Receiving Dante: An Interview with Nathan P. Gilmour of The Christian Humanist Podcast

When asked what book or books have left an impression on me I often refer to a book given as a gift. Jimmy gave me a copy of The Divine Conspiracy in the late 1990’s. To this day the idea of intentional formation looms large in by my own life and ministry. Much of that depended on how I received the text, the book.

Receiving the Text

When Pastors and people, scholars and us regular types, talk about reading the Bible we may need to consider the way we receive the Text. Tom Long, in his book Preaching and the Literary Forms of the Bible, points to the necessity of determining the type of literature, the genre, one is reading. Interpreting and preaching from the Psalms is very different than preaching from Exodus. The two books represent two of the types of literature found in the Scriptures. We could press the matter further and suggest that preaching Proverbs, like Psalms, is helped by familiarity with Hebrew Poetry. To apply the rules of, say, American Poetry to the Psalms leaves many of us scratching our heads.

Enter Nathan P. Gilmour. In our recent conversation Nathan describes the need to receive the Text as it was given. Some may refer describe this as getting the context correct. It is very much part of a method of interpretation, of hermeneutics. Listen carefully as Nathan unpacks what he means by receiving the Text. It will be helpful to anyone who reads the Scriptures.

Dante, Really?

If Nathan helps us learn to receive the Text, he also considers other texts equally important to receive. I thought I had left Dante behind in Western Civ. Imagine the look on my face when during a conversation over breakfast Nathan mentions his love for Dante. One should expect that from an English professor. But, our context was not English. “Everything comes back to Dante for me.”

I was looking for the exit. I remember Dr. Watson walking us through Dante and immediately understood Pergatorio! I passed Civ and rarely have given thought to the Italian Philosopher-Poet. That is until Nathan resurrected him from the depths of my educational memory.

What I came away with was an appreciate I wished I had understood all those years ago. It is not that Dr. Watson missed in communicating the value. It is that I, like others, viewed Civ as this daunting gauntlet to be survived as much as learned from.

I now consider in our brief conversations that Dante may have been ahead of his time in the description not of the afterlife but of human experience. Listen carefully as Nathan points out how easy it might be to miss that Dante escaped the Inferno. If he did, then does it make sense to interpret The Divine Comedy literally?

Humanists Value Humans

The title of Nathan and his associates may trigger certain visceral responses if you take it as some sort of culture warring metaphor. But, it is not that way. A better way to view the way Gilmour utilizes Humanist is in much the same way John Piper used Hedonist in Desiring God where he describes what it is to be a Christian Hedonist.

I recommend you check out The Christian Humanist Podcast, The Christian Humanist Podcast Network and the Christian Humanist Blog. You will not be disappointed.

Here is a bit about my new friend Nathan.

Nathan P. Gilmour:

Nathan Gilmour, Associate Professor, joined Emmanuel College’s English faculty in 2009 and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.

Nathan Gilmour specializes in not having a specialty, having taught courses in English literature, writing, Greek philosophy, Biblical studies, Roman tragedy, Russian novels, theology, and most recently rhetorical theory.  Soon he will add Old English to the list of things he’s taught.

His dissertation, Ethical Succession: Theological Movement in English Renaissance Literature, explores the connections between succession stories in 16th- and 17th-century English literature and the questions of free will, depravity, and the possibility of virtuous pagans in Reformation theology and demonstrates that the poets’ moves anticipate late-modern Radical Orthodox and postliberal Christian theology.  Among his current projects are a book on rhetoric and theology geared for Christian college professors and a novel with King Saul of 1 Samuel as its protagonist.

Nathan is the lucky husband of Mary Gilmour and proud papa of Micah and Miriam Gilmour.

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About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.