Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Paradoxes and Contradictions

I've been listening to a podcast recommended to me entitled "The History of Philosophy without any Gaps". It's great fun and the episode about Heraclitus, a pre-Socartic Philosopher from fifth century BC Ephesus, made me think a little more about Paradoxes in theology. Heraclitus was interested in the relationship between change and unity and had an unusual, proverbial, way of writing. For example:

Sea is the purest and most polluted water: for fish drinkable and healthy, for men undrinkable and harmful.


But this "proverb" caught my attention:

The road up and the road down are the one and the same.

"Paradox" is a controversial concept in Philosophy, but because it's often an important concept in understanding theology I thought Heraclitus could help us out a little. Jesus the Son of God, is both human and divine, a paradox similar to the one about the road expressed above by Heraclitus, two different things in unity. On the other hand an antinomy (a synonym for 'paradox') at the heart of Christian Theodicy is a contradiction, three opposite things (God's power, his love, and evil) held in tension. Previously I'd used "paradox" as a catch-all expression. But I think it's important to distinguish between a paradox, two or more different things in unity and a contradiction, two or more opposite things in tension.

[Heraclitus by Hendrick ter Brugghen, 1588]

6 comments:

ish said...

Great image to go with your topic.

ish said...

Are these all paradoxes?
Servant King.
Life out of death.
First shall be last.
God the origin of all/God not the origin of evil.
Christians culturally engaged./In the world but not of it.
Foreknowledge of God/freedom of man.
Christian perfect in Christ./If any man sin he has an advocate.
Scriptures God breathed and perfect./Full of human imprint.
Christians called to endure hardship./My yoke is easy.
Enter into His rest./Fight the good fight.
Prospects:few in number, suffering, weakness./Prospects: triumph, strength, glory.

Luke Isham said...

Some of those examples are paradoxes, two different things in unity but some are antinomies, two opposite things together.

Paradox = Foreknowledge of God/freedom of Man or Scriptures God breathed and perfect./Full of human imprint.

Antinomy = Life out of death. or First shall be last.

The Borg said...

Dad, I like your list of paradoxes. I'm discovering more and more of these lately; that the Christian life is full of them.

ish said...
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ish said...

Shiloh. Yes the list of paradoxes and antinomies (thanks Luke) grows. I revel in them. They seem so wonderfully charged to match the reality of the world as we know it. So simple yet so profoundly a fabric of riddle ... "now we know in part then shall we know, even as we are known." Ah to be given such glimpses ... and to be so loved.