Paradox is a very important spiritual concept. It literally means “beyond belief”. In spiritual usage a paradox is the presence of 2 truths that seem to contradict one another. That is, God reveals 2 things that He says are true, but seem to humans to be contradictory.
For example, the bible abounds with statements that “show conclusively” that God knows the outcome of all things, and that He has chosen the outcome. When God speaks of a person coming to faith and eventually living with Him in eternity, He says that the person has been chosen by Him. He calls the person one of the “elect”. He reveals that the person could not gain forgiveness by his/her action, but only by the atoning work of Christ. The bible also abounds, however, with statements that “show conclusively” that God has given humans a free will and that they can choose good or evil. He reveals that a person must choose to do good, and resist evil in order to please Him. He says that He is not mocked, and that those that do not obey His commandments cannot enter into eternity with Him. He gives humans commands and warnings and lets them decide.
Now, the above two points of view are both true. They cannot, however, be reconciled by logic and thought. They are a paradox.
Many other paradoxes exist. For example, Jesus is shown to be less than the father, even before and after the incarnation; but He is also shown to be God, one with the father and of equal divinity. Lesser paradoxes abound: Christians must be outward focused, and Christians must be inward focused. Prayer is asking and prayer is not asking. The written word is our source of knowledge of God, but the written word kills. We should not be subjective, but rather measure ourselves by the revealed truth of the old and testaments, yet, we should be led by the Holy Spirit and learn directly from Him. God is very paradoxical.
Over the centuries paradox has led to people to take one side or the other side in any given 2 truth situation. That is, logic has ruled and the ability to compromise has rarely had any validity or acceptability. The “modern” approach was to insist on reason, to refuse any contradiction, and to oppose or divide from people who held a contrary view. Only recently has there been a renewed effort to see that when paradox leads to different people gravitating to opposite poles it should be embraced as valid diversity and not as “right and wrong”.
One warning: tolerance only applies to paradox, not to error. That is, if God says that 2 seemingly contradictory things are both true then it is paradox. But if Satan says that his lie is just as true as God’s truth then it is heresy; not paradox.