The Weekend Word
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV)
According to my Accordance Bible Software there are 849 verses in the Bible that reference the heart.
For reasons beyond my understanding, this is the one that many have settled on as being God’s view on anthropology and His verdict on humanity.
The heart is always wicked, the emotions twisted, and you cannot trust either your thoughts or feelings.
Period…except for the people who preach this verse who act as if their hearts have been exempted from this.
If you threw out all the Reformed hymns and prayers that refer to God’s people as “worms” you could cut service times in half.
Is this what this passage is saying?
Is it the last word on biblical anthropology?
My old friend John Calvin wrote:
“Many lay hold on these words and mutilate them without understanding the design of the Prophet. This is very absurd: for we ought first to see what the prophets had in view, and by what necessity or cause they were led to speak, what was their condition, and then the general doctrine that may be gathered from their words.”
In other words, that passage has to be understood in the context of the rest of the passage…and it’s not a universal condemnation of human hearts as a metaphor for our thoughts and emotions.
In fact, if you read a few hundred of those other references you will find that “the heart” is often spoken of positively as the place where the law is written on our hearts, as the place that Jesus dwells and so on…and the Bible recognizes the validity of both the redeemed will and emotions as well as the damage that sin has done to the human soul.
In this season of meditating on the Incarnation I exhort you to reject this mutilation of the Scriptures and degradation of humanity to focus on the words of our collect for this week.
O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
More wonderfully restored.
Wasn’t it Calvin, who said: “the human heart is a perpetual idol factory.” I don’t have his Institutes, but I have a citation to I.11.8.
My understanding of the New Covenant in Christ is believers in Jesus are given a new heart: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
If this is true then doesn’t our anthropology becomes like that of Paul’s who sees the Christian as having two hearts – the old man and the new man, resulting in the internal conflict of the Spirit and the flesh?
Yet, although Paul found himself a wretched man in the midst of his conflict, he pronounced: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
I think of Romans 7:18 – this “earthen vessel” – it is corrupted, but it is not God’s plan (or will) that we cater to, what i call, our old sin nature. Yes, God’s will for humanity is to rise above the condemnation – “For God so LOVED the world…. ” blessed life, blessed hope
Praying that this weekend word’s edification lifts souls – encourages us
Yes, Calvin said that.
He was right.
However, Calvin and all other decent expositors interpret all the “heart” verses in their context and they paint a realistic picture of the human condition, good or bad.
What I am objecting to is this being the “go to” verse for human anthropology…because it simply isn’t…as the very next verse clarifies.