Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Grand Paradox by Ken Wytsma

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book for the purpose of review. My integrity is not for sale. Those who know me well are aware I would relish the chance to give a bad review in exchange for a free book. If I've failed to do so, it has nothing to do with the source of the material and only with the material itself.

There comes a time in the life of a Christian - more often for those who've been raised in faith, but certainly applicable for anyone - when the box constructed to hold one's system of belief becomes unstable. The walls shake; the contradictions become too much. We're faced with the reality that life (and faith) is not something so easily contained. In those moments, if faith is to endure, we must be willing to knock down the walls and expand the box.

The Grand Paradox by Ken Wystma is a book designed for faith-box expansion. The very title clues the reader to his premise - that life (and faith) don't always make the kind of sense we'd like them to make. He explores some of the various problems we encounter - problems that TV preachers or shallow teachers might like to gloss over or ignore - and presents some ways in which these problems can be addressed without losing faith entirely.

I chose this book for the latest edition of the book review because I'd read Wytsma's previous work, Pursuing Justice, and found it pretty good. I wasn't drawn to this book in the same way. To me, the chapters read more like loosely (or barely) connected essays. There wasn't a great narrative flow. They also varied greatly in passion and excitement, some soaring with possibility and others feeling rote and required.

The other element that didn't quite work for me was simply Wytsma's habit of replacing those faith-box walls with others farther out. I imagine this book would be good news and great comfort to many in a particular part of their journey, which is why I can't give it a bad review. At the same time, I found his pushing back of the walls falling short of the questions I still ask. If we're reconstructing a faith box based on this book, in many chapters, I'd be left on the outside.

I've come to know a God for whom a box is not necessary, a faith that exists well beyond whatever wall we might construct or tear down, a God roaming wild in the open of life, faith, doubt, and belief. You get a glimpse of this God when Ken writes on Love and Justice - those two chapters separate themselves from the rest of the book. I suspect this is why I found his earlier work so much more pleasing - it is closer to his real passion. The other chapters felt more obligatory - as if a book from a Christian publisher must be sure to define the parameters of acceptable faith and felt unable to leave some thing open-ended.

This isn't an incorrect approach necessarily, but it's one that, at least for me, leaves something to be desired. There's real value here. I'm not going to dump this in the recycling bin or anything. At the same time, if any of you wants my copy, you're welcome to have it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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