…a few more thoughts on embracing biblical paradox
Unless God has clearly told us what he will or will not do, it seems a little presumptuous (if not downright laughable) for flawed, finite beings like us to think we somehow intuitively know what the all-wise, all-powerful, transcendent God and Creator of the universe would or wouldn’t do. In reality, our intuitions about God are marred by sin and limited by human nature, and therefore often unreliable.
A while back I came across a helpful comment by someone named India:
It seems to me that one of the surest ways to fall into theological error is to make an argument about what God would or would not do based on our own fallible conceptions of what a good God ought to do. After all, this is the same reasoning that leads atheists to reject God (because a good God wouldn’t permit evil) and universalists and annihilationists to reject the notion of hell (because a good God wouldn’t punish people eternally).
In a similar way, we should be cautious about making bold assertions that the Bible couldn’t possibly teach a certain doctrine, simply because we can’t imagine that it would. John Piper said something that arrested me the first time I read my favorite book of his, The Pleasures of God:
My aim is to let Scripture stand–to let it teach what it will and not to tell it what it cannot say.
Wow. How many times have I heard someone (in so many words) tell the Bible what it cannot say? That sentence alone is worth the price of the book (and it’s nowhere near the best thing he says in it). Piper continues:
For example, the statement, “God cannot choose individuals unconditionally and yet have compassion on all men,” is based on a certain kind of philosphical assumption, not on Scripture. Scripture leads us precisely to this paradoxical position. I am willing to let the paradox stand even if I can’t explain it.
Anyone, regardless of theological persuasion, can make this mistake. Calvinists can make it. Arminians can make it. Those with Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or various Protestant backgrounds make it. I can make it. You can make it.
The bottom line is, we’re not as smart as we think we are. Are we content to let the paradoxes of Scripture stand, even if we can’t explain them?