Keep the Paradox

“Can you find out the deep things of God?  Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?” – Job 11:7-9

When Howard Dean ran for president in 2004 he was asked to name his favorite book of the New Testament.  He replied, “The Book of Job.”  I winced a bit at his reply.  You see, for nine years I was Howard’s pastor.  His mistake almost seemed like grounds for a clergy malpractice suit (he says, while invoking the statute of limitations).

But I stand with Howard.  I love the book of Job, particularly for the ways it consistently affirms the utter incomprehensibility of God, as when Job’s friend Zophar challenges him with a series of unanswerable questions:

Can you find out the deep things of God?
Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?
It is higher than heaven—what can you do?
Deeper than Sheol—what can you know?

 In the New Testament we meet the same God, but in a close and intimate way.  In Jesus the distant and majestic creator of the heavens and the earth becomes Emmanuel, that is, “God with us.”  He is as close as our own lives, as familiar as the way home and yet also, at the same time, the fullest expression of God’s power and glory.

There may be two testaments, but there is only one God—the God of majesty and intimacy, the God who, in the words of our communion liturgy, “is close to us as breathing and distant at the farthest star.” 

No matter how much of the Bible you remember or forget, keep that paradox intact and you will know much of what is important to know about our God.


O God, ever close and ever distant, give me the patience—and the faith—to hold dear to paradoxes. 

About the Author
Martin B. Copenhaver is the President of Andover Newton Theological School, Newton Centre, Massachusetts. His most recent book is Jesus is the Question: The 307 Questions Jesus Asked and the 3 He Answered.