Because of the quirkinesses of geography and circumstance my television shows me Cleveland Browns professional football games on Sunday, even though I live in Oklahoma. Presumably I get to watch Cleveland’s inconsistencies on the grid iron due to the fact that their quarterback Baker Mayfield was a collegiate star at the University of Oklahoma. The assumption is that perhaps we in Oklahoma have more of a fierce loyalty to individual players than we do a desire to watch competitive games. In their defense, the Browns aren’t all that bad this year. The Dallas Cowboys are far worse. Whose games we are also forced to watch with regularity. I guess this has to do with their geographical proximity to Oklahoma? I wonder if my Louisiana friends are forced to watch Cincinnati Bengals games because former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is currently leading their offense?
This made me think of how much of my life has been lived and experienced because of forces out of my control? What if I had grown up just a few miles closer to Little Rock instead of Memphis? Would my life be dramatically different? Or even discernibly so? What if I would have grown up Baptist instead of Pentecostal? Would my life’s direction somehow have inverted itself? Would I now be a professor at a Pentecostal University lamenting the negative impacts of the priesthood of the believer and the Baptist Hymnal on my formative years? Or would my politics have migrated right after being left for so many years? The possibilities are endless and I think we all engage in this kind of self reflection from time to time and even trifle on the edge of regret for longer than necessary because we like to think that our experiences are unique to the human condition. But we all suffer. We all have seasons of regret. We all meander and vacillate due to chance or choice, everywhere we go there we are.
This impacts my belief systems and values as well. I concede to all that I have changed significantly in the past two decades from the person I was in my youth. In both quality and quantity my views have evolved as well as what I prioritize and value. I am a Christian, but very differently defined compared to what I would have said twenty-five years ago.
So for those that are wondering, here is the best I can do articulating my current theological perspective. I believe that being a Christian means to accept by giving full mental assent to the historical claims of Jesus. That He lived, died, and rose again and that this has implications for my life. Implications that are lived out over time through human experiences which are probably random and familiar to all of us but are given meaning by the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of Scripture. The mental assent informs the emotions and shapes the will over time and isn’t without doubt, fears, or seasons of uncertainty. In fact, in my experience, most of the Christin life is marked by uncertainty. The Christian life is marked by acceptance of our falseness and His holiness, and that in all of our imperfections we are fully known and loved. God accepts the knowledge of us just as we accept the knowledge of Him. All of the risk and uncertainties are assumed by both parties without condition.
I could certainly give you a more theological astute answer with Scriptural proof texts, but for those of you who may object to biblical authority that may present problems for you. And my intention isn’t to prove the validity of Scripture, there are those far more qualified who may attempt to do those things, my point is to share that much of who I am has been conditioned by my experiences so far, and this helps me to make sense of the where I am going, even though it isn’t a straight line.
I read this morning, “[Christ] came not to debase the coinage current, but to put a totally new currency into circulation. Before Him, reality was monochromatic: its image is the slave, the monolith, the monotonous pasture. After Him, truth is dual, alternating, riddled: its image is the chessboard, tilled fields, Byzantine tessellation, Romanesque zigzag, Siennese striping, and the medieval fool’s motley. Christ stands in another light, and His magnificent blitheness, His scorn of all the self-protecting contracts that bind men to the earth, is the shadow of another sun, a shadow brighter than worldly light; by contrast our sunshine burns at His feet blacker than tar.” (A month of Sundays by John Updike)
For those of you who wonder about such things as to why you only get to see certain National Football League games in your hometown, or why you have a certain bent theologically, sociologically, or politically, I hope that my musings will bring you a bit of comfort. There is nothing certain in this life and certainty shouldn’t be a prerequisite to feeling loved by God. Just accept it and keep moving forward.