“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Variety of Language, But One Paradoxical Truth

… The last shall be first, the ‘foolish’ receive a hidden wisdom, he who loses his life will find it, joy will grow from sorrow, our burden is light and easy in Christ, to be empty is to be filled, to have nothing is to have everything, and death will give birth to life. These paradoxes are closely linked. I see them as describing one truth with different language, or approaching one truth from different perspectives or in different contexts. Furthermore, it is not as if the language used in Scripture for each perspective is separate or compartmentalized from the language used for the others. Rather, they overlap, thus illustrating the continuity and relatedness of the paradoxes. Here are some specific observations:

• All of these paradoxes were taught by Jesus. From the whole of his teaching, it seems clear that he saw then as closely related.
• Paul used much of the same language in his writing, focusing in particular on the foolish/wise, sorrow/joy, and death/life paradoxes. He used this wide range of language to describe one thing: the Gospel, and how it affects our lives.
• The last/first and foolish/wise paradoxes are much the same idea (see earlier posts), although the language is different. The main difference is Paul’s application of the foolish/wise language to the “word of the cross.”
• The lose life / find life (death/life) and sorrow/joy paradoxes are also particularly similar. As with the “foolish wisdom,” the sorrow/joy language is used mostly by Paul.
• The empty/filled paradox is, again, much the same idea, although I have connected it to love because, I think, the language lends itself to that idea well.
• The obedience/freedom paradox is less tied to the others. It is more of a distinct, separate idea (see earlier post).
• 2 Corinthians 6:9-10, “as dying, and behold, we live, as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing, as poor, yet making many rich, as having nothing, yet possessing everything,” brings together the death/life, sorrow/joy, and last/first paradoxes.
• James 3:13, “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom,” brings together the foolish/wise and last/first paradoxes.
• “In him are everlasting strength for the weak, unsearchable riches for the needy, treasures of wisdom and knowledge for the ignorant, fullness for the empty” – The Valley of Vision, p. 21

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