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Paradoxology: Why Christianity Was Never Meant to Be Simple Paperback – October 1, 2014
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About the Author
Krish Kandiah is executive director for Churches in Mission at the Evangelical Alliance, chair of the Theological Advisory Panel for Tearfund, and lecturer at Regent Park College, Oxford University.
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It's obvious that Christianity was never meant to be simple. But the deeper is our relationship with God, the more we realize that it's only by God's grace that we can actually pull through this life, and that grace is amazing, manifold, unfathomable as God himself. I think that Krish Kandiah explains quite in-depth why Christianity is all about paradoxes.
First the title. It grabs your attention. You feel like you figured God out. You feel like you know it all as a Christian. And here is the title: 'Pa-ra-do-xo-lo-gy' - a study of paradoxes. I felt that I would just call it 'Life of Faith', or 'Following Jesus', but that name doesn't stand out in the crowd like 'Paradoxology'.
Then we go the table of contents. I usually read books from the end. This time I held myself in suspense for half the book. Every title shouted: "Read me!"
Like these: 'The Abraham Paradox: The God who needs nothing but asks for everything.' 'The Job Paradox: The God who is actively inactive.' 'The Jesus Paradox: The God who is divinely human.' or this one: 'The Cross Paradox: The God who wins as He looses.'
There are minor details that I didn't like. Some of the paradoxes taken from the Old Testament, especially from Hosea and Habakkuk were shallow and lacked details to my opinion. Of course, I understand the author's desire to be precise and to the point without being too boring to the readers, yet I expected to know more about God who is faithful to the unfaithful and consistently unpredictable. Or maybe it's me who has to read those books again in order to know it better.
Now I just want to say what I liked about those paradoxes going from chapter to chapter.
Ch. 1 The Abraham Paradox. The God who needs nothing but asks for everything.
I liked this idea of a dream-shattering God. The God who cannot be predicted or put in a box. The God who is anything but 'they lived happily ever after' refined artificial sweetness. I mean the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac really stands out and on all 'whys' of unbelievers we tend to say generally: "That is God's will. We cannot argue with God." These series of questions on God asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac really got me thinking deeper about my faith and showed me that it is not in my visible achievements of faith, but it is in God, in Christ that my life is hidden and that I have to trust Him like Abraham did even if asked to bury all my best dreams and aspirations about my life. I agree with Krish Kandiah 100% that this Abraham paradox both shows us prophetically to the Cross of Christ and stretches our faith as we 'discover a greater intimacy with God, a greater appreciation of both the Giver and the Gift.'
Ch. 2 The Moses Paradox: The God who is far away so close.
I liked how in this Moses paradox author emphasizes that the paradox of God's transcendence('farawayness' of God) and immanence(God's closeness) is there not only for Moses, but for us as well. 'Come here... remove your shoes..' Then later on '...tell everyone not to come to the mountain' and so on, can give us really bad impression of God if we truly don't grasp God's true holiness, His absolute hatred of sin in any form. Here Krish Kandiah again insists that Moses paradox(times when we feel that God is far away and close) is essential to our spiritual health. I agree 100%.
Ch. 3. Joshua Paradox.The God who is terribly compassionate.
Though this is hard to swallow, but yes, God allowed Jews to wipe out many of the nations that lived in the land of Canaan. I liked how author gives us some insights on the patience of God who was patient to the other nations before punishing them for their sins. I was glad that Krish Kandiah wasn't taking that easier way of explanation that Calvinists(and other Christians) take, like saying: "God is God and we are not. He can do whatever He pleases. He can plant nations and uproot nations." Like Apostle Peter in 2Pet. 3:15, Krish Kandiah reminds readers of the huge patience God offers to us sinners and lays that as the main argument for God's judgment over the Canaan nations. I agree 100%.
Ch. 4. The Job Paradox: The God who is Actively inactive.
I just for some reason didn't like the word 'wager' in a context of 'wager between God and Satan. The rest of the chapter is fine. I would also consider going into this direction. Job was one of the most righteous people on Earth. (Ez.14:14) He pleased God in all this suffering. He patiently persevered. Is there any hope for us as we are not so righteous as Job was? Other than that the chapter is very well written. Yes, I agree God is 'reliable and wise enough to be trusted in the darkest times.'
Ch.5 The Hosea Paradox. The God who is faithful to the unfaithful.
I find this one of the greatest paradoxes in my life personally. This truly if well considered brings to mind those questions that Krish Kandiah wrote: is God naïve? is God foolish? is God weak? is God so gullible? That very well brings you to reconsider the extravagant grace offered to the prodigal son in one of Jesus' parables in Lk.15:11-32
I was expecting Krish Kandiah to go into 2Tim.2:10-13, but it's his book after all. That's really a tough question: in what way such crooks as us can remain faithful to God to the end? I do agree that we have to respond in faith to be faithful to God.
Ch.6 The Habakkuk Paradox. The God who is consistently unpredictable.
The starkest example for me from this chapter was this answer to prayer: allowing the mosque next door to close down your building so they could knock it down and build an extension over it. Yes, Babylon captivity is one of God's ways to bring Israel back to Himself. Anti-fragile faith, Habakkuk's anti-fragile prayer are really nice and encouraging.
Ch.7 The Jonah Paradox. The God who is indiscriminately selective.
Again, the examples that Krish Kandiah brings are so vivid: 'In our day this commission would be the equivalent to God calling someone from Chechnya to go and preach against Russia.' I never would thought of Jonah the prophet in this way, but it's true. Jabur Hasan's example is so funny. You should read it to appreciate it. I found Jonah in myself as I read this: ' How often do we express keenness to have a relationship with God, but remain unconcerned about offering the same privilege to others.'
Ch.8 The Esther Paradox.
I liked the idea of God being in a way a film Director in the Esther story. Never thought that absence of the name of God in Esther could be such a powerful illustration to the silence of God in our lives.
Ch.9. The Jesus Paradox. The God who is divinely human.
Krish Kandiah is so right: 'For Jesus the man there is widespread respect and admiration. But when we start talking about Jesus as God, the conversation changes.' The example with infinite number of hotel rooms reminded me Math class in the uni. Good example. And I really never saw John 1 and Genesis 1 in such a great side to side comparison. As Krish Kandiah quoted C.S. Lewis on the subject of divinity of Christ, I instantly remembered my arguing with believers on that subject in my "argument years". It was also a discovery to me that: '...the sinlessness of Jesus is pictured as result of conscious decision and intense struggle rather than being formal consequence of his divine nature.' First time I thought about this paradox of 'potuit non peccare' vs. 'non potuit peccare' after listening to Alan Cairns' sermon on the temptation of Christ. That's really a tough paradox.
Ch.10. The Judas Paradox. The God who determines our free will.
Yes, that question is really tough: "Was Judas born for damnation?" It's hard to reconcile two opposites that Judas freely chose to betray the Son of Man, and yet that was planned by God before the foundation of the world. (Mt. 26:24) I liked how Krish Kandiah puts it: 'In short: was Judas pushed or did he jump?' It's free will thing with sovereignty of God with the full accountability for your action that really puts me into a dead end. The only way I came out to look at it: 'God knows it all. I know it partly. Trust Jesus. Do not love money more than Jesus.' Finally, Jesus' love to Judas just blows me away. It's super extravagant.
Ch.11. The Cross Paradox. The God who wins as he looses.
Yes, I agree that the Cross is the turning point or hinge of history and the foundation of our faith. It's where the believer's life takes its start from. The Cross shows us both the extent of human sin, the triumph over the evil, and the exclusive way of salvation - only by faith, only through the Blood of Christ. I agree 100%.
Ch. 12. The Roman Paradox. The God who is effectively ineffective.
Yes, sanctification is about understanding our identity in Christ. I think that we would progress in holiness to the extent we actually grasp our union with Christ and dwell on that daily. I mean Romans 6,7,8 content. I would say that here it described in a slightly fragmented manner.
Also the way that Krish Kandiah is proving how God is effectively ineffective is a bit strange here. If I understood him right, God does sanctify us slowly because:
a) we have Sin's 'old regime' mentality.
b)Sin is really powerful: addictive, destructive, relational natures of sin.
c) we are in a state of transition like addicts coming off our dependencies.
Yet somehow those issues of indwelling sin (Romans 7) are not dealt with, just scratched the surface. I thought it's the key. Also there is only a single mention of the Spirit's work in this chapter. I somehow thought that Spirit's role is vital in our sanctification and deserves more attention.
Ch. 13. The Corinthian Paradox. The God who fails to disappoint.
According to Krish Kandiah -- hedonism and ignoring the reality are 2 ways that humanity copes with disappointment. That's correct. All the spectrum between 'eat all you can' and Buddhism. That's the world. Further author is saying that there is that tension between disappointments and hope in the world. And then right away Krish Kandiah says that we as Christians have to live with the tension of feeling both disappointed and hopeful. And he adds that 1 Corinthians gives us an important opportunity to wrestle with this paradox. But I don't see that paradox in the 1 Corinthians. There is loving admonition of the spiritual father to his children in faith. They are proud in their sins. Far from being disappointed. Rather too naïve, too self-confident in their understanding of the Gospel and spiritual gifts. He brings them back to Christ, to the Gospel truths, grounds them in truth. That's it. I know that that "disappointed and hopeful" tension does exist in churches, but Krish Kandiah doesn't make his point here.
I think to illustrate "disappointed and hopeful" paradox you have to take passages like 2Cor.6:3-10, 1Thes.4:13-18, 1Kings 19 and the like. But maybe I didn't get the point of the paradox.
Be it as it may, that last example with the resurrection of believers is a good example, and it answers "disappointed and hopeful" tension question quite well, especially for those who lost hope after taking that false teaching (like Sadducees) that there is no resurrection of the dead. However as I said there are other passages that would prove same paradox more successfully.
Final remarks. I gave 5 stars, because the author brought up hard questions and answered them thoroughly. The book left a very good impression. It fed me with Christ who loves paradoxes. It gave me thoughts for sermons. It encouraged me to love Jesus more and search the unsearchable mysteries of God. It reassured me that it's ok not to know all things about God, yet be willing to lay aside all things to know Him more.
I suggest this one for theology students, pastors, or those Christians who want to wrestle together with Krish Kandiah on paradoxes of faith.
I'd recommend this book to anyone who has struggled with some of the unanswered questions of Christianity. Krish doesn't give complete answers to all the questions, but he helps people understand how faith works in the midst of paradox. I think it's a much more beautiful picture of faith and a compelling vision.
We read this book as part of a group study and it worked very well for that purpose. Each chapter is a great length to foster discussion.
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