Book Review: The Paradox Of Holiness; Faith In Search Of Obedience, by Donald G. Bloesch
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Hendrickson Publishers. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
As I like to review books two at a time (a reasonable procedure given my pace of reading), I let the publisher request this book and when I got it I had no idea of who the gentleman was. The book has a comment on it that this work contains the last two unpublished works that the author had written in manuscript form before his death in 2010. When one deals with the last writings of people, one tends to think about the matters that are of ultimate importance to someone. Although the author may not have known that he was about to die, these two books do contain a great deal of interest and they also show the author to be someone who had a high degree of respect for people across all kinds of confessional borders . His own life, which is discussed in some detail in one of the works included, was itself a religious journey from Lutheranism through the Swiss Reformed tradition to a Free Church position that sat uncomfortably between fundamentalist and liberal perspectives.
This book is divided into two parts. The first part contains “The Paradox Of Holiness,” a short book that takes up about 150 pages in the present volume. In this long essay, the author talks about various qualities, often paradoxical when looked at a whole, that mark the life of a believer committed to holiness. Included in these qualities are faith, self-control, godly sorrow, joy, meekness, holy boldness, long-suffering, interior peace, wisdom, ardor, humility, generosity, piety, and love. The author then discusses a variety of professed believers who, in the author’s estimation, exhibited these qualities, and they are a variety of people who may not have gotten along with each other but are all people about whom the author has something praiseworthy to say about their walk in Christ. The second essay is even shorter, about seventy pages or so, and it is a spiritual memoir called “Faith In Search Of Obedience” which discusses the author’s background, education, and his own complicated Christian walk with all of his controversies and attempts to ameliorate between positions as well as critique elements of other thinkers that he found extreme. This essay shows the author to have been a person of considerable sensitivity about the integrity of the Gospel and the need to overcome both negative aspects of past tradition as well as negative aspects of contemporary culture that easily corrupt the body of Christ.
In reading this book I found much to appreciate in the author’s approach. At the very least, I can say that the author has a winsome way of discussing his material and a thoughtful appreciation of a wide variety of professed believers. He appears to have had a great deal of love as well as respect for his wife and his family and a great enjoyment of preaching as well as research, even if he found himself far more conservative than his church when it came to the social issues that have affected many denominations over the past few decades. Throughout this book, in both of its works, the author shows himself to be the sort of person who ameliorates conflicts, and there were certainly many conflicts that the author found himself in. While that means that this is a person who would have likely been a great pleasure to know, I am not sure whether this person’s thinking is the kind that I would have been particularly likely to embrace. This book encourages me to appreciate him as a man, and to admire his approach, but the jury is still out on the extent I would consider him as among the greatest religious thinkers of the second half of the 20th century.
 The author shows himself to be an ecumenical thinker who has a lot to say about a wide variety of religious thinkers. See, for example: