Both–And; Understanding Apparent Contradictions in Christianity

When you first hear about God and Christianity there can seem to be contradictions. Such apparent contradictions are often raised in evangelism and in discussions of what the Christian faith is all about. How do we understand the apparent contradiction that the Bible says Jesus is both full man and fully God? Or that Christians are both slaves and free in Jesus? It is important for every Christian to wrestle with these apparent contradictions and to understand that we are not to go to extremes or take on an ‘either/or’ mentality.

It is so easy for Christians who disagree to start throwing around insults and call the other person, the one they disagree with, a heretic. It never ends well and it makes light of a very strong accusation. Here’s where “Both – And” comes in.

In 23 short chapters Ross Cunningham unpacks 23 apparent contradictions that are grouped into three categories;

  1. Apparent contradictions in the divine nature.
  2. Apparent contradictions in the experience of salvation.
  3. Apparent contradictions in the characteristics of being in Christ.

Each chapter tackles a big topic and so it is not extensive, but each chapter helps us see the necessity of having a ‘both – and’ logic when approaching apparent contradictions. Here’s what Cunningham says about his own book;

“In every case of apparent contradiction, whether paradox or mystery, Scripture provides a clear framework to aid our understanding. The Bible doesn’t try to reconcile both sides of the argument – it merely states both to be true. From this emerges a framework of ‘both-and’. In other words, we are simple required to hold up both sides of these apparent contradictions as equally true and valid. Not to choose one over the other, but rather, to let them co-exist”

Each chapter begins with illustrations spread across two pages to help you visualise the apparent contradictions. These illustrations are great tools for visual learners and they help you remember what you’ve been learning. Each chapter has short explanations, Bible verses and conclusions about how apparent contradictions are reconcilable.

This book is not designed to be read from cover to cover, although you certainly can do that if you wish. Each chapter is stand alone so that you can jump all over the book, if you want. I think that this book will be a good tool to work through in a 1-1 with a new Christian as the foundation for a discussion on what Christianity is all about and what the Bible teaches. You can buy a copy here. If you do buy a copy I would love to hear your thoughts on it. This could be a really fun way to start thinking about theology 🙂 You can go to the launch page of the book and find out a bit more about it.

Here are just a couple of the chapters to whet your appetite;

Apparent contradictions in the divine nature.
Three + One
God + Man
Angry + Merciful

Apparent contradictions in the experience of salvation.
Universal + Elective
Master + Messenger
Death + Life
Personal + Public

Apparent contradictions in the characteristics of being in Christ.
Weakness + Strength
Slavery + Freedom
Saint + Sinner
Wealth + Poverty


Ross Cunningham studied Architecture at Nottingham University and has worked in the creative industry for over twenty years. He has worked primarily in London and across the UK, Russia and the Middle East. Ross recently returned to his native Northern Ireland with wife Emma and their three children. The family attend Belfast City Vineyard, where Ross serves as part of the leadership team.

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