God has limited what He has told us. There are “secret things” and “revealed things,” as Deuteronomy 29:29 teaches us. At points that resist being fully reasoned out, that appear impossible or contradictory, Christians safely, happily, comfortably, and faithfully embrace a paradox. G. K. Chesterton, the English author and Christian apologist, wrote about that embrace in his book Orthodoxy:
THE real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite. Life is not an illogicality; yet it is a trap for logicians. It looks just a little more mathematical and regular than it is; its exactitude is obvious, but its inexactitude is hidden; its wildness lies in wait. I give one coarse instance of what I mean. Suppose some mathematical creature from the moon were to reckon up the human body; he would at once see that the essential thing about it was that it was duplicate. A man is two men, he on the right exactly resembling him on the left. Having noted that there was an arm on the right and one on the left, a leg on the right and one on the left, he might go further and still find on each side the same number of fingers, the same number of toes, twin eyes, twin ears, twin nostrils, and even twin lobes of the brain. At last he would take it as a law; and then, where he found a heart on one side, would deduce that there was another heart on the other. And just then, where he most felt he was right, he would be wrong.
It is this silent swerving from accuracy by an inch that is the uncanny element in everything. It seems a sort of secret treason in the universe. An apple or an orange is round enough to get itself called round, and yet is not round after all. The earth itself is shaped like an orange in order to lure some simple astronomer into calling it a globe. A blade of grass is called after the blade of a sword, because it comes to a point; but it doesn’t. Everywhere in things there is this element of the quiet and incalculable. It escapes the rationalists, but it never escapes till the last moment. From the grand curve of our earth it could easily be inferred that every inch of it was thus curved. It would seem rational that as a man has a brain on both sides, he should have a heart on both sides. Yet scientific men are still organizing expeditions to find the North Pole, because they are so fond of flat country. Scientific men are also still organizing expeditions to find a man’s heart; and when they try to find it, they generally get on the wrong side of him.
Now, actual insight or inspiration is best tested by whether it guesses these hidden malformations or surprises. If our mathematician from the moon saw the two arms and the two ears, he might deduce the two shoulder-blades and the two halves of the brain. But if he guessed that the man’s heart was in the right place, then I should call him something more than a mathematician. Now, this is exactly the claim which I have since come to propound for Christianity. Not merely that it deduces logical truths, but that when it suddenly becomes illogical, it has found, so to speak, an illogical truth. It not only goes right about things, but it goes wrong (if one may say so) exactly where the things go wrong. Its plan suits the secret irregularities, and expects the unexpected. It is simple about the simple truth; but it is stubborn about the subtle truth. It will admit that a man has two hands, it will not admit (though all the Modernists wail to it) the obvious deduction that he has two hearts. It is my only purpose in this chapter to point this out; to show that whenever we feel there is something odd in Christian theology, we shall generally find that there is something odd in the truth.
We are told some stark truths about Jesus in Scripture. They are simple on the surface but require faith: Jesus said, “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30) and in Colossians 2:9 we learn that in Jesus “all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” These truths are odd in Chesterton’s sense; odd in that they are difficult alone and paradoxical when combined. And we hold tenaciously to that odd turn. To abandon that odd turn is to be a heretic, to be damned. It would be, as Chesterton put it, to argue for a two-hearted man.
There is a necessary place to theorize and systematize the deep theology of the Trinity and Christ’s hypostatic union. But the heretic hates the paradox and is compelled to systematize a mystery. If we don’t revel in these truths—God with us; the fullness of Deity in bodily form; fully God, fully Man; Three in One—our adult-faith will refuse anything which must be received like a child (Mark 10:15).
Remember how Scripture describes Mary after the angel tells her what is going to happen to her. Yes, she wants some tangibles. It seems she wants some information on the mechanics of what is going to happen to her, so she asks for some explanation of how she is going to get pregnant, seeing that she is a virgin. The angel doesn’t give her much of an explanation, only enough. He says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). At the end of it all, what does it say that Mary did? It says, “Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
May we, like Jesus’ mother, treasure what we don’t fully comprehend, ponder truth with a childlike faith, and ecstatically enjoy these odd turns.