by Richard P. Hansen
Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich. 224 pages
This is a delightful and serious invitation into paradox by a pastor, theologian and missionary. It is rare to hear references to Ludwig Wittgenstein and Oswald Chambers in the same paragraph, let alone a sustained argument that embraces the insights of both. Hansen, who for several years taught theology in Ethiopia, wants “to reclaim and embrace biblical paradox as a means by which we can more fully experience the mystery of God.” Embracing paradox, rather than seeking to resolve it, provides “a strange comfort.” Few pastor-theologians have explored this as fully as Hansen, who lays out three orders of paradox with key images, biblical examples, characteristic tensions and ways of perception. He helpfully uses images to ground his concepts: a picture frame, a tuning fork and an auger. I loved the images. Writing in a winsome pastoral style, Hansen explores quite profound ideas of knowing God through the complex notion of paradox. He steers readers away from rationalism or easy solutions, toward probing questions without ready-made answers. There is encouragement here for preachers to engage their congregations with thoughtful questions. The questions themselves are valuable means to experiencing the mystery of God. He argues that the modern world has sought to eliminate mystery, and many Christians have accepted that path. His is a different way. “If biblical paradox is doing its work, it will prod us to ask questions, which in turn can stimulate our spiritual imagination and enlarge our worldviews. This is a healthy and essential process.” I agree.