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Friday, December 6, 2013

"Minding the Heart" (Robert Saucy)

TITLE: Minding the Heart: The Way of Spiritual Transformation
AUTHOR: Robert Saucy
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2013, (448 pages).

Isn't the mind for the brain and feelings meant just for the heart? No. The mind and the heart are closely connected in ways that we have sometimes fail to appreciate. Using a catchy title to describe the intimacy of the mind and heart, Biblical scholar, Robert Saucy's key thesis is that thoughts and beliefs impact one's attitudes and actions in life. Looking at the various tools and devices that have often been paraded for spiritual growth, Saucy laments that very little has been said about how the Scriptures, prayer, sacraments, fellowship, and others, can speak into the area of spiritual growth. Without a transformation of the heart, spiritual disciplines are what they are: Mere outer things done without much inner impact.

Using the journey metaphor, Saucy asserts that the beginning of growth is at forgiveness, sustained over continual spiritual transformation, culminating in abundant living in God. Such an abundant life is real and achievable. The important thing to remember is this caveat: Spiritual transformation is the Lord's initiative, not ours. How is this done is what this book will show us.

What is heart? For Saucy, understanding the meaning is most critical as this represents the union of body, soul, and spirit. It is the center of our thought, our being, and our behaviour. Without a transformed heart, there will be no transformed thought, being, or behaviour.We need transformation basically because our hearts are already evil. Sounds bad? The author then describes from scriptures how the human heart is evil, perverse, and bent on corruption of all sorts. Saucy even shows from biological research that the heart is no mere blood pumping machine. It is a living organism with its own nervous system. It is the center of volitional, emotional, and intellectual activities. In knowing, thinking, and hearing, the art of loving unites all of these activities and the person into one. For all of us, we need spiritual surgery of the heart, that we can be cured, and be guarded against sinful influences. God can give us a new heart.

Key to Saucy's thesis is that spiritual transformation of the heart begins with the renewing of the mind.  With a renewed mind, one's thoughts will be toward truth seeking more and more. It will resist deceptions. It is convicted about the truth making one free. This means meditation and training the heart toward being sensitive to the things of God. It does not mean knowing per se. It also means tasting the Word. It is interesting to see the results of meditation as follows. There is:
  • A change in emotion from being moved by the Word to moving toward the Word;
  • Learning Godly sorrow instead of worldly sorrow;
  • With Faith comes Sureness and Faithfulness;
  • Lectio divina (lectio, meditatio, oratio, contemplatio)

My Thoughts

This is a very big book on simply one idea: That the mind and the heart are both integral to the whole being. Throughout the exposition of this idea, Saucy draws several paradoxes to remind us that there is only so much that one can try to control. For instance, as we meditate on the Word, we will feel drawn more and more to the Word. At the same time, meditating on the Word also brings about a desire in us to know more about the Word. Spiritual transformation means learning to see things more and more from God's perspectives and less from worldly perspective. It means delighting in the beauty of God's truth and shunning the deceptions of the world. It means learning to take the yoke of Christ and not be burdened so easily by the worldly loads. Speed is never man's accelerator, but God's pace. There are many references to biblical support. If I have one criticism, I will want to say that while Saucy has rightly identified the Hebrew usage of kidneys used figuratively in the Old Testament with regards to the inner being, I think much more can still be said about that. In fact, there is quite a lot of difference in the way the Old Testament and the New Testament uses the word for 'heart.' In fact, the Greek understanding of heart is very different from the Hebrew mindset. For example, when the Hebrews use 'heart,' they are referring to the whole person. They are pointing to a deep longing of the whole being, and not just the feelings portion. In contrast, Greek understanding of "heart" is kardia, from where we get the word "cardiology" or the science of the heart. Simply state, the Hebrew form is more inclusive as a whole, while the Greek form tends to be more analytical in parts. Of course, there is much more to the differences, but suffice to say, Saucy ought to have tackled this difference in greater detail as it has cultural and historical significance. In fact, in our modern 21st Century world, intoxicated with romance of all things love, it is important that the way modern people understand "heart" is rather different when compared to the Jews, the Greeks, and even the Romans.

Anyway, I suspect Saucy's main point is total transformation and what it looks like for the modern person. He has done a credible job in reminding us that things of the head and the heart are not separated but to be considered one whole. That is already an important point worth stressing over and over again.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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