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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.

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From Theological Reflections by Henry Stob

The distinction between the mind and the heart may be seen in the relations they sustain to one another.

The heart, 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 Christian’s mind.

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 mindin principle. He who has a new heart has a new mindin germ. 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.

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More Thoughts on the Heart from Henry Stob in Theological Reflections

My note was addressed to a freshmanto 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 consistencies.

 




 

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