Monday, November 11, 2013


"What comes into our minds when we think about God
is the most important thing about us."

— Aiden Wilson Tozer (1897-1963)

C. S. Lewis’ book Pilgrim’s Regress has as a motif the idea that a man sets out from Puritania to find an island in the West instead of accepting the Landlord’s castle high up on the Eastern mountains, and he ends up getting turned around in his journey, retracing his steps home. Yet, because his perspective has changed, the “road in” is very, very narrow and looks unimaginably different than it did when he thought it was the “way out.” It seems to be a paradox that what he was afraid of and what he desired were one and the same. Reminds me of a line in Cat Stevens' song Sitting

Life is like a maze of doors, and they all
Open from the side you're on
Just keep on pushing hard, boy, try as you may
You're going to wind up where you started from

Eastern Orthodox Christianity as a faith community is so comfortable with paradox, that perhaps of all its features, that is the one which sets it apart the most from other Christianities. Our faith is very much the same as that of evangelicals, but we don’t spend nearly as much time debating and arguing fine points (theologoumena, though some of us do), and we have no “infallible head” to shut us down in our deliberations as do Roman Catholics: Paradox shuts us down.

Paradoxy. Orthodoxy.
These are words that I find have wider and more comprehensive meaning in actual practice than the Church gives them.

Though the institutional Church defines, guards and maintains orthodoxy, paradoxy (have I coined a new word?) needs no definition, but grows out of the shared experience of the saints (all followers of Jesus) in Christ.

Orthodoxy may mean “straight thinking [about God]” or “correct glorification [of God]”, but both are rooted in the Word of God, which in all essentials is perfect and complete.

Paradoxy may mean “beyond thinking” or “beyond glorification,” that is, where we find ourselves when we practice and contemplate the roots of our being: What does it mean to be 'born again'?
What does it mean to 'accept Christ'? How do people enter into a 'saving knowledge' of Christ? What does evangelism 'do', and how does it do it? Since there is only one Mediator between God and man, the God-Man Jesus Christ, what is 'happening' to us in our individual and in our corporate human natures through this Mediator? When does it start, and how much is ours (if any), and how much His?
These are questions to which dogma cannot fully respond, which only one living a theological life can hope to answer. What is a theological life? A life of unremitting struggle.

C. S. Lewis once asked the question, "Is theology poetry?" and I, asking the same question, am reminded of the lyrics of yet another song, Queen of Love, this time by The Incredible String Band…

How shall I say where I end, or where you begin?
How shall I say, what shall I play,
shall it be you or the wild wind?
As Pan with the unsane eyes, or with the wild horns,
or when I am crowned with a paper crown,
or with the crown of thorns.

Paradoxy is the flip-side of Orthodoxy.
It can no more be split from it than can Christ the Bridegroom be split from His Bride, whom the Father pulled from the wound opened in His side when He slept the sleep of death on the cross.
“This is the faith of the Fathers, this is the faith of the Orthodox, this is the faith that sustains the whole world,” we shout from the church steps on the Sunday of Orthodoxy.

What am I trying to say? I'm not sure that I know myself, except that I somehow want to testify that there is so much more to the mystery of faith than most of us realize, and that I want to spend the rest of my life “on the road to find out.”
Originally posted November 24, 2008.

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