“Paradox stimulates our imagination by bringing the complexities of life and faith front and center so we cannot ignore them…Paradox stimulates our imagination to explore the mystery of God as a realm we inhabit.” from the epilogue
With scholarly precision and a pastoral perspective, Richard P Hansen delves into the mystery, complexity, and the perplexity of paradox in regards to the Christian faith in his book Paradox Lost:Rediscovering the Mystery of God (Zondervan, 2016)
Starting with a story about a woman named Cheryl who responded to an article Hansen had written about preaching biblical paradox and concluding with an afterword “Plea to contrarian preachers (and listeners),” Hansen takes us on a necessary journey of faith for the purpose, he writes,
“to reclaim and embrace biblical paradox as a means by which we can more fully experience the mystery of God. The essence of paradox is the tension created by bringing seemingly opposite ideas into relationship with each other, and such tensions are prominent throughout Scripture. What I hope to offer are ways we can recognize these paradoxical tensions, reflect on them, and ultimately harness them to open up new horizons in knowing God.”
This reviewer believes that Hansen accomplishes this task.
Divided into five parts:
A strange sort of comfort
The tuning fork
The two handles
Paradox Lost takes the reader on a journey to well-known Biblical phrases such as “Whoever wants to save his life must lose it,” then on into a discussing about the value and place of second order paradoxes as Hansen uses the image of a tuning fork to illustrate what he calls “harmonic tension” in the book’s third section, The Tuning Fork, in which phrases such as a classic one in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe used to describe Aslan “‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good,” are used to think through and about a God who is just and also love.
In the fourth section of the book, The Two Handles, Hansen uses the image of the two-handed auger to address those paradoxes which, like the grip on the auger, must be kept well apart and in tension. Here he speaks of “third-order paradoxes” which he notes “seems to express the mystery of being : the nature of humankind, the nature of scripture, the nature of God as three in one, the nature of Jesus Christ as God and human.”
Finally, Hansen uses the image of a crab shell which must be discarded as a crab grows because it would otherwise be imprisoned in a smaller shell to discuss the issues of a changing worldview and the dangers of a faith which does not mature and could very easily notes Hansen, “slip into ideology, superstition, fanaticism, self-indulgence, and idolatry.” Here Hansen challenges the reader with the place of having an renewed imagination as part of a deepening and vibrant faith and notes the challenged posed by reason:
Reason is our mother’s milk in the Western world, and reason does not know what to do with mystery, especially the mystery of God.
I loved this book for both its intellectual and spiritual stimulation as it has been a while since I have read a book that speaks to both mind, heart, and soul. I think that because of the discussion questions at the end of each chapter, Paradox Lost will make a great study book for congregational study groups as well as seminary and university classes.
I gave this book a four-star rating on Goodreads.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.