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The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith Hardcover – February 3, 2015
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"Grounded in examples from scripture and life experiences, his honest exploration of the questions and doubts Christians have speaks to both newer believers who might not fully understand their faith, and also to longtime followers who have gotten off track or are looking to understand why they believe." --PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
From the Inside Flap
THE PARADOX OF LIVING IN A BROKEN WORLD can grab our attention dramatically as we go through life, experiencing disappointment, enduring tragedy, and surviving disaster. We're too wise and too jaded for cheap answers, promises of The American Dream, and religious quick fixes--they don't really satisfy us. Instead, they leave us desperate for something solid, hoping for a more sure foundation upon which to build our lives. Our hope can't simply be in controlling our present circumstances; if we are going to live lives of meaning and purpose, we're going to have to learn how to embrace The Grand Paradox: Life is messy and God is mysterious, but yet there is a way to follow Christ, develop a relationship with God, and pursue the happiness and joy we all long to experience.
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Top customer reviews
That Wytsma examines a topic from various angles shouldn't be too surprising, he wears a few different hats. He is the lead pastor of Antioch in Bend, Oregon and a philosopher who teaches at Kilns College. As the founder of The Justice Conference he moderates a discussion on biblical justice and how to care for the vulnerable. He is also a C.S. Lewis aficionado. So in these pages Wytsma offers reflections that are pastoral, theologically rich, philosophically deep and practically engaged. There are a number of rich insights here, though not always 'easy reading.'
Wytsma begins his paradoxical look at faith by examining Joshua's defeat of Jericho. The plan that God gave Joshua was to walk around Jericho with the ark and blow horns, watch the walls fall down and take the city. From a strategic perspective this is a terrible plan, but through it God demonstrated that the victory was his and not the might of Joshua and Israel (4). The Jericho example sets us up for the nature of faith--where we are called to walk by faith and not by sight. Sometimes the stuff God calls us to makes no sense, from a human point of view. Wytsma writes, "Walking by faith doesn't bring the control or sense of satisfaction we desire, and over time, it guarantees a measure of suffering. Walking by faith on the other hand, can feel like walking blind--an even more dangerous idea--and we know that it, too, will involve suffering. Both alternatives seem undesirable." If that was where things ended, faith or no faith carries no special promise. But Wytsma goes on, " It is the faithfulness, the promise, and presence of God that give us a way out of the catch-22" (16). God, and God alone provides a way through the paradox.
In chapter three Wytsma (with a great deal of Kierkegaard) describes he nature of authentic faith as trust in God, though we don't understand him (26). In chapter four he discusses how Christian wisdom may look like folly to the uninitiated and therefore close-communion with God is required for us to know that we are on the right track. In chapter five, Wytsma examines the imperative of justice for all who claim Jesus as savior. Chapter six examines how the pursuit of happiness (in the ancient sense) encapsulates all that is necessary for human flourishing and therefore is a necessary component of the virtuous and godly life. Chapter seven examines the interplay between doubt and faith, Chapters eight and nine examine personal calling where chapters ten and eleven examine the wider cultural landscapes. Chapter twelve examines the role of church and the final three chapters unfold the eschatological dimensions of faith.
I appreciate many of the insights Wytsma has here. I am a new pastor who has been preaching on discipleship through Lent and I've been thinking a lot about the paradox of discipleship. Wytsma has been a good dialogue partner and has pointed me to other theologians too. Where a lot of pastor/authors are light on content, and where justice practitioners sometimes lack thoughtfulness it is refreshing to read a book from a justice-loving-pastor which is meaty, challenging, theological and inspiring. This is a comprehensive guide to the pursuit of God and it gives space for questions, doubt and uncertainty while still calling us to greater trust and obedience. That I appreciate.
My convoluted (and small) critique of this book is that I think he emphasizes the personal dimensions of faith at the beginning of the book to the exclusion of its communal aspects. Wytsma doesn't explore the church until chapter twelve. Eschatology comes later. Yes, I know he is a pastor and he cares about justice (which he addresses beautifully in chapter five), I just wish the company of witnesses was named earlier and given their due throughout. I give this book a solid four stars.
Notice of material connection: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Wytsma is real and honest about the struggles Christians face and how often, if we embrace the truth of the paradox, we can actually be drawn closer to God.
I particularly appreciated chapters; "Personal Calling and Mission" and "Mother Kirk." Both chapters spoke a similar message to me.
Following God is about relinquishing control, expectations, and the desire to be the "main character." Being part of a church community takes commitment, active involvement, and intentionality.
Both demand selflessness. Both require us to self-reflect on our imperfections so that we may grow more into God's story, in both our own life and in our church community.
Wytsma states; "When we see ourselves for what we really are, the picture can be bleak and humbling. Becoming aware of our own pride and our own selfishness is the first step to becoming teachable enough to begin the process of renouncing our commitment to self. Instead of asking what God's will is for my life, I should be asking how I can serve God's will with my life" (Personal Calling and Mission, pg. 84).
In Wytsma's chapter discussing the messiness of church (Mother Kirk, pg.135) he states; "Being part of a messy spiritual family helps me remember that the whole story is much bigger than me. When I live in community, I am forced to make it about the kingdom of God for all people and not the kingdom of God for the benefit of me alone."
In both of these chapters, Wytsma challenges us to take a closer look at our inherent selfish nature and to recognize that God has called us to be a part of His plan and part of His community. He invites us to truly submit ourselves to God's story and to live as servants, rather than consumers, in our church community; so that all may flourish in His name.
Read this book! Walk away desiring a more authentic and selfless relationship with God!
This is a book that challenges the reader to consider and reconsider what we've longed believed and perhaps what we long to believe.
I appreciated the author's own personal stories blended with hearty doses of C. S. Lewis and Kierkegaard, inspiring stories of Teddy and Eleanor Roosevelt, add some Catch 22 and throw in Pascal's Wager and how can you not conclude that this is a nuanced and provocative read?
As someone who started a book club at church with ground rules that we not read many Christian books since so many are so poorly written, I was relieved to find what I expected with this book. Wytsma displays his intellectual grasp of church history and integrates his philosophical training with tender encouragement toward honesty and maturity. Bravo.
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This book will make you think, ponder, and wrestle with some of the questions...Read more