Surprised by Paradox
The Promise of "And" in an Either-Or World
by Jen Pollock Michel
Pub Date 14 May 2019
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"What do you call a book that rattles our comfortable certainties while somehow leaving us sturdier and more joyful, a book that dances in the mysteries without going mushy or cynical, a book that stubbornly insists we find God in the kitchen as much as the cloister? I call this book a paradox. I call it a wonder."
-Winn Collier, author of Holy Curiosity
"Theological understanding should not become a substitute for faith. Studied rightly, theology should lead to awe and wonder. To that end, my friend Jen Pollock Michel has given us a gift. It seems to me that the church has a renewed appetite for wonder, mystery, paradox, and awe, so Surprised by Paradox comes at an important time."
-From the foreword by Russ Ramsey
"So much of the beauty of Christianity is in its paradoxes, the marvelous mysteries that form the center of our faith: the Word made flesh, God become human, law fulfilled by grace, death conquered by death once and for all. With beauty and elegance, Jen Pollock Michel reveals and revels in the mysteries of a faith that cannot be contained by human categories or understanding but beckons us to embrace its certainties and its wonders alike."
-Karen Swallow Prior, author of On Reading Well and Fierce Convictions
"What is the shape of the kingdom of God? And how can we find our fit? Jen Pollock Michel submits that it's only by embracing paradox—a God who is both king and baby, strong and vulnerable, and who says dying is the only way to live. With insightful clarity, Jen highlights our call to a faith that invites us to form a sacred, expectant circle around one tiny word—and. No matter how hard we may try to ease the tension of the kingdom life, this book is a subversive invitation to make peace with the paradoxical way of Jesus."
-Emily P. Freeman, author of Simply Tuesday and The Next Right Thing
"There is no one else I would rather see write a book on paradox than Jen Pollock Michel. Her writing is full of tension, cadence, wisdom, and beauty. She is a rare gift to the world of Christian publishing and Surprised by Paradox is unsurprisingly worthy of her writing and wisdom. She carefully draws out her readers while drawing them into the greater narrative of Scripture and God himself, showing us faith is in its nature, strange, surprising, and unequivocally beautiful. Each one of Jen's books becomes my favorite of hers and this one surpassed them all."
-Lore Ferguson Wilbert, author of Handle with Care
"In a world of us and them, the logical solution to every question must be this or that. Either you can believe, embrace, hold, and affirm this, or you can believe, embrace, hold, and affirm that. In Surprised by Paradox, Jen Pollock Michel calls us above these limited categories, directing us to the mystery of the both . . . and. But do not confuse this as a call for the mushy middle or even finding common ground. No, paradox does not let us escape so easily and is only satisfied when our eyes look beyond this earth in wonder of the Divine."
-Hannah Anderson, author of All That's Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment
"A book that celebrates the glorious and (not or) of Christian spirituality. Surprised by Paradox has many ands of its own: it is accessible and smart, relatable and challenging, a page-turner, and theologically profound. With clarity and richness, Jen Pollock Michel invites us to sit before the beautiful mystery of God without resisting, diminishing, or seeking to solve or untangle it, which is to say, she invites us into the depths of worship."
-Tish Harrison Warren, Anglican priest, author of Liturgy of the Ordinary
"This book is wise and compelling. Jen Pollock Michel does what any good Bible scholar worth his or her salt does—examines the whole of Scripture, not just pet passages or doctrines. In doing so, Michel demonstrates that when it comes to God's kingdom, honesty requires we befriend paradox and the tension in the and instead of taking an immovable either/or stance. Does that mean anything goes, that truth is relative? Quite the contrary. If anything, Michel is thoroughly orthodox. She is one of the foremost public evangelical theologians and Bible teachers of our time. I for one look to her for wisdom."
-Marlena Graves, author of A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness
"Oversimplifications are dangerous. Especially in theology and public life we need and rely on people who are capable of living into the challenging paradoxes we find in the Gospels. Rich with personal stories and reflections, Michel's explorations of what it means to live by 'both-and' rather than 'either-or' offer a vision of Christian hospitality without laxity and theological integrity without rigidity. This is a timely, practical, and thought-provoking book."
-Marilyn McEntyre, author of Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies, Word by Word, and Make a List