Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Paradox in Christian Theology Review Comments

This post is set up for any comments on my review James Anderson's book, or comments on his book.


  1. At that length, I think you could have just copied the book word for word. :P

  2. My review is about 1/10 the length of the book. :-)

  3. Paul,
    Sounds "interesting";)

    This concludes my review. I think that Anderson’s work is one of the freshest and most important theses to hit the area of philosophical theology in some time. He is to be commended for his efforts. And, even if you disagree with him, since there is no good objection against the possibility of his model, I think that he has successfully removed, once and for all, the logical problem of the Trinity and the Incarnation (much like Plantinga’s disposal of the logical argument from evil).54 Just like Plantinga’s answer to the logical problem of evil does not require that you believe it is true, only that it is possible, so too Anderson’s thesis. Thus, it is nothing short of monumental to have the objections to Christianity based on the illogicality of the doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation shown to be rendered a non-starter. So, the apologist can disagree with Anderson’s model but still make use of it (as long as you grant the possibility of the model, which shouldn‘t be hard to do), I just happen to think you should also agree with him.

    You could have just written this paragraph alone and I would have been sold.


  4. Hey B.J.

    Glad you're sold.

    I did write such a long review because I thought there might be some people who didn't have the time or money to read Anderson's book. I wanted to present a faithful representation of his entire case without giving away too much so that one would need his book. Or perhaps a small "primer" of sorts.

    I do think his thesis to be a most helpful addition to your apologetic arsenal, and so it was to that end I took the time to write up such a lengthy review.

    But by all means, if you just want to bypass the review and read the book for yourself, then mission accomplished!

    (p.s. the new season of the TUF just started!)

  5. Hi Paul,

    I generally avoid anything longer than 20 pages (post-college reading burn out), but I'm going to make an exception for this post. It looks very interesting!

  6. This looks good. I haven't read it all but I will and I am certainly adding the book to my list. Many theological controversies are due to a rejection of paradox. Indeed the first two major heresies of the Church (Gnosticism and Aryanism) were born out of a rejection of the paradox of God and Man in the God-Man.

    I leave you with GKC, who is quickly becoming a favorite of mine because he presents thought in an artistic manner rather than a mere scientific manner.

    "The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand. The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid.“ Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Chapter 2, The Maniac

  7. Ron Smith, I think you meant Arianism. Unless I'm missing something.

    And GKC is training wheels for future Romanists.

    As for mysticism and logic and... Thr practical trick is to increase being so as to increase capacity for understanding. Pouring more water into the same-sized glass doesn't increase the amount of water in the glass.

    Jesus said something along these lines...something about wineskins...

  8. I'm not serious about GKC. I don't think.

  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. Adam,

    This is a comments section set up for discussing my review of Anderson's book, or the book itself. It is not meant to be a platform or mouthpiece for you to get off your "talking points."

    I respectfully suggest you read the review if you're going to comment in this thread.

  11. So Anderson has done what Van Til said could not be done. He has resolved apparent contradictions using mere human reason.

    Except for some misunderstand about equivocation (term1 is not term2 and not equivocation), he seems to have done what Clark said was always the case. He's shown that apparent contradictions are simply mental Charlie horses that need to be messaged with logical reasoning.

  12. No, Civbert, that's not what he's done. It would be helpful to read the review, better yet, the book. Also, if Anderson's case goes through, Van Til may not have been *all* right on it, but he was at least right. Clark, and you, and Robbins, on the other hand, will have been *all* wrong.

    I don't see how he didn't understand equivocations.

    And, I would think Van Til et al. would have agreed with Anderson. They didn't think it was an "appreant-but-real" contradiction, they probably thought it was something like a MACRUE.

    So, if what you say is correct, then you would have to say that Van Til said what Clark said too! And thus there would be no problem to charge Van Til with, unless you want to charge Clark too.

    Also, given some of Anderson's sources of paradox, it's not simply a matter of "mental Charlie horses that need to be messaged with logical reasoning", so you've either not read, or have not understood what Anderson's case consisted of.

  13. I wanted to present a faithful representation of his entire case without giving away too much so that one would need his book. I think that he has successfully removed, once and for all, the logical problem of the Trinity and the Incarnation (much like Plantinga’s disposal of the logical argument from evil).

  14. Well, I am both dismayed and excited (is that a paradox?). I have recently created a blog called "Theoparadox" ( which is dedicated to the very idea Anderson is espousing. And I thought I was proposing something essentially unheard of in our day, but it looks like Anderson beat me to the punch. However, I am very excited to see that someone with a much greater theological credential has made a good argument for the NEED of paradox in theological study. Great review, thanks!

  15. Without sounding heretical, why can't the divine persons exist contingently?

    In a possible universe where Adam had not sinned, wouldn't the existence of the person of the Son not be manifest and therefore contingent?

  16. Paul....I am new to your blog but am a serious student of paradox in Christian thought and experience...I am currently studying this book and appreciate your review...You are obviously very sharp and erudite...Thanks...Rick Micciche

  17. "why can't the divine persons exist contingently? In a possible universe where Adam had not sinned, wouldn't the existence of the person of the Son not be manifest and therefore contingent?"

    Economic roles could be contigent. The persons are not ontologically contingent, though.

  18. Hey Paul,

    I suppose I have just one main question about the whole idea of paradox. Let it be granted that certain Biblical doctrines--say, the Incarnation for example--are paradoxical: they cannot be resolved before the bar of human reason. Even then, while it is doubtless true that they are not actual contradictions, and God knows the "solution" to them, how are we as human beings to know which side of the paradox to believe? I mean, they SEEM contradictory to us. And how am I (or anyone else) supposed to believe that something is the case, and at the same time, that it is not the case? If it is replied that it both is and is not the case BUT IN DIFFERENT SENSES, if we do not know what these senses are, is there any conceptual content to be believed there at all? Paradoxical doctrines may still be believed with warrant, since God can reconcile the apparant contradiction; but how I am to believe both sides of the paradox, which is to all appearances contradictory to me, I do not know...

  19. Joe Pip:

    (1) There is no claim in this book that paradoxes *cannot* be resolved before the bar of human reason.

    (2) As to what side of the paradox to believe, well, obviously, *both* (or all) of them.

    (3) What, supposedly, is Anderson saying that we believe both IS and IS NOT at the same time? There is no claim like "Jesus IS God" and "Jesus IS NOT God."

    (4) Furthermore, the paradoxes believed are not anything as crass as you suggest. Absent any qualification on your end with quotes from his book, then I'd say that James claims that there are no "paradoxes" of the sort you suggest.

    (5) I'm confused why you think you don't know what to believe.

    God reveals X

    God reveals Y

    X and Y appear to have implications with that appear contradictory, but they are merely apparent, resulting from an unarticulated equivocation.

    Yet we know that they are not contradictory (which you grant).

    And we can be rational in believing X and Y (which you grant).

    Therefore we believe X and Y.

    Seems your other option is to disbelieve something you believe God has revealed.

  20. 1) Theological paradoxes are "only apparent."

    2) Biblical contradictions and difficulties are also "only apparent."

    Yes you have no proof of either proposition.

    What if the "presuppositional defense" of the Bible, and of Christian dogmas and doctrines, is also only an "apparent defense?"

  21. (1) and (2) basically say the same thing. A paradox is an apparent contradiction. In fact, (1) is confused. What do you mean "apparent paradox?" It's not an apparent paradox, it's an apparent contradiction. More than that, it's "merely" apparent, as all real contradictions are also apparent contradiction. You clearly did read the post. It seems you just wanted to get off "talking points." And if you respond with one of your 10 page copy and paste jobs, it will be deleted.

    Have no "proof" for either proposition? I'm not even clear what that means. I don't even know what counts as "proof" for you. A while back the only thing that made it in as a "proof" for you was whether we could shove that thing into a test tube, but why think that's the only kind of proof? Indeed, if it were, you couldn't prove it. Do you mean that there is no argument for the claim that the apparent contradictions are merely apparent contradictions? Well, sure there is, and you would note it if you read the post; better, the book.

    Anyway, a presuppositional defense of Christian dogma is an apparent defense, not merely apparent. Anyway, "what if" questions are uninteresting. Like this: what if Ed Babinski ever presented an argument rather than n-numbered assertions?