Paradox Lost, by Richard P. Hansen, pushes its readers to expand on their knowledge of the paradoxes of the Christian faith. Hansen argues that these paradoxes can strengthen faith rather than contradict it. He shows how these mysteries can lead to a comfort in knowing that God is an awesome God and will never be fully comprehended by humans, and how that is good.
Paradox Lost, published May 3, 2016, explores the ways paradox can point to an omnipotent, omniscient God, the never ending mystery and exploration of the Christian faith, and the comfort of knowing that “there is a God and I am not He”(17). Richard P. Hansen has proved himself to be a credible author through his years of being a pastor and a missionary professor in a college in Ethiopia. Hansen uses this experience within his book through comparisons of Christians in Ethiopia versus Christians in the United States. Not only has Hansen proved himself, but the publisher of Paradox Lost is Zondervan, a well known Evangelical company. Zondervan also publishes other Christian resources, such as Bibles, devotional books, and video Bible studies. The currency, the author, and the publisher all point to this book being a good source to start exploring the paradoxes of the Christian faith.
Content and Methodology
Paradox Lost offers three categories of paradoxes: Serious Playfulness, The Tuning Fork, and Two Handles. Each is unique in its own way, however the book has different overarching themes the paradoxes shed light on. The first is an omniscient, omnipotent God. Many of the paradoxes and mysteries of the Christian faith will never be resolved by humans, but God perfectly understands everything. Humans will never be able to fully comprehend the fact that Jesus was fully God and fully man. As Hansen writes about on page 34, it is possible that there are realms within the Christian faith. God has revealed what people need to know about salvation, but there could be another realm that humans are not aware of(34-35). In the paradox of the kingdom of God, Hansen states, “Now Jesus is leading a counterattack, recapturing the territory Satan has held”(101). This points to an omnipotent God that can withstand far more than any human ever could.
The next topic is the comfort Christians can have knowing that they are not God. “Our very inability to get our arms around it releases us from our need to control it”(16). This may not be comforting to non-Christians, however the feeling of putting full trust into an all-powerful God frees Christians from having to worry about anything and everything. This quote from Saint Augustine sums it up, “If you can comprehend it, it is not God”(138).
Another overarching theme Hansen writes about is the mystery of God and how paradox can clear certain points of the mystery, while still revealing how little is truly known. Hansen compares mystery to fog, “…our headlights show us some things clearly, but also make us aware of how much exists in the haze”(26). Paradoxes can be our headlights into the fog of God’s mystery, however we become evermore aware of how little we know. “In Jesus we especially meet the nature of mystery, knowing how much we don’t know”(143). This ignorance is what is called “conscious ignorance”(28). It’s a part of the Christian faith that as we gain knowledge, we gain an awareness of how awesome and incomprehensible God is.
All of the paradoxes used in Paradox Lost have a way of strengthening Christians’ faiths. The Kingdom of God is itself, a paradox. It is present, yet also still arriving. I believe the citations and reasoning Hansen uses (God’s battle against Satan for creation) emphasizes the fact that God is all powerful(101). The spiritual battles between God and Satan and angels and demons surpass any earthly wars. The fact that these are fights between the most powerful beings in the universe, makes them far beyond anything I can comprehend. Just as I cannot comprehend the battles that Jesus fights, I cannot comprehend the many mysteries surrounding God. Hansen brings to light the fact that there could be various realms that God exists on and that God does not have to follow the principles or logic of humanity(34-35). God gives us what we need to know for salvation, however once we dig more into the scriptures, there are things no human will ever understand. Some topics will forever be out of our incomplete human understanding, but God knows all things. And while many people will never understand the comfort that this brings Christians, it is important to know that “there is a God and I am not He”(17).
This conscious ignorance is a large part of the Christian faith. If humans were to be all knowing, wouldn’t that set us almost on the same level as God? This does NOT mean that we should not strive to gain knowledge, however much of faith is based on trust. Trusting that God is three-in-one. Trusting that God is just and simultaneously loving. Trusting that God has blessed us with what we need to know for salvation. Once again though, we should never stop striving to know all that we can. God has blessed us with a curiosity. “The Scripture’s gospel is shallow enough for babes to wade in and never drown and yet deep enough for scholars to swim in and never touch bottom”(35). These mysteries in the deep of the gospel should be explored. And although “mystery” can hold a foreboding definition, the mystery of God is good and is filled with light(29).
These mysteries of God are one of the main overarching themes in this book. Paradox can be used to present a new way of looking at a mystery, or can present a new mystery to explore. The humanity and divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, and even the paradox of Scripture all point to the various mysteries of God. These mysteries should never be ignored nor forgotten. Just as the people of the Old Testament, when we categorize God and believe we have Him figured out, we can become overconfident in ourselves(166). This is a precarious situation we can find ourselves in and can lead to less exploration. Our overconfidence in our knowledge can lead to less exploring of Scripture and can lead to us trusting in ourselves rather than God. God uses the paradoxes of the Christian faith to keep believers exploring our faith. Paradoxes push Christians to expand our knowledge and conscious ignorance of faith.
Paradox Lost brings new insights to exploring the mysteries of God. Hansen’s examples of various paradoxes bring new frames to look at the mysteries through. And while none of the mysteries of God will ever be fully resolved, Christians can be comforted in the fact that God knows all, is all powerful, and cares for each person individually.