Friday Arts Day: is that day of the week where we explore the work and lives of Artists, Musicians, Poets, Authors.
Today I will be doing a review on the book “The Grand Paradox. The messiness of life, the mystery of God and the necessity of faith” by Ken Wytsma. For those of you thinking of coming to The Justice Conference next week, Ken is the founder of The Justice Conference and will also be speaking at it. April 17th and 18th.
The Grand Paradox: Published in 2015, Nashville Tennessee by W. Publishing.
Ken Wytsma is a leader, innovator, and social entrepreneur respected for his insight and collaborative spirit.
He is the founder of The Justice Conference—an annual international conference that introduces men and women to a wide range of organizations and conversations relating to biblical justice and God’s call to give our lives away.
Ken is a consultant and creative advisor to nonprofits and a sought after speaker on justice, church and culture. A church planter and lead pastor at Antioch Church, Ken lives in Bend, Oregon, with his wife, Tamara, and their four daughters.
I’ve known for a long time that life was messy. It’s just that many Christians seemed to think that life should be neat and nicely packaged. I once had a life group leader tell me that ‘they couldn’t help me anymore because my life was too messy’.
Wow. Kens book The Grand Paradox is a breath of fresh air and reveals what I suspect many of us already secretly know.
Life is complicated, life is messy and God is mysterious.
The beauty about this book is that is it full of biblical truth so it will appeal to those who are more conservative in nature. It is packed with scriptures and biblical examples. The book centres fiercely around justice and faith so it will also appeal to those of us who lean a little more to the left.
The Grand Paradox is a book that is refreshing and nourishing. It is a book about how to live a life of greater justice, life, hope and mercy. Ken explains what a life of faith really looks like. To those of us on the margins, to whom suffering and trauma is a pretty normal occurrence, Ken depicts a redemptive and transformative faith but affirms that life is also messy and has many inconsistencies and that is okay.
Life is not a neatly packaged formula therefore don’t mistake this book for a 5 point sermon or a seven step programme of how to live a better life. We crave formulas yet Jesus spoke in riddles. The key and hope of the Gospel is simply that God is with us. In the mess and in the pain and in the doubt.
Its a book that explores the ‘art of living by faith’ (xxii). A timely reminder that God is with us, and that the battle is His. When God is at the centre we flourish, when he leads we follow. Not the other way around.
Here is a quote from Nicholas Wolterstorff, Noah Porter Professor Philosophical Theology Yale University.
“Many of those who write about faith have an idealised version of faith in mind, which they describe in cliché-ridden speak that makes those Christians who do not experience such faith feel either guilty or angry.
In The Grand Paradox, Ken Wytsma talks about actual faith, not idealized faith. The faith of which he speaks is not only for our messy world but also of our messy world – while yet trusting and revealing God. Thoroughly honest, never evasive, free of cliches, deeply Christian, encouraging rather than scolding in its tone, it is the most perceptive and helpful discussion of faith that I know of”.
The Grand Paradox?
What is a paradox? Ken explores the fact that life and faith is a paradox, a contradiction. We live by faith not by sight yet we want to see and hold everything in concrete terms. A life of faith is a contradiction (13):
- The weak are strong
- The first shall be last
- You have to lose your life to find it
Ken explores questions like; What is Faith? What is Gods will for your life?
To understand Gods will for our lives we must first understand Gods larger plan. What is He up to? What is the bigger picture?
‘Gods plan is that justice would once again prevail on earth, and His will for each of His followers is that they work in concert with Him to that end. That being so, we need to understand justice as central to our walking by faith, as our prayers serve to align our will with Gods will for a just world’ (46).
Our understanding of God should compel justice. It is the nature and character of God. Justice is the foundation of Gods throne and the sceptre by which He rules (48). Justice is inseparable from Jesus. Justice is His mission. Jesus and justice are so clearly linked that whatever we do for the marginalised and poor we do for Him (50).
Ken outlines the importance and value of the Church, he chats about Heaven and compels us to understand that we must have a theology of suffering and endurance (168). A theology of suffering. That will be a new thought bubble for many.
Prepare to be moved, challenged and relieved. God is with us. Jesus is better than we thought. Mess is okay. Suffering sucks but we are not alone and its not because of a lack of faith. We don’t have all the answers, we don’t often know the next step, but we follow a God who does and who is good and who loves us and cares about us.