I often find it challenging to know how to describe myself as a christian. On many occasions I have struggled to simply know where to begin. Many of the common labels are so loaded with stereotypes and stigmas that I wonder sometimes if it would be best to just replace them with new ones. Words like “christian,” “evangelical,” “catholic,” “spiritual,” “religious,” “mystic,” and so on have been heavily weighed down with all kinds of religious and cultural and even pejorative meanings that I wonder if using them creates more confusion than clarity.
And yet, I find that the simple and often original meanings of many of these labels do describe my own spiritual views and life quite well. But in order not to be misunderstood and wrongly pigeonholed, I often need to define what these labels mean to me. That said, I would currently describe myself as an evangelical-catholic-contemplative-christian-humanist. And here is my attempt to briefly explain what this somewhat ridiculous jumble of words actually means to me.
As an evangelical, my faith and hope are centred on the simple yet radical gospel (meaning “evangel”) message that Jesus Christ is Lord. I have therefore devoted myself to practically working out the personal, social, and political implications of this good news.
As a catholic, I have great appreciation for the ecumenical diversity that exists within the universal christian church, and my theology and ethics have been influenced by multiple christian traditions. I find being a member of the universal church provides significant breadth to my spiritual life.
As a contemplative, I have a special appreciation for the historic theology, practices, and traditions of christian mystics. I find contemplative teachings and resources provide significant depth to my spiritual life.
As a christian, I have chosen to be a disciple (meaning “student”) of Jesus’ teachings and example. I view this commitment as a lifelong apprenticeship that involves learning to embody his attitudes, behaviours, and character.
As a humanist, I believe that every person, by virtue of being made in the likeness of God, has inherent dignity and worth, and accordingly deserves to live with liberty and mutual-respect alongside their fellow human beings. Furthermore, I believe that Divinity and humanity are meant to coexist in profound integration, as modelled by the God-man, Jesus Christ.
Even though these brief explanations describe some of who I am, my christian spirituality is certainly not limited to these distinctives. For me these are more like significant starting points than hard boundary lines. These distinctives also overlap and interdepend as an integrated whole. Moreover, in the words of Clark Pinnock, “I do not apologize for admitting to being on a pilgrimage in [life and] theology, as if it were in itself some kind of weakness of intelligence or character.” I am grateful that my views and life have changed over the years as I have gradually grown up. And I look forward to continued change as I move along in my pilgrimage.