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!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Can Biblical Paradoxes Be Reconciled?

Of course they can. By definition, a paradox is not an actual contradiction but an apparent one.
When we say that paradoxes are apparent contradictions, and not actual contradictions, we affirm that they can be logically reconciled. The important question is not whether they can be reconciled, but by whom. We must always affirm that any collection of true statements are logically reconciled in the mind of our wise and omniscient God.
But this prompts another question: can all Biblical paradoxes be logically reconciled by human beings?
The answer is "Yes" and "No." It is "Yes" because one remains hopeful that they can all be explained in some way by human beings. We are ingenious creatures capable of highly complex thought. Some who are intellectually gifted can come up with creative ways to explain just about anything. If there is a paradox that hasn't been theoretically "solved" by some philosopher or theologian, we can be sure it's only a matter of time before someone presents what they believe to be a logical solution.
This, however, brings up a third question: how much stock can we place in these solutions?
This is the critical point: the question of epistemological authority. In layman's terms, the question is: who or what is an authoritative source of knowledge? How can we know that a given logical explanation for a paradox is THE TRUE explanation - the one that reflects God's own knowledge of the matter?
We must say, "No, Biblical paradoxes cannot be reconciled by human beings," because apart from divine revelation we can't put complete faith in our explanations.

Another way of explaining this is by presenting the Christian's hierarchy of epistemological certainty. The top level represents the highest level of certainty we can possess, with our certainty decreasing as we move down.
GENERAL REVELATION (Creation, Conscience)
INTUITION (Feelings & Senses)
(This chart is adapted from notes taken during a lecture by Dr. Stuart Scott)
Attempted reconciliations of Biblical paradoxes are in the realm of metaphysics. That is, they belong to the category of soft sciences, being unsupported by direct revelation or empirical proof. We can swim around in mysteries, theorize and explore implications. But we can't KNOW anything outside of Scripture with an equal level of certainty. We lack the epistemological warrant to claim we have authoritatively reconciled any Biblical paradox. That is, unless Scripture itself provides the solution.

Thus, we are led back to the exegesis and exposition of Scripture - not mere philosophical speculation - as the best ways to grow in certainty regarding the Truth of God.

Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.

Thus, let us hold fast to the Word and leave the rest to God. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to respond to anything written in the posts, or to the comments left by others. All comments are reviewed before they are published.

Please be charitable. If you disagree, do so with grace. Keep your words positive, focused, and on-topic. We don't expect everyone to agree, but we do expect everyone to treat everyone else with respect and grace, speaking the truth in love.