Just one more post to finish off the series. As preachers there are various areas where we can fall into the trap of adding comments or thoughts or meaning or clarification or balance or just plain error to what the Bible says. When we overqualify, we under-preach. There’s one more example I want to highlight.
Preaching through a text we come across a reference to the heart. What is the tendency? “Ah, the word is really mind, not heart, its about thinking, not feeling, ah, uh, next verse…”
If you do this you are not alone. But the Bible shouldn’t be interpreted via a democracy. Many have the tendency to impose a stoic anthropology onto the biblical text that is simply not there, and most do so without knowing they are doing it. That is, any reference to the heart, affections, desires, wants, responses, etc., are filtered out based on the presupposition that such features of humanity are ignoble and untrustworthy. (This also means that negatives like lust tend to get left in, since the negative fruit makes sense to a stoic mindset.)
A pre-commitment to the ideal of our being thinking, choosing individuals overrides what the text might be saying. A slightly more sophisticated fudge comes in the form of, “the word here is not heart, but guts, kidneys, etc.” Implication? Since it isn’t “heart” it cannot have meant what we mean when we refer to the heart. Oops again. We tend to speak of the heart due to its physiological response to external stimuli – to attractive beauty, to fear, to anger, etc. Other cultures might speak of the stomach or guts for the same reason.
This is only scratching the surface of a much deeper issue, no pun intended. But we need to beware lest we talk the text out of speaking of deeply felt inner responsiveness as the driver of human faculties. We might be strongly committed to a notion such as our decisions being determined by a partnership between our thought processes and our will, in alliance against the dangerous and untrustworthy affections. We may believe that with good information and disciplined wills, right decisions will be the outcome. But our commitment and belief, along with that of many others over the past years, may be profoundly wrong.
What if the Bible is right in pushing us to a more profound issue, namely, that the heart is the source, the wellspring, the chief inner faculty? What if it isn’t out of the overflow of my education and discipline that my mouth speaks? What if my reflection of the image of God is not determined by my efforts to suppress affection in order to think and choose freely? What if love determines everything? And what if love isn’t really an act of a free will?
I’ve run out of words, but if you’d like to hear more on this subject, click here.