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Who is this man with the shiny pants?

Thanks for dropping by Cognitive Discopants. I must confess that I’m neither a scientist, nor a biblical scholar. I’m a trial lawyer who sometimes wishes he were a scientist or biblical scholar. I seem to spend most of my non-lawyering time gobbling up whatever information I can find on science, biblical studies, theology and the North American evangelical culture.

I was raised in a very traditional setting. Evangelical home, church and school. I thought that I had really examined my faith in my late teens and 20s. In reality, I had just read some apologetics books that answered questions I didn’t even have. Yet I concluded that I had really “questioned my faith and made it my own”.

It wasn’t until I hit my 30s that I began to encounter the outside world in a real way. I began to see that the answers I’d always given for difficult questions were trite, inadequate and sometimes downright wrong. I began to appreciate that the rigorous study done by academics, whether in Christian institutions or secular, was not something to be afraid of. The fruits of their studies consistently provided better and more reliable answers than the ones I’d encountered in the Christian bookstore.

This blog is my way of working through the cognitive dissonance that comes with a search for authentic faith that isn’t afraid to ask questions, revisit cherished assumptions, or embrace truth, no matter where I find it.

-Chris Massey

[Update: As of July 24, 2011, I am now happily married to the love of my life, Katrina. You can follow her photography exploits at her blog: Blue Bottle Photography. You can also ask her to photograph your wedding or family, as we would probably welcome an excuse to travel to you :)]

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49 comments

  1. Hi Chris,
    I just found your blog through a comment you left on Jason Boyett’s last article. I just wanted to find out who in the world came up with the clever blog title, but hung around to look over several of your posts and read your bio. After several years in youth ministry, I recently left my job…in part because of what you have described in your own spiritual journey: ‘I began to see that the answers I’d always given for difficult questions were trite, inadequate and sometimes downright wrong.’ The sadder, more regrettable reality for me is that I not only accepted those answers (despite a deeper gnawing feeling that I wasn’t being honest with myself), but I perpetuated them by feeding them to the middle and high school students I led.
    Part of my current freedom to question came from my marriage to a Hebrew Bible scholar who explores issues similar to yours on his blog. We are expecting our first child and wrestling with the question of how to raise this child, given the fact that we no longer fit in any of the ’round holes’.
    Anyway, that was a lot of personal information just to say that I appreciate your perspective. You are doing an excellent job with your blog – keep it up.
    Grace & Peace,
    Roslyn Cargill


    • Thanks Roslyn,
      I look back at some of the things I once preached and cringe. I’ve misled my fair share of people too. I have similar concerns when it comes to raising kids (which is still a few years away for me). I don’t want to mislead them either, yet I want them to have the same benefits I had growing up within a faith community. I want their faith to be genuine, but honest – not one that has to be deconstructed when they grow up. I think there’s a book waiting to be written for square peg parents.


      • Let me know when it is published! =D


  2. Chris, just saw the comment you made on Jeremy Myers blog about noncanonical materials and biblioblogs. May I ask what you have found to be the best online sources for noncanonical writings which inform the mindsets of those who wrote and read the New Testament?


    • Mike, I wish I had a great source to send you to. But most of what I’ve learned about 2nd Temple non-canonical writings has come from books rather than online. Pretty much every text is available somewhere online, but without some kind of commentary they can be a little obscure. I recently listened to Phil Harland’s podcast series on Jewish apocalyptic literature. It had a couple great sections on the book of 1 Enoch.
      Pete Enns has also done a series over at Biologos in which he considers ancient interpretive traditions as they relate to the Genesis accounts.
      For New Testament stuff, a good catalogue with helpful summaries can be found at http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/


  3. Chris, thanks.

    I only mentioned “online” because you had mentioned “biblioblogs” in your comments to Jeremy.

    Since books have been your primary source, which ones have been of the most benefit to you?


    • Mike, that’s a tough one for me to answer. I haven’t read too many books that dealt exclusively with 2nd temple non-canonical writings. Most of what I’ve read has come in bits and pieces from various locations. The one exception was a book I read on 2nd temple Jewish apocalyptic literature. That was mostly non-canonical content. I borrowed it from a friend, so I’ll have to get back to you with the title. My sense is that books like Enoch, Jubilees and the Maccabees are some of the more influential texts and a good place to start.


      • Thanks, Chris. I’ll look forward to hearing the title of the book you described once you track it down.


      • Mike, I finally re-borrowed it. The book is called, Divine Disclosure: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic, by D.S. Russell


      • Thanks, Chris. Looks like a helpful resource. The Lord bless you.


      • To return the favor I’ll mention a recent volume I’ve been hearing good things about: The Eerdman’s Dictionary of Early Judaism, ed. by John J. Collins and Daniel C. Harlow. It sounds like a comprehensive superset of material that would include apocalyptic literature in its coverage of Judaism 4BC to 2 AD.


      • Mike, that does sound good. From what I understand, John J. Collins is a very well-respected scholar on apocalyptic Judaism and OT studies in general.


  4. Hi Chris.

    Thanks so much for your blog, as 54 year old post evangelical (at least I think that is what I am called now!) I have wrestled for so many years on the dichotomy between scholarship and ill-informed blind faith.

    Best REgards,

    Paul


  5. Hi Chris,

    I discovered your blog recently through a link from rjs at Jesus Creed. In seeking to untangle my theological perspective from fundamentalist / conservative evangelical indoctrination, I appreciate the topics discussed here on your blog. Thanks for writing; it’s been very helpful to me.

    Susan N.


    • Hi Susan, I’m glad you’ve found the blog helpful. I’m untangling things too and I really appreciate the company of others engaged in the same process.


      • Chris (*not* Kevin),

        Oh, do I feel silly… and apologetic.

        So sorry for my mix-up on your name.

        Both names start with the ‘K’ sound?!!

        Sign me,
        ‘Sheepish’


  6. Hmmm, it seems there a large group of former fundamentalist/evangelical Christians “seeking to untangle” their theological perspective”. Count me in that number as well. I’m glad to have stumbled across your blog.


    • Welcome along! Sadly, there are no merit badges for untying knots. πŸ™‚ But it’s still a worthwhile endeavor.


  7. Thanks for this Blog, Chris. I love the emphasis of examining the questions, and although you haven’t said it directly – doing so in the context of a faithful God who is bigger and safer than everything. What a comfort to know that our hope and security are in him, and not in our systems.

    Grace and peace,


    • Thanks David. It’s cathartic just to be able to air my thoughts, but I’m glad that others find benefit in my musings too! Welcome along.


  8. I hope you spend an equal amount of time reading the Bible as you do reading what other people think about the Bible. When you go straight to the source, read it in context, it seems you can make the most accurate of deductions.


  9. Are you on Twitter? Love your posts, found you through the Driscoll-Brierley interview. In general, I appreciate Driscoll. Sometimes, though …

    I’d love to connect with you and your other readers:

    Twitter.com/OwenPaun
    Facebook.com/OwenPaun


    • Hello Owen. Alas, I do not tweet. But definitely do keep in touch here on the blog.


  10. I’m really enjoying your blog, but I’m having a difficult time just browsing… any tips?


    • Hmm, maybe read until you get bored of me? πŸ˜‰ You might want to check out the post Why I Have Difficulty Trusting Christians, which is the most autobiographical post I’ve written. Glad you’re enjoying it.


    • Laura, I’ve just added an Archives widget to the margin. It’s not as user-friendly as I’d like, but it will at least allow you to wander back through all of the old posts. Hope that helps.


  11. Hi Chris.

    I thank God for you. You have the same questions and concerns that I do. Most of my friends are biblical literalists and I can’t talk about these issues with them. You help keep me sane.


    • I know that feeling. I took up blogging precisely because I have precious few friends willing to discuss these issues. Hope you continue to chime in on the dialogue here. We can help keep each other sane.


  12. I recognized your blog as source material in this youtube video of Hitler ranting about Driscoll. Too bad SOPA didn’t pass πŸ™‚


  13. Interesting story. I too was raised in Bible churches, and at 38 I started to realized I had been feeding from a small corner of the trough.

    I am a former attorney that defended insurance companies and employers in Worker’s Compensation cases in IL. At the age of 35 I left to become a private Christian school teacher (Bible and History). I had been contemplating seminary because I too had a number of questions that I wanted to explore. I started an MA in historic theology at Wheaton part-time, and I should complete my degree this spring.

    As a result of my studies I had the aforementioned break through spiritually and intellectually. My wife and I left our church due to concerns about leadership and theological differences; the concerns about leadership drove the decision. I can live with difference in theology. As a result, I no longer teach at their school, and this year I am finishing my degree and taking care of my son.

    Your story resonated with me, so I thought I’d share mine.

    Blessings,

    Ryan


    • Ryan,
      Wow, that’s quite the job change – from insurance litigator to Christian school teacher. What’s next once the degree is done? I practise criminal law predominantly. I’d love to go back to school to pursue some of my interests in more depth. Maybe I’ll have to take a sabbatical one of these years. Thanks for sharing your story.


      • I’ve thought about a PhD to teach at college or find a less fundamentalist school to teach in. We’ll see. I’m sure I’ll blog about it.


  14. I’ve read a few of your posts today and cannot yell “thank you” loud enough…especially on the one about distrusting Christians. I too thought I had thought through my faith in my 20s, but this past year in turning 30 it’s like I’ve finally allowed myself to ask real questions and allow myself to see truth wherever I found it, even if it wasn’t *gasp* predetermined as safe for me by its Christian label.

    I guess all I truly want to say is thank you. I will be back to read more!


    • Chelsie, thanks for commenting. Your encouragement really does mean a lot to me.


  15. Thank you for being brave enough to wrestle with these problems publicly. It is such a relief to feel not-so-alone. I feel alienated from my former faith community, and don’t really know where to turn to. I hate fearing being judged, for being condemned for my “lack of faith.” However, my greatest fear of all is that the God I loved and trusted in my youth is a far cry from the reality (I mean, in a negative sense, as opposed to “He is so much bigger and better than we can ever comprehend…” etc, etc).

    This is a real and painful fear, not born out of a selfish desire to live in defiance of His will (Prodigal Son-style), but from a despair that everything I have been taught is a lie, or at least some distortion of the truth. I am afraid to delve deeper (the way you have done), in part because I am afraid it will strip me of the little faith and comfort I have left. I am terrified of the void that seems waiting to take their place. I also don’t trust my own discernment; I know I am so eager to regain the peace of conviction that I might just “fall” for whatever the first apologist out there serves up to feed my hungry heart (I am also, by nature, particularly trusting and gullible. This does not help.) However, I know from experience that the temporary satisfaction of those “meals” soon fade away, leaving disillusionment and despair in their wake.

    I am also afraid of the punishment (or consequences–however you want to look at it) for my lapse of faith (the stories about the luke warm water being spat out–Revelation 3:16–and the branch not bearing fruit being cut off and tossed into the flames–John 15:1-6– have always haunted me). On the other hand, I am not willing to silence my doubts in the name of faith. I just can’t do it and, more than that, I no longer want to. I don’t see how it serves God, me, or anyone else if I am dishonest with myself.

    Anyway, this has been such a lonely journey; it helps to know someone as thoughtful as yourself has taken one even remotely similar to it. Thanks so much.


    • Crystal, wow, can I relate. Alienation? Check. Fear of being judged? Check. Fear of apostasy? Check. Loneliness on the journey? Check. It’s heart-wrenching reading your story because I know exactly how you feel. But it is great to know that you’re not the only one going through these same things. I hope you stay in touch here on the blog.


      • Thanks for your response, Chris. It really means a lot. I will definitely be staying in touch. I have a lot of questions for you, but I’ll browse around the blog to see if I can find the answers before I start bugging you :0) (I’m only half-kidding).

        Your blog has become a great starting point for important and complicated conversations between my husband and I. I really appreciate the way you can articulate things that I’ve wrestled with for so long in such a clear and honest way. Your writing have definitely helped me crystalize in my own mind what my issues are, and have enabled me to better communicate them to my husband. Also, reading good writing is such a pleasure, especially when you’re trying to wrestle with tricky theological issues–so, kudos and thanks, again!


  16. This morning a friend sent me a link to your thoughtful examination of the interview with Mark Driscoll. What a delight to find your blog. I share your story of reading apologetics books in my 20’s and pretending I had “examined” my faith. A few years later, in seminary, I discovered what my own questions were, and they were certainly not the ones posed in _A Case for Christ_.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts!


  17. My story is similar to yours. Except I ran into the notion that all truth is God’s truth and so we shouldn’t be afraid to look for truth anywhere it’s to be found. I found your blog through a Jay Bakker tweet with a link to your flood post. And then I read every other post you made. I like the way your brain works.

    This probably isn’t original, but i thought i’d say it: the problem isn’t with the square peg *or* the round hole. It’s with the idiot trying to hammer it in. πŸ™‚


    • Hi Dave. Wow, it sounds like you’ve read more of the blog than my wife has! πŸ˜‰ Glad you like it. Keep hammering!


  18. Stumbled upon your blog and could not be more pleased with it (from a lawyer none the less). I have seldom if ever seen the rare coupling of intelligence, depth, and humility coming from a protestant tradition, keep up the good work!


    • Micah, you’re too kind. I’m glad you like the site. You’ve single-handedly encouraged me to keep it going despite a bit of a busy season lately. Thanks for the encouragement.


  19. Chris, this is such valuable work you’re doing. I’m in my 70s, so this kind of questioning isn’t only with you young people. My post-retirement dilemma began with my move to a southern town where the nearest home church for me– the very progressive United Church of Christ (a PK, yet)–is three hours away. I can’t do fundamentalist or even most southern evangelical, so I’m now in an Episcopal church, where focus on liturgy and the Nicene creed has forced me to confront the differences between my Christian beliefs and most doctrine. What it comes down to is that I’m having to define the cognitive dissonances between my deeply held theology and what most of your readers (and I assume you) would consider “true” or at least orthodox Christianity. So many of the questions and issues are the same, but we’re coming at them from opposite directions.,

    Your flood material is brilliant; I’m using it this summer in a Bible study group (yes, a Progressive Bible study ). Also, I’ll be quoting your hell post when I do a conference presentation this summer about distressing near-death experiences. You do get around! (See my blog, dancingpastthedark.com)

    If you haven’t already discovered them, I strongly recommend the blogs Experimental Theology (Richard Beck), p.ost (Andrew Perriman), and Rachel Held Evans. Fascinating stuff.

    Again, many thanks for the cognitive resonances.


    • Nan, thank you so much for the encouragement. It’s interesting that you mention the Nicene creed. I’ve been reading one book after another lately about that period in church history and have been left with a rather uneasy feeling about the way in which “orthodox Christianity” was determined. A blog post for the future, perhaps. I’m a big fan of Perriman and Evans! I also check in on Richard Beck from time to time too. All thoughtful stuff. Thanks again.


  20. Hi, Chris,
    I was given your blog by my cousin. I, too, am an attorney. I was raised liberal Methodist, and then around age 33 got “saved” in the evangelical sense. Slowly over 7 years, I became evangelical Bible Christian. When that was challenged, I went to seminary for a year or two. In the process, I became even more disenchanted, struggling with why there didn’t seem to be one Truth among Christians.
    Finally, after much research and prayer, I became Catholic. The research and Truth continue to line up 11 years later. History, travel, logic, art, Bible, ethics, everything point to the Catholic church for me. I am finally at peace with the fact that Jesus set up His Church, and is guiding it still. My evangelical friends tried to convert me back and then distanced themselves. My family of origin isn’t approving.
    I haven’t read all of your blog, as I am finishing raising kids, and have little time, but I thought I’d leave this post. My cousin is still searching, too.
    May God bless you on your journey.


    • Holly, I’m glad you found your way here. I can certainly relate to the disenchantment. It’s great that you’ve found a way through all that. It’s a shame that Christians draw their circles so small.


  21. Are you still blogging? Really like your stuff! Blessings!



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