I used to fear paradoxes – those difficult parts of our faith that cause us to double take when we read them in the Bible or set off questions in our mind when we reflect on them.
- Why does an all-sufficient God ask so much of his followers?
- Why does the God of all love apparently command genocide on the Canaanites?
- Why does the ever-present God often feel so far away?To name but three.
I used to avoid paradoxes hoping they would go away. But having spent the last 18 months staring paradoxes in the face I have come to the conclusion that the paradoxes of our faith are a gift to us because they surprise us.
Connecting with the surprising God is incredibly good for us. Idols don’t surprise us because they are human made constructs who act like ventriloquist dummies for our own hopes and dreams.
If your god fits neatly into a philosophical or theological system the chances are he is one that you made up. Think about it this way – most people I know don’t like being put into a box – I don’t like it when people look at me with my brown skin and think they know where I am from or what I am like. If finite human beings don’t fit into neat categorical boxes then how much less does the infinite and immortal God? Many of us have tried to put God into a box –the sides of which are made of the boundaries of our understanding. We seem happiest when God fits into our boxes as it means he is predictable and we are safe to navigate around him.
Paradoxes occur at the conceptual limits of our thinking – when we can’t seem to make rational sense of what we understand about God. Paradoxes are suprising and uncomfortable as they occur when God doesn’t fit into the boxes we have made for him.
I would like to suggest that by being willing to look at the boundaries, the cutting edge, the outer limits of our understanding is an excellent place to learn. When we are at the frontiers of our understanding of God we are at one of the most exciting places to be in our thinking about God. Just like a research scientist goes looking for the most difficult problems to solve – so Christians hungry to know the true and living God can find great food for thought in the paradoxes of scripture.
The God that fits neatly into our church services, our songs is not the god we really want or need. He is a god we have attempted to cut down to size. Its time we allowed the reality and complexity of God to challenge and provoke us to love him as he really is rather than the safe projection of a god we often settle for.
I invite you to join me in meeting the surprising God.