A Theological Maverick

The Pilgrim’s Pensieve #29

From time to time, as one does, you psychoanalyze yourself. This year I have been tackling some of the more controversial things in Christian theology. I noticed that maverick streak is still in me. You see I’m not as crazy, theologically speaking, as I was in say in my teen years. I remember my dad asking me with utter consternation on his face why I had to be so weird. Part of it was “youthful exuberance”, unsurprisingly a phrase at the time I utterly despised. However, it is true that young people do like things that can keep up with with them. I’m still a young person but I occasionally have delusions of being more mature than I really am, which is kind of what young people do to be fair. Then of course life happens and I’m a much more measured person than I used to be. I have no youthful plans of world domination and I desire the mundane things in life.

Maybe a year or two ago I remember I was writing something for the blog and I thought to myself of how orthodox I am. I don’t like orthodoxy for orthodoxy’s sake but I also have enough wisdom to take it into account and find out why it is orthodox and if therefore there is good reason to stick with it. Since my younger years up to now, even though I have a healthy respect for the wisdom of convention, I have no compunction about leaving it behind if good reason to do so comes along. I still do not feel conjoined to tradition. Maybe it is the influence of the spirit of Western individualism or it is just a personality trait or both. I have a sense of freedom with the things I believe. If I freely believe something, something that I have personally chosen to commit to, I should be just as free to be dissuaded to not believe some thing. Ever since I was a youngling, and it is something I think rubbed of on me from my dad, I have enjoyed a good debate. This means I’m predisposed to hear a good argument. This does not mean I’m fast and loose with my intellectual commitments. When I go all in, I go all in. But I reserve the right to pull all out just as enthusiastically. This makes me quite eclectic in my thinking and I have to say it is something I have admired and cultivated from my childhood because my father is knowledgeable about a whole range of things. As an adult it still amazes me the kind of things he knows about and as a kid that impressed the heck out of me. Of course daddy should know everything.

The tendency among such talkative and oppionated Christians like myself is to start your own thing or at least be part of some “new” thing because the old thing is haplessly deficient. Luckily for me I have been there, done that, and surprise surprise: it’s not really a good idea. I do not like the idea of making myself out to be some kind of leader. Clearly, and a bit comically, I’m not. The closest I get to winning followers is sharing what I think on this blog and maybe getting virtual followers. I really don’t get why people who have their own views have that compulsion to start their own thing. Leadership is quite burdensome and therefore it is something I’d not recommend. I guess it’s the allure of power that is attractive. I do think there needs to be a great shift in Christianity but the responsibility certainly does not fall on my narrow shoulders. It falls on all of us. Yet we do need a sense of mere Christianity and recognize that we have got a lot right and we are not too far off to get right what we don’t.

When it comes to my theological make-up, as I refer to myself in my bio, I’m a freelance Christian. Specifically, I’m irrevocably a Ghanaian Christian who refuses to behave himself the way a Ghanaian Christian should because I keep an eye on other ways of being Christian. Now with the freelancing part, while I get denominations are something we just have to live with, I do not have any strong denominational attachments and I like it that way. The question “which church do you attend” still annoys me when I share my “unique” take on things in conversation. I know it is quite cliché, and I hate clichés, but for me being a mere Christian is enough. This does not mean I am not self-aware and do not recognize the various Christian traditions and denominations that influence me. I still think I get to keep my non-denominational badge not because I attend a church with that name on it. Rather I have multiple denominational influences. Maybe I should say I’m pan-denominational which is I guess quite idolatrous for mono-denominationalists.

I have attended a pentecostal church all my life yet I consider myself a post-charismatic who thoroughly believes in the pentecostal fire, weird stuff and all. Because of the influence of that upbringing I am not hung up on creeds or church fathers but my exposure to other forms of Christianity has convinced me they are important to an extent. I also thoroughly believe in the spirit of the Reformation ideal and my steady theological and scholarly diet is mainly from the Evangelical world. However, I’m not absolutely committed to Calvinist, Armininian, or any particular Evangelical theology. (If you must know, it’s not that I have not made up my mind, I think they are different answers to the wrong question.) I have strong post-Christendom sensibilities, take seriously contemporary critical and historical scholarship on Christianity, yet I’m still curious about Catholic and Orthodox traditions. As you can probably gather right now, I take ecumenism very seriously so I guess that makes me a hopeless romantic as well. It does not mean I want a monolithic Christianity, but to borrow a phrase from Larry Hurtado, I want good “ecumenical diversity.” And one last thing: I do think I’m right but so are other others who do not agree with me

The theological profile I gave of myself illustrates the tensions I live with as a Christian. I want to be an orthodox maverick. I want to have shared convictions but I want those convictions to be my own as well. I’m not afraid to be orthodox or unorthodox as long as the unorthodox way is actually what is orthodox. If I had a conversation with my younger self we would disagree a lot, but one thing we would still agree on is Christianity is not always as it seems. You have to make the common faith your faith as well. I do think there is a true church and true Christianity. I do not equate it with any denomination but anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord. As much as it is a present reality I see it also as an ideal that we are constantly striving for with Jesus being the ultimate judge of it all.

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