Driving a Biblical Investigative Agenda
In the first essay of this series, I wrote:
Read again the first few chapters of the Book of Acts, not as a believer, but as a field biologist asking the standard set of questions that are asked upon discovery of a new species: What are the characteristics of the new species? What is its natural history? What characteristics are unique to it, and which are shared by others? What are its identifying features that allow biologists to identify members of this species and avoid misclassification with other species? How does it reproduce? How does it interact within its eco-system and the other occupants? How does it defend itself? What is its range? How does it expand its niche in the eco-system, and who is impacted by its arrival? What other species can we compare it to? How does the ecosystem support a growth rate where 120 members become 3000 members in the span of a day? What do we call it?
A special set of sub-questions are asked by field biologists when they encounter a symbiotic species or a host/parasite relationship. We've already answered the one of "what is the host and what is the symbiont (occupant)?" The ones of interest to us are "Where within the host does the symbiont reside? How does that location affect the host? How does that location enable the symbiont to live and interact with the host? How does the location determine benefit?"
We will learn that location determines symbiont interactivity with the host. We will then look for the location of the Holy Spirit within the believer, assess what is known about that location (biblically and scientifically), and then from there determine the likely mechanism by which the Holy Spirit interacts with the believer based on its location. We will put this information to practical use in the next essay.
Location, Location, Location
The location of the symbiote within the host is important because the ability of the symbiote to influence the host, and to benefit from the host, is tied to the function that is associated with the location in the host. In lichen, the algae are contained internally in hardened and translucent chambers near the surface of the organism. The algae receive their benefit, protection, by the hardened chamber grown by the host fungus. To support the production of food, the chamber is translucent to let in sunlight, which the algae uses to produce sugars. The algae are penetrated by threads from the fungus that allow the host to remove the excess sugar produced for its own use.
Not any algae will thus unite with a fungus to form lichen: it must produce excess sugar by which it can nourish itself and its host. It also must be durable enough to endure the required penetration of the threads the fungus needs to tap into the excess sugar supply: if the fungus cannot be fed from the algae, the fungus will die, followed by that of the algae.
And not any fungus will support algae to form lichen: It must be able to grow the necessary chambers within which the algae will reside, provide water to sustain itself and the algae, build the chambers in a location where light can penetrate to the algae within, and make walls that are strong enough to protect the algae while being translucent enough to let sufficient light through them to feed the algae within. Some fungi have two forms, one when only fungus, and another when it is lichen. Doubtless, the form is different because of the specialized requirements that must be met to host the algae. (And since the form of fungus is geneticfally determined, it is interesting to ask how the DNA of fungus came to have the information necessary to transistion to a more cooperative form when in the presence of an organism with unrelated DNA.)
In this case, the needs of the algae dictate its location within the fungal host, and the host must change somewhat to accomodate the algae in that location. The needs of the host, in turn, dictate that the algae have certain strengths to fulfill its role and accomodate the needs of its host.
Because there are few other endosymbiotic life forms that are cooperatively beneficial, we will turn to the "dark side" of symbiosis and consider how parasites leverage their effects via their location.
Tape worms reside in the intestines because that is where the food is, and are designed to handle the stresses of that environment during digestion. Their location, the digestive system, determines the effect the tape worms have on the host: the location enables the parasite to live off the food the host consumes, depriving the host of the full energy benefit of the food it expends energy to eat. The tape worm affects the host by reducing the energy efficiency of the host, forcing the host to expend energy to obtain more food to compensate for what the parasite is taking. If the parasites continue to multiply and take more energy, the host cannot make up the deficit and dies as if from starvation.
A form of worm is heartworm in dogs, and which preferentially reside in the pulmonary artery (the artery going from the heart to the lungs). The main impact of the parasite is via partial blockage of the pulmonary artery which restricts blood flow to the lungs. Thus, it is often seen when the dog has distress during heavy exercise, since sedentary dogs can have heartworm, but do not show symptoms, because the demand for oxygenated blood is reduced. Thus, we see that the location of the parasite dictates how it affects its host, the symptoms that the host displays, and the conditions under which those symptoms appear.
Malaria is caused by a parasitic protozoan, and has a variety of secondary symptoms that make diagnosis difficult. This is because the protozoan mainly resides in the bloodstream feeding on red blood cells, and thus can be deposited anywhere in the body, causing the secondary symptoms. One serious secondary mode of attack is when the parasite breaks into the brain and nerves, causing brain and nerve damage. Although the protozoan form of the parasite can be killed, rendering the host seemingly free of the disease, it has been recently discovered that there is a larval form of the parasite that resides exclusively in the liver. The location of this larval form prevents effecting a complete cure because effective medicines that kill the larval form also destroy the liver. The parasite can remain in larval form for years before metamorphosing into its adult protozoan form and causing a recurrence of the disease. In this case, there are two locations that the parasite uses in its life cycle, one of which is essential to its survivablity in the host.
Note how, in these examples, the symbiote/parasite leverages its location to influence its host, for good or ill. Seeing how location is a critical factor in influence of symbiote/parasite upon the host, we will go to the Holy Bible to determine the location of the Holy Spirit within the Christian believer.
Residence of the Spirit
21 Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; 22 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
Verse 21 is included to establish that "God" is the "Who" of verse 22. At the end of verse 22, we see that the Spirit is given "in our hearts". (At first blush, it does not appear that this instance of "in Christ" refers to the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit as we established in the second essay. It looks as if this is the "legal relationship" kind of "in Christ" ("For as in Adam, all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive"). However, the phrase "hath anointed us", is a reference to the Old Testament act of anointing so as to impart the Holy Spirit. "Christ" is the Greek word for the Hebrew "Messiah", which means "anointed", so the concept here is that to be "in Christ" is to be in the same anointing he had. Here, it seems that the Holy Spirit (anointing) is seen as a legal right because of a legal binding of the believer to Christ. And since Christ was anointed (because that's what the word "Christ" means), then we legally have it as well. Thus, we see that the death of Jesus Christ enables the believing sinner to be counted as one with Christ. It is from that legal status that the actual act of anointing and bestowing of the Holy Spirit is legitimized despite the sins of the sinner.)
Galatians 4:4-7 repeats this theme of the human heart being the residence of the Holy Spirit:
4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 3:3 we read:
3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
However, lest we think that this establishes that the physical heart is the site, we have the following from Ephesians 3:16 - 17:
16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith...
Here, the Spirit is said to strengthen the Christian via "the inner man". The reference to writing on tables of flesh and not tables of stone in 2 Corinthians 3:3, where Paul is defending his ministry to the Corinthians, is a reference to Ezekiel 11:19-21:
19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: 20 That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord GOD.
and to Ezekiel 36:26-27,
26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
Paul cited an Old Testament passage to establish his credentials with the Corinthians as an Apostle whose ministry resulted in the fulfillment of an Old Testament promise of converting stony hearts to fleshly hearts, and putting a "new spirit" within the recipient. In both cases, the spirit is given, the stony heart is removed, and the fleshy heart is bestowed. The end result of this process is that the recipients do God's will.
Then we have this passage from Hebrews 13:9:
Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.
This verse is at the boundary of the pastoral portion of Hebrews. Having finished his exposition on the Levitical system and how the Melchizidek priesthood of Jesus Christ was superior to it, the author urges the readers to live the Christian life in practical ways that are mirrored in other New Testament passages. This verse transitions from a discussion of the kind of living lived under grace back to life as it is lived under the law, and how those living under grace live in that environment. "Established" here is bebaioo, to make firm and sure. "Grace" is charis, used with reference to the bounty and undeserved good favor of God. Here, the author of Hebrews points out the inability of the levitical dietary laws to help establish the hearts of those who obeyed them and occupied themselves with the smallest details. Here, the heart is not the physical heart, otherwise a preoccupation with eating the right kinds of meats would have made it firm and sure.
An interesting question to ask is which came first, the fleshy (new) heart, or the Spirit. Is the new heart a result of the Spirit coming into Homo and transforming or replacing the stony heart, or is the exchange of a fleshy heart for a stony heart an act of Deus so that the spirit being bestowed has a suitable location within the host? There are numerous verses that speak of the primacy of Spirit, and thus imply that the Spirit comes first. Keeping in mind that the word "spirit" in the language in the bible originals is derived from words that signify "breath" or "wind", Ezekiel's vision of the valley of dry bones that has the wind giving breath to dead bodies is pertinent. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit" is what God tells Zechariah. Jesus assures us that it is Spirit, not flesh, that brings results. The new birth is described by Jesus in terms of being born "of the water and of the Spirit". The Genesis account has the Spirit moving over the face of the waters at its start, while the location of God, who does the speaking, is not stated until the sixth day, when it can be reasonably assumed that He was on the ground when he formed man from the dust of the ground.
Thus, from the above verses, the location where Deus resides in Homo is the heart. However, the term "heart" should be taken in the way the Bible writers understood the term, not in the way we today understand the term: word meanings change over time, and they were of a different culture with different ideas of how the human body was laid out. While the more prideful of the moderns of today may boast that they "know more" than the ancients, one has to understand that the latter wrote the scriptures using words the way they themselves used them. It is arrogance to believe that the definition of a term we hold today is the same definition held by the ancients then.
We may boast today that the way we use the word heart today is "more correct" than the way the Bible writers used it, but that doesn't mean it didn't have a meaning to them. Rather than us imposing a defintion on their use of the term that we think is more "correct", perhaps some humility is in order and that we ask them what they meant by the human "heart".
"Heart" as a Mental Category
When considering how men of the ancient world thought, one must take into account the fact that they may not have divided the world and themselves into the same categories that we do today. Take the biblical word "kind" as used in the Genesis account, and attempt to fit it into the system of modern taxonomy. The definition is in terms of behaviors that give rise to observable results: when animals of the same "kind" breed, they produce offspring of the same "kind". Early in the development of biology as a science, taxonomists classified animals in terms of their body structures, not whether they could breed together. That's because it is easier to compare and contrast body parts from a dead specimen than try to mate two dissimilar live animals and see if they produced "similar" offspring. When it came to classifying rain forest frogs, there was a profusion of species that were discovered. When it came to dog breeding, everyone "knew" that all the breeds of dogs could breed with each other because they were, well, dogs. In fact, they would if given the chance, and only human intervention maintains the differences between dog breeds. However, when it was discovered that rain forest frogs of different "species" interbred in captivity, it was later determined that the "distintives" of the species that differentiated them were maintained because each "species" had a distinct and specific "mating" season in the wild. That is, what differentiated the frogs was the time their internal biological clocks rang during the year, and body aspects like body shape and skin coloration were inbred accidents, with separation maintained by the fact that they mated at specific times and not during others, when other frogs with different shapes and coloration mated. In captivity, their biological clocks got resynchronized to mate at the same time, which they proceeded to do with much enthusiasm and little regard for the neat boxes into which scientists tried to stuff them.
While some moderns with more sense and humility may grant that the ancients used the word "heart" differently than we do, they still err when they assert that "the bible writers used the word 'heart' when we mean X", where "X" is "the emotions" or "the will" or "the spirit" in man: namely, X is a category moderns created and which has bounds and rules for determining membership that are set by moderns. At least atheist zooloigists and taxonomists agree that no current taxnomical classification exactly maps to the biblical animal classification of "kind", and agree that the classification method used by the ancients to define "kind" is much too rigorous and confining for their tastes.
A better way to determine what the Bible writers meant when they used the word "heart" is to look at relevant bible passages that describe some specific phenomena that they associated with the heart, and work from the phenomena back to relevant mental categories that we hold. While doing so, we must be aware that how they assigned certain phenomena to "the heart" may mean splitting apart or lumping together our mental categories of mental behavior.
In Matthew 5:28, we read:
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
The heart is where one does mental lust. Thus, Jesus says that mental pictures occur in the heart.
In Matthew 6:21, we read:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Since we think about and desire to keep our treasures, Jesus implied that the heart is the seat of desires and motivations to keep what we value. We will re-visit this verse later on this same page.
In Matthew 12:33-37, Jesus said:
33 Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. 34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. 36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
The thoughts that determine how we speak come from the heart. The heart mirrors the character: good men bring good things from a good heart, but an evil man brings evil things from an evil heart. Verses 33 and 34 imply that there is an inevitable effect that flows from the cause where the cause is a good or evil heart. James says the same thing in James 3:7-12, using the tounge as the main indicator of the true internal state of a man:
7 For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: 8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
That these things are impossible is true, and yet men do bless God and curse men. This verse is an indication that opposing forces are involved: these are not the wicked, for purely wicked men do not bless God. James uses the word "we" in verse 9, implying that this is a description of Christians, within whose hearts resides the Holy Spirit, and thus are able to bless God the Father when wicked men cannot do so. Yet these Christians (and we ourselves) curse men, proving that within those same hearts resides something wicked. Paul said the same thing in Romans 7. This is important information that will be used to derive a model of the human mind in the next essay.
Let us now look at the most important parable that Jesus taught.
The Master Parable
Matthew 13:1-23 is Matthew's account of Jesus teaching the Parable of the Sower (which I call the metaparable, or Master Parable, for it is by it that we understand all the parables). Verses 10 through 19 convey several relevant aspects regarding the human heart:
10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. 13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: 15 For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. 17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. 18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. 19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
The first aspect is in verses 13 and 15, which indicates that Jesus saw the heart as the part of man that understands what he hears. A heart that has "waxed gross" is associated with ears that are "dull of hearing" and eyes that "they (themselves) have closed", resulting in no understanding of what is heard. Paul viewed such an understanding as being darkened due to a blind heart. In contrast, an understanding heart, eyes that see, and ears that hear, are associated with understanding what is heard and seen. In verse 16, we have a transitional situation: the disciples had eyes that saw, and ears that heard, yet they asked jesus, in verse 10, why he was speaking in parables. Mark 4:10 clarifies their question by indicating that the question was an indirect request for help in understanding the parable. Though they did not understand, they noticed that they didn't understand, giving evidence within their hearts that their eyes saw and their ears heard. These are the core qualifications for a heart that was capable of understanding, so Jesus called them "blessed".
The next three aspects are in verse 19, which indicates that hearing the "word of the kingdom", but not understanding it, enables "the wicked one" to remove that which was "sown" into the heart of the hearer. A parable is a metaphor clothed in story form. In this parable, the heart is likened to a field which is sown with seed, which is the "word of the kingdom". Applying the metaphor, the heart is seen as a place where words are planted and have the capability of growing. The first aspect to note is the role that the "word of the kingdom" plays within the human heart: it can grow and produce fruit with varying yields. The second aspect is that the heart must understand that word for it to "get into the ground", so that it can take root. A "word of the kingdom" that is not understood is likened to seed that lies on top of the ground, permitting the "wicked one" to snatch it away. The behavior of the "wicked one" indirectly indicates the third aspect: if left alone, the seed may take root, so that possiblity must be prevented. This indicates that the heart was viewed by the ancients as the place where the memory resides and which performs the function of bringing back important memories "to mind". This ties in with Matthew 6:21, since each of us, at one time or another in our lives, have suffered sleepless nights tossing and turning from thoughts that seem to force themselves to our attention because some "treasure" of ours is threatened. If our heart is where our "treasure" is, then it is the heart that sets the mental agenda, decides what is important based on what our "treasure" is, and brings relevant thoughts to the mind's attention. A proof that the word did not "get into the soil" is that it is not brought back from the memory to awareness. It does not reappear again to be considered. Human memory is very good at throwing out stuff that is repetitious or not relevant when compared to what is already in memory.
Now, here is an interesting aspect of these verses: the initial question that started the discussion in this passage was "Why was Jesus teaching in Parables"? He taught the people and his disciples in parables, and his parables were exclusively spoken (verse 19). He used no audiovisual techniques, almost exclusively speaking his parables. Yet, the verses indicated above talk of ears and eyes. Was Jesus talking about physical ears and eyes? Or was he talking about the "internal voice" that speaks words, and the "internal projector" that displays pictures to the "internal eye"? I would think the latter, based on verse 16, where Jesus praises the eyes and ears of the disciples for seeing and hearing, even though not yet understanding. Paul adds music, song, and singing to the list (Ephesians 5:19), and holds that the unsaved heart of those who indulge in sin is blinded. In contrast, the people are viewed as not "seeing" and "hearing" the parable, even though they audibly heard Jesus' words and visibly saw his body. It seems that the hearts of the disciples, although not understanding at the moment, are trying to, because in each disciple's mind is being generated a mental audio-visual of the parable. It is "running a mental model of the parable" to use a computer metaphor. The Master Parable indeed: a major contributor when it comes to gaining an understanding of the Word of the Kingdom is to try to understand it. For that to happen, one must realize "Goodness! This stuff is important!",at which point it becomes a treasure upon which the heart focusses. We engineers and programmers do this sort of thing in our heads, and we do it all the time when it comes to the problems we encounter in our fields of expertise. If this is not an invitation to bring that mental attitude and way to attack problems to spiritual, biblical, and theological matters, then I wouldn't know how to word one that does.
The Parable of the Sower is a critical one to understand, and not because Jesus saw fit to explain it in detail (The Parable of the Wheat and Tares being another one he took seriously enough to explain). Another name for this Parable would be The Bootstrap Parable: if understanding the Word of the Kingdom is critical, then this parable tells us that trying to understand is the first step, and running that Word through our minds using mental audio-visual modelling constitutes the required activity to do so. In Mark's version of the parable, Jesus implies that all the parables he says has an important lesson worth working to uncover. Of course we can get help by reading and talking about alternatives with others, just as any good engineer would be derelict if he didn't seek other opinions and points of view. However, such contributions will mean nothing unless they are applied to or tested against that running mental model in our heads. Or running in our hearts, if we adopt the classification scheme of mental process that Jesus and the Bible writers seemed to employ.
Before we go on, I feel pressed to include this: the quality of the understanding affects the outcome. At the end of the explanation of the parable, Jesus notes that the harvest varies, with some producing 3000% increases, some 6000% increases, some 10000%. Since the seed (the Word of the Kingdom) is the same, the differences must lie in the soils in which the seed lands. Since the human heart is the parabolical soil, the work expended in understanding that Word, and the measure of success while doing so, has to be making that critical difference in the outcome. Since scripture doesn't come with any indications of what has to be understood to attain that 100-fold increase, we have to act, think, work, and behave like engineers confronted with the task of taking a pump to 100% efficiency, but because the manual is missing, we have no idea what 100% efficiency looks like for that pump.
We still have more to discover of what the Bible writers thought of the human heart.
The Human Heart (cont.)
From Matthew 15:10-18:
10 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: 11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.....15 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. 16 And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? 17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? 18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: 20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.
Peter is not correct stating that verses 10 and 11 (cited at the link) are a parable: the style is more like a proverb than a parable. A better word would have been "parable", or even "mystery". From this passage, we see that the Heart is the source for evil thoughts and the motivations that drive one to do them. Murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and blasphemies! What a list!
From Matthew 22:37:
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
One can love with one's heart. This is the flip side to it being the source of evil thoughts.
From Mark 11:23, we read:
For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.
Doubt in the heart disables the working of miracles.
It is with the heart that man believes in order to be saved. Doubt in the heart disables the working of miracles. It is the hardness of man's heart that disables him to believe, making it an evil one that is filled by the Devil. Paul agrees in Romans 10:8-10:
8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
This makes sense if it is with the heart that one keeps one's commitments, as Paul suggests in 1 Corinthians 7:37:
Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.
The heart is the place where lies are conceived, as we read in Acts 5:4:
Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
Paul wrote the following two verses to Timothy:
1 Timothy 1:5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:..
2 Timothy 2:22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
From these two verses, we can tell that the heart can be pure. From the 1 Timothy passage, we also see that charity (agape, the divine sort of love) comes out of a pure heart. The apostle Peter agrees in 1 Peter 1:22.
In chapter 4, verse 12, the writer of Hebrews says:
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Thus, the heart was viewed as the seat of a man's intentions and source of his thoughts. This verse is also significant in that it states that the Word of God is able to discern those thoughts and intents.
In Hebrews 10:22, we find the following:
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
The heart is where the conscience is, and purification consists of purging that evil conscience. Also, to draw near to God, we must have a true heart. Attempts to deceive the Holy Spirit have been fatal to the liars.
The Apostle John says that the heart is the source of feelings of condemnation, which in the Christian can become a reliable indicator of their status toward God via those feelings (or their absence). 1 John 3:20-22 says:
20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. 22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
That appears to be all the verses in the New Testament that appear relevant to our inquiry. I will now sum up what we've learned.
Summarizing the Human Heart
Let's summarize what the New Testament Bible writers believed about the heart. They believed that the human heart was:
- from where good and evil thoughts come (lusts, adultery, envyings, murders, etc.),
- from where desires and motivations come to do good and commit evil,
- from where thoughts come that drive a man's priorities based on his "treasure", or collection of valued things and ideas.
- from where memory and conscience arise,
- able to have thoughts and intents,
- made firm and sure by God's grace,
- how humans understand ideas and concepts.
- unable to understand the Word of the Kingdom if it was hard,
- where the word of the kingdom resides and grows,
- endowed with mental ears and eyes to see and hear thoughts,
- from where lies come,
- from where agape love comes,
- from where man makes and keeps their commitments,
- able to be purified, or become evil,
- the source of doubt that could stop miracles from working,
- the source of belief that would save a man,
- a reliable indicator of a Christian's status with God.
One has to wonder what part of a man's mental life does not belong to the heart as it was viewed by the Bible writers. A quick perusal of the Old Testament view of the heart adds this: the heart was the place in man where the God-given gifts of wisdom and technical skill resided. I did not go into the Old Testament because I was not sure how to characterize how its views of the heart were adopted by the New Testament writers.
The only thing that appears not to be encompassed by the biblical definition of the heart seems to be sleeping dreams: the majority of dreams in the Scriptures are either messages from God or experiences where God and the dreamer interact. The fanciful and exciting imaginings that come to us during sleep that we call dreams today were either not taken seriously, or taken seriously by false prophets in need of an excuse.
It appears that the fanciful symbology associated with dreams today would have been regarded as quaintly gentile in character by the Hebrews: All the dreams dreamed by those who worshipped the God of Abraham, including Abraham himself, were no-nonsense, plain-speaking, straightforward affairs, with little to no leeway for interpretation. Any imagery that seemed fanciful was similar to Fontpage eye-candy that plays on the mental screen while the voice of the narrator continues to speak, quite plainly and sensibly, in the background. Almost all the dreams of non-worshippers of Abraham's God were highly symbolic and needed interpretation. The two dreams that were exceptions were straightforward due to the serious nature of the situation that required direct and prompt action, with no time to be wasted pondering and weighing the differing interpretations of the "expert professionals" that custom dictated be brought in to ruminate on the subject the following morning. Thus, we have the tormented dream about Jesus that Pilate's wife suffered, and the rather blunt dialog in Abimelech's dream between himself and Abram's God when he mistakenly took Abram's wife, Sarai, into his harem. Visions, of course, are highly symbolical, but the one seeing it is quite awake and aware that it is a vision while it is being experienced, so it does not count as a sleeping dream. It is interesting that this enlightened attitude and sophisticated approach to dreams by the Hebrew people and their ancestors has not been contrasted against the way fanciful dreams were treated by their heathen contemporaries. While they followed Abraham's God, they truly were a wise and understanding people.
Symbiote Interaction: The Ideal and the Real
This is the "heart" within which the Holy Spirit resides. The location indicates that the Holy Spirit should be capable of affecting the thoughts, intents, emotions, deeds, mental imagery, mental audio, and priorities of the human host. This presence doubtless is that agent that works to make the heart good and pure. As a member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit within is intimately familiar with the thoughts of Jesus Christ and the Father, including those thoughts regarding the standing of the Christian host before God, which are conveyed to the heart of the believer. The entire thought life can be affected by the Holy Spirit, given its location within the Christian.
Well, that's the theory. As any engineer or scientist can tell you, there is a considerable distance between the spec sheet for an engine and the actual performance of same when bolted to its support pad and connected to the load. And this is not one of those situations where all you have to go on is the blather of the sales rep: every Christian reading this essay can look within themselves and compare the "ideal" against the "real". Skepticism is definitely called for, for while we may experience the feelings of a guilty conscience from time to time, it does not appear that there is a second "person" in our heads. If the Holy Spirit is truly within us as a symbiote, then where is the promised purification of the heart? Where is the control of the thought life? And why is it so darn hard to love one another and do the right thing with each other? Shouldn't the God of the Universe be somewhat more powerful and, well, competent, than this?
And yet, if one looks carefully with the alert mind of an engineer "walking down" the equipment entrusted to him, one can see clues. There's the initial flush of progress when a believer first comes to believe that seems universal, yet comes to a halt in the vast majority of new believers, with more abandoning the faith and "backsliding" than those who seem to be able to press on to further progress. There's the initial rush of power and the sense that anything is possible when one is first baptized with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tounges, followed by good progress in one's spiritual life, only to also come to a halt for the vast majority. There are the reports of alcoholics, smokers, and drug addicts walking away from their addictions at conversion, yet there is the fact of this experience being limited in number, as well as the the stubborn persistence of sexually-based temptations and compulsions that seems to be the plague among modern Christian men today. Glimmers of progress flickering here and there in a landscape that is characterized by stagnation. What is going on?
What's going on is complacency: the feeling that we're doing okay, all things considered, so there's no real need to look into things further. We Christians are saved and bound for heaven, so the really big issue at the core of existence, death, has been taken care of thanks to Jesus Christ our Lord. Everything else is icing on the cake. Which, by the way, is fattening and can be the source of fanaticism if we push the issue too far. Or so we are warned by those who feel that the Church is a more effective witness when it doesn't rock the secular boat by emphasizing the spiritual side of things, but instead concentrates on the social gospel side of the dialog.
If you are thinking like that, then consider this: an engineer installs a 12 cylinder engine in a factory and the initial performance is extraordinarily good, firing on all cylinders. A week later, he comes back and finds it running on 10 cylinders. A week later, he finds it running on 8. The trend goes down until the engine is running on one cylinder. Luckily, the engine was oversized for its application, so its not affecting production too much. It is "doing okay, all things considered, so there's no real need to look into things further", right?
An engineer that lets a situation like that lie unfixed like that, without wondering for a second "what the heck is wrong?", is not, in my opinion, a real engineer. They wouldn't tolerate that situation with their vehicle, and a really good engineer wouldn't tolerate that situation anywhere else in his circle of responsibility: the compulsive urge some feel to fix broken stuff is what makes for great engineers.
We are not okay.
There is a real need to look further. The current status quo is not acceptable.
In situations like that recounted above, engineers go back to the drawing boards. They look at the manuals, discuss the problem with other engineers, worry at the problem and the issues from different angles, and let their minds work on the problem in the back of their heads while at home and at play. They may have to dig out the science books and articles, and go back to the fundamentals. This is the sort of thing I went through since early 2007, trying to figure out the puzzle of why and how Church (and Christian) performance, having started out so powerfully at Pentecost (or conversion), has degraded to the sorry state that it is today.
What I discovered recently (since April of 2008) has revolutionized my life. I won't go into details of the change in my life, since that would be concentating on an external: zipping around in my Jag, showing off what it can do, isn't in my nature. Once I began to treat Deus/Homo Symbiosis as a reality, and had accepted the challenge of actively working to reverse the performance losses of Christianity in myself, my fellow believers, and the Church, I was primed to catch an offhand remark made in Owen Barfield's "What Coleridge Thought" which, when coupled with his seminal "Saving the Appearances", made me realise that the modern model of the human mind, heart, and spirit, is seriously deficient in light of the symbiotic nature of the Christian. A new model, based on a Biblical understanding of the human heart, was necessary. I began work on it based on Barfield's initial directions, filtering out elements that came from his later dalliance with Anthrosopy that destroyed his Christian witness (no big deal for me, given that I had wrestled with Objectivism while a teenager and came out a stronger Christian after the struggle).
I knew I was on the right track when the first rough drafts started changing me. I began losing spriritual and emotional phobias and hang-ups. I began to get a handle on my thought life, and began to get on top of compulsions I acquired when I stumbled onto my Dad's pornography stash in our garage when I was 7 or 8. I began, for the first time in my 50+ lifetime, to be happy from the inside, rather than from good stuff happening on the outside.
I present the new model, and ways in which the model can be practically applied, in the next essay* God willing. Please keep in mind that, as of the publication of this essay, it is the product of 10 weeks of part-time work and revelation, so the prospects for further work and even greater progress are extremely good.
Now, if only I can keep from smiling on the outside as much as I feel happy on the inside. Otherwise, I just might get shipped off from my work at a nuclear power plant to a mental institution for "adjustment".
* The "next" essay chronologically during the evolution of this website when this essay was penned was "Hack yer Mind".
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