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Book Review: Paradoxy by Tom Taylor

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The paradoxes of Jesus also grip us because they are liberating. They set us free to rejoice in life's ambiguities. I have spent time around many religious people (Christians included) and philosophers who purport to have categorical answers for everything. I have come to believe, however, that even if everything in life has an explanation, we may not have ultimate access to every explanation, at least for now…We like the control that we feel when we think we know all the answers. Sometimes, however, we simply cannot explain things… Paradoxy, p. 21

It's in this thesis statement that Tom Taylor lays the foundation for Paradoxy. One of the things that has moved in me the past number of years is that reading about Jesus shouldn't be clean and clear-cut; his stories and affirmations were much more non-linear and more liberating than just re-covenanting another law-based system of religion. I see Taylor moving along these same thought patterns, asking the questions to not really get answers, but to settle into the uncertainty a bit longer.

Drawing from his life as a pastor and scholar, Taylor shares the ups and downs of ministry. It seems people have a high and lofty perspective on doctrine and the pastors set to preserve the party line. But not everything works cleanly and smoothly, and this book shares some of those circumstances that fall outside of what we would've originally thought. Conservative and liberal titles often fall away in the face of reality, and Jesus had a way of speaking to the masses that cut past the stereotypes and got to the heart of the matter. "Walk by faith and not by sight" – "strength in weakness" – "foolish wisdom" – "give to receive" – Taylor writes around these supposed contradictions from his own life and meanderings, gives them real faces, and shares them for the reader's own quest and adventure.

It's not about finding the answers: "Jesus is the Answer" isn't what the world needs right now. What I like about Taylor's prose here is his stories and statements never feel like they're forcing the point. It seems to flow from a place where he's actually done the meditation, not just reported back on the facts. He allows God to be God, and takes "His ways are higher than our ways" literally and figuratively to give Jesus the benefit of the doubt. Our lack of understanding shouldn't be an obstacle to following anyway, and I think Taylor captures some of that.

The only downside for me, as the cynical skeptic, is while I wholeheartedly agree, I also hear in him a voice criticizing the establishment while using the tools of the establishment. His "point" is made logically that sometimes we have to think illogically; perhaps that's the nature of the discourse right now, but I wonder how this book might be written differently with a few more years to stew in the pot, you know?

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