Brain hemispheres, ministry and biblical interpretation

By David Phillips

I love the brain. The three pound organ that controls everything we see, feel, think, hear, and understand is a masterpiece of creation. The typical brain consists of some 100 billion cells, each of which connects and communicates with up to 10,000 of its colleagues. Together they forge an elaborate network of some one quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000) connections that guides how we talk, eat, breathe, and move. It’s absolutely amazing!

When I did my doctoral work, I focused on emerging research on the brain, concepts such as neuroplasticity. But one area of the brain I did not consider was the impact of brain hemispheres. The brain has a right and left hemisphere that does not immediately affect behavior, but I believe it does affect understanding and interpretation of information.

Let me note, first, that when I speak of the activities and specializations of each side of the brain, I am not suggesting that one side shuts down and the other controls everything. Both halves play a role in everything we do and how we understand the world. It’s not either/or.

But before I get to how this can impact the church, let’s first look at what we know about the two sides of the brain.

1. The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body; the right hemisphere controls the left side of the body. For instance, turn your head slowly to the left. The right side of your brain largely guided that maneuver. If you turn your head slowly to the right, the left hemisphere controlled that action.

Is this important to the church? Think about how you read. In Western languages, reading and writing involve turning the head from left to right. This action is controlled by the left hemisphere. Written language, invented by the Greeks around 550 B.C.E., has helped reinforce …read more

Read more here: Faith in a Post-Everything Culture


David has been a systems thinker most of his life. He has started three businesses as well as designed and developed systems and processes in existing organizations. He has a Doctorate in Leadership and has also done additional post-graduate work in communications.

He has also pastored 3 churches and loves to think about, write about and podcast about scripture, theology, and leadership.

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