08 June 2015

The Power of Paradox Opened Our Eyes

In everything I write about spirituality or theology there is a foundational vision and truth. It is that where the real God reveals Godself paradox will abound. As I have noted before, sometimes when doing theology one of the surest signs I have strayed into heresy is an inability to point to the paradox involved! The post I put up marking Corpus Christi abounds in paradox. The questions which prompted the post seem to me to be impatient with (or perhaps incapable of) paradox and more taken with the "Greek" way of seeing things, namely thesis (the thing we are concerned with or desire), antithesis (the opposite of the thing), synthesis (a comfortable middle way, a compromise).

This approach to reality doesn't tolerate either contradiction or extremes. It does not allow for radicalness, for the radical choice or commitment! If we seek for wholeness it won't be in the midst of weakness; if we crave light we will not find it by stumbling along in the darkness of the nearest cave (or in the apparent fruitlessness of illness, etc!);  if we desire to live, we will not focus our efforts on dying to self! If we wish to be rich it will not be by giving ALL we have away. If we wish to be wise, it will not be by embracing any and all of these things in acts of prodigal foolishness. Moreover,  it will not be achieved in acts of radical commitment, and so forth: such commitments are simply too lacking in balance, moderation, or respectability for the Greek mind. Nor will the God of such a perspective reflect contradiction or tolerate anything compromising his purity. Is he omnipotent? Then he will not reveal himself in kenosis or weakness --- much less be perfectly or exhaustively revealed in these. Is he all good and holy? Then he will not take sin, death, or humanity itself up within himself as though union with created reality is the very goal of it all!

There are not many mansions or dwelling places for the hoi polloi in THIS God's life nor is he apt to think his divine prerogatives are NOT to be grasped at. They are. Rigidly. Unfailingly. They are to be held tightly clasped so that only divinity may touch them without defiling or denigrating them. And his Messiah? Well, what need is there of a Messiah? No one can share his life really anyway, no one can live in union with him. But even if there were a place for a Messiah --- maybe as one who meets out justice, strikes with well-deserved suffering, compels with unachievable commandments, and burdens with his capriciousness and unmitigated power, etc, he would not reveal himself in weakness or the radical love and compassion that regularly breaks his own heart and demands his very life!

But Christians, of course, believe in a very different God and model his presence in very different ways than in terms of Greek consistency or the various exclusionary "omni's" and "im's" (omnipotence, omniscience, immutability, impassibility, etc) which are  so characteristic of the Greek divine ideal. Ours is the Living God of paradox instead and, as Michael Card says so very well in the following song, this God's wisdom is revealed as scandal to Jews and foolishness in the eyes of "Greeks" ---  all through a Messiah and disciples who are God's own Fools.

(I have included two versions, the first done by someone else and the second done by Michael Card himself.) The professor I am most endebted to for my theology once said in one of the first theology classes I ever had that some people simply cannot think or see in terms of paradox while doing so is difficult for all of us. My prayer is that each and all of us may one day rejoice in the fact that the power of paradox, made incarnate in Jesus Christ, opened our eyes and let us glimpse and share God's own wisdom.