Are you content with Paradox?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by christianyouth, Jul 16, 2008.

  1. christianyouth

    christianyouth
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    Hey all. What do you do when you find the Bible teaching two things that appear contradictory?

    For example, the idea that God hates sinners (Ps 5:5) and yet loves sinners (John 3:16ff). That's just one example, that the Bible teaches that the same group of people are hated and loved. There are others things that appear to be contradictory, such as God's desire for all to be saved (2 Peter 3:9) and the idea that there exists a special group who were chosen before the foundations of the world unto salvation(Eph 1:3-6). It seems that most theological systems perform bad interpretation because they think that one of the truths contradicts another. What about you? What do you do when you are presented with a paradox? A truth that may not make much sense, systematically, but is the clear teaching of the text?
     
  2. Tom Bryant

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    The key words are "appear contradictory". Since the Word is inerrant, there are no real contradictions.

    But because God is so far above any human thought process, I can expect that some things will be appear to be contradictory to me, when they are all quite harmonious from God's viewpoint. The examples you gave are just such examples.
     
  3. skypair

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    First --- PRAY. God has promised to give us all things pertaining to life and godliness THROUGH knowledge of Christ (2Pet 1:3, Eph 4:13). And I can testify that He does answer us very clearly. If you start down a "dead end" thought, He will have you "retrace your steps" back and take the right path.

    Second -- be sure I have the context right. "Foolish" or "fools" are unbelievers and He hates them on account of what they do. And the "world" does not mean "sinners." God wants all to be saved but He knew beforehand that they would not -- that only some would believe. Sometimes we just need to read a little more than what we are focussed on in that same chapter or book in order to hear the Spirit speaking to us. many times as I do this, I feel carried along by the Spirit much as the writer himself must have been!

    Third -- and this just comes from familiarity with the word (which takes time) -- I look for parallel passages for illumination.

    One of the biggest stumblingblocks to understanding scripture is not realizing that the cross introduced an entirely new program and did so before the old one had come to completion. This usually goes to the "application" part of studying -- what should I do about this?

    Hope that helps. :wavey:

    skypair
     
  4. Baptist Believer

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    I have some ideas about both of the example you mention, but I want to share with you something that has been very helpful to me over the past few years.

    When people of the modern Western world consider God, we often think of God in terms of logic, philosophy or as a theological system instead of as a Person. Persons can hold more than one attitude at a time in ways that seem to contradict (according to our Greek-inspired systems of logic). A parent who is dealing with a child in wanton, malicious and hateful rebellion can certainly feel "hatred" toward them, while also feeling love and compassion at the same time.

    I'm convinced that quite a bit of our theological confusion comes from too low of a view of God. We are persons who needs a relationship with our Creator, Who has revealed Himself in three Persons. And we will not understand God very well until we understand that He is Person-al.

    We should have a relationship with God, not just a theological system (there's nothing inherently wrong with theological systems, unless they become idols). We should have a relationship with God, not just the Bible (of course, is a very important part of God's revelation. There's nothing wrong with the Bible, unless it becomes an idol).

    I know this is going to make some of you very unhappy. Let the stoning begin. :tonofbricks:
     
  5. christianyouth

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    Baptist believer, I think you are right. We are living on the other side of Augustine and are the inheritors of that Roman Catholic blending of philosophy and theology. It causes a lot of problems.

    But what I'm wondering, is how many of us interpret verses through our particular system? IE, this verse can't mean this because this verse over here says something different. IE, Unconditional Election cannot be true because that would contradict God's desire to see all people saved, or vice versa, God's desire to see all people saved can't be true because of Unconditonal Election.

    Or this : God's universal love cannot be true because that would make no sense if Irrestistble Grace is true. Or vice versa, Irrestitbale grace can't be true because that would mean that he doesn't love all people and desires their salvation.

    This is rationalism. It isn't asking textual questions, it's asking logical questions. It would be like me saying, "God can't be immutable because he answers prayer", even though the Bible teaches both truths. This is a serious thing guys, because as I've plodded through the Bible these past three years, I have come across things that would violate a systematic Calvinism but also would reduce to shreds the arguments of Hunt and others, which are at their base just as rationalistic as the arguments for Calvinism(some versions).
     
    #5 christianyouth, Jul 16, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 16, 2008
  6. Crabtownboy

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    The words paradox and contridiction have differen meanings when you are speaking of two statements. It is accepted that a paradox is a self-contridictory statement, but note, this is singular.

    A more accepted meaning of paradox, when we are talking about two statements, is two statements that seem contridictory, but in essence are true.

    Here is an example of a paradox from Wikipedia:

     
  7. christianyouth

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    Ah right. Thank's for pointing that out, Crabtown. I was saying that to our finite, fallen minds, it appears to be a contradiction, but in truth I think they are just paradoxes.
     
  8. J.D.

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    No, I am not content to label things I don't understand or can't explain as paradoxical or incomprehensible. I don't deny that paradoxes exist, but I try very hard to avoid using paradox/incomprehensibility as a copout.
     
  9. christianyouth

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    JD, do you believe the that there are valid paradoxes? I assume that you would recognize God's Sovereignty and Man's responsibility as somewhat of a mystery?
     
  10. J.D.

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    Let me put this way - are there any paradoxes in the mind of God? If the answer is no, then a "paradox" doesn't really exist, does it? Maybe there are things in the Bible that we just don't want to take a face value or does not fit our presuppositions, so we conveniently label it a "paradox" and keep going. We should approach the scriptures as being fully comprehensible (though God Himself is not fully comprehensible), working toward resolving those things that are "apparent" contradictions, applying the law of noncontradiction. I don't think we should ever be satisfied with resting on our ignorance of something God has revealed.

    I probably don't represent most of the folks on BB on this. My view of paradox puts me in the "Clarkian" fold of Calvinists, some say hyper-Calvinist, but that's disputable. Anyway, it's a strong view that makes people uncomfortable. I understand that.

    Here is a good treatise on the subject (not paradox, but incomprehensibility, which is I think is directly related)(uses some inflammatory language that I don't endorse):

    http://www.vincentcheung.com/other/incomprehend.pdf
     
  11. Jarthur001

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    Vincent Cheung is very very good. :)
     
  12. Marcia

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    You would need to check with someone who knows Hebrew, but my understanding is that some words translated as "hate" in the OT do not mean "hate" the way we understand it.

    There are difficult passages in the Bible, but taking the whole Bible in context shows us what God means, and He does not contradict Himself.
     
  13. Timsings

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    I find this thread very interesting, because it shows how difficult biblical interpretation can be. It also shows how prominent the idea of paradox is in the Bible. It's there, but we don't talk about it much, and we don't teach it. One of my favorite paradoxical stories is the parable of the judgment in Matthew 25.31-46. The two groups in the parable are both surprised by their rewards/punishments because they had not made any connection between their actions toward the needy and their relationship with God. Another obvious example is Job. Why do the righteous suffer?

    Paradox is a feature of many religions. I have a friend who teaches courses in Chinese philosophy. One of these, Taoism, has paradoxes in the basic statements of its views.

    Also, I want to mention a book that I ran across some months ago. I haven't read it yet, but it's on my list (of about 40 books to be read!). Ten Moral Paradoxes by Saul Smilansky (Blackwell Publishing, 2007) describes the problems surrounding various types of paradoxes. The first one is called "Fortunate Misfortune". He tells the story of a young woman who was born with breathing difficulties and problems with her legs. Her doctor prescribes swimming. Eventually, her breathing difficulties and the problems with her legs go away. She becomes a world famous swimmer. Her success is built on the misfortune of her birth. The parable of the Loving Father (a. k. a. the Prodigal Son) might be an example of this. If the son had not been so stupid as to claim his share of the inheritance and waste it, he would never have learned how much his father loved him.

    What other paradoxes have you found?

    Tim Reynolds
     
  14. David Lamb

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    I agree, Skypair. I also find the book Alleged Discrepancies in the Bible by John W. Haley can be helpful. (It's published by Baker Book House).
     
  15. convicted1

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    Dear Christianyouth,

    As someone stated in an earlier, you used the word "appears" in the first sentence of your OP. Any contraction is from our lack of knowledge, IOW, not rightly dividing the Word of Truth. Everything that God says happens, because God cannot lie(Tit. 1:2). I never fear in thinking that the Word is contractory, it's my lack of understanding(I pray to God for more wisdom every day) that causs any confusion I have on any given subject in the bible.

    Willis
     
  16. lbaker

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    I really think we do violence to the text sometimes, trying to force scripture into a system that makes sense to us. Seems like we want to have it all tied up with a nice neat bow on it. Spiritual stuff doesn't always work that way.

    One example I think is the cal/non-cal debate. There is plenty of ammo on both sides and some of the doctrine that has been developed on both sides seems to conflict with scripture. But, both sides have some valid points also.

    Another example is being saved by faith vs. baptism. Somehow we decided that faith rules out what some verses seem to plainly say about immersion and so we come up with some kind of embarassing interpretations to keep our system intact.
     
  17. christianyouth

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    lbaker, both of those examples are very good. I don't know why more people don't see this!

    I think the Arminian side has some good points on things like God's Universal Love and God's Universal Will to Save all people. Those are valid, Biblically solid points. The only critiques I've seen against them have been very weak.

    But then again, many of the critiuqes by Arminians are more systematic and rationalistic then the Calvinists. Not sure why everyone thinks that Calvinism is the ultra systematic theology while Arminianism is not. For example, the Arminians will object to unconditional election because of the truth that is taught that God desires all to be saved, while the High Calvinists reject God's desire for all to be saved because of the truth that is taught, Unconditional election. I think some moderate Calvinists, like John Piper, as well as Lutherans, would affirm both truths. It doesn't make systematic sense, but both are biblical.

    Your point on baptism is well taken. Many times the Gospel is given, and it only mentions Faith. Many other times the Gospel is given and it only mentions Repentance. Sometimes the Gospel is given with Faith + Baptism, sometimes with Faith + Repentance, sometimes with Repentance + Baptism. It's a tough issue. It seems that those are the three things contained in most Gospel proclamations throughout the Gospels and Acts. I need to think about this some more, thank you for all of the great responses. :)
     

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