Minding the Heart: The Way of Spiritual Transformation by Robert L. Saucy
Among the myriad of books on spiritual transformation written from a Christian perspective, few focus on the connective relationship between the heart, emotions, and thinking. Professor Robert Saucy of Biola University, has written a unique and unparalleled book, Minding the Heart, about the way our heart has a significant connection to our thoughts and emotions which shape our practice of the living the Christian life well. With a scholar’s eye and a pastor’s heart, this book is a real gem in learning to dive deeply inside the heart for wisdom and guidance in loving Christ fully. The book is divided up into 14 chapters starting with a chapter on the abundant life and moving towards a holistic understanding of the heart, its deviances, and the Christian spiritual practices. Throughout the book you will find small gray sections in which Dr. Saucy seeks to elucidate some key concepts through quotes from other sources and research studies.
Why is Minding the Heart immensely valuable?
We’re taught in our culture that if we are going to change our actions then we must change our thoughts, but this only runs skin deep. Robert in his book focuses on the heart as the center of our being. He writes, “Because God works his renewal in and through our heart, it will be helpful to understand something of its nature and how it functions. The heart is who we are. It is the seat of our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Understanding the heart will help us grasp the process of our transformation” (28). If we only change our thoughts without delving into the matters of our heart and its waywardness, then we get to the root of the problem. As Robert indicates, “only a growing relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ can transform our heart…” (28). If the heart is the center seat of our being, then a complete renewal of our heart with Jesus Christ being at the center of it all is the only way forward. In other words, Robert gets to the heart of the matter when he talks about spiritual transformation.
Secondly, Robert rests his entire book on the powerful words of Scripture to help change our hearts, thoughts, and emotions. God’s Word has the power to change us because He is the one speaking to us. Robert writes, “God’s Word is powerful because he is actively present in it. To be sure a person is surely more than his words, but his words cannot be separated from him. The most significant means through which we reveal ourselves to one another as persons is through our words. Our words reveal our heart, for “the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matt. 12:34). God’s Word is thus God speaking to us from his heart” (137). In spiritual warfare, we are either help and strengthened by the Word of God or by man’s wisdom. As this book indicates, believing the lies of the enemy is a sure way to be defeated on the battlefield of spirituality (133). Robert brings out 4 primary ways that the The Word helps us in every facet of the spiritual journey. By protection, nourishment, seed of life, and medicine, God’s Word is effective to produce change as we meditate and take the words to the deep caverns of our heart. Many times this has been comforting to me as I face the lies of our culture and of Satan, by the very fact of remembering God’s Word it allows me to see sin for what it is and God for who he says he is.
Lastly, Minding the Heart provides an interdisciplinary approach to spiritual transformation that is both unique and profitable. In the chapter on Minding the Mind, Robert uses neurological science to talk about the relationship between emotion and cognition. Quoting from Richard Bondi, “Emotions and feelings are epistemological; they are sensors relating us to the world, needing interpretation to find significance” (140). An emotion is always interpreted before its effect is recognized. Therefore, a kiss on the cheek by a relative is appraised by a child as in connection to the love his mother or father shows him in a moment of tenderness. Even the emotions of Lord Jesus Christ are thought-filled ones, leading to his calmness as he approaches the cross. Emotions do not have to be wild and frenzied, without concern for their effect. Training our thoughts are as much a part of learning to evaluate our emotions. I also wanted to note that throughout the book Robert is careful to use neurological science only as it brings us into accord with the clear truth of Scripture.
This is a wonderful book and one that I will go back to again and again. From meditation to understanding how emotions work, Robert sees the heart and its place for spiritual transformation as central. I hope readers will profit greatly from reading as I did.
Thanks to Kregel Publications for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.