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Transformation: Block-Logic

Transformation Blog: Readings from Learning to Live and Love Like Jesus



Transformation: Block-Logic

Brandon Cook

In his book Our Father Abraham, Marvin Wilson helps us understand why our Western minds tend to struggle so deeply with paradox.[1]  Each of us are influenced by Empires on whom the sun has long set.  As thinkers living in a Greco-Roman tradition, we are trained to think linearly.  For example:

A is to B and B is to C and therefore A is to C

Everything resolves quite nicely.  Greek philosophers, logisticians, poets, and architects love this sort of satisfying symmetry.  Indeed, when you can get such resolution in life, be grateful!

The problem is, Greek, linear thinking often fails to capture Biblical faith (let alone all the irresolutions of life).  In fact, if we are primarily Greek in our orientation, we will really struggle walking in faith.  This is because Biblical faith is all about learning to live in tension, where not everything is resolved.  Again, Abram travels from Ur in faith, having no idea how God will fulfill his promises.  This is always the Biblical pattern, because some such space of unknowing is the only context in which faith and trust have any meaning!  And certainly the only place in which trust can transforms us.

The Hebrew Mind, Wilson points out, did not form in the Greco-Roman tradition and is more naturally comfortable with “Block Logic.”  Block logic means you can take two seemingly incongruent truths—God is good and There is evil in the world, for example; or God is sovereign and Humans have free will—and acknowledge that both propositions are true.  Indeed, you can live in the reality of both without needing to too neatly resolve them.   

How can this be?

Imagine that you hold two blocks, one in each hand.  On one block it’s written “God is good” and on the other block, “There is suffering in the world.”  Now imagine that you take both blocks and lift them above your head.  And as you do, you say to yourself, “Both of these statements are true, but how they resolve I don’t fully comprehend.  Somehow God holds the resolution, beyond my understanding.  And I don’t have to resolve them in order to trust in and follow in faith.  In fact, as I trust without having it all figured out, I will encounter God in radically new ways.”

This gets us to the heart of Biblical faith!  Only when you have this posture of trust can you move forward in faith, without having to have everything resolved to your satisfaction.  Of course, we are trusting that, ultimately, things will resolve.  We even get bright foretastes of this--when forgiveness makes a relationship radically new, for example.  But the journey of faith will always mean we are holding at least some blocks in our hands.

In this posture of holding the blocks above our heads, notice we are well postured to let the blocks fall from our hands, palms ready to be opened in worship.  Indeed, we can let the blocks fall out of our hands, knowing that God Himself will go on holding them.  This is a great spiritual practice.  As we focus on the God Who holds and resolves everything, we can say, “Thank you that You hold this, and I don’t have to.”  We can begin to experience a mind at peace and not at war, trying to comprehend or understand everything.  This does not make us anti-mind or anti-intellectual or anti-rational.  We can still think and ponder and challenge deeply.  But while doing so, we can hold onto a posture of faith and trust, which in my opinion is the only lens through which life makes any sense.  Faith, from this perspective, is extremely rational.

Indeed, in a posture of trust, we can experience the place of rest described in the 131st Psalm:

Lord, my heart is not proud;
my eyes are not haughty.
I don’t concern myself with matters too great
or too awesome for me to grasp.
Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself,
like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.
Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord—
now and always.


[1] See Our Father Abraham by Marvin Wilson.  William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company.  1989.  Chapter 9: “The Contour of Hebrew Thought.”