N.T. Wright is a remarkably insightful man and his theology is like a breath of fresh air. His ability to see past apparent contradictions is especially laudable. There is an excellent discussion going on now on his Gifford Lectures which I strongly recommend.
Listening to the first one sent me searching to see if he has ever cited Iain McGilchrist or held a public discussion with him. Alas not that I could discover. However I did find this very interesting article by someone aware of both their work which I am finding interesting as some of you would no doubt expect. With the other thread in high gear I will simply park this here and make no great effort elicit discussion until the other thread’s discussion concludes, which I will continue to follow.
As far as I am aware, Wright’s most detailed discussion of right and left brain thinking is found in his inaugural lecture at St Mary’s College in St Andrews: ‘Imagining the Kingdom: Mission and Theology in Early Christianity’. Here is an extended quotation:
One final element of our modern world which has militated against imagining the kingdom in our reading of the gospels, and much else besides, is the triumph of left-brain thinking over right-brain thinking.… [T]he apparently left-brain activities of analysing, calculating and organising have steadily taken charge of our world, squeezing out the apparently right-brain activities of imagination, story-telling, and intuitive thinking, I find it uncannily accurate as a description of our world in general and of biblical scholarship in particular.…
McGilchrist does not refer to the world of biblical scholarship, but the following paragraph jumped out at me as a pretty accurate summary of how the discipline has often gone:
‘We could expect’ (he writes) ‘that there would be a loss of the broader picture, and a substitution of a more narrowly focussed, restricted, but detailed, view of the world, making it perhaps difficult to maintain a coherent overview . . . This in turn would promote the substitution of information, and information gathering, for knowledge, which comes through experience . . . One would expect the left hemisphere to keep doing refining experiments on detail, at which it is exceedingly proficient, but to be correspondingly blind to what is not clear or certain, or cannot be brought into focus right in the middle of the visual field. In fact one would expect a sort of dismissive attitude to anything outside of its limited focus, because the right hemisphere’s take on the whole picture would simply not be available to it.’ (428f.)
…All too often the microscopic analysis of details, vital though it is in its place, has been made to seem an end in itself. ‘Objective facts’ are all the rage, and whether you’re a left-wing hunter of objectivity, determined to disprove the gospels, or a right-wing hunter of objectivity, determined to show that they are after all ‘factual’, you may still be missing the point and losing the plot. Facts are left-brain business; vital in their place, but only part of the whole…. Only when the detailed left-brain analysis can be relocated as the emissary to the right-wing intuition, with its rich world of metaphor, narrative and above all imagination, can the discipline become healthy again.
Wright revisits this theme in Chapter 15 of his immense Paul and the Faithfulness of God, claiming that right-brain thinking has been resurgent in recent years in New Testament theology, especially through the work of Richard Hays. He contends that such right-brain thinking is more alert to the narrative big picture, more attuned to ‘echoes’ within the text, and less inclined to the ‘proof-texting’ readings that are most clearly exemplified by such documents as the Westminster Confession of Faith.