Minding the Heart: The Way of Spiritual TransformationRobert SaucyKregel Publications / 2013 / Trade Paperback$15.99 Retail:4 Stars Out Of 5 4 Reviews
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cterryIndianaAge: 25-34Gender: male4 Stars Out Of 5I thorough treatment of the subject.April 2, 2014cterryIndianaAge: 25-34Gender: maleQuality: 4Value: 4Meets Expectations: 4Robert Saucy of Talbot School of Theology has written a substantive volume on the biblical subject of the heart. Saucy confesses that he has long desired to write such a work for the benefit of the church. The chapters are filled with biblical, theological, psychological, and medical arguments and evidence for Saucy' view of the heart. The author looks to the Old Testament conception of the heart as the seat of one's emotions, but also points out that the heart is inseparable from every other part of one's being. He suggests the heart is the person, and the person is the heart. This argument is certainly in line with the Old Testament conception of heart.
The author, as mentioned in the preceding paragraph, uses resources from secular psychology and medicine to support his arguments at times. This may be a negative for some but in the early portions of the book the secular sources are only used to support arguments, not establish them. An issue I have with Saucy's approach is the section on meditation, which sets forth lectio divina as a model for Christian meditation. As long as an individual follows biblical exhortations and guidelines for Christian meditation, the practice of meditation is fine. My problem is the Catholic mysticism, which is bound up in lectio divina. It is inseparable from the writings of those who originated the practice. I would've found it more helpful to leave lectio divina out of the volume completely.
Saucy also discusses the Lord's Supper employing imagery that sounds sacramental, even Catholic. He said, "Eating and drinking Christ's body and blood are vivid metaphors for our need to ingest through faith the spiritual food and drink of the One who surrendered his body to death and shed his blood as a sacrifice for our sin that we might share in his resurrection life. Every time we celebrate the Lord's Supper, it should remind us of the truth that our spiritual life and growth is dependent on our continual feeding on the living Christ even as our physical life depends on the ingesting of physical nourishment" (p. 267). This language sounds very similar to Catholic theology. They believe that Catholics will receive spiritual nourishment by participating in the Catholic "mass." This is entirely at odds with the intended symbolism of the New Testament teaching concerning the elements of the Lord's Supper. The author clarifies by stating the following, "The nourishing food of Christ comes through consuming and digesting God's Word even as we consume and digest food and drink" (p. 267). He also reiterates this biblical concept of receiving spiritual nourishment through the Scriptures on page 268. So, in fairness he does clear up any potential misconception. But, my defenses were raised to the issue because of his promotion of lectio divina which originated with Catholic mystics.
Saucy moves on to discuss the very important but frequently misunderstood issue of, "What do you do when you don't feel like doing what God has commanded you to do?" The author proposes that right actions will lead to write thinking and right emotions. If believers always waited around for their emotions to be in line before they acted in obedience, they would rarely act in obedience. This conclusion and counsel from the author is supported by his earlier chapter on the condition of the heart. The believer needs to progress in personal sanctification and the heart needs further transformation, which is aided by right action.
The author touches on the importance of fellow believers (i.e. community) in the spiritual transformation of heart and the believer's progressive sanctification. Believers are able to speak truth to each other, hold one another accountable, and encourage each other. Saucy points out that God has designed the Christian life to be lived out in community with other believers. Overall, Saucy has provided a thorough and helpful work. He has discussed the significance of the heart in the life of man, especially the Christian man. I would recommend this book as a beneficial treatment of the subject.
I received this book from Kregel Publishers in exchange for an unbiased review.
benm6023 Stars Out Of 5Just OkayJanuary 17, 2014benm602With this book, Robert L. Saucy, distinguished professor of Systematic Theology, enters the realm of spiritual formation books. He provides an introductory book covering some of the basic topics. The purpose of this blog is to review this book; to do so, I will note two strengths and one weakness.
First, Saucy helps his readers understand the necessity of spiritual growth. He wrote, "In the same way that we are born physically to grow to maturity, we are born again spiritually to grow to maturity. We are not born again just so we can be in heaven someday, but we are born from above by the Spirit of God to actually live a brand-new life in Christ now" (17). Recently, I was asked to speak on the topic "Assurance of Salvation" for college students. I echoed this quote from Saucy's book before I had even read this book; Christians are born again/above to grow; that is the natural life of a Christian; any exception to growth questions whether or not someone is even a Christian. Saucy is spot-on here.
Second, he also helps Christian have an overall picture of what it means to grow spiritually; I personally enjoyed his discussion on meditation (chs. 8-9). He wrote, "Unfortunately for many Christians the word meditation conjures up the recitation of mantras and other mystical practices often associated with Eastern religions" (149). I know what the biblical writers say about meditation, but to this day, I still get those same images in mind when I hear the word "meditation" - still. That image, however, needs to be changed because the biblical writers refer to something different with this term. He explains further that meditation is not an emptying of our minds, as in Eastern religions, but a filling-up of our minds on God's Word (e.g., 151).
This book, as all books other than the Bible, should be read critically because it is not perfect; the Bible is the book that reads us critically because we are not perfect.
First, Saucy does a surprisingly poor job at finding and explaining the meaning of the word "heart" in Scripture. He presents the meaning of this word exactly the wrong way; he starts with the modern-day meaning and imports that meaning back into the text without checking a single scholarly lexicon to compare his work. Let me share one example that we would all agree with, and then get back to this example.
Let's say that someone read Ephesians 4:4, "4 There is one body and one Spirit-- just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call" and was asked, "What does Paul mean by Ã¢â¬Ëcall'?" Well, perhaps someone started to wonder, "Well, if I receive calls on my iPhone occasionally; so, maybe Paul received a similar call?"
What's the problem with this line of thinking?
Paul did not write about a phone call; phones did not exist then. Reading our modern-day meaning of "call" back into the biblical text commits a basic word-study error of reading a modern-day reading back into an ancient text. People do this all the time, usually unaware of their error because they're reading the text in English - they think they know English.
Now let's return to the book. In the Bible, the "heart" matters; the biblical writers use this word at least 763 times. That's no small amount. Unfortunately, Saucy read the modern-day usage of "heart" back into the biblical text, used that meaning to explain the texts, and did not consult any of the major lexical resources to check his work. There are several lexical resources he could have used. I am surprised by this lack of references because these resources are well-known and well-cited in commentaries, books, articles, etc.
conradeVancouver, BCAge: 45-54Gender: male4 Stars Out Of 5Total Spiritual TransformationDecember 6, 2013conradeVancouver, BCAge: 45-54Gender: maleQuality: 4Value: 4Meets Expectations: 4Isn'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, comtemplatio)
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.
Pastor JimMaricopa, AZAge: 55-65Gender: male5 Stars Out Of 5ProfitableNovember 30, 2013Pastor JimMaricopa, AZAge: 55-65Gender: maleQuality: 4Value: 4Meets Expectations: 4Robert Saucy is an excellent Bible scholar and theologian. He is also a very good writer who has produced an excellent study on the heart and the transformation of the believers' life. While the book is founded upon and contains strong theology, yet it is extremely practical and understandable.
He opens with the need of moving beyond salvation to abundant living. The purpose of salvation is realized in growthÃ¢â¬ânot simply intellectual growth, but spiritual growth in exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit. The heart is our true identity, our inner person. It is our essence. This is an illuminating study of the idea of the heart in Scripture. Understanding the heart helps us to see the need and desire for transformation. He takes on the journey from the natural heart of man to the sanctified or transformed heart of the believer. In doing so he does two things I appreciate: First, he warns us that we still have to deal with the old, twisted, prideful heart. "The remnants of the old disordered love of self remain." He shows the heart is where our intellectual, emotional, and volitional activities reside. Growth or change of heart entails the relationship and cooperation with Divine and human activity. Transformation of the heart begins and centers upon our relationship with God. He gives important principles of this: That our activity and God's work are present in all spiritual growth. And that our activity in transformation is totally dependent on God's work. "God works in us to will and do His good pleasure, but we must actually will and do His good pleasure in working out our salvation (Phil. 2:12-13)."
Second, he gives us what can be identified as the keys for transformation of the heart and spends time explaining each one:
We must renew the mind (Rom. 12:2).
Meditation on the Truth of God's Word.
The necessity of Community. He goes on to describe how this works.
He ends by reminding us that transformation is hard. Yet, we "find rest for our souls even when the way is hard."
This is one of the best books on the Christian life that I have read in recent years. The study is "heart-warming," stimulating, and profitable. This is aided by sidebars on different issues of the heart, and end of chapter questions, designed to make one think. Worthwhile no matter where you are in your Christian life.
[Thanks to Kregel Publications for providing a free copy of this book for my honest review.]
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