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The Table Video

Bruce Hindmarsh

End of Faith as its Beginning: A Christ-Centered Developmental Spirituality

James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology, Regent College
May 10, 2014

Does the pilgrim progress? Bruce Hindmarsh (Regent College) explores the question of progress in the spiritual life of the Christian. How does the spiritual life begin, how does it develop, and how does it come to its proper fulfillment?


Thank you. It’s good to be with you. Sometimes one writes one’s title and one’s abstract as an act of prophecy, and sometimes one is a false prophet. So my title has changed slightly, and my paper has changed slightly. This is a breakout paper for me. I usually write my papers on a historical frame, but I thought it would be more helpful to organize this paper propositionally.

And, so, I think a lot of the propositions that I have to share with you will be more of a reminder of a kind of theological anthropology that should inform the work that we’re doing. But I hope that it’s a helpful reminder. So Christ as the end of faith as it’s beginning. Human development and spiritual formation in theological perspective.

The APA’s Encyclopedia of Psychology closes its article on the history of developmental psychology with this sentence: there is increased awareness that values matter in development, and that science cannot provide these values. It is precisely here where I think the conversation may be joined by those who bring a theological perspective to bear on the development of human persons as spiritual creatures.

There’s a danger, though, if we begin with spiritual formation and developmental psychology as two isomorphic categories. Two preexisting subjects which must somehow be brought into dialogue; correlationist, integrationist, dialogue kind of format. I think there’s a danger that this will not probe deeply enough. In many ways, the view I want to present of the human person is more sacramental all the way through.

Sometimes even these divisions are departmental, aren’t they? The isomorphism was there from the beginning. Developmental psychology has its roots in the observational psychology that followed the trajectories established in the 18th century by John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau at precisely the moment in western thought when efforts were being made to separate religion and ethics. As moral philosophers, we’re looking to ground ethics and human nature as such, apart from divine revelation.

There is great faith on the part of European elites in the possibilities of education to take the young from a point of innocence and a state of nature, like blank slates, and form them towards civilized ideals. In the case of Rousseau, his mature subject, Emile, is led to embrace natural religion rather than revealed religion and the split is, in a sense, complete. So we must recognize the macro context that set the parameters of the discussion, both of the emergent psychology and the pastoralia in the modern period.

The trajectories were largely separate. Developmental psychology would be concerned with intra mundane goods and the enclosed psyche, and the spiritual life would be privatized and compartmentalized as something other than public philosophy or universal science. Indeed, Robert and Beverley Karens go even further in their history of developmental psychology. The goal of many of them, they say, the early developmentalists, was to form a developmental science, which, in its highest application, would supplement or supplant religion. Prior to the ascendancy of mechanical philosophy and empirical science in early modern Europe, there was not this same isomorphism.

In Johann Arndt’s exceedingly popular treatise, True Christianity, 1606, the first three books traced the progress of what we should recognize as the spiritual life. However, the fourth book demonstrates how far we are from Arndt’s world. Since in this section he expounds the way in which the very life of God and the soul of women and men was also the vital force of the material world. The same divine spirit animating both the human and the non-human creation In this pre-Cartesian, pre-Newtonian world, there was as yet no split between observational science and spirituality, between the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.

Charles Wesley is another example. He wrote a splendid poem celebrating the Holy Spirit in similar terms to Arndt as the spirit who was, quote, author of every work divined who doth through both creations shine, the god of nature and of grace. The same spirit whom he invokes in one hymn, saying come, and in me, delight to rest is is in this poem the universal soul. The plastic power that fills the hole and governs air, sea and sky.

And Jonathan Edwards, of course, made this a matter of first philosophy that connected affections that are truly spiritual with a comprehensive metaphysic and natural philosophy of divine presence and relationality. But all of these figures; Ardnt, Wesley, Edwards, were fighting a rear guard action. And increasingly, public science and private piety were separated as alien approaches to understanding human nature. So the fact that we are talking today about two separate fields, spiritual formation and psychology, and that these fields are largely reified, thingified, prior to our conversation, this problem has its roots in this macro context of 17th and 18th century western thought. It was not always so. And it takes some imagination, some imagination, to see it otherwise.

So in this paper I would like to argue, as I say, a set of theological propositions that I think are necessary to remind ourselves of, at this point in history, to reframe the conversation about human development and spiritual development. My central contention is that in order for a developmental psychology to be Christian at its foundations and for spiritual formation to be more deeply human, there must be a vivid appreciation of the end for which humans were created.

From this perspective of final causes, developmental psychology is spiritualized, and spiritual formation is humanized. What God has joined together, let no man put asunder. I have six propositions then concerned to articulate aspects of theological anthropology that I think are relevant here. The first five will speak more to developmental psychology; the last to spiritual formation. First, then, spiritual development ought to be seen as basic to human development, not as simply one more layer in a contextual or systemic developmental psychology, or a bolt-on addition to an evolutionary framework of adaptation, or an aspect of humanistic ego transcendence, or meaning-making.

On the contrary, the human person is spiritual all the way down and all the way up. For the Apostle Paul, the unbeliever, and the believer alike are ensouled. [speaking in foreign language] This fundamental reality cannot be ignored at any point in the lifespan. Scripture uses several words and metaphors to communicate the interior mystery and depth dimension of anthropology. The soul, the psuche, the spirit, the heart, even the kidneys and the loins of a person. I don’t think we can or ought to avoid some kind of substance ontology of the soul as we speak about these things, even if human nature is, of course, still always composite and contingent.

But we live because the very breath of God has been breathed into us. We are created in and by the very word of God. So Eugene Peterson writes: most of what makes us human, he says, is God. When we say soul, we are calling attention to the God origins, God intentions, God operations that make us what we are.

And then he continues, pointing to the very different anthropology at work today. In our current culture, soul has given way to self as the term of choice to designate who and what we are. Self is the soul minus God. Self is what is left of the soul with all the transcendence and intimacy squeezed out of it. The self with little or no reference to God, transcendence, or others, intimacy. Like the word soul, the phrase the image of God is a key phrase in any theological anthropology.

The image of God in human persons has been understood variously, and sometimes in a hyper rational way, but it certainly signifies that, at our core, we are persons in relation. We’ve heard much about that already these two days. And especially that we stand always in relation to God as a divine person, even as we stand in relation to human others in the non-human creation.

There is here, also, therefore, a relational ontology of the soul, wherein we remain as creatures, always fundamentally open, and porous to God. Hans Urs von Balthasar describes this beautifully. Man, he says, was created to be a hearer of God’s word. And it is in responding to the word that he attains his true dignity. His innermost constitution has been designed for dialogue.

Man is the creature with a mystery in his heart bigger than himself. And so, when God comes to a man, he does not need to build a temple. The room itself does not need to built. It is already there, and always has been at the very center of man. Again, he writes, the human creature is a perpetual question addressed to God. God is the answer to the question, which I am. How dangerous, therefore, for pastoral ministry or clinical practice today if we work with a shrunken, shriveled anthropology, viewing the people around us merely as enclosed selves, rather than always, at every moment, creatures made in God’s image, and intended for His likeness, able to commune with the God of the universe, meant to share in His eternal glory.

The post-modern context has in the last couple of decades, of course, opened up the human sciences more generally to the importance of spirituality. Though as one of my colleagues has written, the will to self-definition of high modernism has hardly been abandoned. Still, even the very secular DSM has had a V code for a number of years now for flagging problems as having a spiritual or religious dimension.

And so, in this context, there have been many efforts, of course, by Christians, many of them at this conference to study and write about human development from the point of view of a more robust theological anthropology. Doing this from first principles now rather than smuggling it in as contraband. May their tribe increase. Secondly then. A theological anthropology will begin the account of human development earlier, and end it later than is typical for developmental psychologists. Since the human person has pre-natal origins and a post-mortem destiny. Not only are human beings then spiritual top to bottom, they are also spiritual beginning to end. One of the ways the Psalmist, of course, speaks of this is to describe as is under always the loving gaze of God and from before ever we came to be.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the Earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. No matter how far back we stretch our imaginations, to the roots of our being, God has been there first, looking upon us with love. The first of the 10 meditations in Francis De Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life designed to take the spiritual directee from a merely conventional faith to an entire consecration of their whole lives to God.

The first meditation is a meditation on our creation. It seems to me that this is where Christian developmental psychology could begin. Listen to Francis. Consider that a certain number of years ago, you were not yet in the world. And that your present being was truly nothing. My soul, where were you at that time? The world had already existed for a long time. But of us, there was as yet nothing. God has drawn you out of that nothingness to make you what you are, and He has done so solely out of His own goodness and without need of you. Consider the nature God has given you.

It is the highest in this visible world. It is capable of eternal life, of being perfectly united to His divine majesty. And on his meditation goes. This is where both human formation and spiritual formation coincide at their deepest beginning, in the freedom of God to create beings to be blessed with his blessedness. So also with respect to the terminus of human development, which taps out not in idealism, with some kind of vague continuant ideal of universal disinterested virtue, or in the senescence of old age merely, but with a continued post-mortem existence in the presence of God. The long ars moriendi tradition, holy dying, of the medieval and early modern church was predicated on death itself as the last developmental task.

One to prepare for, and one that would introduce a qualitatively new existence. In the prophetic words of Job, I know that my redeemer lives. And that in the end, He will stand on the Earth, and after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh, I will see God. I, myself, will see Him with my own eyes. I, and not another. The Puritan, Richard Baxter, said himself, to meditate with all his powers on this post-mortem developmental stage in his book, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest. 800,000 words; it was a big book, in which he kept before himself and the reader the connection between this life and the life to come, beyond death.

One of his favorite of many ways to describe our eternal rest in God was to refer to the believer’s glorified post-mortem existence as our fruition in God. Note that this is a developmental metaphor. Fruition. Acorn to oak tree. We will return to this concern in a moment, but here I’d simply like to underline that a developmental psychology that takes Christian anthropology seriously will, at least conceptually, begin earlier and end later than the standard textbooks. It will look back to our pre-natal origins in the loving kindness of God, and forward to our post-mortem destiny in glory.

This is finally also a deeply Christological reality, since Christ is in the book of Hebrews the author and finisher, completer of our faith, just as in the book of Revelation, He is the alpha and omega, the first and the last, and therefore, the beginning and end of any series we can imagine. Thirdly, it is basic to a Christian anthropology to recognize the developing human person as a desiring creature fundamentally driven along, carried along by his or her loves. In considering human persons, there is something more basic than the evolutionary model of an organism adapting to its environment, especially if it’s seen primarily in terms of the drive to survive and to reproduce.

More basic to human beings is the inner compulsion to love. There is something more to than the Piagetian conception of the developing mind the child is a little scientist, or of human simply as striving to make meaning. The focus upon the rational part of the personality in the classical developmentalists, including, in many ways, James Fowler on Faith Development, present a view of the human person that is partial here by being hyper-cognitive.

While other models of human development are more rationally focused, and certainly psychoanalytic models, object relations, attachment models strongly emphasize desire. But I think we can reflect more theologically on the drive of the human creature for its creator across the lifespan. The human person was for Augustan, after all, in the image of God in that it is capable of Him, [speaking in foreign language], and can be partaker of him.

This capacity within the finite creature for union with the infinite God constitutes the human person as insatiable. For Gregory of Nyssa, this was a never-ending desire. A thirst of the creature for the creator that is only further intensified every time it is slaked. There is always more of God to know and to desire. Charles Wesley write in the same spirit when he exclaimed in one of his poems, eager for thee, I ask and pant so strong the principal divine carries me out with sweet constraint ’till all all my hallowed soul is thine. Plunged in the Godhead’s deepest sea and lost in thine immensity.

Is there not, then, a longing of the human spirit? A restlessness that drives deeper even in the parent-child bond, or the libido, or the fear of death? The human creature has transcended desires for what Tolkien recognized in Fairy-Stories as a joy beyond the walls of the world, more poignant than grief. The desires for something beyond the walls of this world. While not all persons be able to express this or acknowledge it with the acuity of Augustan in his confessions, or of C.S. Lewis in his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, there is surely a similar story to be told of spiritual exile, spiritual homesickness, and spiritual desire for all human beings.

Augustan’s treatise on Christian doctrine provided a framework for Christian discipleships. Discipleship based entirely on the premise that human beings are constituted essentially by their loves. And concern, therefore, with the developmental task of the just reordering of those loves. In the Biblical tradition, disordered human loves are idolatrous, a violation of the first command, and inevitably, therefore, enslaving, as all idols are.

We become the [speaking in foreign language] curved in upon ourselves rather than open to God and to others. Jonathan Edwards gave an account of the power of a new affection, a new attachment that was the work of the spirit in the heart of the converted believer. Bernard of Clairvaux’s developmental scheme built on Augustan, and it was conceived as four stages in the growth of love, of the transformation of our loves from a natural self-love to a grateful love that responds to the divine self-giving to a disinterested love that begins to adore and worship God for his own sake, as exceedingly beautiful and lovely in himself to an ecstatic bond of love that displaces the ego from time to time and is ultimately eschatological.

Fourthly, basic to Christian anthropology is an appreciation that the goal of human formation, the goal of human formation is glorification in the presence of God. This is to return us to the question of final causes raised earlier with Richard Baxter. The ultimate end for which God created human persons. A recent book on developmental psychology states flatly, psychology does not have the epistemological tools to address issues of teleology, yet few questions are more important in spiritual theology.

In the fourth century, John Kasson began his conferences by asking what is the goal of the spiritual life? He states his answer in different ways, saying that the ultimate goal is the kingdom of God, echoing the Synoptics. That it is eternal life, echoing the fourth gospel. That it is to reach the high point of love. But more than anything else, he comes back to the words of Christ. The pure in heart shall see God. The instrumental, or, if you like, developmental goal is the purification of the heart, and the terminal or ultimate goal is to see the very face of God.

Human persons are created for this end, to be beatified in the presence of their creator. We are made for glory. In our own more secular age, final causes are occluded in the modern preoccupation with instrumental causes and intramundane goods. Modern society assumes the goods of economic prosperity and intimacy in relationships, but beyond this level of material and companionate human flourishing, we have very little to say. And likewise, the model of the organism adapting to its environment yields at best functionalism. But not teleology.

Nothing beyond the language of well-adjusted on the one hand, or dysfunctional on the other. How truly wonderful, then, to contemplate that we are made for glory. This is the Bible word for beauty. God’s own beauty. And in this is the perfection of our nature. In the second century, Irenaeus famously wrote: The glory of God is a man fully alive and the life of man is the vision of God.

And the Psalmists write similarly in the refrain of Psalm 80: Turn us again, O’ God. Convert us. Show us the light of thy countenance. Let us see your face and we shall be whole. The perfection of our nature is to see the face of God. Now that is a developmental goal worth celebrating.

With this end in view, Irenaeus gives the first and most clear outline of human development. Quote, now it was necessary that man should, in the first instance, be created, and having been created, should receive growth. That having received growth, should be strengthened. That having been strengthened, should abound. And having abounded, should recover from the disease of sin.

And having recovered, should be glorified, and being glorified should see his Lord. Christian experience is thus developmental because teleological beginning and ends are linked. First causes and final causes through the anthropology of image and likeness, being created in Christ’s image, and intended for His likeness. The key vocabulary in the New Testament that links final glorification of the human person with their development is the term [speaking foreign language], to be transfigured or transformed.

The transfiguration of Christ is a turning point in all three synoptic gospels, and is linked to Peter’s confession of Christ and the call to discipleship. Anthropologically, the transfiguration event looks back to the Adamic glory of the original human person. And to the final glory of the human person in Christ as the new Adam. The transfiguration is thus amnestic, and adumbrative of the human person.

Even while setting apart Christ as the one upon whom uniquely the [speaking in foreign language] glory rests. This is also the word used by Paul for the transformation of believers who contemplate the Lord’s glory with unveiled face. They are transfigured or transformed by the Spirit into His image from one degree of glory to another. Here the idea is [speaking in foreign language] as developmental transformation of one’s nature and [speaking in foreign language] as transfiguration and glory are fused.

The Christian is intended to become no less than a divinized human person transfigured by the presence of God living in union with Christ and filled with the Spirit of God. The pure in heart shall finally see God. And we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves just as he is pure. The vision of God is that for which all women and men were created. It is the proper end of their nature. And so development in these terms is a matter of beatification.

C.S. Lewis wrote about this in his famous sermon, The Weight of Glory. But he also spoke about the stark alternative in that the very human nature capable of glory may also choose its own damnation. Human development is therefore, in this perspective, a matter of grave moral seriousness. He ended his reflections on human glorification with a reminder of this solemnity. It is a serious thing, he said, to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest, most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you’d be strongly tempted to worship or else a horror and a corruption such as if you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are in some degree helping each other to one or other of these destinations. Fifthly, the growth of a Christian in his or her discipleship is analogous but not coincident with the stages of human development from infancy to old age.

The analogy between spiritual growth and the biopsychosocial development of the human person was there already in Irenaeus, but it is perhaps most clearly developed in Aquinas, and in his later 20th century interpreter, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, in his opus, The Three Ages of the Interior Life.

Drawing on the precedent in Aquinas, infusing this with the teaching of John of the Cross, Garrigou-Legrange saw a correlation between the three stages of childhood, adolescence and adulthood and those of the spiritual, beginner, proficient and perfect following the classical model of the path of purgation, illumination and union. There are three corresponding conversions. Beginners are preoccupied with repentance as a first conversion, just as the disciples were called to leave everything in childlike obedience to follow Christ, so it is with beginners.

But there follows in due time the need for a second conversion, which is like the crisis of adolescence in which the disciple must continue faithful in the absence of sensible consolation. The middle conversion has its parallel in the experience of Simon Peter during the dark night of the Passion, during which he denied Christ, repented, and was reestablished. But as the adolescent transitions to the freedom and responsibility of adult commitments, so in the spiritual life, one is called to a third conversion of the spirit to an utter transparency to grace in the absence of all spiritual consolation.

This is like the period between the Ascension and Pentecost when the disciples continued through a kind of desolation, enduring the physical absence of Christ until a fiery Pentecost of grace consumed them entirely. As another writer says, it is first the experience of baptismal grace, followed by a strengthening eucharistic grace, which is finally fulfilled in a charismatic grace. Other writers have developed this analogy between spiritual growth and human development, but I think we are right still to see these two lines as distinct. The line from biological birth to death and the line from spiritual conversion to spiritual maturity. These lines are analogous but not coincident. This is the meaning, I think, of Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in John 3. Flesh gives birth to flesh but spirit gives birth to spirit.

The biological development of human life is constrained in a way that the spiritual life is not. Even higher levels of human experience, while still constrained, become ever more complex and undetermined. And the more so as we approach the intellectual, emotional, and social, and other dimensions of the mystery of human life. As Michael Polanyi argued in his little book, The Study of Man, there is an increasingly rich and complex relationship to the object of study as one rises from the hard sciences to the study of another human person, face-to-face in history.

This seems to be something appreciated as developmental psychology has moved beyond nature, nurture, debates, and the maturationist/environmentalist polarities to emphasize more complex, contextual and systems-oriented models of human development and to reckon with the evidence of neuroplasticity across the lifespan. There is less danger now of reductionism, but a new danger, perhaps, of the incoherence of micro-narratives and the loss of universals. The basis for human freedom in theological terms derives from God’s own freedom.

God relates to His human creatures not out of necessity, but in the freedom of a divine person, and His word is always there for fresh and new. Balthazar makes the point that one of the reasons we need to be attentive to God’s word is that He might say something today that He did not say yesterday. This is also the meaning of divine election. It is possible, Balthazar says, for us to hear the word of God, because God’s world stands open to us as a miracle of the Father’s utterly free love. Every day it should astonish us anew. A whole world of love mysteries opens up to us, and this is because of the miracle of His merciful election. What corresponds to this in the human creature is an answering freedom.

The response to blessing is [speaking in foreign language], a boldness of approach in the freedom and dignity of human persons. This is very different than a linear, locked-in, one-size-fits-all escalator of spiritual development or a natural mysticism of ascent by naturalization of the soul. The purgation, illumination, union scheme that early Christians took up from Platonism had to be adapted in precisely this more personal and free direction as we find in Bonaventure’s treatise on the kindling of love.

Although there is a shape to Christian life, I sense a beginning, middle and end, there is a uniqueness to every human itinerary, and to the free response of each human person to God’s own freedom. I love the moment when the character, John, in C.S. Lewis’s allegory, The Pilgrim’s Regress, looks back on his journey. His circuitous journey north and south and around the Earth from east to west and across the chasm of conversion. His guide reassures him about the divine landlord’s providence and says you may be sure that the landlord has brought you by the shortest wave, although I confess it would look like an odd journey on a map.

Sixthly, and finally, and more briefly, the progress of a Christian toward maturity involves the sort of deepening experience of relationships with others, with creation, with oneself and with God that constitutes the flourishing of a human person or human persons more generally. Becoming more deeply Christian means becoming more deeply human. The spirituality of the early church, east and west, and of the Middle Ages was always in danger here, I think, of losing the individual, subsuming him or her into larger patterns of assent to God, along the lines of the Exitus-Reditus scheme.

It is not the case that the soul is somehow naturally divine and naturally returns to its source where then it simply participates in a cosmic procession and return of all things to God. Our assent to God is not the return of the soul to an original unitive state, but it is communion with a person. With a person of Christ. Christ is the beginning, middle and end, and our assent takes place only in personal communion with Him.

Recovery of the dynamic of spiritual formation is a matter of personal communion with Christ by the Spirit returns us to our humanity, resisting the Gnosticizing tendency to see spirituality as a matter of the isolated individual or of a spiritualism that abandons our humanness. Let me skip down here a little bit. I think the disciplined observation and attention of psychologist to human development across the lifespan can only enrich our perception of God’s work in human persons.

What is God doing in this person’s life in the whole of their life here and now at this time? Love always notices details in the beloved. And so, as in the Franciscan tradition in which science first arose, love closely attends to the particulars, and this humanizes spirituality, especially where there is a danger of flight. Flight to abstraction, flight to isolation, or flight to discarnate assent. In the end, a robust anthropology will see a union between human development and spiritual development.

I conclude with a joyful exhortation of John Paul II in this respect. Human formation, he says, when it is carried out in the context of an anthropology which is open to the full truth regarding the human person leads to and finds its completion in spiritual formation. Every human being, as God’s creature who has been redeemed by Christ’s blood, is called to be reborn of water and the Spirit, and to become a son in the Son. In this wonderful plan of God is to be found the basis of the essentially religious dimension of the human person. The human individual is open to transcendence, to the absolute; he has a heart which is restless until it finds its rest in the Lord. Thank you. [audience applauding]

Moderator: So we have some time for questions, so if anyone has a question.

Man In Audience: I have a quick one. Did you repeat Francis II and what did he write?

Francis De Sale’s Introduction to the Devote Life.

Man In Audience: Thank you.

It’s a series of 10 meditations. I’ve done them with my students, and they’re wonderful. And it engages the imagination in the Ignation sense or the composition of place. It’s a serious engagement of the imagination with a series of doctrinal mysteries in the way that Ignatius engaged the Biblical text with the imagination.


Man In Audience: Thank you, that was wonderful. At the beginning of your talk, you said that there would be a need to, if I’m remembering correctly, to spiritualize development, but also to humanize spirituality as well. Can you give an example, perhaps, of some things in developmental psychology that you see as a way of, some more examples of contemporary developmental theory on how it humanizes spiritual formation?

Yeah. And that was the section I mostly skipped over at the end. But I worked in youth ministry with Youth for Christ for a number of years in Winnipeg and I think just reading about adolescent development allows one to pay attention. To pay attention. And so, I think all of the good research that’s being done, all of the, I think, some of the research we’ve heard from already this weekend.

I see it as a form of paying attention and a form of paying attention to particulars. I think in the tradition, there isn’t a huge, I mean, it’s late that it emerges, even this sort of developmental sense. The sense that children aren’t just little adults, and so on. And so, I think a lot of the kind of sources I’m quoting from don’t highly differentiate that way, so I think attention to the lifespan studies to developmental psychology is a way that we do not in spiritual formation simply expect people abstractly to conform to abstract patterns, but it’s a way of paying attention.

[Woman In Audience] Thank you. I thought that was excellent. I loved it. One of the directions I was thinking about just to follow up on this question. Yes. Was I was curious if you’ve thought about the implications of humanizing spiritual formation and spiritualizing human development in terms of identity? It seems to me an obvious direction to take this because I think each of the fields can inform each other better, not that I wanna say they’re separate.

Yeah. I’m sorry, I’m not sure I quite understood the question. Is it similar to Bill’s question about the humanizing of spiritual formation?

[Woman In Audience] And thinking in particular about identity triggered by your experience in working with teenagers.

Oh, yes, yeah, yeah. No, for sure, thank you. Yeah.

Man In Audience: Yeah, I had a question of, you know, if human development is spiritually implicated, so when we look at then the spiritual development of a child, let’s say even ages infant to two or maybe three, would we say that something like object relations, psychology or Rizzuto or attachment theory, are they kind of explicating what that spiritual development will be in terms of attachment through relationship to the parents, or is there something that will be uniquely spiritual?

Something that’s kind of in our tradition that would add to that. As we think of helping to develop that child and develop their spirituality even, you know, this is pre-linguistic. ‘Cause some psychologists will say, well, it looks like object relations are on Rizzuto that they’re cashing out everything that is really ultimately the spiritual development of the infant then.

Yeah. I think there’s always a danger. I guess what I’m thinking more, just the danger of the enclosed self of even in the child, seeing these dynamics, sort of looking under the hood and seeing these dynamics that are going on.

I just want to stand in awe of the mystery of a person who, as Lewis says, is a possible god or goddess, you know? And what does it mean to, even in this pre-linguistic context, to see and understand this child as capable of God? The implications in terms of research, I’m not sure. But I think it’s just to hold, not to ever allow ourselves, when we begin to operationalize things for the purpose of research to end up reducing things.

Man In Audience: [mumbling] Is there somethings the parent can do that would be uniquely Christian rather than just trying to have [mumbling] attachment relationship, et cetera, to developing and participating in their spiritual life?

Yeah, beyond enfolding them in prayer and, actually, you know what? I think that is a huge thing that the parent does, is to include the child in prayer. The child wakes up into a world not of its making and wakes up into a world that is imbued with prayer and with the sense of the presence of God. I think that’s a huge difference, right?

Continue the conversation here