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!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Legitimacy of Paradox as a Theological Model - Part 14

Pastor Richard Ostella of Westminster Reformed Church in Plymouth, Michigan has graciously granted permission to re-publish his March 2009 ETS paper on theological paradox here at THEOparadox. To understand these thoughts in context, please begin with part 1.

3) The model promotes humility in biblical study 

 It is a reasonable attempt to do justice to the connection between the secret things [that] belong to the LORD and the things that are revealed [that] belong to us and to our children (Deut. 29.29). For example, that Jesus is both fully God and fully man while remaining one person is clearly revealed. How these facts fit together is in many ways beyond our grasp as secret things. Likewise, the moral inability and full responsibility of fallen man are clearly revealed facts and the inference from responsibility to the denial of inability is a stab in the darkness of divine secrecy.  

In the words of Calvin, we do “not investigate what the Lord had left hidden in secret” and “we should not neglect what he has brought into the open, so that we may not be convicted of excessive curiosity on the one hand, or of excessive ingratitude on the other.”39  Therefore, 
within a Christian philosophy regarding critical thinking,40 we may appropriately refer to 
accepting theological paradox as the most humble use of logic.41

Pastor Ostella's Footnotes
39 Institutes 3.21.4. 
40 By a “philosophy of logic,” we are referring to the wise principles necessary in the use of logic. Thus, to say Christians need a philosophy of logic is to say that even the pursuit of wisdom must have a godly foundation. We need wisdom to strive for wisdom. Bottom line: a philosophy of logic means that true knowledge begins with the fear of God and knowledge of His will. Five components show how the fear of God and knowledge of His will give us the foundation for wisdom in a philosophy of logic: logical skill, contextual sensitivity, open-minded humility, presuppositional awareness, and the acceptance of paradox (picture a pie with five slices that represent the basic elements in a Christian philosophy of logic). If any of these components are lacking in our reasoning then to that degree we are unwise, which means we are to that degree ungodly. To be a critical thinker is a matter of godliness. For explanation of these components and for a fuller picture of how paradox fits into a philosophy of logic see “A Christian Philosophy of Logic,” by R. Ostella, JBA, Spring 2008.  
41 Noting the fact of biblical paradox aids presuppositional awareness that is essential in humble self-criticism by which we look at and evaluate the theological bifocals by which we see. Like bifocals presuppositional glasses determine how we see things, but we can tilt our heads and at times see that with which we see. Awareness of our presuppositions is a way for us to bow our heads and, though difficult to do, go through the door to self-critical thinking. Of course, it is important that we engage biblical context with this awareness in order to do our best to examine our beliefs by Scripture knowing that some of our beliefs color how we read every text. Furthermore, self-criticism is something that we must undertake by prayer and meditation because we tend to wear masks when we look into the mirror of Scripture. As Augustine put it, we tend to put ourselves behind our backs; in our context, this means that we tend to put our cherished, even if false, presuppositions behind our backs so we cannot see them for what they are in the light of Scripture. False presuppositions are like demons: they only come out by prayer and fasting! Switching analogies, we can say that we must be concerned with every relevant thread that intersects the piece of fabric at any given time; otherwise, our work of interpretation will come apart at the seams. Paradoxical truths are threads of truth that are clearly and tightly woven together in the fabric of Scripture even though how they can co-exist in the same fabric may be difficult or even impossible to grasp. 

PART 15 - Click Here

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