Many of us read the Bible, but how many of us do our best thinking when we read it? In this series, author and philosopher Jack Pelham seeks to use the very best thinking methods to interpret the Bible, so as to avoid the cognitive errors shown in the Bible and in cognitive science as well. For example, where Jesus said, "Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment," a cognitive scientist might say the same thing like this: "You need to decouple from your focal bias and look at ALL the evidence, so that you can draw a conclusion that jibes with reality." And so we re-examine the Bible in an attempt to get right what is so frequently gotten wrong.
The episode formats vary between solo-lecturer (Jack Pelham) presentations and family discussions with Jack's wife, Kay, and son, James. The solo episodes have episode-specific show notes on the web page that bears each episode.
Episode 33: Understanding Baptism: Part A: John’s Baptism
DESCRIPTION: Jack begins the exploration of baptism, starting with John’s baptism. There seem to be four types of baptism discussed in the New Testament: John’s baptism, baptism into Jesus’ name, baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the metaphorical use of “baptism” by Jesus to describe the ordeal he was to undergo.
Scriptures Used in this Episode?
1 Timothy 4:16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Matthew 3:1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,
Matthew 3:6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
Mark 1:4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Mark 1:5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
Luke 3:3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan,
Episode 34: Authentic Faith Will Swim Against the Tide
DESCRIPTION: In this lengthy episode, Jack discusses the gradient of faith that exists between mere mental assent to the statement that “Jesus is Lord”, and the opposite extreme at which someone is fully persuaded that the Image of God is good, and wholeheartedly invests him- or herself to living in that Image. He tells several stories about his own experience in the churches and his journey in trying to understand the Bible in a way that makes good sense—and that maps accurately onto what can be observed in the real world.
Resources for this Episode
Definition of faith (noun) at blueletterbible.org
Definition of faith/believe (verb) at blueletterbible.org
Episode 35: Would You Approve of How Jesus Would Run His Kingdom?
DESCRIPTION: Throughout the history of humankind, there have been several distinct phases in how God has run things on the Earth. And every human is born into just one of these periods, and our lives rarely span across more than one or two of them at the most. But what if we don’t like what time it is? What if we would rather it be some other time? How docile are we in regard to all this? How open-minded?
Citations in this Episode
Some of his old joys had to go. Reagan could no longer ride his favorite horse. Nancy asked Reagan’s Secret Service man, John Barletta, to deliver the news. “I said, ‘I don’t think we should ride anymore’,” Barletta recalled. “By this time, there’s tears coming down his cheeks. And all he said, in his time of need, was, ‘It’s OK, John.’ I know he was trying to make me feel better.”https://www.newsweek.
Episode 36: Jack’s Considerations for Good Bible Study, Part A
DESCRIPTION: Jack discusses several ideas about what makes for good Bible study attitudes and techniques. It ends with a discussion of how having a high IQ (Intelligence Quotient) is not necessary for good Bible study, where having a high RQ (Rationality Quotient) is.
* Good Bible study should be done with a mental attitude of honesty, rationality, and responsibility. If you don’t want to know what the Bible really means, then what’s the point in studying it? To mislead yourself—and others?* It’s an exercise in decoupling from your own training, understandings, traditions, assumptions, wishes, attitudes, and moods, so as to seek to understand what the authors meant to convey and even why they meant to convey it.* Understand that they are going to mention things that their original audiences probably understood, but that YOU won’t understand. (E.g., Paul’s mention of “the third heaven” in 2 Corinthians 12:2) If you don’t track these things down, you are deciding to settle for a limited understanding of what you’re reading.* The Bible doesn’t explain everything it mentions.
Episode 37: Jack’s Considerations for Good Bible Study, Part B
DESCRIPTION: Jack continues discussing several ideas about what makes for good Bible study attitudes and techniques. It ends with a discussion of how having a high IQ (Intelligence Quotient) is not necessary for good Bible study, where having a high RQ (Rationality Quotient) is.
Jack’s Points (continued from Episode 36)
23. The (Protestant) Bible has over 31,000 verses across 66 books, some of which are themselves comprised of more than one document. It has nearly ¾ of a million words. You can read it again and again in your life, but you will never finished studying it if you’re the sort to want to understand everything in it as completely the author understood it—or further, as completely as God himself understood it.
24. If you are like most people, coming to an accurate and non-biased understanding of what a passage means will require that you keep shooing away the question “What does this mean to me?” so that you can maintain a sufficient focus on “What did the author mean?” Mature people can get good at this, but only through constant self-discipline.
Episode 38: Recommending an Interview with Dr. John Walton at BibleProject.org
DESCRIPTION: Jack discusses various things, including a great and relevant interview The Bible Project did with Dr. John Walton, regarding interpretations of Genesis 1. Jack mentions the Jack, Anne, and George Problem (Hector Levesque) from Cognitive Science, and how it has such a crucial lesson for us with Bible study. (The lesson is to consider all the possibilities before giving a final answer.)
This episode recommends that you go listen to an interview that Tim Mackie and Jon Collins of The Bible Project did with Dr. John Walton, author of several books, including The Lost World series. The interview can be found at the link below:
Ancient Cosmology • Episode 6 Genesis 1-2: Origins or Identity?