9 Quotes From “Surprised By Paradox”

Jen Pollock Michel has given us a thought-provoking look into her thoughts of some of the and solutions to the either-or challenges many Christians face. Please be sure to check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“Allowing for paradox does not represent a weakened approach to theological understanding. On the contrary, it allows for a robust theology, one that is filled with the sort of awe that not only regards God as unimaginably wondrous but also awakens in us the same desire Moses had to see Him as He is.” 

“As psychologists have described it, awe is ‘the experience of encountering something so vast—in size, skill, beauty, intensity, etc.—that we struggle to comprehend it and may even adjust our world to accommodate it.’ Awe is our slack-jawed response to natural phenomena like waterfalls and childbirth. To feel awe is to confirm a beautiful, wild universe, a world we neither made nor control. … For those of us inclined to religious belief, awe nurtures our certainty about God.”

“Modernity gave us more certainty than uncertainty—or at the very least certainty in certainty. We’ve come to an unassailable confidence that mystery, by dint of inquiry and scientific effort, can be wrestled and pinned down and made to cry uncle. We are no longer victims of the unknowable: we are masters of our own understanding. The great modern lie is one of infinite human autonomy and control.” 

“It is an old sin seduced by an old lie that we can be like God, perfectly knowing as He knows.… As soon as we think we have God figured out, we will have ceased to worship Him as He is.” 

“I also get tricked into thinking that the world must quiet around me if I mean to meet God. I forget the paradox of the burning bush: that Moses met God at Horeb on an unspectacular day, that his encounter with God was less planned and more happenstance. God did not speak to Moses as the prophet sat cross-legged and silent, his hands folded in reverent to prayer. God blazed up in the landscape of an ordinary Wednesday afternoon. This seems to be how it goes with God: a spiritual life is a material one.” 

“The paradox of God’s story is that He’s chosen to write its timelessness in the ticking heart of His Son and that He’s choosing to write it in our ticking hearts too.” 

“If the kingdom is good news, it surely isn’t safe. Because there is no square inch of our lives Jesus doesn’t intend to rule.” 

“To define grace apart from the Cross would be to say that God is simply given to leniency. It would be to essentially say that there are rules which we break and break badly, but God reassures us kindly that ‘it’s no big deal.’… The Cross speaks a thundering word about the cosmic big deal that is sin.” 

“To receive grace, we need humility. The only prerequisite for grace is empty hands. We have done nothing to make God notice us, and He is not impressed by us.” 

Anti-Sudoku Theology

I really enjoy Sudoku. It’s a challenging game of logic, and I’m (for the most part) a logical guy. I like knowing exactly where the digits one through nine are supposed to go, using logical deduction and inference to fill in all of the squares.

If I had my choice, all of life would be this logical. Simple. Neat. Well-defined. Clear. Easy. But, much to my dismay, it’s not.

If I’m following the example and teaching of Jesus, life with Him is anything but logical. Think about some of the paradoxes Jesus Christ taught and lived—

  • To advance, be humbled.
  • To have more, give away more.
  • To possess everything, desire nothing.
  • To connect with people (social), spend time alone with God (solitude).
  • To bring people in, go out.
  • To be a leader, be a servant.
  • To fill up with God, empty yourself of yourself.
  • To come first, come last.
  • To gain wisdom, become foolish.
  • To gain strength, become weak.
  • To live, die.

A.W. Tozer wrote about a godly man: “He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God has declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything.”

It isn’t logical, but it’s true: God loves me. And the greatest of all paradoxes: when I was the least worthy of God’s love, that’s when Jesus came to die for my sins.

God’s love for me—the greatest of paradoxes—helps me live these paradoxes Jesus taught. And His love will help you, too.

What other biblical paradoxes have you discovered?

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