Paradoxology: Why Christianity was never meant to be
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CANON MARK OAKLEY once credited his doctrine professor with the
prescription: "For all your doctrinal headaches take Paradox."
Krish Kandiah has now turned this maxim into an "-ology", as if the
realm of religious discourse didn't have enough of those
He works for the Evangelical Alliance, and, whether looked at
from the perspective of style, sources, or conclusions, the
aetiology of this book is evident throughout. But this only adds to
our appreciation of the honesty and courage of a writer emerging
from that stable to explain "Why Christianity was never meant to be
simple". Evangelical theology has so often been written off as
altogether too simplistic; so Kandiah is owed a hearing - and what
he offers rewards our attention.
Although the reference in the subtitle to Christianity may lead
the reader to expect an exploration of key credal affirmations, the
paradoxes addressed here are specifically biblical, and are linked
to a succession of leading characters from the Old and New
Testaments. Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Job, Hosea, Habakkuk, Jonah,
and Esther are invoked to illustrate challenges to God's morality,
accessibility, compassion, fairness, faithfulness, and reliability.
Jesus and Judas point to the paradoxes of Christology and free will
respectively, while a chapter is devoted to how the Cross can hold
defeat and victory in providential tension.
Final chapters deal with paradoxes addressed in Paul's Roman and
Corinthian correspondence, especially in relation to the ways sin
and grace inform Christian discipleship and church discipline. An
epilogue urges "Living with paradox" as a necessarily Christian
Why God entertains child-sacrifice, encourages genocide,
sanctions innocent suffering, and imposes apparently impossible
demands upon his people are, indeed, big issues. Kandiah's pathway
through this theological minefield is pastorally sensitive and
often very insightful. But it is not altogether successful.
For example, that God orders Joshua to wipe out the Canaanites
only after he has been patient with their idolatries for a very
long time hardly amounts to a vindication of God's righteousness.
Surely, genocide can never be justified, however patient the
perpetrators may have been, and for however long.
Part of the problem lies in the very nature of paradox. For
Kandiah, paradox is sometimes the co-existence of two mutually
exclusive concepts, sometimes the tension between two notions, e.g.
God's transcendence and immanence, and sometimes a mystery that is
logically explicable - but not yet. His usage bends to meet the
message, and that doesn't help towards either clarity or
At times, the illustrations are redolent of the more mawkish TV
evangelists, and little attempt is made to engage with important
theologians who have ploughed this field before him, other than the
occasional nod in passing. By no means least, his basically
uncritical use (abuse?) of scripture ill-serves the seriousness of
the matters in hand.
While this admirably readable exercise in Evangelical
apologetics is more likely to attract those already sympathetic to
its theological pre-conceptions, there is still much here for the
general reader to use as a stepping-stone to rather more profound
Dr Saxbee is a former Bishop of Lincoln.
GERHARD VON RAD's Moses (1940) is out in a new
edition, with updated notes, etc. (James Clarke & Co., £12.25;