And I do owe David Kelsey, because the more and more I think about this notion of eccentricity the more and more connections I see, connections that go beyond my treatment in The Slavery of Death. I've come to think that eccentricity is a hugely potent and explanatory idea.
So what I'd like to do is share some posts about "Eccentric Christianity," showing some connections between eccentricity and other theological and biblical concepts. The ideas themselves won't be novel, what will be novel (and I hope illuminating) will be how all these disparate ideas find themselves under the umbrella of eccentricity.
But before getting to the theologically heavy stuff, let's begin this series with a comment regarding the definitional playfulness of the word "eccentric."
The word eccentric comes from the Greek combination of ek (out of) and kentron (center), with ekkentros meaning "out of center." In the late Middle Ages this term--eccentric--was mainly an astronomical term describing orbital systems where the earth was not placed at the center. Thus, Copernicus' theory was "eccentric," the earth was displaced from the center of the solar system.
So the earliest idea of eccentricity was astronomical in nature. And this is the idea at the heart of David Kelsey's analysis, the one I borrow and combine with ideas of Arthur McGill in The Slavery of Death to describe a vision of Christian identity formation. That is, using the astronomical metaphor, an eccentric identity is an identity where the focal point of the self is shifted away from the center. The ego, in a kind of Copernican Revolution, is displaced from the center and moved to the periphery. The self is displaced being the "center of the universe" so that it may orbit God.
A related notion is how eccentric describes "a location elsewhere than at the geometrical center." The notion here is less orbital and more geometrical. Eccentric is the area outside--eccentric to--the center. This is the main metaphor we'll be working with, the notion that something eccentric is "outside" the boundaries we create.
These, then, are the geometrical metaphors we'll be playing with. But the charm of the word eccentric is how it has normative and behavioral connotations as well. As we all know, people can be eccentric, a bit "off center," with the "center" being some cultural or behavioral norm. Thus the definitions of eccentric as "tending to act in strange or unusual ways," "deviating from an established or usual pattern or style," and