I have struggled, like many others, with Biblical contradictions. They made me angry, resentful and distrustful of the Bible. How could two seemingly contradictory statements both be true? It was foolishness. The theology of the cross, as a different way of thinking, rescued me from my misery. How did it do this? It started when I finally came to understand the cross itself as an eternal contradiction.
The crucifixion is the ugliest event in human history. It is also the most beautiful. It is an act of utter injustice and perfect justice at the same time. It is love and hate, victory and defeat, strength and weakness, judment and grace. And on and on. If I had a quarrel with Biblical contradiction, I would have to argue with the cross. This I was incapable of doing. Eventually my discomfort with other Biblical contradictions yielded to comfort. Paradox lost its power to confuse or upset me. This is not something I remember reasoning out for myself. No "aha" moment. It just seemed to happen the more I absorbed Luther’s Theology of the Cross. I can now see how Luther so firmly and confidently held to his unreasonable opposites - an ability which infuriated his scholastic opponents at the time and continues to marginalize him in Christianity today. If the cross is true, then I can be simultaneously sinner and saint. I can be crucified with Christ and still not dead. Jesus can be human and God. The Bible can be words of God and words of men. The Gospel can kill and bring to life. A baby can be baptized and believe. The body of Jesus can be eaten with bread, His blood received in wine. If the crucifixion of Jesus happened, many unreasonable opposites can be true because of it.
Luther never abandoned reason, as some have accused. The cross simply humbled him to the Scriptures in such a way that he was compelled to interpret all Scripture in the light of the cross. In that light he saw no need to resolve Biblical conflict. While others plodded on, he was able to admit defeat and just accept opposing truths. He did not hold them "in tension", as we like to say today. That notion, I think, would be foreign to him. He saw paradox, but seemed to see harmony, not tension. And he did not really hold to anything. The cross held him - and would not let him go. This is how he could preach that Scripture was clear, everyone should read it and anyone could understand it. This is perhaps one of his most outrageously unreasonable doctrines (one I still have a hard time believing), but it illustrates his level of confidence in the power of the Gospel over against the power of us. He certainly must have known that for most people the Bible was not clear. He put no confidence in people's ability to figure it out. He just trusted that the Gospel of the cross would do unto others that which it had done unto him.