The Promise of Paradox: A Celebration of Contradictions in the Christian Life

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Overview

On Living the Paradox of Christian Life . . . .

"It is a real joy for me to introduce this first book by Parker Palmer. It is the joy that grows from friendship. I met Parker for the first time only five years ago and today I can hardly think of my life and work apart from the crucial role that Parker has played in them.

"The issues that Parker discusses are basic: solitude, community, social action, political responsibility, prayer, and contemplation. They are raised in the context of the words of William ...

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Overview

On Living the Paradox of Christian Life . . . .

"It is a real joy for me to introduce this first book by Parker Palmer. It is the joy that grows from friendship. I met Parker for the first time only five years ago and today I can hardly think of my life and work apart from the crucial role that Parker has played in them.

"The issues that Parker discusses are basic: solitude, community, social action, political responsibility, prayer, and contemplation. They are raised in the context of the words of William Johnston: 'Faith is the breakthrough into that deep realm of the soul which accepts paradox . . . with humility.' Accepting paradox with humility is the spirit that binds the quite diverse pieces of this book together. And it is the spirit that makes this book worth reading.

"I hope and pray that those who read these essays will sense the spirit in which they were written and thus be challenged as I have been to break out of illusions and compulsions and seek a new freedom."
—From the 1980 introduction by Henri Nouwenauthor of The Wounded Healer, The Way of the Heart, and other classic works of Christian spirituality

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787996963
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 4/18/2008
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 265,001
  • Product dimensions: 5.26 (w) x 7.13 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Parker J. Palmer, a highly respected writer, teacher, and activist, is founder and senior partner of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His work speaks deeply to people in many walks of life, including education, medicine, religion, law, philanthropy, politics, and social change. Author of seven books, including the bestsellers The Courage to Teach (now in its tenth anniversary edition), Let Your Life Speak, and A Hidden Wholeness, his writing has been recognized with ten honorary doctorates and a number of national awards. Named one of the "most influential senior leaders" in higher education, he holds a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.

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Table of Contents

Gratitudes.

Introduction to the 1980 Edition (Henri J. M. Nouwen).

Introduction to the 2008 Edition (Parker J. Palmer).

I In the Belly of a Paradox.

II The Stations of the Cross.

III Paradoxes of Community.

IV A Place Called Community.

V A World of Scarcity, a Gospel of Abundance.

VI The Conversion of Knowledge.

Notes.

The Author.

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  • Posted March 28, 2013

    more from this reviewer

     This book was much discussed while I was in Seminary, as it was

     This book was much discussed while I was in Seminary, as it was then newly published and dealt with a topic that is antithetical to the initial response one has upon seeing its title.  I was not ready to hear the arguments presented by Dr. Palmer in the early 1980’s.  Thankfully, this book’s longevity (this is its third time in print by two different publishers) has allowed me the opportunity to sit with now what I could not address when I was younger.
    When the book was originally published, Henri Nouwen, a Catholic Priest whose writings have been very influential in my spiritual development, wrote the introduction.  For this present edition, Dr. Palmer pens a lengthy introduction that is, in itself, an important essay about how the need for Paradox and community are, in many ways, in greater demand now than when the book was originally issued.  
    The first chapter, “In the Belly of a Paradox,” compares and contrasts: Thomas Merton’s engagement with Taoism and Eastern thought in a Christian context, the Paradox of Marxist thought as it mirrors New Testament actions (particularly those actions found in the Book of Acts) and the paradoxes provided in “The Way of the Cross.” 
    In Chapter 2, Dr. Palmer takes the Catholic Stations of the Cross discipline and examines it from his perspective of it being an internal paradox.  He sees this discipline as bringing about five moments of confrontation of self: recognition (of the contradiction of the cross mirroring that of the contradiction in ourselves), resistance (the desire to resist living in the tension those contradictions in ourselves create), acceptance (living in the reality that there is power and life enriched found in such tension, affirmation (ability to celebrate that this “cross” is one’s own) & liberation (the realization that facing, fighting, accepting and affirming these contradictions frees us from the illusion of being independent from each other).
    Chapter’s three and four focus on community and how that culture brings the power of paradox to life.  He argues that humans were created to be in relationship, the Christian Scriptures direct its adherents toward community and that the Western idea of “rugged individualism” leads to emptiness, poverty (of spirit and material wealth) and is impossible for the human race to sustain itself with it as a paradigm.  Chapter five looks at what real, lasting and sustainable abundance is and how paradox and community are vital to that endeavor.
    The author states that paradox is not a linear concept, but one that travels “in a circle.”  When one opens one’s self to the tension brought about by listening and attending what is found when one sits with two truths, seemingly in opposition, at the same moment, one discovers that both “truths” add depth to each other.  Such an undertaking is frustrating, laborious, rewarding and enriching.  Dr. Palmer offers no shortcuts toward finding the “blessing” of paradox; all who wish to taste its promise must, like Jacob did with the angel, wrestle with the paradox before its riches can be gained.
    This is not a long book but neither is it a book easily read in a short time. Attention has to be paid to the weighty words written on each page. The concepts offered are not difficult to understand, but they are such that their being applied will take energy, focus and commitment.  Reading this small tome will cause the serious reader to examine their own paradoxes and find a measure of unknown Grace therein.

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