Conundrum: This is a statement that is puzzling or mysterious
Paradox: Two statements that at first appear to be contradictory but can be rationally resolved.
Antinomy: Two statements that at first appear to be contradictory and cannot be rationally resolved but are both considered true.
Contradiction: Two statements that are found not to be in agreement.
Depending upon one’s point of view, it could be considered any of these. It is a conundrum because it is mysterious how a band could have only one side. It could be considered a paradox because we know how it was created so it has a solution. It could be considered an antinomy because in true three dimensional space, it does not seem to follow what we know about three dimensional objects. It probably would not be a contradiction since it is known to exist.
What about these concepts from a Biblical point of view? Well, I thought we would explore a few Biblical concepts over the next few weeks that fit these definitions. From these definitions, one could ask the following:
1. Is a paradox or antinomy a subset of a conundrum? I think it would not be incorrect to say ‘yes’ since both a paradox and an antinomy are mysteries that one tries to solve. However, from a Biblical point of view, there may be some subtle differences. For example, many may say that Ezekiel’s statements about the King of Tyre (Ek 28) is a conundrum because it poses the question of whether it is about the human king of Tyre, about Satan’s downfall, or both? While mysterious, I don’t think it falls into a paradox or antinomy. Paul also stated that the church was a ‘mystery’ that was revealed to him (Ep 3). The church is somewhat of a conundrum in that it is somewhat of a mystery as to how it fits into Old Testament prophecy of Christ’s first and second coming. I think we could say that a paradox or antinomy is a conundrum but not all conundrums are either a paradox or antinomy.
2. How can one know that an antinomy is not an unresolved paradox or an actual contradiction? In most cases, one cannot. However, if we assume that the Bible is inerrant then a Biblical statement or concept cannot be a contradiction. However, it is possible that an antinomy is an unsolved paradox. However, that is somewhat immaterial as to the truth of the Biblical concept. For example, when Jesus stated that the person that saves his life will lose it and if he loses his life he will save it (Lk 17:33) seems paradoxical until one really understands the principle that Jesus is teaching. Therefore, we can understand the meaning: if one denounces Christ in this present life then he will forfeit his life in the next but if one sacrifices his life in this present life to serve Christ he will gain an eternal life in the one to come. If we consider the principle that the Bible teaches both fee will and predestination, then, at least to our current understanding of these concepts, we cannot reconcile them even though we know both must be true because the Bible teaches both. Therefore, this is an antinomy. However, if we can resolve these two concepts either by redefining or understanding these concepts differently or finding a way they can be reconciled together, then it becomes a paradox. However, as stated, even if it stays an antinomy it does not decrease its truthfulness.
We could also ask the question of whether it matters if these Biblical questions need to be characterized? Probably not, but I think it does help us to put them into a better context. As we go forward in the next few weeks, we will take some of these and discuss. However, there are many that people have identified, so we will have to pick and choose. If you have a favorite, let me know.
Biblical Conundrum: Trinity
Biblical Paradox: Salvation
Biblical Antinomy: Free Will vs Predestination