Christianity is a paradoxical religion because the Jew of Nazareth is a paradoxical character. No figure in history or fiction contains as many multitudes as the New Testament’s Jesus. He’s a celibate ascetic who enjoys dining with publicans and changing water into wine at weddings. He’s an apocalyptic prophet one moment, a wise ethicist the next. He’s a fierce critic of Jewish religious law who insists that he’s actually fulfilling rather than subverting it. He preaches a reversal of every social hierarchy while deliberately avoiding explicitly political claims. He promises to set parents against children and then disallows divorce; he consorts with prostitutes while denouncing even lustful thoughts. He makes wild claims about his own relationship to God, and perhaps his own divinity, without displaying any of the usual signs of megalomania or madness. He can be egalitarian and hierarchical, gentle and impatient, extraordinarily charitable and extraordinarily judgmental. He sets impossible standards and then forgives the worst of sinners. He blesses the peacemakers and then promises that he’s brought not peace but the sword. He’s superhuman one moment; the next he’s weeping. And of course the accounts of his resurrection only heighten these paradoxes, by introducing a post-crucifixion Jesus who is somehow neither a resuscitated body nor a flitting ghost but something even stranger still—a being at once fleshly and supernatural, recognizable and transfigured, bearing the wounds of the crucifixion even as he passes easily through walls. The boast of Christian orthodoxy, as codified by the councils of the early Church and expounded in the Creeds, has always been its fidelity to the whole of Jesus. Its dogmas and definitions seek to encompass the seeming contradictions in the gospel narratives rather than evading them. Was he God or was he man? Both, says orthodoxy.
From Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics by Ross Douthat.
I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch
He said to me, “You must not ask for so much.”
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door
She cried to me, “Hey, why not ask for more?”
Lyrics from Leonard Cohen’s “Bird On a Wire” (recorded 26 September 1968 in Nashville and included on his 1969 album Songs from a Room).
If we are honest, one of the truest clues for finding the most important truths is surprise. The real world is strange, not simple. And if we are full of pride and prejudice, we will not explore the bushes where the best game hides. For instance, we will not explore the puzzling, repellent, or difficult passages in Scripture, as Lewis does so wonderfully in “The Weight of Glory.” Nor will we marry women like Joy Davidman, who was gloriously other than Lewis, and not what he called one of his bachelor pipe dreams. In his apologetics, Lewis constantly turns difficulties into advantages, objections into arguments. As he says in Surprised by Joy, if any message from the core of reality were to reach us, we should expect to find in it just that unexpectedness that we find in the Christian faith: the taste of reality, not made by us, but hitting us in the face. In Mere Christianity, Lewis says that it’s no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are not simple. And besides being complicated, reality is usually very odd. “It is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect…. That is one of the reasons why I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed.” It is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. By the way, that is also a very old apologetic argument. We find it in Tertullian, who said, “I believe because it is absurd.” We find it in Kierkegaard, who called the incarnation “the absolute paradox.”
From C. S. Lewis as Philosopher: Truth, Goodness and Beauty (Baggett et al) in the essay “Lewis’s Philosophy of Truth, Goodness and Beauty” by Peter Kreeft.
In one way Man was to be haughtier than he had ever been before; in another way he was to be humbler than he had ever been before. In so far as I am Man I am the chief of creatures. In so far as I am a man I am the chief of sinners. All humility that had meant pessimism, that had meant man taking a vague or mean view of his whole destiny—all that was to go. We were to hear no more the wail of Ecclesiastes that humanity had no pre-eminence over the brute, or the awful cry of Homer that man was only the saddest of all the beasts of the field. Man was a statue of God walking about the garden. Man had pre-eminence over all the brutes; man was only sad because he was not a beast, but a broken god. The Greek had spoken of men creeping on the earth, as if clinging to it. Now Man was to tread on the earth as if to subdue it. Christianity thus held a thought of the dignity of man that could only be expressed in crowns rayed like the sun and fans of peacock plumage. Yet at the same time it could hold a thought about the abject smallness of man that could only be expressed in fasting and fantastic submission, in the grey ashes of St. Dominic and the white snows of St. Bernard. When one came to think of one’s self, there was vista and void enough for any amount of bleak abnegation and bitter truth.
From chapter VI “The Paradoxes of Christianity” in Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton.