

I prided myself on pure intellect and logical thinking and 'spiritual' things didn't make any sense to me. I discounted spiritual matters as emotional matters and I had made myself as unemotional as I could in order to avoid having emotions interfere with my rationality of thought. When I began reading the bible differently, I no longer saw contradictions of logic, but paradox after paradox. Being confronted with paradox forces one's mind to think ABOVE logic but not against it. For example, examine the statement, "Never less alone than when alone". If you break this sentence down into its components, logically it cannot make sense. Yet this phrase describes a very real type of individual; it is describing a person who considers himself to be his own best company. It tells of an individual who is content to spend hours lost in his own thoughts. You have to examine the paradox in the context of what you know to be true about human nature in order to understand it. It is assumed by the author that the reader will not be ignorant of this information.

All the way from beginning to end, the bible contains paradoxes that push one's mind to look beyond what is written to that which is being implied. Skeptics view these paradoxes as errors but if they are indeed errors, they are consistent in the writings of the more than 40 men who authored the books of the bible. I find it strange that men who were intelligent and literate enough to write in that early time could be so ignorant of their own culture and religion to have made mistake after mistake after mistake in issues regarding it. Instead, I think it is more probable that the skeptics are ignorant of the matters about which these men wrote and unable to grasp their culture and way of thinking. Many of these alleged errors are due to poor reading comprehension and the inability to grasp what is being said within the context of the whole.

Some of these paradoxes are presented as a unit, making them unlikely errors. For example, Proverbs 26:4-5 states, "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit." A contradiction in logic would render these two statements as meaningless but there is a truth to be found in them (See "The Games Skeptics Play"). Other paradoxes are not so obvious and do not occur in close proximity to each other.

A second type of paradox deals with morality. Paradoxes of this nature deal with the law and push the reader into the spirit of the law (See 'Why I Believe God is Real') in order to understand them. Examples of moral paradox include issues of divorce, adultery (Deut 24:1-4 vs Mark 10:2-12), and God setting Himself above His own commandments. What appears to be ambiguity or contradiction or nonsense in the 'absolute declaration of law' can be reconciled or deemed as irrelevant when the reader understands the spirit of the law.

Not all of the paradoxes contain meaning, but serve as arrows to direct the reader toward higher meaning. The accounts of the death of Judas and many other alleged discrepancies are irrelevant to the truth of God, yet they serve as stumbling blocks to those who are shallow or legalistic in their thought. In this way, the Word of God becomes a sieve, separating its readers through a series of screens. Paul describes this sieve in 1 Cor: 1. Those who have made themselves too big, get trapped in the holes, while those who have allowed themselves to be made small, pass through to see the hidden truth. Jesus Christ makes reference to his own device of conveying God's truth in parables (Luke 8:10) so that "...though hearing, they may not understand."

If you are a skeptic, you are probably scoffing at the above. I would like to take this opportunity to point out to you that Friedrich Nietzsche, poster boy for existentialism, was very fond of intentionally using words that would be misinterpreted by careless, superficial readers. Walter Kaufmann, who edited Nietzsche's 'Ecce Homo', included this in his introduction:

"Nietzsche had an almost pathological weakness for one particular kind of ambiguity, which, to be sure, is not irremediable: he loved words and phrases that mean one thing out of context and almost the opposite in the context he gives them... The former is bound to lead astray hasty readers, browsers and...nonreaders."

When a man does this type of thing, it is considered a matter of genius. When similar devices are employed in the bible, there is no reason to discount them as foolishness. Of course, it is not the 'hasty' reader that is being sifted out in the Bible, but the spiritual Pharisee who is being left in the dark.

The reason for doing this can be found in the Zen philosophy. The Masters of Zen don't seek to enlighten their students with the truth; they seek to confound them in order that they discover the truth for themselves. Herein lies the difference between knowing how to do multiplication and merely memorizing and regurgitating multiplication tables. If the truth about God could be told, we could know ABOUT Him, but in seeking and finding Him for ourselves, we can KNOW Him. For me to have been so profoundly changed through a minute faith in Jesus Christ is a miracle. Psychology tells us that the hardest thing to change in a person is their personality; we can modify our behavior, but our nature remains. The words of Christ didn't TELL me how to change. Like a Zen Master, He gently led my mind to experience truth. That's why the changes were so powerful."

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