In this episode of TGC Q&A, Jackie Hill Perry and Jen Pollock Michel discuss the question, “How should we respond to the paradoxes of Christianity?” They address:
- Is everything a paradox? (:00)
- Is God good? (1:23)
- And what about suffering? (2:12)
- Responding to paradox (2:50)
- Our desire for control (3:58)
- Jesus’s response (5:21)
Explore more from TGC on the topic:
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Jackie Hill Perry: So Jen, what do you think are some of the paradoxes about Christianity and how should we, as Christians respond to them?
Jen Pollock Michel: I’m starting to feel like almost everything is paradox in the Christian life. There’s a lot of tension. There’s a lot of places where you have to hold things that just don’t seem to make sense. I even just think about my own transformation, that God’s promise is that he will never, he will finish every good work he starts. That’s sure, and that’s certain, but in my everyday life, it doesn’t always feel that sure and that certain, it feels really slow. The paradox of, and even that it’s already done. That when Paul writes to his letters, he calls the church saints, but clearly, when he’s talking to the Corinthians, they are not saints yet. So that paradox of they are, and they aren’t.
Jackie Hill Perry: Yeah. I think one of the paradoxes that exists in the people around me, or one they struggle with the most is this concept of God being good, yet suffering being present. How does that work? How can God be a good God yet at the same time there are so many bad things among us?
Jen Pollock Michel: Right.
Jackie Hill Perry: And so having to work through and figure out, okay, what do we expect out of his goodness? Because, I think it’s the image bearer in us to feel that there should be justice done. I think it’s the impatient parts of us that don’t recognize that justice is on the way. But that justice also was done in the past on Christ Jesus. And so we have the hope that God does not, not see what’s happening, nor is God going to overlook it, but he’s going to handle it if he hasn’t already handled it.
But I think another one is how can God be good yet there’s suffering in my life as a Christian. Ain’t I his? I’m a beloved, but you say, I should expect trials. And that they’re good for me. And they’re making me golden. It doesn’t feel golden to have death in my family. It doesn’t feel golden to have friends die from cancer or AIDS. That doesn’t feel like a gold thing. But I think I’ve tried to anchor myself in the fact that man, God is so much more committed to my sanctification than he is my comfort. And so that being the case, then he is good to me because he’s showing me him in these difficulties.
Jen Pollock Michel: How should we respond to paradox, that part of the question, I think about suffering. And I think about the book of Job. And I think about his friends being the example of how we should not respond when things are paradoxical. Here’s Job, a righteous person, and yet he suffers and that didn’t make sense in their worldview. They were like, “Well, clearly if you’re suffering-”
Jackie Hill Perry: You did something wrong.
Jen Pollock Michel: “You’re to be blamed for it.” And so I think one of the things is just allowing things sometimes to be mysterious, to be a little bit uncertain. We can’t, and especially in suffering, I think about loss in my own life and how many people just wanted to make quick sense of that. And there are ways that scripture is making sense of our suffering, that suffering produces endurance, and character, and hope, and that God’s going to work all things together for good, but that does not really reduce the tension of it, especially when you’re in the middle of it.
Jackie Hill Perry: So you’re saying that it’s okay to sit in that.
Jen Pollock Michel: I think so.
Jackie Hill Perry: Sometimes. Yeah. Why do you think we want to rush out of it as Christian?
Jen Pollock Michel: I do think it’s a desire for control a lot, a God who acts as we expect, a theology that is going to deliver outcomes that we can anticipate, and that desire for control is not faith. I mean, faith is taking God at his word, whether it looks like it makes sense or not. I mean, I know that’s just true for me. I don’t know if you feel that way.
Jackie Hill Perry: I think so because I think it’s sometimes there’s this, until I get an answer I’m not going to obey. Or until I get an answer, I’m not going to submit. Well no, what God has revealed about himself means he’s worthy to be trusted even when what he’s doing, doesn’t seem to make sense. And so, yeah, I think it’s definitely that, it’s control. God, I don’t get it, and until you help me get it, I’m not going to do nothing. But that doesn’t benefit any of us to do that. Jesus asked God questions, but he still obeyed. Why have you forsaken me? We don’t have an answer, but we know ultimately the answer is that this has to happen for my glory to be magnified in my church. So I think if we anchor our questions may be in what is very clear, which is the gospel, then I think we can have some resolve, even in all the confusion. Maybe.
Jen Pollock Michel: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, and we have the example of Jesus. I feel like the Garden of Gethsemane is right where Jesus was confronting a ton of the tension of being human and not wanting to suffer, and also being fully submitted to the will of God. And I think that it’s okay for it to be, there really is a both/and in the garden where Jesus says, “If it’s possible, take this cup from me, but not as I will, but as you will.” And I think so often we want to leave one of those parts out. Maybe we’re not willing to say, “As you will, “or maybe we’re not willing to say, “Take this cup.” And to say both at the same time feels like a paradox, but I think that’s where real faith grows, real intimacy with God grows.
Jackie Hill Perry: Amen.