Paradox is Normal

Paradox is part of the nature of theology.  Not theology as a study of God, although that is included.  Rather theology as the definition of the nature of reality.  Paradox is an element that we cannot understand.  We cannot reconcile it with our logic.  Yet, it is as much a part of reality as grass and trees and love and sadness.  There is one God, yet there are three.  It’s a paradox that we can’t understand.  Our only options are to deny this reality because we can’t reconcile it or accept it, not by logic, but by faith.

Consider eternity.  When God redeems the world in judgment, it is commonly believed that time will cease to exist and eternity will begin (if it can be said to have a beginning).  The redeemed will live with God for all eternity… in timelessness.  Yet, Scripture tells us of the streets of heaven.  It speaks of our reuniting with loved ones and conversations with the Lord.  How can these things occur in a “world” without time?  Will it not take time to walk down heaven’s streets?  Will time not pass as we converse with the Lord?  Time must pass if we are to experience these and other things in heaven.  There can be no “experience” without time as its context.

The fact that we “experience” anything at all is not a concept that conveys a fixed timeless point.  Rather, it conveys a linear and temporal backdrop for the events that take place that allow us to have the experience.  Yet time will not exist in heaven.  This is a paradox.  If the primal purpose of God’s plan is the eternal redemption of humanity so that He and we could spend eternity together, then paradox must be a core element of theological reality.  What other paradoxes are there in God’s reality?  That Jesus could be both fully God and fully man at the same time?  That our works save us, but we are saved by faith alone?  That we are told to have faith, but that faith is a gift from God that we could never conjure by our own will?  The arrival of the Kingdom has not come to pass, yet it is already here?

God’s reality is full of paradox.  This is one reason it is called a “mystery” and why it confounds those who are not humble enough to dismiss their logic.  For we have only two options: deny this reality because we can’t comprehend it or accept it in faith even in the midst of incomprehension.  Such a faith itself is a paradox for how can one believe in something he cannot understand?  Yet faith we have because it is a gift of God.  And we cannot claim any credit for it.  Look for and enjoy the paradox.  Revel in the mystery of God.

The last Adam’s blood

As the first Adam’s sweat embraces my face may the last Adam’s blood race through me with grace.

These are song lyrics that I heard on Air 1, Christian radio.

I am amazed by the brevity of this statement. It encompasses so much of the story of redemption. It expresses the arch of God’s story. Because of Adam’s sin in the garden, sin entered the world. I recently re-read the first chapters of Genesis and realized that God’s response to Adam and Eve’s sin was not one of anger and vengeance. When God spoke to them about the consequences of their sin, he was not threatening or pronouncing judgment upon them. He was lamenting the fact that their actions had changed the very nature of the world. They had introduced corruption. And God lamented. They had brought pain into existence. And God lamented. They had ushered in death. And God lamented.

Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!” So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made. After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. – Genesis 3:22-24

God had given man free will and as a result, he knew they possessed the power to take from the tree of life and live forever. This would have violated the nature of the universe. For if they had done this, they would have been like God, yet harboring darkness and corruption within them. Sadly, God could not allow this to happen. He was forced to banish them, thereby removing their opportunity to live forever. Had they not eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve would have lived forever. The fruit of the tree of life had not been banned from them. Only the fruit of the other tree. But darkness cannot abide with light. Therefore, they could no longer be allowed to eat the good fruit. This was their separation from God – their separation from the life of God.

Being a father, I know that God regretted having to banish them. But there was no other choice in order to maintain their free will. The amazing thing was that God foreknew that all of this would happen. It purposefully arranged events and the created environment so that it would happen. It was the only way. So what must it have been like for God before their sin, to anticipate it all the while being in happy fellowship with his innocent children? Even though God is not a temporal being, it his joy still must have been bittersweet. Yet, also through his ability to be outside of time, God also must have been experiencing the lasting joy of his permanently redeemed children through Christ.

I pity God in this moment and I praise him for his plan of reconciliation. For he knew that even in the moment when sin began it corruptive work on Adam, tainting him throughout his being, he had already begun the cleansing process. It’s almost as if God had left a remnant of himself inside Adam – untouchable by sin. This being a dormant property of life-giving power that would only be activated when Jesus uttered his last words, “It is finished.” And this is, in fact what he did. God left the back door open a crack. Open just enough to whisper through, to communicate his love and thus allow all men everywhere a chance to hear his voice and see glimpses of his divinity.

To me, this remnant seems like dormant cells in our bodies. No, more like DNA at the atomic level. Every fiber of our being possesses these remnant atoms. They wait within us. They course through our blood. They do no harm to the surrounding tissue. But at the new birth, they come alive. In fact they are much like Chi – undetectable energy. When they are quickened, they cleanse us and give us balance. This life-giving Chi re-connects us with God and it races through us with grace.

Reflections on our miscarriage

King David committed a terrible sin against Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba by sending him to the front lines of a war for the purpose of having him killed to get him out of the way. He did this because he lusted after Bathsheba and wanted her for himself. The prophet Nathan came before David and revealed to him that he knew of David’s sin. He told David that his punishment would be for his new son, his child from Bathsheba, would die. David’s response to this is in 2 Samuel chapter 12.

David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them. On the seventh day the child died. David’s servants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, “While the child was still living, we spoke to David but he would not listen to us. How can we tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate.” David noticed that his servants were whispering among themselves and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked. “Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.” Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate. His servants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!” He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

Though I do not believe the recent miscarriage in any way occurred due to some sin that Tara or I committed, I do strongly relate to David in his response. David was very sad and pleaded with God to spare the child. I was the same. I fervently prayed for the deliverance of my child. But God, in his wisdom, had another plan. I do not spite God. I hold no ill will toward him or anyone else. Though I miss and want my child to be with me, I trust in the will of the Lord. He directs my path.

Through this experience I have realized to a personal degree what it means to be refined by fire. I feel that God has blessed and honored me by taking me through this crucible. I am not in control. He is. And I trust that he leads me in paths that will enrich and prepare me to fulfill his plan for me. I don’t know what that plan is. As with all things in God’s plan, it will be revealed in the fullness of time. So I wait patiently on the Lord and I allow him to mold me and make me ever greater into his image.

These moments have made me more aware of the what many believers before me have understood. The Lord is to be praised and trusted no matter what happens.

One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. – Job 1:13-22

The day we found out that Tara had miscarried, we came home from the doctor. She went to sleep and following the example of David and Job, I took a shower to cleanse myself. I went into the office in our house and I worshiped God. I prayed for an hour, then I sang praises to him for another hour. I ran my tears dry and I could cry no more.

I felt redeemed. I felt cleansed. I felt honored. Of course, I miss my child and I will always mourn his loss, but I know as David did, that he cannot come back to me. However, I will one day go to be with him and all of us will be a family together forever with the Lord. This brings me contentment and hope.

More so, I feel connected to the past. I feel that my story is a complementary chapter in God’s story. Other chapters are about David and Job and I share the story with them. They are not just people from long ago. They are my family, my forefathers. We are all sons of God. This is why I feel blessed – because I am part of God’s ever-unfolding Word. I am nothing except what the Lord makes me. I have nothing but what the Lord gives me.

He gives and takes away. But in all things, blessed be the name of the Lord.

Eastern and Western thought fusion

If western medicine is the epitome of truth and the best know approach to medicine in the world (as many westerners think), why is eastern medicine still around? This is just one question that has been working its way through my head lately. God has been progressively opening my eyes to new things over the past decade or so and I have learned that I should not dismiss ideas that are foreign to me just because they are different. Rather, I should make room for such ideas and the people who believe them because God is much bigger than the mental allowances of my mind. Additionally, it is useful for me to think of God as an alien – he is SO different than me, that even though he shares all the same feelings and thought processes I have, he also exhibits vastly more “ways” (feelings, thought progressions, behaviors, etc.) than I can even comprehend.

So, in meeting Van Tran, I’ve been introduced to a true Eastern intellectual. Only in part is he intellectual according to the western scientific definition. Van also embodies a rich oriental history rooted in Buddism, Taoism, Ying Yang, natural and alternative medicine, and spiritual, mental and physical disciplines of Aikido.  His life is a testimony to the effectiveness of eastern thought.  He is a vegetarian, is highly conscience of all the substances that go into his body and is a real practitioner of a holistic life. He is a computer scientist and yet aggressively believes in Ki as the prime life-giving energy of the body and surrounding environs.  Astoundingly, he is a Christian who professes the diety and lordship of Christ.

How does one reconcile these seemingly contradictory ideas in his head and not be willingly blind to supposed obvious truths?  This was the original question I asked.  But the Lord, in his grace, bestowed curiosity upon me. I think that Van has stumbled upon a great truth that has largely been undiscovered by the west – more precisely, western Christendom.  Van told me that he believes that God has revealed the balance philosophy of Yin-Yang and the existence of Ki to the oriental world just as he revealed other things to men elsewhere.  I was shocked by this statement at first, but then adopted it as my own once I saw the brilliance of it.

What if God did sprinkle out portions of his wisdom on different world cultures over time?  Yin-Yang is an oriental philosophy that still provides the foundation for the Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese cultures (and any other culture of oriental decent).  When God reveals his wisdom what happens?  Big changes occur.  Entire civilizations are transformed by the message and the effects are lasting.  Think about the effects of Christianity on the western world.  The eastern world, composed on half the world’s population is built on these foreign philosophies that, interestingly enough, harmonize very nicely with Christian philosophies.  Why not consider that God could and did do this in the eastern world as a compliment to what he performed in the western world?  What would we be risking if we fail to consider and investigate this – possibly a deeper understanding of the mysteries of God and his will for us.

What corrupts a child?

In Watchman Nee’s The Spiritual Man, Nee says the following:

If man’s spirit and soul would maintain their created perfection, healthiness, and liveliness, his body would then be able to continue forever without change. If he would exercise his will by taking and eating the fruit of life, God’s Own Life undoubtedly would enter his spirit, permeate his soul, transform his entire inner man, and translate his body into incorruptibility. (p. 45)

Watching Harper, I think about his innocence, softness and purity at his young age. Already however, at age 3, I observe a hardening occurring within him. The innocence in his eyes from a year ago has been diminished and a part of it has been replaced by a blossoming understanding that the world contains cruelty. Of course cruelty to this 3 year old is not actually cruel, but he has experienced disappointment and is increasingly realizing that life presents choices and especially limitations. I see this a s the beginning of his personal evolution toward an understanding of the world – the knowledge of good and evil.

The embodiment of such knowledge transmogrifies (transforms the nature) a person. This first introductions of this knowledge ignite a process of corruption. While watching this process begin to work in my son disturbs, saddens and frightens me, I also recognize that there is a significant beauty in it. Or rather, there is beauty in God’s response to it. This process first occurred and took its root in Eden. When Adam and Eve took and eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the mechanisms of God’s redemptive plan begin to move. God foresaw the need for man’s redemption from corruption and planned for a way of reconciliation and restored innocence in the person of Jesus Christ.

So now I can watch my son, who was born incorruptible, become corrupted so that he can journey to the point in his life where God reveals to him that he needs rescue from the mire that he currently has no idea he has dipped his little toe in. And when Harper is given his vision and realizes his opportunity, it is my hope that he will choose to reach out as far as he can and that God will deliver into his hand the gloriously brilliant fruit from the tree of life; that Harper will be born incorruptible again. Thus beginning the journey back to innocence – back to God from whence he came.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, and are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, whis is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:18