Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Grand Paradox

The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith 

The first thing you read when you open this book is a quote from G. K Chesterton: 
"Paradox simply means a certain defiant joy which belongs to belief."

I like that- a defiant joy. 

And paradox {or tension, both concepts work} permeates everything. 

The world is exceedingly unstable, yet we declare that God is eternally trustworthy.
Human beings are fatally fragile, yet we dare to suggest that we're also immortal souls.
Everything is running down and burning out, but we hope for renewal. 

Paradox, all of it. Multiple truths, at loggerheads with each other, all describing nuances of reality. 

Ken Wytsma says that the life of faith in Christ is the Grand Paradox, and this book is a guide for us as we enter that life.

He gets off to a strong start in chapter one, "Jericho."
In a few pages, he takes us through the heavily fortified city, and shows us the walls crashing down. From where we are, the story is awesome. God brought down stonework with the blast of trumpets. 
Yet really, do you think this made any sense to the Israelites? Do you think they understood what God was doing, why He was demanding such a ridiculous thing from them? What terrible military strategy- "Don't invade, march around the outside making music."
Yet what God teaches us through this experience is that the battle is His. 
Pastor Wytsma makes this point over and over: He leads, we follow.

Sometimes in this book Ken stresses part one of the equation- God leads. Trust. Rest. Fear not. 
Sometimes he stresses part two- we follow. Live your faith. Obey. Act. 

And there's so much material for reflection here as he works on those themes.

When Ken talked about resignation, and how that isn't really wholesome submission to God, I saw myself. 
I'm so tempted to be that prisoner in chains he describes, following the jailer because he has no other choice. Ouch! 
That part made me want to find a way of being disappointed and yet not falling into resignation.

Looking at modern trends, he talks about the way we process information and share ideas today. 
We have plenty of conclusions on every possible issue, and yet those conclusions often lack nuanced understanding. 
His case for withdrawing from the information stream, reflecting deeply, slowing our conversations, and owning our convictions- it's a powerful one. 

His "Love is Never Wrong" chapter stole the show for me, for one reason. He says "... we can do this. Faith isn't beyond us." 
And on days when the world is wild and I'm failing my ideals left and right, and I can't keep up with all I need to learn- I need to know that It Can Be Simple. In this chapter, he says that we can stop worrying about never doing the very bad wrong things, and start pursuing the always available right thing- Love. 

He also takes on the question of "What is happiness?" and he addresses spiritual fatigue- burnt out on religion? 

The last paragraph of the book was a delightful surprise, too. Again, he's quoting, but I won't tell you who.
And when you read the book, don't skip to the end. Let me just say that I thought those were perfect words to close with.

Thank you Booklook and Ken Wytsma for my review copy.

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