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Paradox and Mystery in Theology



The question of paradox in Christian theology continues to attract attention in contemporary philosophical theology. Much of this attention understandably centers on the epistemological problems paradoxical claims pose for Christian faith. But even among those who conclude that certain points of Christian theology are paradoxical and that belief in paradoxical points of doctrine is epistemically supportable, concepts of the nature and function of paradox in Christian theology differ significantly. In this essay, after briefly noting the diversity of phenomena that count as paradoxes in contemporary discourse, I critique two of the most helpful accounts of paradox in Christian theology available – James Anderson's and C. Stephen Evans's – on the way to proposing an alternative definition. That definition combines the most helpful features of those two accounts while correcting certain weaknesses in each. The result is a definition of paradox as a particular kind of mystery that fits the Reformed strand of Christian theology particularly well and involves a compelling analysis of the spirituality of the phenomenon of paradox in theology.