An updated and expanded version of this review is now availble on The Gospel Coalition - Canada
The longer I remain a Christian, the more assurance I find in the mysteries of the faith. When I consider the seeming contradictions within the Incarnation, the Kingdom, Grace, and Lament, they’re almost conspiratorial. They whisper about a reality broader and brighter than either/or; the paradoxes hold out the promise of and.
The saviour who is God and man.
The kingdom that is here and is coming.
The gift of grace and the work that follows it.
Hope in the one who restores and lament for the world that groans for restoration.
In Surprised by Paradox, Jen Pollock Michel takes “the tangles of Christian faith” and weaves a convincing apologetic for a faith that is honest, hopeful, and humble. She does this without compromising the irreducibility of reality or undermining confidence in the God who makes himself known. This is a picture of “faith in its lived-in condition,” valuable for believers who tend towards either overconfidence or despair, and every messy point in between.
Surprised by Paradox offers a vocabulary for pilgrims who find themselves in “the middle act,” of the gospel story. We’re pointed towards a promised home, a light visible through the gloom, yet far-off. The good news is Jesus doesn’t just beckon us forward, he calls believers to follow him—and to trust him along the way.
Unsurprisingly, I finished the book less certain than when I began. As someone prone to wonder at both black holes and blackheads, I had my suspicions confirmed: Not only is life beautiful and broken, it’s often beyond me. There are no easy answers. I hope, and I struggle, and then I wonder why I fail. Still, I finished Surprised by Paradox deeply encouraged, confident even. Not that all my questions would be answered or all my anxieties soothed, but sure that worshiping and wondering at the God who holds the paradoxes together would carry me safely through the woods.