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The Power of Paradox

2008 January 15
by Julie Clawson

So come lose your life for a carpenter’s son
For a madman who died for a dream
And you’ll have the faith His first followers had
And you’ll feel the weight of the beam
So surrender the hunger to say you must know
Have the courage to say I believe
For the power of paradox opens your eyes
And blinds those who say they can see
So we follow God’s own Fool
For only the foolish can tell
Believe the unbelievable,
And come be a fool as well

from Michael Card’s God’s Own Fool

I listened to that song a lot back in college when I was going through the whole postmodern crisis of faith thing. Before that I think I would have scoffed at the whole idea just like I’ve had people scoff at me when I have voiced similar ideas. Be a fool? Follow a fool? Choose to be stupid? Why would anyone do that?

The audacity of claiming the label “fool” when so many are quick to use it in derision confuses those that harp on truth and evidence. In a world where scientific certainty reigns and forensics has replaced mystery, to assert the power of paradox and affirm the foolishness of belief just doesn’t make sense. It isn’t the cultural norm, it doesn’t fit the dominant paradigm, it leads to ridicule and dismissal. You know the list. It’s what causes the atheists to point their fingers and laugh and the Christians to burn you at the stake as a heretic.

But all of that misses the point. I’ve been down this road of modern vs. postmodern epistemology before here on this blog and as fascinating as arguments about truth and certainty are they are often a red herring that distracts from the real issues. I’ve also admitted to not being afraid of postmodernism and do so for just this reason. I like the shift in postmodern philosophy (especially in Levinas) toward Ethics (as opposed to Epistemology) as first philosophy. So people can get their panties all in a bunch in their rush to call me postmodern relativist for not thinking that how we know things is of primary importance, but they are really missing the whole point – that of justice and how we interact with the Other as being more basic and central than any theory of knowledge. And it is that emphasis on interaction with the Other that has me proudly accepting the label of fool.

Faith is not about knowledge – what we know or how we know it, it is about following in the footsteps of a fool. Jesus was a fool in the eyes of the world. He has been accredited with ushering in an upside-down kingdom – where the first shall be last and the last shall be first. He cared for those whom society cast aside, he instructed us to love our enemies, he called the underdogs blessed. By anyone’s standards he was a fool. And he called us to follow him. As many have stated recently, this isn’t about affirming a secret set of knowledge but about entering into a way of life. It is about following the fool, being content in mystery, affirm the power of paradox, and turning the world upside-down.

Following the fool and choosing the foolish way isn’t about stupidity vs. knowledge. Those things don’t matter, or at least matter much less than the values of the Kingdom. Loving others and living subversively are foolish in the eyes of the world and so we follow God’s own fool and choose to be fools as well.

Find more contributions to this month’s Synchroblog on God’s use of fools at -

Phil Wyman at Square No More
Fools Rush In by Sonja Andrews
That Darn Ego by Jonathan Brink
Won’t Get Fooled Again by Alan Knox
Strength on the Margins by Igneous Quill
Foolish Heart by Erin Word
A Fool’s Choice by Cindy Harvey
Quiet Now, God’s Calling by Jenelle D’Alessandro
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right… By Mike Bursell
Ship of Fools by David Fisher
Hut Burning for God by Father Gregory
God Used This Fool by Cobus van Wyngaard
Fool if you think its over by Paul Walker
Blessed are the foolish — foolish are the blessed by Steve Hayes
What A Fool I’ve Been by Reba Baskett
The foolishness of God and the foolishness of Christians. by KW
My Foolish Calling by Lisa Borden
What a Fool Believes by Sue at Discombobula
God Uses Foolish Things by Sally

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18 Responses leave one →
  1. January 15, 2008

    Interesting – a couple years ago when my whole way of thinking started turning upside down I listened to that song over and over and over again. I’d walk for hours listening to that and other Michael Card in the same vein. I know that’s not anything profound – but I just thought I’d share. :)

  2. January 16, 2008

    I’ve joined this synchroblog late with my post My Foolish Calling.

    Loving others and living subversively… yes!

  3. January 16, 2008

    Call me a Fool’s fool, but I think you’re exactly right! The only knowledge that I want is personal, intimate, relational knowledge of a carpenter’s son who lived and died 2000 years ago… and he lives again. Yep… foolishness. But, I’ll take him over all other knowledge.

    -Alan

  4. January 16, 2008

    Reminds me of the King’s Fool/Jester from Ivanhoe (and others, of course)…. They were always very learned, and use their comedy to lighten things up and slip in truth when folks weren’t expecting it!

  5. January 16, 2008

    excellent- amen!

  6. January 16, 2008

    Julie, I didn’t like using the word, “foolish,” either, on account of all of the heavy-baggage. I like the way you use it, here. I’m not afraid of postmodernity, either. I tend to believe that those of the 30-ish and younger generation (of which I am) are much more comfortable with mystery and paradox. I think that is a hopeful thing for my generation coming to welcome the Holy Spirit, especially.

    Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism is an excellent book. Check it out if you haven’t already.

  7. January 17, 2008

    I saw Michael Card in concert. It was the closest I’d ever come going to a performance and coming away having worshipped God in Spirit and in truth.

  8. January 17, 2008

    Hmm, it seems to me that your post and mind came fairly close to each other in what we were saying, unless I’ve misunderstood. But it seems that modernity finds it difficult to know what to do with the fool.

    Incidentally, I quoted something from your other blog in something in mine, and only afterwards realised that this was your main blog.

  9. Anne permalink
    January 17, 2008

    Not quite on topic, but sort of…

    I was in a Bible study this week where we are studying Isaiah. We were looking at a passage where God (through Isaiah) is being particularly sarcastic in his description of how foolish idol worship is. It’s actually very funny. Anyway, we got talking about how difficult it is for us (Christian westerners) to understand the reasoning behind worshiping an actual man-made thing – I mean trusting in something that you actually made with your own hands. It does seem ridiculous – but so many people do – even now.

    Anyway, I mentioned how faith in Jesus seems pretty ridiculous, too, and how our faith isn’t all that logical, either, etc. What I was trying to get at was that it is amazing that God gifts us with the ability to hope and trust, even when strict logic might turn us the other way. Well, people just kind of stared at me for several seconds. It was weird. Eventually I said something like… “I’m not trying to defend idol worship or anything…” and laughed and we moved on.

    I should also say that I LOVE this bible study, the group, and the leader. It is a highlight of my week. :)

  10. January 17, 2008

    Nice. Truly following Jesus has always gone against the common sense of the age.

  11. January 17, 2008

    Anne – we so often for get that faith involves faith. We can try to play up the logical stuff, but in doing so we often make an idol out of the facts or knowledge about our faith and forget to have faith itself. Tearing down idols of all types should be a daily practice for us as believers.

  12. January 19, 2008

    Me too.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. What A Fool I've Been - A synchroblog | In Reba's World
  2. Ravine of Light » Fools Rush In - January Synchroblog
  3. That Darn Ego « Missio Dei
  4. Holy Foolishness Synchroblog « Khanya
  5. God used this fool « my contemplations
  6. Blessed are the foolish — foolish are the blessed « Notes from underground

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