Gillett & Brims Podcast Episode 21 – How do we interpret the Bible?

Gillett and Brims podcast_21

This week we have part two of Nathanael’s interview with our friend Alex Fry.  Alex is currently working on his Phd in Durham on the Psychology of Religion, having previously got his Masters at Kings College London in Biblical Studies. They wrestle with “hermeneutics” – how do we interpret the ancient text of the Bible today? Enjoy!

For all previous episodes and all information about the podcast check out the podcast page here.


At Your Funeral

They’re not going give a powerpoint presentation looking at how your salary changed over time, complete with a pie chart tracking how your net worth was made up.

The key events of your life will be recounted, but more than anything people will want to talk about the kind of person you were.  Your character.

This is a mixed blessing of course, because we are all to some degree crooked timber.

But here’s the thing disciple, Jesus is committed today to working with you on the painfully slow process of character formation.  He’ll be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters, and he wants us all to share the family traits.  It’s his graceful agenda for us – transformation into his likeness.

Time alone will not do it, but trust in his ways over time, and on that day when you’re in the box, some will smile as they talk about how goodness and mercy increasingly followed you around during your brief walk here.

Today disciple – character over currency.

019 – Stop Stressing

So here’s the thing – stop stressing out about your life. Fretting over how you’ll be filled, obsessing about what’s going to make you happy, continually caressing your craving for contentment – stop it.  Life is way bigger than your own private happiness.  Do some bird watching – yep, spend some serious time staring at sparrows.  They’re not hustling hard, climbing a career ladder, or frantically filling their investment funds yet they are more content then you are – fed and Fathered in fact! You’re worth more than a bird aren’t you? So trust Him. Is all this stress really resulting in greater satisfaction?

Matthew 6:25-27 as part of the SAS project

Discipleship at the level of our smartphones

If it’s not touching here, it’s probably not going deep enough… 10 questions that might spark some thought in this regard:

Would the apps on my phone pass a Philippians 4:8 audit?

Would I be comfortable passing my phone to the person one row in front of me at church, telling them the password, and saying, “hey, have a good look around”?

Do I too often ignore the people actually in front of me, in the service of my phone?

Have I made my smartphone an ally in the ongoing process of the renewal of my mind?

Can I switch this thing off, or am I too deeply dependent upon it?

When was the last time I did actually switch off from it?

Would I be ok with the content of my private messages being broadcast publicly?

Is the way I relate to this device helping, or harming, my prayer life?

Is this device saving me time, or sucking my time?

Am I storing poison on here?

Questions worth having a wrestle with.

Today disciple, do what’s necessary to make your phone your ally in your walk with Jesus.

Who speaks like this?

Wrestling with the words of Jesus week by week, I’m always struck – it would take an enormous amount of faith to believe that these were the ramblings of a mere man, an unhinged, uneducated first century middle eastern peasant in his early thirties. They still represent a massive qualitative step forward to the ethical teachings we have two thousand years later, even in a society that has to some degree been shaped by his words.

Another reason for belief to add to the mix.

Disciple, where else would you go today, when He has the words of eternal life?

The SAS Project

The SAS (Shadow & Shine) Project (of which 018 – Get Really Rich was the latest installment) is for me.

It’s the discipline of taking a commandment of Jesus, and really chewing it over, till I can spit it back out in 100 words.

I want my life to be profoundly shaped by the teachings of the Master, and so this is one tactic I’m using to try and get them through my head, to harass my heart and hopefully shape my soul.

Not a perfect tactic, but good enough to be a blessing.

If it benefits a few others – bonus.

Disciple, what’s your plan today for getting His teachings to actually direct your steps?

Truth doesn’t fear honest investigation

There’s a multitude of factors, experiential, psychological, social etc, that make up my “faith” in Jesus, or “reasons for believing”.  Amongst them are the texts of the Old and New Testaments.

It’s healthy I think to step back every now and again, and ask – ‘is it an intellectually honest act to place my trust in these texts – or is this a bit of flimsy wishful thinking, a psychological crutch?’

From time to time over the years I’ve pressed as hard as I’ve known how to on that question.

All I can testify is that as a 13 year old, a 23 year old and a 33 year old – investigating that question honestly has only served to strengthen my faith.

To take one issue – have we actually got “The New Testament” as originally written? Well, we’ve got, relatively speaking, incredibly early copies for an ancient text, almost unbelievable accuracy across the copies, and a staggering number of these copies. Check out this comparative table:


If you don’t take the New Testament as written, you probably have to construct for yourself a whole different way of looking at history – which for me would require much more of a leap of faith.  With that kind of criteria Caesar’s Gallic Wars are an extremely unlikely fairytale.

Of course, a plethora of manuscripts doesn’t necessarily lead to belief in what they claim – that’s a separate question, which also needs answering. What I’m saying, disciple, is that truth has no fear of being investigated. If you need to settle some questions for yourself – go for it! Do so vigorously and honestly.

Truth tends to come up well during cross examination.


Want more?

A podcast on The reliability of the New Testament.

A blog post on the historicity of Jesus, his death and resurrection.