What Are the
Characteristics of the Heart According to the Bible?
“In Scripture, the
heart does the thinking and the willing.” From Gordon Clark,
Commentary on Colossians, p. 70.
Theological Reflections by Henry Stob
The distinction between
the mind and the heart may be seen in the relations they sustain
to one another.
regenerate or apostate, gives the mind its basic “set,” but it
does not, in this life, completely control the mind. The
unregenerate heart, because of common grace, does not come to
full expression in the unbeliever’s mind. The regenerate
heart, because of sin, does not come to full expression in the
There is an unqualified
and absolute antithesis between the regenerate and unregenerate
heart. There is not an absolute antithesis between the Christian
and non-Christian “mind.” He who in his heart is a Christian, in
principle Christ’s, may have a mind that embraces egregious
error and breathes a reprehensible spirit. He who is in his
heart a non-Christian, in principle Satan’s, may have a mind
that embraces much of truth and breathes a temperate spirit. In
the case of both the Christian and the non-Christian, the mind,
though for different reasons, can be false to the heart.
To avoid all
misunderstandings, a terminological remark must here be
appended. The Christian, whose heart is regenerated by God’s
Spirit, may be said to have a Christian mind—in
He who has a new heart has a new
Sometimes in speech and writing, these qualifications are
dropped, and we speak of any and all Christians as having a
Christian mind. There is not objection to this, provided that we
remember the elliptical nature of the expression.
I myself have used such
expressions both in my Note and in the twelve-point credo
that I wrote above. When the expression is used in this way,
however, one is compelled to say that the Christian both has
and has not the mind of Christ. In speaking of the heart one
may not use an expression of this kind.
One may never say that a
Christian both has and has not a new heart.
Thoughts on the Heart from Henry Stob in Theological
My note was addressed
to a freshman—to
a Christian freshman on his way into a Christian college. It was
with education—with the process of forming and shaping
students. And it focused attention on the entity which undergoes
the educational process—the self or mind.
Since “mind” is
prominent in the Note, and the subject of some misunderstanding,
I perhaps should indicate again how I employ the term. I employ
it to designate that which lies neither on the surface nor on
the deepest level of our being.
On the surface of our
being lie our bodies, our feelings, our manners, and our overt
judgments. At the root of our being lies our heart.
Neither the one nor the other of these do I consider the proper
object of educational forming. An education concerned merely to
modify the surfaces aspects of our life—to give health to our
bodies, dexterity to our hands, form to our manners, precision
to our speech—would be a shallow education. An education
concerned to modify the root of our being—to alter, form, and
shape the heart—would be an impious and impossible undertaking.
The direct or proper
“object” of our education is the mind. It lies, not indeed on
the deepest, but yet on the deeper level of our existence.
Itself subject to the direction of the heart, it, in its
turn, directs our judgments and volitions. Less basic than the
heart, from which it derives its fundamental cast and direction,
it is fuller and more basic than the intellect, since
intellect, will, and feelings are included in it.
I find you representing
me as using the term mind “very much as the Bible uses the term
heart,” and, what is even more strange, commending me for such
usage. I don’t use “mind” as a synonym for “heart.” Mind and
heart, in my judgment, are two distinct things, which ought not
to be confused.
The heart is the
religious ground of our consciousness; it functions on a
transcendental level of our existence; it cannot be altered by
an activity of man, and it undergoes no process of development
as such; it cannot be educated; when changed, it is changed in
an instant through the miracle of regeneration; it determines
but is not determined by our choice and decisions. About the
heart, no man may say what I said about the freshman’s mind—
that it is the product of many historical forces and influences,
that he has been an agent in the making of it, that he must
expose it to the formative influences that a college is meant to
generate and release.
The mind, unlike the
heart, can be altered or improved by taking care. The mind is,
as I told the freshman, the actual you, in
distinction from what you are in principle and promise. It is
you in your concrete existence. It is you in your empirical
totality. It is you with all your modifiable thoughts,
imaginings, attitudes, and desires. It is you as you stand in
history, affecting and being affected by the various influences
that operate there. It is the variable size and measure of you.
It is where you centrally confront the world. It is the
conscious center of you. It is you as you reveal yourself in
specific judgments, evaluations, choices. It is what you now or
at any time concretely are. It is you as educable,
alterable, sanctifiable. It is you as made an distill unmade, as
being and still becoming. It is quite simply you, in your
concrete actuality, and including all your contradictions and