The Bible offers an entirely different anthropology than is common in the West.
The previous chapter sets the stage for adopting a different mind set. But of course, that’s just mowing down the old crop previously cultivated on the roots of faith. We propose to transplant those roots into an entirely different soil and climate. We want to plow the ground and prepare it well.
This different ground of assumptions cannot be trusted to mere intellect. This is not persuasion and conversion; we aren’t selling a new product for you to buy. If this thing doesn’t call your name, then you can’t truly belong. It must be a matter of conviction, not mere opinion and belief. This is not a decision; it’s a divine calling.
In the Bible, the Hebrew concept of human nature included the heart as the seat of faith and conviction, wholly separate from the mind. They meant this rather literally; it was no mere figure of speech. Frankly, there is good American science behind such a view. In my book, Heart of Faith, I referenced a large body of scientific research that recognizes the heart as a sensory organ in its own right. While the research doesn’t propose how to use it, the scientists were able to detect a very strong energy field emanating from the heart, along with an independent neural network with nodes for processing what that field could sense — a sort of “mind” of its own. The scientists could detect this field and how it changed in the presence of other living things — humans and other creatures have their own sensory fields — but still have no idea what it all means.
We aren’t surprised that scientists don’t know what to make of it. For them, the notion that there is something beyond the intellect is simply not an option. We believe this is answered in the biblical model of humans with a potential for being ruled by their hearts instead of their brains. Not the American “heart” as the repository of sentiment, however strongly held, but something quite different. Some Bible scholars say the heart is the seat of the will. The biblical model depicts the heart as the one part of us capable of commiting to God as a Person, of clinging to Him in faithfulness and loyalty. This heart also knows God on a different level. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is depicted as speaking through the heart-mind, not the intellect. God gave us our intellects to organize and implement the demands of faith in our hearts.
Obviously, this implies that the heart-mind defies mere ideas. The content of the heart cannot be packaged in words and thoughts, but rises above that level. This is partially reflected in the Hebrew approach to language itself. Hebrew is inherently different in purpose and operation from American English, for example. We use words as containers of truth; we describe things by drawing boundaries. We have a penchant for precision that way. Hebrew is not descriptive, but indicative. Words are treated as sign posts, trail markers for further exploration. Ultimate truth cannot be declared in words; it cannot be known as a proposition or logical argument. Truth is known as a Person, a living being, not some static-objective-concrete body of fact. The heart is prepared to know in terms of persons and moral character that cannot be contained in mere words.
Thus, faith in Christ is not mere ideas and doctrinal orthodoxy, nor strong emotions, nor steely self-discipline in obedience, nor all of them together. Faith in Christ is a burning and yearning desire to be like Him and to please the Father. If someone asks you where you live in the sense of where the real you resides, you shouldn’t point to your head. You should seek to move the core of your awareness into the heart. This is where you will find the unshakable will to love and serve our Lord when your human resources are exhausted. This is how you know what the right thing is and that you must do it regardless of what makes sense to your mind or how you feel. You hold your opinions, but your convictions hold you.
Coming from an American background, it is wholly unlikely you will embrace our covenant, unless you first shift your sense of awareness into your heart. What we teach defies reason and broad human experience. It’s not as if American Christians can’t agree with our use of the term “heart-led” as a way of living, but the instinctive mental reaction to those words still clings to Anglo-American assumptions about reality. It does not know the Spirit Realm experientially, only as an idea. And behind the scenes of conscious thinking hides an ugly materialistic suspicion of anything that isn’t part of concrete reality. It’s exceedingly rare to escape that prison unless you can tap the power of the heart to rearrange the contents of the mind.
Of course, it doesn’t help that nearly every English translation of Scripture seems totally unaware of this. You’ll find words translated as “heart” because the original Hebrew, Aramaic of Greek words match the Anglo-American image of the heart, not that of the Hebrew people. Hebrew thinking, even in Greek writing, is rooted in a wholly different approach to expression. They would be perplexed at our American instinct to take the words at face value. The truth of the heart can never be confined to precise explanation; it can only be indicated by parables and characterizations. This is why Jesus taught in parables.
In Jesus’ day, the ancient Hebrew approach had been discarded, and was close to forgotten, by the rabbinical traditions that had embraced Hellenized intellectual traditions after Alexander the Great passed through Palestine in 323 BC. Judaism today is that Hellenized religion, not the ancient Hebrew faith of Moses. They had reduced religion to a matter of intellect and reason, and had forgotten the Hebrew tradition of trusting the heart first. This is the underlying problem behind all the debates Jesus had with the Pharisees and Scribes (the Sadducees were simply secularized). They had become legalized with nit-picking over semantics, something wholly alien to the ancient Hebrew approach.
The heart-led way is not part of our covenant; it is a prerequisite. It is presumed, and for good reason. We believe that the entire human race is equipped to make this transition. This is God’s free gift to mankind, regardless of whether they know Christ. Indeed, the heart-led approach is part of several pagan religions today, though often it is assumed without comment because it associates with non-Western cultures. Genuine pagan religions bear little resemblance to popular American notions about them. The lack of a heart-led concept is unique to Western Civilization.
Further, the very nature of the Fall in Eden was to shift from a heart-led obedience and faith in God to assertively placing human capabilities on the throne of the soul. The symbolism behind the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was the concept of “knowledge” in the sense of deciding for oneself what is good and evil. This points to the arrogance of the human intellect in presuming to discern by reason what morality is without having to defer to revelation. The intellect is fallen, so we don’t put a lot of trust in it.
Again, God gave us our minds primarily as the means to organizing and implementing what the heart knows.