the god of paradoxes

I wrote a blog entry about Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, where I found God to be described in terms that may have made perfect sense to Rob Bell, but in my opinion is far from the more complex picture of God that we find described in the Bible:

God is love, but he is also holy.

Jesus is the lamb of God, but he is also the Lion of Judah

Life comes from death

The first shall be last

If you want to be a leader in the kingdom, serve

The real leader uses a towel to dry peoples’ feet not a stick to control people

God wants for all people to choose him as their God, and he has made provision for that to be possible through his son Jesus’ death on the cross, but he is also aware of the tragic fact that some people will not choose to receive the free gift of life and righteousness that he is offering them

Blessed are those who mourn…

These are just some of the many examples of the paradoxes of who God is, and what he is up to. I can’t figure him out completely. I don’t understand a lot of the things he does or chooses to not do. I just don’t.

God is God, and I’m not. He created me in his own image. I have a spirit that has come alive when everything in me that was against God was crucified and buried with Christ (Galatians 2:20). So I am joined to God and rest in the fact that nothing and nobody can ever change that (Romans 8). I rest in the fact that my faith doesn’t have to make perfect sense. I rest in the fact that a lot of it makes sense anyway, but I’m not inclined to desperately try to make sense out of the paradoxes that are in the Bible. These paradoxes cause me to wonder, think, chat with God, and essentially worship him.

A Christianity without paradoxes is flat, weak and ultimately very uninteresting. It may feel good for a little while, if I can explain away the things in Christianity that I don’t understand or agree with, but it has a very short shelf life, because it’s not founded in the truth of who God is. Lots of people throughout the ages of the Church have tried to explain away the paradoxes about God that they are uncomfortable with. There is nothing new under the sun, when that happens.

I will end this blog entry by quoting an excerpt from an excellent review of Love Wins from Christianity Today:

“This brings us to the other problem with liberalism: Ironically, its passion to make Jesus more accessible to the contemporary mind ends up making Jesus less interesting. To be fair, many people become Christians as a result of hearing the liberal gospel. And one suspects that Bell’s book will have this effect for some. But liberalism has never been able to win a large following for Jesus. Too often, its Jesus sounds like an ideal people already believe in, so why bother? (…)Most Christians grasp that to demythologize one doctrine is to make the others less coherent. They recognize that a Christianity that teaches about “a God without wrath [who] brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross” (H. Richard Niebuhr’s classic summary of liberalism) does not reflect the thickness of biblical revelation nor lived reality. And they see that when all is said and done, there is no painful contradiction between the love and justice of God. That in the end, not only does love win, but justice, too.”

So, I guess, at this point in 2011, I land in an interesting, and seemingly small camp in terms of what I believe: I am a young(ish) man who is too liberal for the conservatives, and too conservative for the liberals 🙂

Blessings, Torben

2 Responses to “the god of paradoxes”

  1. May 29, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    I read Love Wins two hours ago – a very quick read. It’s not a revolutionary book to me – it goes along with a couple of other things I’ve read in the last 5-6 years. And still: I cried while reading it.

    The final remarks did it:
    May you experience this vast, expansive, infinite, indestructible love that has been yours all along. May you discover that this love is as wide as the sky and as small as the cracks in your heart no one else knows about. And may you know, deep in your bones, that loves wins.

    And I did.

    I experienced the love of God like I’ve did over the years: In nature, when somebody stood up for me even though they shouldn’t have, in dreams, in visions, at funerals, when people want to change the world, at communion, and like in this case: In literature (very rarely during sermon/worship etc. – I thought I truly had a problem for many years).

    And yeah, sure, you could say: No, no, Rob Bell hasn’t got it right. This is not the real loving God, he’s describing. It’s just his (wrong) image of God. Whereas I – and few others maybe (Including Christianity Today?) – we’ve got the REAL picture of God, the real image of God – and if you would just see, what WE see, what we GET, you would see the real, loving God (who also is holy, remember, that belongs to the ‘right’ image or sentences about God and what God is).

    Thank God (sorry!), God doesn’t work that way. God is God, no matter what we think of him. The one thing I know of God – and which transforms me (when I’m paying attention that is and when I’m not walking my own way) – is his love. And that’s a “right” picture enough to me. That love can change history, people – and it has. No matter what people have “thought” about the sender, which ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ images they’ve categorised him with, and not the least: No matter how they’ve constructed Scripture in a way so it (conveniently?) matches ther own image of God – God is still God. I’m not saying Rob Bell get’s it all right – honestly, I’m not sure he get’s anything ‘right’ – in fact, he’s mostly a pastor describing what the experience of God’s love has done to him and to several members of hia congregation. And it fact, that’s more ‘knowledge’ of who God is that I’ll ever need.

    Is God a paradox? Mnjah – his love is paradoxal. Grace is mindblowing so different from anything else in this not very nice world. But it’s not like: God has ‘one’ side, and God has ‘another side’ which if you make a little smart ‘addition’: Voila, God is a paradox. God is, and God works in us and through us. No matter what we think he is or isn’t. I don’t think thinking of God in this way is ‘flat’ or ‘uninteresting’. Actually, I think quite the opposite – I think the sort of Christianity I grew up which (which more explicitly presented the paradoxal image of God) looked very much like a movie from the 1930’s. You know, Jesus is pretty much a fix to sort out the wrath of God because you are sooo baaad … mkay? So, do you want to be a Christian? Ehm … no thanks, not really. It’s easy with this sort of Christianity to be a supporter saying the right words and all – but it’s very, very hard to be a Christian at heart. I couldn’t. Why should I? Why would I love somebody who ultimately would allow my destruction and billons of others – but could love me ‘enough’ to send a little fix to hinder this destruction? Nope, it wasn’t really good news. Kind of more: Something semi-good to hinder the really, really bad. Only God’s love is good news to me who has dealt with self-doubt, melancholia, anxiety … and (there’s quite a list). And God’s love is good news to me. And to everybody else in this world – who have other lists or short-comings. That’s not a ‘liberal’ gospel to me. It’s a transforming one.

  2. May 29, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    After my first post I read “A Small God”. I guess I only have one further comment. To me it has all been of great concern when people get this idea: It’s a very common feature to pick and choose from the scriptures – whereas us – who (still?) belong to the modern paradigm – we don’t do that sort of thing. No, we read everything literally, and we interpret every verse in the exact same order and with the same exact same meaning as God intended it to be. And when we have read the scriptures with this certain chronology and with the exact same meaning as God wants us read it we know who God is and we know what Christianity is all about. We’ve just read it literally.

    Everybody is interpreting. All the time. That’s what people do when the read something. No matter what they read.

    Poor disciples btw. They didn’t have the Bible, just Jesus to turn to. And he wasn’t much of theologian. But I think he got it right anyway.

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