About me

March 27th, 2014
by Chris

This is a companion to the “About” page, which is about the blog.

I’m English, born in 1953, married for well over 30 years and the father of one son and one daughter. After trying to be “Renaissance man” and taking what was then a silly number of A levels, I elected to do a degree in Physics at Durham University, rather than History (which would have been the logical choice as I was actually better at History), on the naive reasoning that it was the more practical option.

After a brief flirtation with joint Physics/Maths, I settled for Theoretical option Physics, but had decided by third year that I probably wouldn’t try to carry on to an academic career, as the areas which interested me most weren’t areas which attracted much grant money. I therefore requalified in Law through the Law Society’s examination system and then spent some 30 years as a Solicitor in private practice. Retiring due to ill health in 2005, I’ve since returned to science in the form of working part time as a researcher in Chemistry and at the same time doing editing and proofreading work for Energion Publications, a publisher of books about Christianity.

Alongside this, I spent nearly 30 years in local politics, largely as a councillor for the Liberals, and then Liberal Democrats, and was for a year mayor of my home town and very briefly a stopgap prospective parliamentary candidate.

I also worked on the staff of The Religion Forum from the 1990s, being very active running the Christianity section there for several years when traffic there was a lot higher. A couple of friends from that forum suggested to my initial consternation that I regarded that as a “pastoral mission”, and I eventually accepted that they were right. For a couple of years in the early 2000’s I was a sporadic guest preacher at a local nondenominational church.

Some of my posts have pictures at the beginning. These are drawn from a set of 78 abstract Tarot designs I painted in the 1970s and 80s.

I don’t much like labels, but regard myself as better aligned with “Progressive” or “Emergent” Christianity than with anything else these days (though I may be somewhat more liberal than most…). I was a mystic and a panentheist at 15, and found out what mysticism and panentheism were a little later, just in time to be reassured that this was actually “normal” for some rather unusual value of “normal”. During my late teens and early 20s I explored a very wide variety of religions and spiritual traditions to try to find a “fit”, eventually settling for working within the Christian vocabulary and concept-structures I had learned in my youth, but being too theologically nonstandard to feel I really fitted into any Christian group available to me until much more recently. I now divide my worship between my local parish churches for traditional liturgy and a large evangelical Anglican church in a nearby city for verve, mission and the opportunity to talk theology a bit.

But I’m a theology and biblical history geek, rather than someone actually trained in those fields. Where I analyse texts and come to conclusions, the main skill I do have and which I deploy is forensics – I have a lot of experience weighing witness statements and finding what is the most likely truth from a set of disparate accounts.

Comments (3)

  • revkindle says:

    I’m wondering, based on your final paragraph, if you think your legal training led you to a “hermeneutic of suspicion”? I find that one of the chief differences between liberal and conservative readers of scripture is that conservatives take a “face-value” approach, and liberals are more suspicious. And, is the hermeneutic of suspicion perhaps too widely applied?

    • Chris says:

      That’s a very reasonable assumption, but in fact I think I adopted a skeptical frame of mind long before training as a lawyer. I might be inclined to blame Sunday School as doing the initial damage – I was a noxiously precocious brat who kept asking questions and not getting satisfactory answers, resulting in a 9 year old evangelical atheist (which must have given my lay preacher father an extremely difficult time…). I then took to science and maths at secondary school like a duck to water, and that definitely engendered an attitude of “let’s see the evidence”, and “how can I repeat this result myself?”. Then, of course, Physics in particular kept telling me to forget what I’d learned previously (particularly about atomic structure) and look at a different way of conceptualising what was happening.

      What the legal training and practice did was actually to convince me that on the whole people don’t lie when giving testimony, but that they’re very frequently honestly mistaken. If they’re not honestly mistaken, it’s still more likely that they are exaggerating than that they are telling bald faced lies. This has led me to treat scripture as an honest account of what the writers’ experience was at the time of writing – though, of course, I don’t assume that that means their accounts are factually accurate. Long before I actually looked up things like cognitive biases, I’d met them in practice.

      Hopefully this somewhat counteracts the “hermaneutic of suspicion”. You can’t, of course, apply it willy nilly to everything, otherwise you’ll probably end up a sollipsist (and I’m reminded of the story about someone speaking to a student of, shall we say, Professor Jones. “Is Jones really a sollipsist?” evokes the answer “Yes, and we take really good care of him, because, you know, if he goes we all go”).

      In practice, I find a strong pragmatist streak works for me – the explanation I have may not be particularly “true”, but if it results in me taking action which works, I can set on one side (bracket out) the questions of “what’s really true” and “what’s really real”. I even, on occasion “act as if” supernatural theism is correct, even though it jars horribly with my most significant and convincing spiritual experience. Usually on Sundays…

  • revkindle says:

    Actually, rather than contradict, I see your explanation as complimenting the hermeneutic. Thanks for your thoughts.

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