Item description for The Promise of Paradox: A Celebration of Contradictions in the Christian Life by Parker J. Palmer...
Overview Palmer presents a thoughtful and heartfelt exploration of the gifts of paradox and contradiction in spiritual life that addresses the central themes of Christian spirituality.
Publishers Description First published in 1980--and reissued here with a feisty new introductory essay--"The Promise of Paradox" launched Parker J. Palmer's career as an author and his ongoing exploration of the contradictions that vex and enrich our lives. In this probing and heartfelt book, the distinguished writer, teacher, and activist examines some of the challenging questions at the core of Christian spirituality. How do we live with the apparent opposition between good and evil, scarcity and abundance, individuality and community, death and new life? We can hold them as paradoxes, not "either/ors," allowing them to open our minds and hearts to new ways of seeing and being.
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Parker J. Palmer, a highly respected writer, teacher, and activist, is founder and senior partner of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His work speaks deeply to people in many walks of life, including education, medicine, religion, law, philanthropy, politics, and social change. Author of seven books, including the bestsellers The Courage to Teach (now in its tenth anniversary edition), Let Your Life Speak, and A Hidden Wholeness, his writing has been recognized with ten honorary doctorates and a number of national awards. Named one of the "most influential senior leaders" in higher education, he holds a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.
Parker J. Palmer currently resides in Madison, in the state of Wisconsin. Parker J. Palmer has an academic affiliation as follows - American Association for Higher Education and the Fetzer Institute.
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Reforming prayer and education Mar 29, 2010
THE PROMISE OF PARADOX: A CELEBRATION OF CONTRADICTIONS IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE By Parker Palmer (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008)
Reviewed by Darren Cronshaw
I enjoy a book, like The Promise of Paradox, that raises as many questions as answers. Rather than explaining away dilemmas of faith and complexities of life, Palmer embraces the mystery and reality of paradoxes. When prayer feels like a chore, a shopping list, or when it seems to bounce off the ceiling, I appreciate an approach that encourages prayer as a way of life. He challenges me to consider how open am I to deeply listening to God in the midst of struggles. Palmer most interestingly explores how we can be open to God through community, education and prayer.
With his wife Sally, early in his teaching career Palmer taught for a decade at Pendle Hill, a living-learning community near Philadelphia. They sought an experiment in interdependence and community life, and discovered a parallel need for boundaries and solitude. Palmer pleads for an approach to community not just for the benefit of personal nurture but for promoting economic and political justice in a society of competitive individualism. He asks, "How can I participate in a fairer distribution of resources unless I live in a community that makes it possible to consume less? ... How can I learn to share power unless I live in a community where hierarchy is unnatural?" (p.65) Shrinking world resources may push us more in the community-sharing directions which Palmer encourages, and which he himself gave up a large salary and successful career to find.
His appeal for reform in education is also still timely today. He urges collaborative learning rather than breeding exam-based competition, and celebrating diverse expressions of intelligence rather than focusing just on intellectual capacity. He appeals to teachers to be learners and to help students to engage with big questions: "as teachers, we must not only make room for the Spirit to move within us but also cultivate learning situations that will help students open up to that movement" (p.133).
Finally, his words on prayer are life-giving. Palmer draws on the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, a kind of patron saint of social activists, who appeals for an integration of spirituality with the struggles and mess of life. Palmer realises spiritual life is not orderly and pristine and suggests adding a new prayer to the well-known short list of "Thanks!" and "Help!", adding the simple "Bless this mess!" Prayer for Palmer is not special pleading for a scarce resource before someone else gets it, as if our identity depends on what we have. True prayer will help release us from the idolatry of such illusions and instead experience the fullness of God: `a life that returns constantly to that silent, solitary place within us where we encounter God and life's abundance becomes manifest' (p.114).
"This book is important not because it is written by a good scholar, but because it is written by a scholar who dared to wonder if his scholarship really led him to the truth. It is important not because it is written by a man who knows more than most people about the dynamics of community life, but because it is written by a man who gave up a large salary and moved away from a successful career to find community. It is important not because it is written by a man who has been a consultant to many on educational matters, but because it is written by a man who kept wondering if his own education didn't do him more harm than good and who gave much of his energy to a form of education not dominated by grades and degrees. It is important not because it is written by a man who knows the Bible well, but because it is written by a man who dared to let the Bible make radical claims on his own life and the lives of those he loves." (Henri Nouwen, "Introduction to the 1980 edition", p.x-xi)
Originally reviewd in Witness: The Voice of Victorian Baptists, Vol. 143, No. 8 (September 2008), p.21.
For those who've given up on the word "Christian" but wish they didn't have to Mar 14, 2009
It is unfortunate what's happened to the word Christian. Frothing nutcases have usurped it in the name of intolerance and bad theology. And, oh yeah, that whole inquisition thing too, and all those wars. Things humans seem to fall into. But if you have a sense that at its core, the term Christian could actually mean something very significant, that it can connote a very deep and liberating approach to life, read this book. As a meditation on the ideas of the contemplative monk and writer Thomas Merton, as well as poet R.M. Rilke, and his own original insights into paradox, community, and education, Parker Palmer brings it together in a synthesis that is not only profound, but perhaps even more timely now than it was when he first wrote it in 1980. There's a reason the publishers decided to re-release this book right now. Read it.
Truth is complicated Nov 27, 2008
If you are ready for a book that takes you where truth lives in the area between positions which seem to be opposites, not as an average or middle ground, but in the living tension, buy this book fast. It is amazing.
Insightful perspective on the Christian faith Sep 5, 2008
It is a joy to re-read this book after experiencing Palmer's journey through the years. I found the book to be just as engaging today as it was when it was first written. I found the new preface to be one of the best articulations of an authentic and well lived faith that I have ever read. He honors not only his faith, but the faith of all traditions, by demanding that it speak beyond the confines of religious communities and our "inside" language. His work for years, and now his faithful words, embody what the Christian faith has known as "incarnational" theology - the word made flesh. I appreciate this wonderful contribution to the ongoing conversation between faith and the public square.
The Promise of Paradox - a faith-filled promise Aug 4, 2008
The Promise of Paradox by Parker Palmer is a refreshing view of the traditional values and beliefs of Christian faith written 30 years ago and now in reprint. He writes his own introduction explaining the various changes in both his language and thought over the 30 year period. Henri Nouwen wrote the first introduction which is also included. To live a faith in honest integrity one needs to come to grips with the ambiquity in life or the"belly of paradox" as he often refers. The spirit moves in ways that are often not of conventional wisdom and it is the holding of the tension between seeming polarities where the spirit grows, ripens, and truly connects with God. His message is one of unitive thinking rather than dualistic thinking and Parker Palmer lifts the reader to new dimensions and challenges with his message of love and compassion for all living creatures while embracing their diversity. A book for all faiths and all spiritual paths that leads one into greater connection with self and the God within.