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Friday, June 10, 2011

Contradictions

One of the reasons that I find Christianity so compelling is the embracing of what might be termed "contradictions". I suppose, rather, that they are more accurately termed "paradoxes". These aren't genuine contradictions. They just appear to be.

Take, for instance, 1 Tim 1:5 -- "The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" -- compared with 2 Tim 4:2 -- "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction." Now, wait. If the goal is love then how do we "reprove, rebuke, exhort"? Aren't those contradictory? No, they're not. Paul told Titus in the space of a couple of sentences, "Avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning" (Titus 3:9-10). So, are we supposed to reject people or avoid controversies? Yes ... the answer is yes.

Take the characteristics of God such as justice and mercy. Justice is getting what you deserve and mercy is not getting what you deserve and God operates on both. Contradictory? It might seem so, but the Bible and Christianity embrace both without contradiction.

We believe without fail that we are saved by faith apart from works (Rom 3:28) and we must work out our salvation (Phil 2:12). We declare that God works all things after the counsel of His will (predestination) and free will, that God determines in advance what will happen and that Man makes choices and is culpable for those choices (Luke 22:22). We declare openly that God is one and God is triune. And we claim, without hesitation, that none of these actually contradict each other.

You see, if Christianity were a man-made religion, this kind of thing wouldn't work at all. It wouldn't have built on paradox. It wouldn't be so clear and yet so mysterious. It wouldn't be so easy to get and so hard to understand. You would either grasp it at once or never grasp it at all rather than the way it is so easily gotten hold of and then so long absorbed, always with new insights around every corner. It would be more ... well ... human. As it is, it is divine, as a true religion should be.

4 comments:

Marshall Art said...

So regarding free will, you agree with me but you don't. Hmmm. Another paradox.

Seriously, your statements here regarding the issue reflect for once where I've been at the whole time. Sort of. Mostly. Perhaps. Not really sure.

Stan said...

For purposes of clarity, I've never denied "free will". What I have always denied is Free Will, that sovereignty of Man that seems to be such a common belief, the idea that 1) humans are capable of acting without any influence or 2) that God ties His hands where Man's Will is concerned.

Marshall Art said...

Sounds like hair splitting. But at the same time, I'VE never suggested that God has no influence in the Free Will He gives us, and I'm not sure the more "organized" (for lack of a better word) anti-Calvinists (for an equal lack) are suggesting that, either. Frankly, I don't see how such a thing could even be possible.

Stan said...

It's not hair splitting. One side says that God surrenders His Sovereignty to Man's Free Will. The other says that God allows humans choices, but retains His ultimate Sovereignty. One side says "The fact that God is Good, doesn't mean that He has a specific, spelled out plan for every individual other than to let that person live his life as he desires" and the other side says "God has a plan for each individual that includes their choices but is, ultimately, in line with His plan." One side says that Man is the final arbiter of his own salvation -- each individual is the one who determines by his own free will whether or not he will be saved -- and the other sides says that God is Sovereign in salvation and will certainly save all He intends to. One side says that God does not interfere in human Free Will and the other says that God sometimes allows humans to make choices ... and sometimes does not. No, not hair splitting.