“Minding the Heart” by Robert Saucy (a review)

Robert 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.

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