We were made to flourish and to help others flourish. In Today’s Conversation podcast, Dr. Curt Thompson, psychiatrist and author, talks about interpersonal neurobiology — how we were created as embodied and relational beings — and what implications it has for how we experience the gospel.

NAE President Walter Kim and Curt go back to the very beginning and discuss how we see this embodied and relational reality, as well as the effects of trauma and shame, in the first four chapters of Genesis. They also explore:

  • How Western thinking has influenced our understanding of spirituality;
  • Why being receptive to love is more difficult than loving others;
  • How we can create spaces for others to experience beauty and goodness; and
  • What practices or outlooks can help us care for our soul.

Read a Portion of the Transcript

Walter: God can change us as individuals through the Spirit, and yet you’re describing a communal setting in which we live. So how do we balance or coordinate — maybe balance isn’t the right word — how do we coordinate the reality that God can directly work in our lives to transform us by his Spirit and the power of the gospel, and yet we’re also to live in community that both wounds us but also that we seem to need if we’re going to have redemption? Are you saying that Jesus is not enough, that we need Jesus and community? How does this all work out?

Curt: I would invite us to imagine that even the way we are posing the question, in some respects pays homage to the third page of the Bible, wherein which the tree of the knowledge of good and evil — to know these things means that I can know that I know that I know, and that I know right from wrong. But it also tends to mean that the moment that I am in that position, it means that I have to know everything but the reality is that my brain can’t know everything. The best I can do is to know exactly is this right or is this wrong? We come to find out, more often than not, we tend to relationally operate in binary fashion. Is this God, or is this people? And we’re thinking in these terms, and we’re not even aware that that’s what we are doing.

When we read, when we meditate on the Scriptures over and over again — the folks at The Bible Project point this out — once you get beyond the second page of the Bible, it is rare, if ever, that God himself does anything in the entire canon of Scripture that he is not doing through human beings. He’s really serious about what he says in the first two pages of the Bible. Then it culminates back around when you get to this notion that Jesus says, “Tear down this temple and I’ll rebuild it in three days. I am the temple.” But then he turns around with Pentecost and the temple becomes us.

We are the Body of Jesus, and we then start to get anxious. Well, wait is it the Body of Jesus or Jesus himself? Is it God who is doing things, or is it us who is doing things? Therein we tend to page homage to this binary thinking: There’s a spiritual realm where God exists and a material real where we exist. There’s nothing in the Scriptures that would indicate that the Scriptures believe that is the world we are living in. The Scriptures believe that the kingdom of heaven is, as N.T. Wright would say, is that part of reality that God occupies, that is in our world. The question is: Am I able to see it and be in it? …

As far as what we read about in the Scriptures we would say then, when we are in community — we explore this in the fourth verse of the 27th Psalm, the soul desire — this notion to dwell in the house of the Lord which is dwelling in community, that I can gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and the beauty is not just the things that are easily identified as beautiful but are also those very things that are traumatic to us.

We would say at the end of the day when we get to Easter, we look back on Good Friday and say there is nothing more beautiful than a crucified Lord. But I can only say that from the standpoint of Easter. If we are sitting as Easter people together and I am revealing to you the thing about my life that I hate the most and I’m most ashamed of, and you meet me not with condemnation but with hospitality, that completely changes my narrative of what it is about this story that I’m telling that is part of me that isn’t worthy of redemption. Because in your welcoming that part of my story into the room with compassion, that is the redemptive moment in which we would say this is the work of the Holy Spirit.

It’s not just you; it is you through the power of the Holy Spirit. Frankly, I don’t need to bifurcate those and figure out what part is Walter and what part is the Spirit. I don’t think that God’s worried about that as much as he wants there to be the Sermon on the Mount kind of life on the world.

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