Real or Apparent Paradox?

One thoughtful reader suggested that...

READER>> [Perhaps the different vantage points of those emphasizing God's sovereignty and man's free will only cause Calvinism and Arminianism to appear to be contradictory.  Or perhaps in lofty matters, such as this, real paradox is allowable.  For example, Skolem's Paradox in the area of mathematics or the wave-particle duality of light in physics could likewise illustrate real or apparent paradox.  Or perhaps when the subject matter becomes increasingly complex theories may naturally compete because no one theory can digest the whole - jlm].

ME>> I was hopeful that the Four Square Salvation Evaluation Model was sufficiently simple, or atomic in logic, that it could rule out the argument of the paradoxical.  Yet, the question has been raised and so it would be good to consider the possibility of real and apparent paradox.

I did suggest in my article, Nit Picky?, that the Bible does not reveal all truth to us, only the truth that God deems sufficient for us to live a life of faith and please him.  One might argue that it is possible that the answer to the apparent contradiction between Arminianism and Calvinism is not revealed in Scripture.  That is not my conclusion for two reasons.

One, the New Testament says repeatedly that the gospel has revealed, that is explained, the mystery that was kept secret, Romans 16:25.  Nowhere does it say that the gospel introduced further mystery.  The gospel opens the box of understanding God's grace.  It does not close it!

Two, the main thesis of my clarification of the gospel is that apparent contradiction in gospel truth is not because there is real paradox in gospel truths, but because the gospel speaks truth to the believing and foolishness to the unbelieving.  The truth itself is not paradoxical, but disbelieving Christ certainly is paradoxical!  Consider the paradox of men looking into the sky, unable to see or be thankful for the beautiful shining sun.  Yet the paradox is understood when we also observe that the men are blind and clouds of sin obscure the view.  So the paradox is not with God or truth, but between our ears and in our hearts.  Neither Arminian nor Calvinistic models appreciate that fact.  They both make the mistake of assuming that God reasons with the unreasonable.  But God is a wiser parent than that.

Is it possible that both Arminian and Calvin expressions of the gospel each have components of truth sufficient to capture a truthful, though incomplete, picture of the gospel?  Since they are from different vantage points and each incomplete, perhaps there is only the appearance of contradiction.  I summarized that Calvinism tells us that God performed ALL of salvation for PART of mankind.  Arminianism in contrast says that God performed PART of salvation for ALL of mankind.  These models do not simply appear contradictory, but they are contradictory!  Perhaps the true Biblical model on this question is a third option that disagrees with both Arminianism and Calvinism.  Yet what would it be?

Does the Bible teach that Christ's death on the cross is intended for ALL mankind or only PART?  It seems to me that there can only be one plain answer.  Mathematically it can only be the whole set and if not the whole set, then it is a subset.  Does the Bible teach that salvation is ALL of grace or only PART of grace plus man's free will choice?  Again it seems to me that there can only be one plain answer.  Use a telescope or a microscope to see the active ingredient and if it is not singular, then it is plural.

In my article, Soteriologies, I attempted to simplify the analysis of the question.  Is it possible that both Arminianism and Calvinism each see an incomplete picture of the gospel from their vantage points?  I do not think that is possible since each model proposes to be a complete picture that is contradictory with the other.  If one or both models would stop short of proposing a complete model giving allowance for the other model to see from its vantage point, then there might be hope.  However, as it stands, Arminianism and Calvinism are a "house divided" that cannot stand together. Furthermore, in the body of this book I have exposed each of their individual errors so neither model can stand independently either.  Though these models both hit the truth at some points, they also each fail at other points.

Second, since the subject matter of God and salvation is so lofty, is real paradox then a possibility?  I've argued above that the paradox between Arminianism and Calvinism is more than an apparent paradox.  After all, there are questions unanswered by the historic orthodoxies with 2,000 years of the greatest theological minds in history applied to the problem.  The paradox remains and if possible we must hope for an explanation, or in the end simply wait or accept the possibility of real paradox.  Now some have argued that we should be willing to accept paradox as a reasonable answer.  (That could be considered a funny statement to accept para-dox as reason-able.)  For example, we do see evidence of other real paradoxes such as Skolem's Paradox in the area of mathematics and the wave-particle duality of light in physics.  Yet are these real paradoxes or only apparent paradoxes?

The word paradox is the combination of "para" meaning alongside and "dox" meaning "orthodox" or truth.  The idea is that there can be contradictory truth alongside truth.  So is that possible?  Certainly there are paradoxes around us every day.  However, most of these paradoxes are only apparent.  Typically, if we gain more information the appearance of paradox is explained away.  Yet some paradoxes remain.  Is it because they are truly and finally inexplicable?  Or is it because we yet wait for more information?  I believe that ultimately there can be no paradoxes from God's vantage point for he is perfect truth and love.  He knows and sees all from the loftiest vantage point.  There is most certainly not contradictory truth alongside truth in the mind of God.  I conclude this based on the character of God and the veracity of his revealed word.  However, just as surely, none of us will ever see the universe perfectly from his vantage point, because we will never be God!

Yet God has revealed truth to us and thankfully the world around us makes more and more sense to those believing God's Word.  How exciting that Jesus would call us his friends and make his Father's business known to us, John 15:15!  And for the things that we do not yet understand or perhaps never will, we can also be excited and simply worship God while we wait.  Finally, the perfection of God and his gospel make it plain to me that there is never paradox in the truth observed, but unfortunately there remains paradox in the unbelieving observer.  Paradox in the unbeliever?  Yes.  How can anyone hear the good news and see the beautiful face of Jesus Christ and not fall in love immediately and offer undying commitment?  Yet we turn from Christ all the time.  Why?  That is the paradox of unbelief that requires the special attention of gospel foolishness.

Many claim 'truth is a paradox,'
they boast their 'God is not in a box.'
Many say 'answers one cannot see,'
they attempt harbor in Gospel 'mystery'.
Yet the Bible reveals, Christ chose to die for all,
He authored the Book of Life, can we reach that tall?
Very few find great hope in this truth observed,
they are happy to trust, obey, and never swerve.
Yet the many mix 'truths' with their god locked in errors,
foolishness is needed for those double-minded observers.
How to reach the rebellious chosen, lost from God's keep,
Jesus calls them home saying... you are not my sheep.

~ Foolishness for the Foolish by a Fool for Christ ~