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!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Neo-Orthodoxy, Paradox, The Bible, and Bonhoeffer

Here's a little diversion from our study on Psalm 32 . . .

I just listened to Curt Daniel's lecture on Neo-Orthodoxy, found here:

Lectures on the History and Theology of Calvinism (

Concerning Neo-Orthodoxy, Dr. Daniel states, "It is not paradox, it is simply unbiblical contradiction. It is also theological fiction. It simply does not match the facts of Scripture." Although his criticism of supposed paradox in Neo-Orthodoxy is harsh, in other lectures I have found Dr. Daniel to be fond of theological paradox within the framework of true orthodoxy.

I once believed the Neo-Orthodox idea of paradox was quite in line with what I write here at THEOparadox. Now, I am horrified by that thought. Let me officially state for the record: THEOparadox has no relation whatsoever to Neo-Orthodoxy. If Neo-Orthodoxy is even half as bad as Dr. Daniel makes it out to be, I am forced to disavow it completely.

Many things in Scripture strike us as contradictory, or at least illogical to a certain degree. These things are not errors or mistakes, they are signs which call us to dig into the text and discover God's brilliant logic. His logic is above ours, so it sometimes leaves us in mystery and wonder. But it is NEVER NEVER NEVER in error. God's Word is THE TRUTH. The point of THEOparadox is precisely opposite to that of Neo-Orthodoxy. It is the weakness of man and man's logic that leaves us sometimes in a place of paradox. To God, everything makes perfect sense and there are no real contradictions in His self-revelation, the Bible. How could there be, if God is its source?

I'm still a big fan of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's writings, especially The Cost of Discipleship. In Christ the Center, I find him speaking the language of liberalism, but shredding its foundational premises at the very same time. Life Together is simply a masterpiece. Whatever Bonhoeffer may have learned from Karl Barth, I have not yet encountered Barth's more obvious errors in his writings. I now know better what to look for, however. Perhaps if Bonhoeffer had survived the concentration camp, we would know more of his thoughts. But those he left us have great value as far as I'm concerned, even if he proved himself to be comfortable with liberals and a friend of the Neo-Orthodox. In any case, he was a better disciple of Christ than I am, by at least a hundred times.

So let us find inspiration in many places, but ultimate TRUTH in God's Word alone. And let all things - including our lifestyles (especially our lifestyles) - be tested by the Word, lest we ourselves go astray.


  1. Derek,

    I place a high value on orthodoxy, but I agree with your assessment of Bonhoeffer. His courage and commitment (not to mention his writings) have encouraged me and probably hundreds of thousands of other believers around the world. I'd trade a whole room full of smugly orthodox theologians for one man who truly understood the cost of discipleship.

  2. Barry,

    Amen! As I grow in my knowledge of theology, I find that God often uses folks I disagree with to accomplish much greater works than I and my "group" are accomplishing. We must always be careful not to think everyone with good theology is a great Christian, and everyone with imbalanced theology is below par in their love for Christ. Some will be far ahead of me in heaven whom I thought to be rather WRONG here on earth. But I haven't found much "wrong" with Bonhoeffer in spite of his unorthodox associations. Some would be horrified to know I find great benefit from some Catholic authors, some Arminians, some Pentecostals, etc. Again, we can find inspiration in many places, rejoice in the truth wherever we find it, weigh all things with Scripture and not be quite so judgmental. Thanks for the encouraging comment - I've enjoyed your blog a lot (and it's quite orthodox, too!)


  3. Derek,

    I find something disturbingly arrogant about those who reject everything someone has to say simply because that person doesn't share their theological convictions. I know a man who told me that he can't read C.S. Lewis since he found out Lewis was an Armininan. (I told him what I thought about that. Simply recalling it now makes me sad.)

    I've thoroughly enjoyed your blog, too, Derek; I've added you to my blogroll.

  4. Barry,

    Thank you, that's a real honor. Funny thing is, just this morning I decided I would add your blog to my recommended sites. I like the way you identify "virtual friends" and "real life friends" on your blog. I'm finding both are important to have. Wouldn't want to neglect real life friends or especially family for the sake of easier "virtual" relationships.

    Concerning C.S. Lewis, I recently read a Table Talk article by R.C. Sproul, Jr. that was lauding Lewis in spite of his being "on the other side." That was refreshing and encouraging to read.


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