PARADOX AS PRE-RATIONAL OR TRANS-RATIONAL 11-21-2014

“It is in the paradox itself, the paradox which was and is still a source of insecurity, that I have come to find the greatest security.”
-Thomas Merton

Some rationalists will think the Jesus Paradox of The Alexandrian Mystics (Alexandrian Fathers) is like trying to push two solid objects into the same space. They’ll think, “In order to make room for more of one you have to carve out some of the other.” “Jesus can’t be fully Divine and fully human at the same time.” “That’s ridiculous.” “It doesn’t make any sense.” These thinkers have made reason a prison.

Theology at its best eventually asks the impossible. It asks us to put stock in the ridiculous and to trust absurdity. Interestingly, quantum physics does the same thing. When we finally accept absurdity, the knots in our minds fall away. Quantum physics and Jesus according to the mystics both take us to the very limits of reason. This is where profound faith begins. This faith isn’t simple certitude, but what I call paradoxical certitude. We have conviction. But our conviction is about a flowing river. And we never step into the same river twice.

Paradox isn’t irrational. It’s pre-rational or trans-rational. In other words, aspects of it can be grasped by the reasoning mind. Yet ultimately reason and logic are transcended. Paradox balances hubris that reason is the supreme and only way—that reason is the be-all and end-all of knowing.

Most people are aware of the limitations of binary thinking. In The Zen Teachings of Jesus, Kenneth Leong relays the story of a sophisticated computer that’s asked to translate the phrase, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41b) into Russian then back into English. The outcome was “The vodka is agreeable, but the meat is too tender.” This highlights the problems with binary thinking. Traditional logic tells us “something can be either A or not A, but not both.” This is a reflection of our rational mind, which tries to put everything into neat boxes. The Alexandrian Mystics go beyond this dualistic either/or thinking.

For Christians, the Jesus riddle takes us beyond the persistent dualisms. Jesus is mortal, yet immortal. God, yet human. Both Creator and creature. Jesus died, yet lives. In the Jesus Paradox there is defeat and victory.