From the beginning, people have argued over, and even killed each other about differences, or seeming differences, in ideas. Here are 3 special words for such difficulties¹:

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Contradiction:

a direct and unresolvable opposition between 2 statements, laws, or principles.

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Paradox:

a direct but resolvable opposition between 2 true statements, laws, or principles.

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Antinomy²:

a direct contradiction between 2 statements, laws, or principles that seem equally true and necessary.

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[For longer and better definitions, with examples, use the DOOR.]

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Okay, so you’ve decided for a bit more to chew on…(We’ll make the examples green.)

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Many confuse or equate paradoxes with contradictions or antinomies. Yet important distinctions exist among the 3 terms…

Contradiction: direct opposition between statements, conclusions, laws, or principles so that it remains impossible for the statements, conclusions, laws, or principles being compared to both be true at the same time, in the same location, and in the same context. Ex.: The people of Jerusalem  at one instant concluding that Jesus was not the Messiah because they knew where He came from and at another instant concluding that he was not the Messiah because they did not know where He came from*.

Paradox: an apparent contradiction; something that seems like a contradiction but has at least the possibility of resolution when examined in all possibly existing time, space, and contextual frames of reference. Ex.: A man aging only 30 years as he makes a round trip at relativistic velocity to the Andromeda Galaxy while back home the earth would experience the passing of 4 million years**.

Antinomy: opposition or a contradiction between statements, conclusions, laws, or principles that seem equally logical, reasonable, or necessary. Ex.: The Puritan conclusion that both human free will and divine predestination are undeniably true and yet undeniably contradictory.*** [We will add here the declaration that "God is perfectly loving and fair, yet many humans created in his image obviously have never encountered the truth of the salvation through Jesus Christ. A response here--that satisfies logic, though itself might be untrue--is that God who is also declared to omniscient (knowing all things) and omnipotent, could have allowed only those who would "choose" to accept him live "within range" of hearing the Gospel.³]

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¹The content of this post is adapted from Hugh Ross’s “Ch. 6, Extra-Dimensional Doctrines,” in Beyond the Cosmos (Navpress, 1996).

² Don’t confuse “antinomy” with “antimony,” the element (a metal, Sb At. No. 51).

³ Remembered from philosopher William Lane Craig, in a lecture/debate (DVD)

* The Gospel of John chs. 7-9 NIV.

** Hugh Ross, The Fingerprint of God (1991, p.42)

*** J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Intervarsity Press, pp. 222-223)