In my first post, I admitted to beginning a short series on how I have changed, with those “conversion moments.” Today, I wish to introspectively look at the process by which I became more aware of paradoxes in the faith, and rejected linear logic.
I have ruminated on this blog about how I first encountered Catholic theology as an undergrad. It was in a Catholicism class, um, taught by a liberal/mainline Protestant, when I first came across Augustine’s Confessions. I took every word he said to heart; I recognized (even though I did not know how to describe it at that time) how story-dependent his writing was, i.e., he filtered his own narrative within the larger scope of the Bible, mainly the Psalms in Confessions. It was this encounter with Patristic theology that turned my life upside down. In class, without being taught about the historical context of the Church Mothers and Fathers, I met persons such as Tertullian and Ireneaus. One title I noticed that was given to Christ Jesus in the briefs passages provided to us was the title of God-Man.
I had always recognized Jesus as Lord and Savior as any faithful Baptist would, but I had not truly thought out Jesus as God’s Word made Human. I was focused on the “supernatural” miracles, the cross, the Resurrection, and maybe from time to time, the Return, but these were disconnected from any consideration on God taking on a human body.
As I began to accept the ultimate paradox, A Savior as Fully Human and Fully Divine, my mind began to be opened to what seemed to be a whole new world. My faith gained a more critical perspective, as I looked for ways to think theologically. My search, because of my admiration for Augustine, led me to the Reformers, John Calvin’s teaching through Abraham Kuyper. Politically, I identified more with pro-life Catholic Democrats, while theologically, Neo-calvinist starting during the Christmas break of 2004. I had gained acceptance with a group of friends, who were surprised. What attracted me to Kuyper and Calvin, while I rejected their republican and authoritarian politics, the notion that God’s sovereignty was the priority for theology was a plus.
However, my acceptance of so-called contradictions had opened up a can of worms. In seminary, I was an advocate for Calvinism, and even ruined a game night of fun because someone started a theological fight with me. I remember as if it was like yesterday. The argument was heated, and I remained a loyal Calvinist. I was not persuaded by any arguments after that from my peers or professors. My final paper in Baptist Theology was a display in calvinist theology and polemics, partly out of spite for the professor who had been quite unprofessional in his pedagogy.
Walking the line of paradox and tension did dismantle my calvinism. It was when I decided to take my first black church studies class, Exodus in the Black and Jewish Experience. Being a first year MDiv student, I knew I had to sacrifice everything to pass that class. It was on Monday nights, so I had already given up my favorite show, 24. I brought my readings to TCU basketball and baseball games. Eventually, my hard work paid off. In fact, as I and another student had earned our ways to the top of the class, it came as a surprise when the 2 professors (who jointly taught the course) recommended that my work was a paradigm in what they were looking for. By reading both the Jewish and Black religious text, and comparing themes in their theologies, I had taught myself to further hold ideas in tension, reconciling them without blurring the difference. I began to see Christianity as a religion of Law and Gospel, Love and Liberation, with neither of these ideas being mutually exclusive.
It was through these “conversion experiences” that I converted to a “postmodern” or at least anti-Enlightenment way of thinking.
In a way, you can blame this blog, and my approach to theology, on Augustine!
Oh, the irony.
- How I Have Changed Thus Far:An Introduction (politicaljesus.com)