Behold, I Show You a Mystery

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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I don't know when I started to think of God in terms of paradox—it was a long time ago. I was privileged to be reared by Christian parents who were honest about not having God figured out. So I was still on the young side when I concluded that the only kind of God that made sense was one that I couldn't fully understand.

Making peace early with the idea of a paradoxical God influenced my later theological development. I remember in 1974 I could barely part with my green Mercury, largely because the Princeton Theological Seminary parking sticker in the left corner of my back window seemed to nicely balance the Moody Bible Institute parking sticker in the right corner of my window. That rear car window worked perfectly for me. As a Moody student, I communed intimately with an "eye-on-the-sparrow" God; then at Princeton, I knelt in worship of an "immortal, invisible, God only wise." I had encountered a God that was both with me and above me.

Twenty-six years later, I find myself still navigating paradoxes. The most challenging paradox of Christian living is the one Jesus alludes to in his salt and light metaphor (Matt. 5:13–15). Our call to be light demands that we penetrate the culture, but our call to be salt warns us not to get suckered into the culture we're trying to change.

As an educator, I love this paradox. I work at a Christian college where a significant number of students enroll purely for academic quality and hold no interest in faith. God bless these students. We welcome them and will serve them well. But how do we, as a community of Christian scholars, blend conviction and curiosity in ways christocentric enough to be light, agitating enough to be salt, and open enough to keep us exploring the mysteries of our transcendent Savior? The answer for me is my confidence in two towering influences:

· Scripture. Jesus said, "No one comes to the father except through me." By faith this claim is one of my deep convictions. But everything about Jesus casts such a wide net that I'd be foolish not to be open minded about Christ's "one way." Before he entered the world, he had a family tree with the likes of a prostitute from Jericho, a Canaanite who slept with her father-in-law, and a Hittite with whom King David committed adultery. And the last thing Jesus did on earth? He turned to a nasty criminal and said, "You're coming with me." These are not the acts of a narrow-minded God.

· Truth. Truth is sturdy and does well over time. I find that God, the author of truth, fares quite well against the wonderings and wanderings of this world. Surrounding ourselves with "falsehood filters" underestimates the power of truth. Further, in blocking the falsehoods, the law of unintended consequences can screen us from some wonderful ideas. We pay a price for protecting truth that doesn't really need our protection.

Faith is paradoxical, which is exactly what we should expect from an infinite God who is, paradoxically, both just and gracious.


• How does it change the way we live and think to accept the fact that we see "through a glass darkly?" How should this change the way we act?

• What are the consequences of living as though we fully understand God, exactly how God works?