This quote was on the Burner blog, and there was no context given:
“You have to live in the middle of this contradiction… You have to live in this zone where both [situations] can be true, and it’s very, very, very difficult. But part of becoming a thinker is to sit with two contradictory thoughts in your head and see them both as being true. And not go crazy. And not immediately try to resolve them. And so we’re offering that to you. Sit with that. Because this is big. That’s big.”
When I read that quote from an anonymous professor, I immediately assumed it was taken from a theological context. Of course, currently being in seminary means I am biased and viewing almost everything through some sort of theological lens, but that statement also applies to 89.93% of the things they teach us here at Fuller.
Jesus Christ was fully human. He got hungry, tired, angry, and even cried. Jesus was also fully God. He performed supernatural miracles, was resurrected, and ascended into heaven. But how can one be truly human and not sin, even a little bit? And how something divine and immortal be killed? Jesus was fully human AND fully God? If you think about this too much your mind will melt. We are forced to live in and wrestle with this contradiction.
Most Christians believe in something called “Inaugurated Eschatology”, which has to do with the kingdom of God on earth. God started, or inaugurated, a new covenant with humanity through the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was signaling a new way of doing things. Clearly, though, we can look around and see we are not living in a heavenly paradise of shalom. So clearly God has more work to do to us and through us. The new way of doing things has not yet been consummated. So the kingdom of God is already here, but not yet fulfilled. Already, but not yet? What does that even mean? We are forced to live in and wrestle with this contradiction.
We also believe that God is a Trinity. Three unique entities united in one essence. It’s not quite like the old ice-water-steam metaphor-that implies God can only be one thing at a time. It’s not quite like the son-father-brother metaphor either. In fact, we have no perfect metaphor for understanding how God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can each be equally and eternally the one true God. If the Holy Spirit is eternal, what was “he” doing before Jesus sent him out in Acts? Sitting on the bench? If the Godhead is one, does that mean when Jesus was crucified God the Father and Holy Spirit were in pain too? How can three be one and still be three?? I…I think I need to go lie down. Once again, we are forced to live in and wrestle with this contradiction.
Christian doctrine is fully of contradictions like these that we will, if we are honest, probably never resolve- at least not on this side of glory. However, in the context of theology the quote, although originally relating to the Penn State scandal, is quite appropriate: “You have to live in the middle of this contradiction… You have to live in this zone where both [situations] can be true, and it’s very, very, very difficult. But part of becoming a thinker is to sit with two contradictory thoughts in your head and see them both as being true. And not go crazy.”
Honestly, I wouldn’t want to worship a God that I could fully understand or rationalize. If he were comprehensible, he would not be God. Fortunately God has revealed enough of himself (throughout scripture, history, revelation, etc.) for us to worship him. And I think God will understand if we do go a little crazy sometimes.