Attaching to God: Neuroscience-informed Spiritual Formation

078: Formative Spirituality, Agency in the Bible, and Being Human (Dr. Richard Middleton)

November 08, 2023 Geoff and Cyd Holsclaw Season 5 Episode 78
078: Formative Spirituality, Agency in the Bible, and Being Human (Dr. Richard Middleton)
Attaching to God: Neuroscience-informed Spiritual Formation
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Attaching to God: Neuroscience-informed Spiritual Formation
078: Formative Spirituality, Agency in the Bible, and Being Human (Dr. Richard Middleton)
Nov 08, 2023 Season 5 Episode 78
Geoff and Cyd Holsclaw

What is spiritual formation? Is that even a very good term for life with and in Jesus? What are we being formed into anyway? Or, maybe we should ask “when” are we being formed?

In this episode, we talked with Dr. Richard Middleton about formative spirituality, agency in the Bible, and being human, and how God is always looking for partners to work with and through.

Dr. Middleton is Professor of Biblical Worldview and Exegesis at Northeastern Seminary and Roberts Wesleyan University (Rochester, NY). His most recent book is Abraham’s Silence: The Binding of Isaac, the Suffering of Job, and How to Talk Back to God (Baker Academic, 2021). He is also the author of A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology (Baker Academic, 2014) and The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1 (Brazos, 2005).

Stay Connected:

  • NEED spiritual direction or coaching that aligns with this podcast? Connect with Cyd Holsclaw here.
  • Join the Embodied Faith community to stay connected and get posts, episodes, & resources.
  • Support the podcast with a one-time or regular gift (to keep this ad-free without breaking the Holsclaw's bank).
Show Notes Transcript

What is spiritual formation? Is that even a very good term for life with and in Jesus? What are we being formed into anyway? Or, maybe we should ask “when” are we being formed?

In this episode, we talked with Dr. Richard Middleton about formative spirituality, agency in the Bible, and being human, and how God is always looking for partners to work with and through.

Dr. Middleton is Professor of Biblical Worldview and Exegesis at Northeastern Seminary and Roberts Wesleyan University (Rochester, NY). His most recent book is Abraham’s Silence: The Binding of Isaac, the Suffering of Job, and How to Talk Back to God (Baker Academic, 2021). He is also the author of A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology (Baker Academic, 2014) and The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1 (Brazos, 2005).

Stay Connected:

  • NEED spiritual direction or coaching that aligns with this podcast? Connect with Cyd Holsclaw here.
  • Join the Embodied Faith community to stay connected and get posts, episodes, & resources.
  • Support the podcast with a one-time or regular gift (to keep this ad-free without breaking the Holsclaw's bank).

[00:00:15] Geoff: What is spiritual formation? Is that even a good term for life with Jesus and in Jesus? Um, is spiritual formation the best way to talk about that? Or maybe does the Bible speak different ways? Maybe, uh, what are we being formed into or maybe when we're being formed into? So we're talking about these things today.

This is the embodied faith podcast with Geoff and Cyd Holsclaw. Where we are exploring a neuroscience informed spiritual formation. As always, we are produced by grassroots Christianity, which seeks to grow faith for everyday people. Today we have the pleasure and the honor of having Dr. Richard Middleton on the show with us.

He is the professor of biblical worldview and exegesis at Northeastern seminary and Robert's Wesleyan. University, uh, he has written many books, uh, most recently Abraham's silence, the binding of Isaac, the suffering Job, and how to talk back to God, which is a very provocative title. I love that as well as, uh, he's written books on the new heavens and the new earth, as well as the liberating image, what Imago Dei means in Genesis one.

Thank you so much for being on with us today. Oh,

absolutely. Your work has 

[00:01:25] Richard Middleton: you so much for 

[00:01:25] Geoff: helpful and influential in my faith journey, as well as SIDS, as well as many other

[00:01:30] Cyd: Yeah, actually. Yeah, actually, I, I feel like it's worth pausing because any of our listeners who have read our book or have listened to us talk much, I just want to give, you know, give, give credit where credit is due, which we did in our book, but your, your book, the, um, the liberating image. Um, was highly influential in our, does God really like me?

So any of you who have read that book and have, um, been surprised by that language of we are God's idols and that, uh, that the temple theology in the garden, uh, we got that from reading that wonderful book that you wrote. So just for all of our listeners, that's a, a special connection to Richard Middleton and, and where, what, how his work has influenced Jeff 

[00:02:12] Geoff: So I, we invited you on because, uh, there, you know, it all comes back to Facebook. Sometimes there was a conversation about spiritual formation as a term. And I know you're not, you don't feel like you're a spiritual formation expert. Actually, you just told me that you're like a philosopher theologian who's most recently trained. like biblical studies, which I love bringing all those things together. So necessary. So you don't feel like you're an expert, but there, you know, there was some conversation around that term and you kind of threw out like, well, maybe that's not like the best term for what the Bible speaks about, um, being conformed to Christ or being transformed, um, you know, by God and these types of things.

And so I was like, wow. We should just have you on. So, uh, if not to spend too much time, but, uh, you, you talked a little bit about like, well, maybe spiritual formation isn't the best term. Could you just kind of list a little bit? Like, not that, you know, just some of your disease or thoughts about that as a term.

[00:03:02] Richard Middleton: Okay, so my, I'll give my some initial thoughts, but I have more systematic thoughts to think about later when we'll come up in a conversation. Um, when people use the term spiritual, they often use it in contrast to say material, physical, social, emotional, they have other terms. So that imagine that the Christian life is a pie.

And one slice of the pie is spirituality. Spiritual formation then has to do with how that slice is shaped and formed, but it doesn't touch the rest of life. And I think the term spiritual formation can be misleading as a result. And I tend to use the term formative spirituality because my spirituality has to do with everything, including, and this is why I really want to be on this podcast, including my embodiment.

And embodiment is part of my spirituality. I cannot live besides doing what Paul calls the deeds of the body. Paul says we all be judged by the deeds done in the body. And he speaks of the resurrection as the redemption of the body in Romans 8. Bodiliness is the way we manifest our life. And so spirituality has been manifest through our bodies.

And that doesn't mean the physical as opposed to the non physical. It means through everything because the body is not just a physical object. It is our organic life, the way we, our emotions, our thinking is all embodied. So. One more little theological point here. When Paul speaks about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, he contrasts the first Adam and the second Adam as the first Adam, and he's very exegetical here, citing Genesis 2.

7, where it says that God breathed into the man he made from the dust of the ground, and he became, um, in Hebrew, nefesh chaya, a living organism. King James has a living soul, and he says, uh, you know, uh, Suche, the word for soul in Greek, but he uses the word for living from zoe. And he used the same idea. So that was Adam, man from the dust, an organic being.

Christ was raised a life giving spirit. Now, if you contrast spirit with body, you think that he's denying the resurrection of the body, but he's not. Spirit is the power and energy of God to transform all of life. That's why the new age is the age of the spirit, where the spirit is poured out upon all flesh.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy. And Paul can call the resurrection body a spiritual body, by which he means a body energized by the spirit so it cannot die. It's not subject to mortality anymore. And so I want to say spirituality has to do with all of life. So I'm much more interested in whether you, whether you keep the term or not, I'm interested in what I call formative spirituality.

How does my life reflect my discipleship, um, to Christ's teachings and the biblical worldview. How do I manifest that in the world?

[00:05:50] Cyd: Hmm. Yeah, it's a small shift, but it's a huge shift, you know, in the sense of, of it's not just about how is each slice of my pie being shaped and formed and keeping them somewhat separated or siloed, um, but instead how is my whole life, you know, spirit empowered and spirit driven. 

[00:06:10] Geoff: It doesn't roll off the tongue, but I love the, like, enlivening by the spirit. Let's talk about that. Enlivenings by the spirit or something like that, but, uh, it doesn't quite roll off the tongue. So, and I think you're right that, um, for the con, for like,

[00:06:25] Cyd: Well, you just said, let's talk about enlivened 

[00:06:27] Geoff: no, no, I 

[00:06:28] Cyd: and then you're moving on.


[00:06:29] Geoff: What, okay, let's go

[00:06:32] Cyd: I would love to hear a little bit more about enlivened by the spirit, a whole body, a whole life enlivened by the spirit.

[00:06:38] Richard Middleton: So I, you mentioned Deliberating Image, that book I wrote, which is my, my, my dissertation. So it's an academic book. And I am going to be doing a, a new version of that book for a more popular audience that is more focused on the temple. imagery that you mentioned, which is a minor theme in that book. And that book is also going to be a revision of the first book I wrote 39 years ago on Christian worldviews.

It's going to be a reflection of what is a biblical vision of what it means to be human in this conflicted age that we live in. So biblical theology with application to the contemporary world. And so I'd say that for me the Mago Dei, the image of God, is central to how I understand being enlivened by the Spirit.

So if you think about what an image was in the ancient world, an image was this physical object in a temple that was thought to mediate the presence and power of the deities from heaven to earth for the worshippers. Well, we are that image of the true God. enthroned in heaven for earthly life. And so I think of the image in terms of three sets of maybe polarities and they're, they're, they're all true.

So the first is the image is both a gift from God and a calling. The gift is that we are like God's VIPs in 

[00:07:50] Cyd: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. 

[00:07:51] Richard Middleton: And the calling is that we are God's ambassadors in the world. That's kind of a nuance I make to, for students, right? So we are privileged and the privilege of being God's image is not dependent on our abilities.

A person who has limited physical abilities or mental abilities is still the image of God. They have received that gift. How they exercise it is varied depending on what their abilities are. So the image is both the gift of who we are and the calling to live in accordance with that in the world. But the gift then is also, um, there's a, there's a parallel to introversion and extroversion in the gift.

The extroversion is the way the Bible speaks about it in Genesis 1. You are called to have dominion, to, to rule. We represent God. outward. So the paying it forward idea. God has given us a gift. We pay it forward how we treat others. As the Father has sent me, so send I you. That can be applied back to Genesis 1.

But we also have the ability to turn to God in intimacy and boldly approach the throne of grace. And God takes us seriously. And that's the side of the Imago Dei that I was focusing on in that last book, Abraham's Silence. And although the subtitle was the publisher's, not mine, It gets at what I was trying to say, this like, how to talk back to God.

No, it's not talking back in any kind of irreverent way. It's talking back because God takes... Everything we want to say seriously because we're made in God's image and God affirms that we are important in his sight. And so we have this intimate relationship. So both the intimacy of prayer, including lament prayer, and the power to say we are the ambassadors of God in the world, how we act manifests who God is, are these other two poles of the image.

The other The third set of polarities I would want to talk about is I've been using most of my life the dominion motif rule. So that's a metaphor from the ancient Near East of kings who seem to have a great deal of power, right? We don't necessarily have royal power in the world anymore. And those the monarchies that exist are titular.

They're not real monarchies anymore, but we are agents of God. Maybe that's the best term to use. And we exercise power on behalf of God. We can actually make a difference in the world by what we do. And we represent God well or badly. But I've come to see alongside the royal metaphor, the importance of the priestly metaphor, that we represent God's presence.

We represent God's holiness. We represent the Spirit of God, the Ruach. We represent God's glory, the Kavod in the Old Testament. That, and New Testament teaching of the image of God speaks about that we see the glory of God in the face of Christ. And we are being changed from glory to glory as we're being conformed to His image.

So this priestly motif that it's not just that we exercise power, it's that we represent the presence of God. And this really helps in lament. There are times when someone is suffering, when they don't feel they can come to God, and really approach God with their pain. But another person can come alongside that person.

Just be with them, and be the presence of God for them, and mediate on their behalf. That's a pastoral role. It's a priestly role, if you want to call it that. And we're not exercising any power, except power in the sense that we are using what we have as God's agents for the benefit of another just by being 

[00:11:21] Cyd: Mm hmm. 

[00:11:21] Richard Middleton: So for me that's what image of God means and therefore all of that has to do with my spirituality.

[00:11:27] Cyd: Yeah.

[00:11:28] Richard Middleton: of that. There's no singular part of it that can be separated out. No splits, no sacred secular, no spiritual material. Get rid of those radically Unchristian dualism that we have read into scripture.

Scripture doesn't have that idea. The world is meant to be a sacred place and we are meant to manifest 

[00:11:46] Geoff: Mm. Amen. 

[00:11:47] Richard Middleton: how we live in everything that we do.

[00:11:50] Cyd: Amen.


[00:11:51] Geoff: spiritual formation, uh, on the popular kind of like level, which is people who run into this term, uh, the question, which I think you're raising is, well, spiritual seems like one part of your life, but what everything you just said is if we're made in God's image and now we're being renewed in God's image in Christ, then this is really a formation for every single part of our life, not just the spiritual side.

And then our moral side or economic side or vocational side or marriage side is kind of somewhere else. Yes. But it's

like the central kind of thing. And I think, yeah, I love that. I think that's so important.

[00:12:21] Cyd: Well,

[00:12:22] Richard Middleton: So if I could add one more comment. Oh, you go 

[00:12:24] Cyd: I was just going to say when you talked about that second polarity about the, you know, the inch, the, the, you saw it extroverted and introverted, the

intimate and the going out and being active. Um, you know, that's, That does sound a little bit like the contemplative and active streams of what is traditionally called spiritual formation, but it also really brings to mind, um, you know, as Jeff and I are working through attachment theory and how attachment forms our relationship with God and how we are formed by our attachment with God of those, those, those dimensions of intimacy and independence that we are designed to have incredible capacity for intimacy with God and. To have incredible, you know, independence to go out into the world and to do and to, you know, serve and to create on God's behalf. Um, and so I just recognized that similarity of

language there. And then that last part of the agents of God of that, you know, we are not people who are victims of our circumstances or people who are just supposed to somehow hang on.

And you know, in this life, but that we actually have a very active agent role of being able to influence the world around us. So I love the way that you said that in description of those polarities.

[00:13:40] Richard Middleton: and, and uh, because you mentioned attachment theory, now I'm wondering if polarity is the best term. 'cause I'm saying these, I'm not saying it's one or 

[00:13:47] Cyd: Right, right, 

[00:13:49] Richard Middleton: theory and developmental psychology would say you one is based in the other. If you have great intimacy, you can have great agency.

It's not one or the other. And that's the way my life has been experienced. I first experienced intimacy with God and that empowered me for great agency. And that Reem empowered me for interm the intimacy of not just contemplative prayer, grappling with God in petitionary and supplication prayer that God takes seriously my pain in the world that I've experienced as an agent.

Because as you are an agent, you represent God. You will get hurt you, but, but you're not just a victim. You take that to God and you can struggle with God over that and be empowered to live again in the world. And of course. Living a cruciform life following in Christ's footsteps means we will suffer and that's that's not something you can avoid It's how you approach 

[00:14:42] Cyd: Yeah. Yeah. It just, even when you talk about that instead of polarities, that's why I like the idea of a dimension. And I think

about, you 

[00:14:49] Richard Middleton: I just came up with that term today I had not thought of how to express that 

[00:14:54] Cyd: Yeah. it's like of the, you know, length and width and depth of the

love of God, right? And that 

[00:15:00] Richard Middleton: that's good. That's good

[00:15:02] Cyd: and deeper in our, that's how when we talk about intimacy and independence, we, we talk in the terms of dimension 

and wanting 

[00:15:09] Geoff: They're like, they're not the same. So about the, I just want to circle back to the agency. Cause I know there's like, obviously lots of scripture versus take up your cross, deny yourself, follow me. And I think a lot of times when it comes to spiritual formation or formative spirituality, there's the sense.

And a lot of the tradition kind of talks this way, is that you are laying down your agency, that following Christ is actually to lose agency by spiritualism. Submitting to God or obedience to God, like there's all these languages, uh, in that, you know, scripture as well as the tradition, uh, being a slave to Christ, servant of Christ. And I, and so, and that's true, right? So the language is there. We have to figure that out. Uh, but I think sometimes people feel like what is happening is that I just lay down my life, my agency, my personhood, my selfhood to Jesus. Uh, and then that's it. That's the whole formative spiritual process. But I think when we remember the image of God, it's important to say, well, actually you're gaining agency.

It's a new kind of agency. You're actually getting more than you ever had. And actually, um, outside of Christ. Whatever you thought was your agency or your independence was deficient. And this is where it was. I was rereading your book, um, working on a paper. Um, and there was those sections where you were talking about how, uh, in the biblical story and the Imago Dei, that human agency is actually.

Accented in the biblical text way more than other ancient sources. And that God is actually, this is the dominion language or the authorization that the God is actually handing over so much to humanity that is unparalleled to all these other ancient texts. Could you just fill that out just a little bit, um, about that, this agency part.

[00:16:47] Richard Middleton: So you're thinking about this section is particularly on the primeval history in Genesis 1 to 11 and how it looks at the role of humans versus in Mesopotamian myths and legends, but let me go beyond that because I have not thought about 

[00:16:59] Geoff: Okay. Please do wherever that 

[00:17:01] Richard Middleton: I've been working on other aspects of the text.

They're not yet published, but they'll be in my new book on Imago Dei. Um, so I was, you know, in the way that the story unfolds and in the, my book on eschatology, a new heaven and a new earth, one of the early chapters is called the plot of the biblical story. And that plot is about how God only acts in the story through agents or God, let's say 90 percent of the time acts through agents.

God does not just Drop in supernaturally and cause something to happen. God calls Moses. I've heard the cry of my people in Egypt. And I'm going to send you down. Um, but Moses wouldn't even be alive if there weren't these two Hebrew midwives who, without any call from God, initiated resistance to Pharaoh, using their agency as Imago Dei to say, we're not going to do what you want.

We're going to do what God wants, the God of life. And so there's agency throughout that every turn in the story, I mean, God wants to become incarnate in Jesus, right? I'm a classical, you know, um, uh, Trinitarian Christian. I got no problems with that. But God wants to become, how does God become human? He sends the angel Gabriel to a young teenage girl and says, um, are you willing to do this for me?

She says, yeah, I'll do this. I'm your servant. He's getting an agent. To respond, to say, I am willing to do this. This is a God who respects human choice. You know, yeah, he'll harden Pharaoh's heart. But if you even read that story, there are three statements of the hardening of Pharaoh's heart. Three types of statements.

God hardened his heart. Pharaoh hardened his own heart. And his heart was hardened in the passive. Well, God hardened his heart is not the first statement to occur in that story. It's like God is saying, all right, you want to be hard, you want to harden your heart. I'll just push you over the edge because I need you to get my people free.

And you, you got to reach the point where you're willing to do that. So I see agency throughout the story. Every time God calls a prophet to speak. On on his behalf god is calling an agent to bring his word to the people But of course the prophets and this is a point I make in abraham's silence The prophets then turn to god and say all right lord I bring the message now give him time to repent and hold off the judgment and I said, okay And jeremiah asked for this so much that god's three times tell jeremiah Please stop praying for the people because if you keep praying I can't judge them Because I take your agency that seriously Agency is central throughout the whole story.

The calling of the apostles, um, from disciples in Matthew 9 to apostles the first time that is used, sent ones in Matthew 10. And they're sent out with a mission. And then a larger group is sent at the end of the gospel of Matthew to all the nations to proclaim the gospel to the world. And we are part of that mission.

So yeah, I see agency throughout the whole Bible. And that is, we, that is basically not typical of the ancient world that Israel lived in. where some had 

absolute power and 

[00:19:55] Geoff: all throughout the scripture,

they're elevated. We'll just real quick. And then, but, and even Jesus gave us that agency. He was always saying like, if you ask, it will be given to you. If you seek, then you will find, if you knock, then the door will be open. So there's always this playback.

God is looking for partners

to do this

work. Hmm.

[00:20:11] Richard Middleton: Or even in the feeding of the 5, 000, this type of, these people have nothing to eat. He says, you give them something to eat. That's what he says to them. He's, alright, let's see what you're going to do. Yeah.

[00:20:21] Cyd: Well, I was just going to say, and maybe this isn't for this conversation, but I think it's this God's respect for human choice that also is so instrumental in our understanding of the problem of evil, right? In that, like, why does, why is evil allowed in the world? And why do people, I just, You know, as a spiritual director and a coach, I listened to a lot of people telling stories about why doesn't God step in and intervene and stop this person dead in their tracks.

And, you know, why doesn't God remove that person from a position of power and all those different kinds of things where, first of all, are we actually praying that God would do those things for one thing? And then the second thing of God respects. human choice. And if a person is absolutely hardened to him as Pharaoh was, then, you know, God doesn't coerce.

He doesn't overpower. Um, so that we don't need to talk about that. It just, I wanted to bring that

up because I have a lot of conversations with people about that and about that sense of like, why doesn't God just overpower this person? Um, and I think what you're talking about is a huge part of that because of God's, God's saying your agency matters.

Like you do not, you become a slave to Christ by choice and you still, you know, obey out of choice, but God doesn't coerce and force.

[00:21:40] Richard Middleton: yeah. I could add a comment there. So I think about the Philippian hymn, in Philippians 2, which Paul introduces by saying, let this mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. He was, equal with God, but use his divinity for our sakes. So whatever privilege and power you have, you do that. That's not a victim status.

Jesus was not a victim. He chose this for the benefit of the world. And we need to choose sometimes not to use our power for our own benefit. but for others benefit. And, and so this whole idea that, um, you know, spirituality has to do with how we submit ourselves to God. It's a submission, but we are intentionally choosing to submit.

And God has given us that freedom. And if I take the image of God motif seriously, that we're made in God's image, then how are we supposed to use power in the world? We are also to respect other people's freedom. even their freedom to refuse us and to refuse God without overriding that and bludgeoning them in any way.

So that, so there's an ethical component about how we image God based on how God has 

[00:22:48] Cyd: Yes.


[00:22:50] Geoff: just

to fill in that last point, too, is we can submit ourselves, we can obey Jesus because he is one who's not taking advantage of us, but every opportunity he takes his power, lays it down in service of us. And this is how God has demonstrated his love. So we can submit and follow a God of love because he has already shown that, you know, he's trustworthy and safe. So just to finish off that. How Um, moving into this, you were talking about the new heavens and new earth. Um, a lot of times spiritual formation is like, well, you know, I'm practicing disciplines now I'm, you know, trying to overcome the sin of my past. In some ways it's very past to present kind of focused, I think, but the Bible actually is differently.

It's more future to presence. Can you talk about that a little bit and how that might link up to this formative spirituality that you're talking about?

[00:23:39] Richard Middleton: So let's just think about the psychology of how a person lives and expects the future and how it affects their present. What you assume the future will be like does affect your present choices now, whether you're pessimistic or optimistic, whether you think the economy is going down or is going up, or whether you, you think there's going to be more wars and rumors of wars.

So your sense of the future affects the present. And the way New Testament ethics is very clearly organized is because Christ has died and risen and has risen and is coming again, a certain kind of life is expected that we begin to live out the foretaste of that future. So the Spirit is given as a down payment, as a foretaste that begins to transform us, but in the last day will be fully transformed.

There's this interesting sense, the base, the basic movement is from the future to the present. Because God is going to renew the world, start living in such a way that you contribute to that future. But there was a small percentage of scriptures, not very many, that suggest that what you do now has effects.

into the eschaton. So, you know, there's this language about, you know, looking for and hastening the day of God. How can we hasten the day of God? Somehow by what we do, you know? And then there's a thing in 1st Corinthians, I think it's chapter 3, about the coming judgment, the judgment by fire, and some people's works would be burned up like hay and stubble, but other works will last into eternity, being purified like gold and silver, you know?

So there's a sense in which what we do now matters for the future, but generally it's If you have a vision that God's going to wipe out the world and take it to an ethereal heaven to go sit on clouds and play harps, you're not going to care about this world. But if you believe that God is committed, because God so loved the world that he gave his only son, and he loved the world that much, he's not just going to give his son to die for us, he's going to redeem the world, to create a, recreate the world, a new heaven and a new earth.

And if we are willing to have that vision shape us, then we begin to live towards that vision, a signpost 

of the kingdom of God 

[00:25:47] Geoff: of not the earth being taken up and consumed by heaven, but rather that heaven is coming down to earth. And so our formative spirituality is one in a

[00:25:57] Richard Middleton: coming down. Yeah. 

[00:25:58] Geoff: heaven or God's place or that. Future kingdom is being made real now in us and through us, um, and being made presence.

[00:26:07] Richard Middleton: Yes. So, so, um, some I've had students who over the years before I even published my stuff in eschatology, I would say, yeah, Middleton doesn't believe in heaven. But if you realize I got a whole chapter on why heaven is crucial to the biblical worldview, but we're not going there. Heaven is where our citizenship is.

That is, we're not defined by this corrupt earth. We're defined by our citizenship in heaven. But if you read on in that passage in Philippians, he says, and we await a savior from heaven who will come and transform our mortal bodies to be like his glorious body. So heaven is coming to earth. That's the, the motif.

Heaven is where our salvation is being reserved, where, um, We have an inheritance. It's all this language that is used in the New Testament. But as N. T. Wright loves to say, just because the Christmas presents are kept in the attic doesn't mean on Christmas Day, you go in the attic to get the presents. The parents bring them out of the attic and give them to you.

And that's what God is doing. What is reserved for us in heaven will be manifest on earth. And that's why the Book of Revelation is called Revelation, apocalypse means revelation, unveiling the reality of what God has always planned is going to be fully present. So start living that way now. The phrase I've been using, which I did, I put in the New Heaven, New Earth book, but I've been using it a lot is ethics is a lived eschatology.

[00:27:28] Geoff: what would be,


[00:27:29] Cyd: Okay. Wait, you gotta, you gotta say more about that.

[00:27:32] Richard Middleton: Yeah. So whatever your eschatology, your vision of the end, that's what you live now. Um, I don't mean that you live in accordance with your theories about the end, people speculate all kinds of stuff. It's what they really believe about the future. That affects how they live. And I really believe that the God of heaven and earth so loves the world that he's coming to renew it and make it his dwelling place, that the world will be a cosmic temple and God will be fully present.

I believe that. Therefore, I want to live in such a way that I take the world one step closer to that, manifesting that in how I live 

[00:28:06] Cyd: Yes. Amen. I believe that too. And it makes all the difference when you think about every time you join with God in flourishing life on this earth,

you are participating in the 

[00:28:16] Geoff: and this is one, uh, I want to

hear your practical thoughts too, about like, well, what are one or a couple of ways that, you know, we can learn how to live our eschatology. Uh, most of it seems that, uh, the neuroscience and the coaching and the transformative kind of like psychology. What we're uncovering or learning about is aligning with this biblical perspective of looking to the future.

Is that true? Instead, you can jump in, but true transformation. Uh, comes from a hope it comes from, uh, a life that's envisioned differently. If you just try to give up a bad habit by trying hard or by knowing things that will go, you know, five days, 10 days, 20 days. Right. But it's not, it doesn't last unless you have that vision of a hope that you're being drawn toward. Uh, and so it's just like, yeah, this is what scripture has been saying all along. True transformation is from the future into the present.

[00:29:05] Cyd: Yeah. In coaching, a lot of times the language will be, well, what's your why? Right? Like what's the, what's the reason for, for, everything that you're headed for? What's the vision of, of what you're aiming at? Right? And so that's what eschatology does for us is it says, what is the, what is the why? What is all of your life 

[00:29:23] Geoff: Middleton loves the philosophy and theology, that's just the return of teleology, right? That's our goal, our purpose that we're headed toward, uh, which

in kind of our modern scientific age, we got rid of the, why, um, is that this kind of certain natural, a certain naturalism and then a certain, uh, evolutionary thinking and things that kind of got, it took that, why it took that theology and put it to the side. But now I think a lot of

our, the brain science, as well as the Bible is saying, nope. Like you, we don't function without that Y that's pulling us forward. Uh, and we can't get out of the bad ruts and places where we're stuck without that Y it just, it's impossible.

[00:29:57] Cyd: Yeah.

[00:29:58] Richard Middleton: So if I could mention how I have added a component to the notion of the why, the 

teleology that relates 

[00:30:06] Geoff: drop it on us. 

[00:30:07] Richard Middleton: and relates to philosophy theology. So, um, for, for many years, I've talked about this, that the future and our sense of why and purpose and direction really shapes us. What I've now come to see is that along with that, we need to recover virtue ethics.

the notion of the habitus, that the performance, the regular performance of certain actions, even when we are not fully committed to them, um, but we practice them, and it becomes part of our neurology, and our brain starts to have different neural patterns laid down, and it becomes a habit. But that habit occurs by practicing the why in community.

That's why the Christian, um, worship and community is so important that what church ought to be. And this gets back to a question you were asking early that I wanted to say that what church ought to be is to shape us. Formative ways in accordance with that teleology. That why to not, to not just be promoting a different vision, but teaching us how to live that vision, the com, nobody on on their own as an individual can do that.

You have to be part of a community. And so the body of Christ is really crucial to me. So it's not just that having a goal, it's also now. Practicing how to live towards that goal in community with other people. That's been really essential to me, and I never theorized it until more recently. I always knew it was there, but I suddenly realized, well, so, so what we call virtue ethics come under Aristotle, but the more, the version I know from MacIntyre is much more helpful and much more important that I can only answer the question, what am I to do?

If I can first answer the question of what story or stories Do I find myself a part? That's the why. But when you read on, you have to embody that in 

[00:31:54] Geoff: And that's where, uh, just to finish up on the things we always talk about. So we're the. Attachment language or for Paul, the adoption in Christ into a new family is so important. It's like you are, you're joining a new family with a new set of values, a new set of practices, uh, has a different kind of why that's leading us forward. Um, and that we practice that and we learn that all together. Well, any last thoughts or any, uh, things that are kind of left unsaid for you before we wrap it up? Yeah,

[00:32:24] Richard Middleton: I'm sure there are. I 


[00:32:26] Geoff: such a delight to have you on.

[00:32:27] Richard Middleton: what needs to 

[00:32:28] Geoff: a little bit out of your time. And

whenever that, uh, 

[00:32:31] Cyd: Thank you. 

[00:32:31] Geoff: of, you said the image of God and worldview kind of like, are you pregnant? Yeah. When that comes out, I would love to have you

[00:32:38] Richard Middleton: Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:32:38] Geoff: you know, you and I get in a little bit of trouble cause we don't want to defend what. The popular view of worldview, biblical worldview, it kind of gets entangled in certain kinds

[00:32:47] Richard Middleton: Oh, right. 

[00:32:47] Geoff: and theology. But I know that the two of us feel like, well, it's

still, there's still something there that we need to cling to.

There's the Bible like has a certain view of the world that we need to cling to. So

[00:32:58] Richard Middleton: And my, my, my quote excuse would be, Hey, I was publishing on biblical worldview before. the deviation into that misuse of the term. So I predated that. So I, I can be clear what I meant by that. And in fact, my coauthor, Brian Walsh wrote a scathing article in the, in the eighties 

[00:33:17] Geoff: Uh, and what was, cause that was actually my first, uh, experience, uh, of your work. What was the name of that book? I don't remember the name of that book anymore.

[00:33:24] Richard Middleton: It's called the 

transforming vision, shaping a Christian worldview.

[00:33:27] Geoff: in the nineties, I guess.

[00:33:28] Richard Middleton: Then that name came from Jim Sire, the editor 

[00:33:31] Geoff: Well He was the one that introduced me to it.

I had the discipleship

of the mind was the first book that I probably read that when I was

18 or 19 And, I.


just like, Oh yes, I need, this is, I need to disciple my mind and it introduced me to all that. So I love it.

[00:33:46] Richard Middleton: Yeah. 

[00:33:47] Geoff: Right. 

[00:33:47] Richard Middleton: And his first book, and that was The Universe Next Door, a catalogue of basic worldviews. And, um, over the years, he's written a number of books also naming the elephant. And each of these books, Brian and I had a little push with him. We, we talked to him all the time and he kept moving out of a kind of a little more rationalistic idea of a worldview to a more holistic kind of view.

So he moved in a good 

[00:34:08] Geoff: Well, we could have a 

[00:34:09] Richard Middleton: a great 

[00:34:09] Geoff: conversation

on that, but that gets a little far field. Well, thank you

so much. Where

can people find you

or follow

you or keep track of your work and connect?

[00:34:16] Richard Middleton: So my website, the actual link is just called JRichardMiddleton. com. You can find me there. The name of the website 

is Creation to 

[00:34:25] Geoff: Great. Well, that'll be in the show notes. Please like, share this, uh, podcast, uh, if you're watching on YouTube, uh, do the same, um, but thank you so much for being on and, uh, love to stay connected.

[00:34:36] Richard Middleton: Thank you. Thank you very much, 

[00:34:38] Cyd: Yeah. Thank you.