Competing Spectacles by Tony Reinke, Free for CAPC Members
Reinke wants to help readers not be manipulated and enthralled by the spectacles of our media age. Instead, he shows that we see the greatest spectacle of all in the Cross.
“Why did God want the Israelites to kill those people when He had a law against killing people?”
If you’re looking for a surprisingly humbling experience, teach a Sunday school class of third graders. They’re just old enough to think of really good questions and just young enough that they haven’t learned not to ask them. I divide my time between seminary classes and working in a children’s ministry, and I often feel more out of my depth with my eight-year-olds than anywhere else. It’s not just because they’re smart, it’s because grown-up Christians often avoid really hard questions or answer them with a mix of vague Christianese that does more to obscure the answer than find it.
Kandiah wants Christians to keep asking questions, especially the ones we’re too afraid to say out loud.That’s why Krish Kandiah’s Paradoxology is so important. It asks a lot of difficult questions and outlines apparent contradictions in Scripture—not to criticize the faith, but to more accurately describe it. Each chapter covers one story that exemplifies a certain type of paradox that shows up again and again in humanity’s interactions with the God of the universe. The story of Abraham introduces us to “the God who needs nothing but asks for everything,” the book of Habakkuk reveals “the God who is consistently unpredictable,” and Paul’s letter to the church in Rome shows us “the God who is effectively ineffective.”
Kandiah works to provide answers to some of these hard questions, but the real beauty of Paradoxology is the way it refuses to ladle out some easy answers and assuage the anxiety of its reader. Instead, it provides an apologetic for uncertainty and a defense of discomfort. “What if the tension between apparently opposing doctrines is exactly where faith comes alive? What if this ancient faith we call Christianity has survived so long not in spite of but precisely because of its apparent contradictions?”
Paradoxology’s message is one so many of us desperately need to hear. We need space to admit our own doubts and questions in a world that expects us to fight to be “right” above all else, and views anything less as weakness. For Christians tired of overblown theological debates, Paradoxology offers its own paradox: asking the question might be more important than finding the answer. Instead of offering a set of theological positions on a range of controversial issues, Paradoxology offers a powerful reminder that being honest about our own questions and open to exploring them with each other is more fruitful than ignoring them or allowing our answers to divide us.
Paradoxology might not provide answers you’ll always agree with, but that’s not really its goal—instead, Kandiah wants Christians to keep asking questions, especially the ones we’re too afraid to say out loud. These paradoxes of the faith aren’t just to confuse us, and they aren’t regrettable necessities either. Kandiah explains that the questions that confuse us and the apparent contradictions that confound us are crucial for our spiritual development. Without them, we’d be even more tempted to worship a god of our own making, instead of the one true God. “When things are going smoothly,” he says, “we can assume we have a good relationship with God—but we may just be worshipping a projection.” Paradoxology reminds us (even those of us who have done our homework) that an omniscient and omnipotent God will always leave us confounded. Instead of letting our limited understanding be a hindrance to either our own faith or our part in His work on earth, it should draw us into deeper worship—captivated by a God that defies our understanding.
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