Robert L. Saucy’s influence on many evangelicals is incalculable. He’s mostly known for his work in areas of systematic theology and as an advocate for Progressive Dispensationalism (PD). He’s currently the Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Biola University. So you might be interested in whether his latest book builds upon his previous work on PD or on ecclesiology. It’s understandable that you’d expect that since he’s written so much on those subjects (check his CV for evidence!). Guess what?
Robert L. Saucy’s latest book is on spiritual transformation!! Yes, you read that correctly. Saucy has entered into the world of practical theology and written a book that addresses a subject of tremendous importance for Christians… Minding the Heart: The Way of Spiritual Transformation.
So what’s Minding the Heart about? Saucy starts by stating that “this book is about the personal transformation of life that the Bible teaches is for everyone who believes in the gospel of Jesus Christ” (p.9). He goes on to tell his readers that much of the content of this book has been “simmering” for a long time, though his interest grew after co-teaching a class with several psychology professors. While reading through Minding the Heart, it is apparent that this is the work of a seasoned Christian thinker.
Saucy attempts to show his readers how to experience spiritual transformation. His first chapter is a challenge for Christians to move beyond simply “getting saved” to experiencing “abundant life.” He then moves into providing what he believes is a biblical explanation of the concept of “heart” and how the “heart” is a “real problem in life.” The author then helpfully provides some of the “daily dynamics” of the heart, including his thoughts on the heart being where “intellect, emotions, and volition unite.” These first four chapters lay important ground work in understanding some of the foundational issues about human ontology according to Saucy.
Chapters five and six cover both the need for heart change and the agents for that needed transformation (Saucy argues that there are two agents involved, God and us). The next eight chapters (seven through fourteen) are really about the means of spiritual transformation. Saucy discusses how our thinking influences our will and emotions so that we are challenged to seriously engage in having our minds renewed, which flows into our actions. We’re also told the importance of putting into practice our faith because “Christianity is rightly received only when it is practiced.” Readers are also reminded that God’s intention for the community of faith (i.e., local churches) is to help each other grow. Saucy’s second to last chapter in the book is on how we need to think about salvation in a more holistic sense (e.g., Saucy discusses how spiritual transformation is change of person, not simply change in behavior). Lastly, we’re reminded that the ultimate issue is whether or not we have a relationship with God through Jesus the Christ by the power of the Spirit.
While Minding the Heart is written in a very readable manner, it’s not necessarily a quick read. I found many of Saucy’s ideas requiring serious pause and reflection. Reading his chapters invoked a soul-stirring “selah” in section after section. Part of this is due to the fact that so much of Saucy’s argument is based on a very biblically detailed and theologically rich foundational premise about the relationship between the heart and mind. I think many Christians tend to have a very deep divide between the “heart” (emotions) and “mind” (intellect). Saucy challenges this. In fact, Saucy argues that we have to see a serious connection between the heart and mind if we want to experience spiritual transformation.
Minding the Heart is a treasure chest written by a mature and seasoned theologian with a pastor’s heart. While Saucy’s work is biblical and theological in nature, it is most certainly practical. There are two reasons why I find this helpfully practical:
- At the end of the chapters are very stimulating questions for further thought. These questions pastorally guide readers to reflect on how they can implement and/or apply the reading. I imagine these questions could even help a group reading the book together to have stimulating discussions.
- The book includes a lot of little additional thoughts that focus on a specific idea in a devotional manner. I’ve noticed this in many of the books released by Kregal Academic and I think it’s a good idea. It seems to keep the reader’s attention and help guide their thinking as they process the author’s ideas.
On a side note, this past week I attended a pastors/leaders retreat for the Midwest North Region of the Vineyard. The focus was on the art of self-leadership and covered a lot of issues related to personal soul care and spiritual transformation. Since I was reading this book while attending this retreat, I was struck by how important Saucy’s ideas really are for Christians. Growing in Christ isn’t really an option if we take seriously the words of Jesus and his apostles. So it’s nice to know that there are helpful resources out there.
Should you get Minding the Heart? Well, that all depends on whether or not you’d like to have a better understanding of how you function and what will help you grow. If you are curious about how your heart and mind relate to each other and having a more robust understanding of the agents and means of spiritual transformation, Minding the Heart is for you.
If you don’t desire any of those things, maybe you should rethink that! 🙂
*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review*