Paradox as Paradigm
By Korey D. Maas, May 23, 2012 in What is Education?

It’s not exactly hot off the press, but a year ago now the Templeton Honors College at Eastern University sponsored a speaker series under the heading “Life and Learning in the Great Christian Traditions.” In addition to lectures by Mark Henrie (Catholic), Carl Trueman (Reformed), John Behr (Orthodox), and others, they were kind—or naïve—enough to invite me to present a Lutheran perspective. The lectures were videotaped and are now up on the THC website. Below is a short abstract of my own lecture, followed by a link to the recording.

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Profound mysteries—the three-in-one of the Godhead, the two-natures-in-one-person of the incarnate Christ—stand at the heart of the church’s creeds. To confess the Christian faith is therefore to embrace paradox. Further, the Lutheran tradition especially emphasizes, paradox is not only paradigmatic of God’s own nature, but also of his work in and for his creation. Characteristic of Lutheran theology, for example, are the fruitful tensions of a law-gospel hermeneutic, a sinner-saint anthropology, an infinite-in-the-finite sacramentology, and a now-not yet eschatology.

Similarly, classical Lutheran thought is predicated upon a fundamental distinction between “two kingdoms” in which the one divine King rules in this world—the “right-hand kingdom” in which God acts to effect the eternal good of man’s salvation, and the “left-hand kingdom” in which he acts to establish those temporal goods which secure human flourishing. As the ends toward which God operates in each realm are distinct, so too are the means through which he operates: in the right-hand kingdom by means of the gospel, communicated in word and sacrament, and received by faith; and in the left-hand kingdom through instruments such as reason and law, and institutions such as families and governments.

It is this distinction between God’s two kingdoms, their distinct ends, and different means, which especially informs the Lutheran view of life and learning, as the Christian lives and learns as a citizen, simultaneously, of both kingdoms. This side of eternity, therefore, he or she is confronted with the paradoxes and unresolved tensions inherent in this dual citizenship. It is thus the task of any distinctly Lutheran education to cultivate faith, reason, and virtue robust enough to facilitate the faithful living out of one’s various callings in each of God’s two kingdoms.


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Lee Trepanier on May 24, 2012 at 2:56 am

This sounds like a great lecture, and I look forward to watching it online!

about the author

Korey D. Maas
Korey D. Maas

Korey D. Maas is Assistant Professor of Theology and Church History in Christ College, Concordia University, Irvine, California. He earned the DPhil from Oxford University and has served as a guest professor at Hillsdale College and at Westfield House, Cambridge. His various interests revolve around the history of Christianity and its engagement with the history of the western world. He and his wife live in southern California with their two-year old son (and his sibling on the way).