2019

 

Humans fascinate me.

The universe astounds me.

My mind perplexed me.

I consider myself...

A Professional Amateur

The word "amateur" comes from the root word for "love." So in calling myself a "professional amateur," I am saying two things.

 

First, that I am in the "profession" of "love," that my prime objective in ministry, in consulting, in worship, and in speaking, is to love the people with whom I am serving, and to be in the business of love. My commitment is to create products, services, sermons, media, and teachings that spread and share the full essence of love, agape (αγαπη), ahava (אהבה) and hesed (חסד).

 

Second, I am simply in love with the work that I am doing. It is often thought that an "amateur" is someone who is "inept," or "unskillful." Etymologically speaking, however, an amateur is someone who engages in their work out of a deep love for it (which usually results in high competency). This is not to say that I love everything I do, for we all have inane tasks and mindless "grunt work" that needs to get done. However, the work itself, I love. And, I choose to love it. It's fun, it's engaging, it's challenging, and I desperately hope that my work makes a difference in this world.

 

BONUS: The Hebrew word for work is first found in Genesis 2, where God rests from all his "work" (מלאכה). It not only connotes "creativity," "craft," and "service," it is morphologically similar to the word "angel" (מלאך) which means "messenger" or "sender."

 

 

A Pragmatic Theorist

The process of developing and substantiating theories helps us understand how the world works through a system of ideas. Scientifically, theories are upheld and confirmed by the collection of facts.

 

I consider myself a theorist, in this general sense. I like making sense of the world through various "theories." For example, I theorize that no one really grows up but just gets better at being a Junior Higher, that all adults are really just sophisticated adolescents. Given the number of grown individuals I have encountered who whine, are egocentric, and throw temper tantrums when they don't get their way (especially in politics), I propose my theory to be "confirmed."

 

However, a "pragmatist" is someone who operates and functions realistically, in a practical rather than a theoretical level. In Hellenistic thought, a pragmatist is someone who "relates to the facts" of the matter.

 

So, in calling myself a "pragmatic theorist," I characterize myself as someone who likes to collect data and formulate systems of thought that are practical and applicable to real people, in real-life circumstances and situations. An abstract system of thought must do some good in the world, must make an "on-the-ground" difference.

 

 

A Humanistic Theologian

I have studied theology my entire adult life, first in church, then in bible college, seminary, and independently, just for kicks and giggles. I'll be honest. Much of theology–in my humble opinion–is fantastical, ethereal, and so esoteric (unable to truly be grasped) that it exists solely in the towers of the scholastic elite, the privileged few who have the leisure and arrogant erudition to spend time nuancing the finer details of "god" or "the divine." It is "so heavenly minded," it is really "no earthly good."

 

Theology, in my work, in the rawest sense, ought to be humanistic, a philosophical viewpoint that focuses on the person. It must be meaningful, in the truest sense, for someone's life, identity, purpose, and work. This kind of theology incarnates ideas about God into a love for fellow people.

 

Is there a tension that exists here, between a "theocentric" and "anthropocentric" theology? Absolutely. But a "humanistic theologian" avoids getting lost in the "-centric" debate altogether, and simply asks, "Can't it be both?"

 

 

An Existential Possibilitarian

In short, I believe in "hope."

 

In long-form, there are several psychological postures that determine one's outlook or attitude toward the world, such as, "Scarcity v. Abundance," (Stephen Covey) "Growth v. Fixed Mindset," (Carol Dweck) and "Learned Optimism" (Martin Seligman). I use the word "existential" to describe the base reality of all of these, which is "we exist." Pithier, my muse post sums it up: "We have a glass. Checkmate pessimists."

 

Existence has two main features. One, is "being," (ontology) and two is the movement through the dimension of time (chronology). It is disheartening to me that so many of us use existence to fret about what we are "not" and what has been lost through the passing of time. This enslaves us to the past, and to an ontology that does not exist.

 

But that is not truth. Nor is it helpful.

 

Being an "existential possibilitarian" means being captivated by the reality of existence, and to celebrate it as a gift. It means that the passage of time is not to be lamented, but to be celebrated because in front of us are not yet imagined, unfathomable possibilities that can be realized. We simply must believe.

 

 

A Passionate Ideophile

The Latin word "passio" means "to suffer," usually from "strong emotion" or "desire."

 

For years now, I have loved books, and accordingly, considered myself a bibliophile. Recently, I have decided to change that moniker, because I realized that I don't actually like the physical artifact, or even the art of it as a "bibliophile" would. Rather, I yearn for the content, the knowledge, the wisdom, the insight, the ideas that change the world. Perhaps I should use the word "sophiaphile?"

 

In Platonic thought, an "idea" is the non-physical "form" that represents the most accurate reality. The most common illustration is that the "idea of a chair" is more real than the physical object. Why? If the physical object would cease to exist, the "idea" of a chair would still exist. While I am not fully Platonic in my thinking, the philosophical pursuit of that which most accurately represents reality does describe who I am.

 

The Greek word "ειδος" connotes "seeing" or "comprehending." In this regard, I am passionate about seeing and comprehending the world, in all its fullness.

 

 

An Epistemological Agnostic

This is no doubt the term that gets me into the most trouble, as someone who is a spiritual leader and yet uses the word "agnostic."

 

"Epistemology" is the theory and construct of knowledge and truth. It asks the questions, How do we know what we know? Do we truly "know" anything? What is the nature of that knowledge?

 

The word "agnostic," etymologically speaking, is simply "not knowing," or the "absence" of ultimate knowledge. While some use this word to describe their worldview, that they are uncommitted or doubtful for the affirmation of some proposition, I use it to simply describe the disdain for absolutism and pure objective certitude. We are, after all, subjects who receive knowledge filtered through our own experiences.

 

In many ways, describing myself as an "epistemological agnostic" is simply to express humility. It is to say, my understanding should never be undisputed, my convictions never unquestioned.

 

It is also to say that there is more that I don't know than I do know, and life is about the continued quest to further and advance wisdom and understanding. Epistemological absolutists do not further discovery or pursue more wisdom. May I never be so calcified.

 

An Ontological Cartographer

Ontology is the branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of being and existence. Cartogrphy is the science or practice of drawing maps, a diagrammatic representation that illustrates a spacial arrangement. To map one's nature, being, and existence is to locate it within some sort of framework.

To be an ontological cartographer is to find, create, develop, and curate ways of framing our world that make sense of our existence. This manifests itself in "meaning," or "purpose" and the overall framework is called a "religion." How divine to find meaning in helping others find and identify their sense of meaning.

An Excruciatingly Curious Creature

The opposite of fear is not courage, but curiosity. The opposite of condemnation is not grace, but curiosity. The opposite of shame is not pride, but curiosity. The impulse and intention to understand drive me to wondrous and amazing places. If you're looking for a gift for me, look no further than a gift card for books.

 

I like to party.

 

And by "party," I mean "read books."