My Dark Glass
I have elsewhere called myself “a universalist calvinist postmodern Christian absurdist.” This is both a sincere, best-effort description of where my head is at, and a joke at my own expense — a joke because, even though it all does kind of hang together in my head, it’s very possible that I am just a very confused person.
But it does all hang together in my head, at least as of this moment. Let me take them in reverse order:
- In philosophy, absurdity is when you continue to expore the world for meaning even when you realize it is unlikely that it exists and impossible you can ever know you have found it. Skepticism has been a big problem for me; when it comes right down to it, I don’t have much faith in my ability to know anything for sure. (I say problem because it hasn’t made me a happier person.) Nonetheless, I also can’t rid myself of curiosity or interest in life and have a desire to make the best of my conscious experience.
- I grew up as a Christian, a very fervent one: I would describe my whole childhood through early adulthood as a continuous experience of conversion. I can never discount how thoroughly my experience of Christianity pervades my lens of the world: my understanding of God/love, of morality, of humanity. Right now I have a much more loose understanding of what being a Christian means — an understanding so loose, in fact, that I’m not sure many other Christians would call me a Christian. This is why I hesitate to say I am still Christian. But I can’t be honest and call myself not Christian, either.
- This probably follows from absurdist, but I tack it on because there are lessons in postmodernism that have been helpful to me as a Christian: namely, admitting to myself how little I really know, and giving up the modernist idea of faith as an exercise in logical argument or forensic study. It means admitting that in practice it’s difficult or impossible to distinguish “God” the personal being from “God” the communal imagination, while allowing that both may exist. I wrote a bit more about what it means to be a postmodern Christian in the post We Fishes.
- Here I’m perhaps trying to get a rise out of people, by way of contrast with the other stuff. It’s a sloppy way to refer to my views on free will and fate. The short version: whether we have free will depends on how you define it, but predestination is real, unavoidable, potentially uplifting, and even kind of obvious. I say I’m using it sloppily, because although I have been influenced by Calvinist preachers, I have never studied John Calvin (and have no interest in doing so). So, to a theologian, I am probably evoking doctrinal concepts on a level of detail that I myself have not studied. Probably I would be better off saying I’m a determinist. But determinism has special implications in a Christian framework that I’m just more attuned to, so I throw around lowercase-c ‘calvinist’ instead. (‘Reformed’ is maybe another way to go here.)
- This is a minor one in the scheme of things, but I hold that if the Christian God is real, then I think it’s at least possible, and even likely, that eventually all will be saved. I can’t know for sure, obviously. I also think universalism is a pretty natural next-step from Calvinism, so all of you anti-Calvinists who are horrified of universalism now have another good reason to be horrified of Calvinism too.
The sheer inelegance of the way all this hangs together does not sit well with me.
I truly enjoy the thought of someone breaking down all my arguments and freeing me of my errors, but experience has also taught me this: the constellation of circumstances (time, energy, frame of mind etc.) it will take for that to happen is beyond my — and your — ability to orchestrate. Even assuming it’s possible (which, maybe!). I like to think that if it ever does happen, both parties will be happily and honestly shocked.
Anyways, there, that’s all cleared up now.