Paradoxes of Faith – Personal Thoughts

This is the third installment in a series of posts on Paradoxes of Faith by Henri de Lubac published by Ignatius Press.

Personally, I enjoyed reading Paradoxes of Faith.  However, I will say that this is the kind of book that you will either enjoy thoroughly or put aside before you finish reading it. I think it would work best as devotional reading.

In my last post, I noted the book is a little bit like the Book of Proverbs.  The paradoxes are arranged topically, but somewhat disconnected from each other.  This disjunctiveness means that this book is not one that you will sit down and read through all at one time. You will read a paradox, and you will need to take some time to stop and think.  This will be very appealing to more contemplative readers; however, for those readers looking for a thread of narrative, you will be a bit discouraged.

The disjunctive presentation also means that there is nothing trite about the book.  There is no: “I know this looks like a paradox, but it’s really not. Let me explain this to you. There – you see. Now, you understand.”  Rather paradoxes are presented and the reader is left to wrestle with them.

In this way, I felt like de Lubac was a kindred spirit.  In the Christian tradition I belonged to at one time, an overzealousness for the doctrine of perspicuity sometimes lead to a tendency to try to resolve paradoxes that really were in no need of resolving.  I tired of hearing sermons that could be summarized as “Here’s why this passage can’t mean what it sounds like it means. This passage over here says this, and there can’t possibly be a contradiction.”  Well, maybe the “contradiction” was just a paradox.  And perhaps we weren’t meant to solve it, but rather wrestle with it.  De Lubac captures the essence of paradoxes quite well because he doesn’t seek to resolve them.

Sometimes the paradoxes challenged me personally. For instance, de Lubac share this gem:

Professors of religion are always liable to transform Christianity into a religion of professors.  The Church is not a school.  It is not an elementary school.

I find it easy to fall into this trap sometimes.  At the end of the day, if the parishioners that I instruct know the Bible and know their catechism, but it doesn’t effect the way they live, I have failed.

With that said, I would recommend this book more for contemplative readers looking for something that they can read devotionally that isn’t trite or overly didactic.  If you struggle with paradoxes and are looking for a book to try to help you resolve some of them, this book really isn’t for you.

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