Paradox Lost: Rediscovering the Mystery of God was written by Richard P. Hansen. The book is written in a sermonic tone, making it slightly repetitive, but it is different and an interesting read. Hansen’s unique descriptions challenge the reader to think differently about Biblical paradox, their faith, and God.
Paradox Lost is split into five sections: “A Strange Sort of Comfort”, “Serious Playfulness”, “The Tuning Fork”, “The Two Handles”, and “The Shell”. “A Strange Sort of Comfort” introduces Biblical paradox. Hansen discusses how Christians often do not realize there are paradoxes in their faith, or if they do, choose to ignore them or not explore them. The types of paradoxes are described in unique ways intended to interest and challenge. Hansen encourages Christians to explore Biblical paradoxes, but acknowledges that no matter how much is learned God can never be completely understood.
The first category of paradoxes Hansen introduces are called “Serious Playfulness”. These paradoxes at first seem to contradict but are later resolved (22). Biblical examples of these paradoxes are Jesus’ parables and faith versus works (22).
“The Tuning Fork” describes paradoxes that have two seemingly contradicting opinions, but together create one truth (74). A God equally of justice and love, and freewill and election are examples of this type of paradox (22). Without one of the sides, the real truth is not heard.
The last category of Biblical paradox is called “The Two Handles”. Hansen uses the two handles of an auger to explain that the different parts of these paradoxes should be kept distinct and separate (22). Jesus’ divinity and humanity and the three-in-one Trinity are Two Handle paradoxes.
In the fifth and final section of Paradox Lost, “The Shell”, Hansen explains how Biblical paradox can inspire learning and growth in the faith. Hansen claims that paradox inspires trust (168), and that knowledge and trust must reinforce one another (165). Biblical paradox can open us to God’s mystery but God’s mystery continues to grow and can never be solved.
One thing I enjoyed throughout the whole book was the way Hansen explained things. I found that many of his descriptions were different from what I had heard before. Perhaps one of the most surprising descriptions was in “Serious Playfulness” where Hansen portrays Jesus as shocking His audience with His parables and descriptions of heaven. Maybe because I have been hearing these parables and descriptions my whole life, I never realized how ridiculous sounding some of them truly are. For example, in Matthew 18:3-4 Jesus tells His listeners to “become like little children… whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Hansen explains that in Jewish culture children were thought of almost as evil, much differently than the way Americans typically view children (43). This and other examples Hansen uses challenged me to think differently about Jesus’ parables, and to research the cultural so I can better understand just how shocking Jesus truly was.
Another depiction that intrigued me was in Chapter 17, where Hansen used the illustration of a dance to describe the Holy Spirit (136). This connected to me because I am a dancer, so Hansen’s description was something that I deeply understand and relate to. The open-endedness of Paradox Lost invites readers to discuss the book and its ideas. I think that the unique descriptions also encourage conversations. For example, dancing is something that relates to me, but not to others. However, my experience with dance can help me to explain dancing in a way that makes sense to others who have not danced or relate it to something they will understand.
In conclusion, Hansen’s book opened me to many different ideas and thoughts about the Bible and faith that I had not considered before. His unique descriptions also challenged me to think differently and better understand the Bible. Hansen encourages the reader to dig deeper into the faith and truly explore Biblical paradoxes. In the end, no matter how much is learned, there will always be things that cannot be understood and just require faith.