In my quest to read more nonfiction this year, I joined the launch team for Jen Pollock Michel’s newest book, Surprised by Paradox: The Promise of “And” in an Either-Or World. The title intrigued me, as did the back cover descriptive copy. And paradox is such a fun word: a term that seems self-contradictory or absurd but, in reality, expresses possible truth. It’s a fantastic word to describe the Christian faith. So much of what we believe, of what we read in scripture, leads us to seemingly irreconcilable truths that indeed do reconcile. Sometimes we see it, but other times we are forced to wrestle with the mystery and decide if we trust God enough while not understanding completely.
I hope you enjoy this interview with Jen:
From the back cover: In a world filled with ambiguity, we want faith to act like an orderly set of truth-claims to solve the problems that life throws at us. While there are certainties in the Christian faith, at the heart of the Christian story is also paradox, and Jen Pollock Michel helps readers imagine a Christian faith open to mystery. Jesus invites us to abandon the polarities of either and or in order to embrace the difficult, wondrous dissonance of and.
How does Surprised by Paradox draw from your previous books?
JEN: I think my two previous books both treat paradox in their own way. Teach Us to Want is about the paradox of desire—that it is both a place of caution and call in our life with God; Keeping Place is about the longing and the labor of home that is both now and not yet. My interest was more specifically in this third book is about reading the Bible well, which is to say not imagining it like a puzzle that neatly fits together but staying curious about the mysteries we find within its pages—and certainly a God whose ways are not our ways. As I say in the book, I think paradox has a way of cultivating a certain kind of “spiritual posture” in us, one of humility, awe, wonder. Those have all the elements of worship.