I tried to explain an antinomy to my children recently. I find it such a helpful concept in understanding the bible, or at least stopping me from misunderstanding it, that I thought I’d teach it to them. A guy called Immanuel Kant used the term when two conclusions, arrived at by sound reasoning, appeared to contradict each other. I guess that’s why his work was called “a critique of pure reason”. For example, his first antinomy is that it is equally true from reason that time had a beginning and that time did not have a beginning. Now while I might take issue with the latter “truth” I find the word itself helpful and use it when I think two things are true but recognise that there are massive difficulties in putting them together. His second antinomy is that things both can and cannot be divided up into constituent parts and his third, which is more relevant to me at the moment, is that on the one hand our free choices are a real cause in the world and on the other everything that happens is a result of impersonal laws of nature. I guess it’s kind of like a paradox but perhaps a more biblical word to use is mystery.
I read this in Bill Johnson’s book “Face to Face with God”:
I don’t have answers to all the questions about the differences in the portrait of God throughout Scripture is. But I have found a wonderful key for life: it’s best to live from what you know to be true in spite of the mysteries that you can’t explain. I cannot afford to stumble over my questions when what I do understand demands a response and commitment. My portrait of God the Father, as seen in Jesus Christ, is wonderfully clear. He deserves a rest of my life as I learn how to imitate him.
I think that is very wise. I want to live in the light of what I know without being paralyzed by what I do not know. If my understanding of God starts to drift away from Jesus as portrayed in the bible then I need to tether my thoughts to him again.
Kant’s last antinomy is that there both is and is not a “necessary being” who is the cause of everything. Kant might sound to you like a rather confused person but he was quite a clear thinker and did come up with some sort of “solution” to the problem of these antinomies. Frustratingly I am too dim to understand it from a quick read. In fact I’m feeling very much out of my depth here. That’s to be expected though. If I can’t understand Kant I defiantly won’t be able to fathom God. In the “olden days” ships used to let down a rock on a rope to see how deep the water was. My trouble is I just don’t have enough rope! We know some stuff about him in the shallows but some things I may never know.