Jeremy Pierre, Associate Professor of Biblical Counseling at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written in The Dynamic Heart a comprehensive, one might say intense, textbook designed to aid God’s people (pp. 9, 101, 105). The author states early, “These pages are dedicated to showing how God designed people with dynamic hearts to experience the world fully only when connected to Christ” (p. 2). Faith is the key in the process: “Faith is the means by which the gospel is received; thus, faith is at the center of heart transformation…Faith is how God restores his design for the human heart so that people can commune with him and reflect his character…faith allows people to think differently as they receive the knowledge of God from his Word” (p. 3). With this in mind Pierre’s goal is to give “a theological vision of how faith in Christ restores the dynamic human heart and a practical vision of how to help people join in the process” (p. 5). Pierre is using the term “heart” synonymous with soul, spirit and mind, which he believes all describe the same types of functions. The heart is therefore the inner person and relates to “the unity and totality of the inner life represented and expressed in the variety of intellectual and spiritual functions” (p. 15). The author sees within the heart the dynamic interplay between the cognitive (intellect), affective (emotions) and volitional (will, choices). The book is focused on these three dimensions (pp. 12, 16-23, 31, 38-47, 60, 77-84, 103, 177).
There is much to be commended in The Dynamic Heart:
- It rightly states that theology is the standard by which people measure their experience, not the other way around (pp. 5, 33).
- It teaches that sin corrupts the dynamic function of the heart (pp. 55. 60).
- Idolatry is correctly defined and applied (pp. 65-68).
- The role of faith is emphasized (pp. 71, 205).
- It shows that the Christian’s old and new control beliefs are constantly at war (pp. 78-80).
- People who relate destructively to others are doing the same to God (p. 113).
- Humans are fallen and thus bad and broken (p. 133).
- The final section is highly practical, providing excellent questions for use by counselors.
- The Holy Spirit’s role in counseling is paramount (pp. 207, 236).
- Sin functions much like weeds, stealing nutrients (pp. 227, 238).
- It warns of the danger of self-focus (p. 235).
- It correctly states, “We desire what we pursue, and we pursue what we desire.” (p. 238).
Despite these valuable insights, The Dynamic Heart left me with a number questions I would like to pursue with the author if I had the opportunity.
- His statement that God designed hearts for a singular purpose: worship (pp. 23, 55, 101). While worship of God surely takes priority this seems too narrow. When one engages in non-worshipful activities, e.g. work, play, eating, etc., is the heart in sin? At best it would seem that worship is being defined too broadly. Pierre does say “The most important context of the heart’s reasons is God himself” (p.109), with that I whole-heartedly agree.
- The author speaks of intuition as the preprocessing that drives human processing (p. 37). The author defines intuition as “nothing different than people’s deeply held beliefs, desires and commitments driving their response to everything around them.” But the word “intuition” is not a biblical one and normally would not be assigned such a definition. I am uncomfortable with labeling Christian concepts through the use of words not found in Scripture and that are easily confused with other ideas.
- While Pierre believes in the fallenness of humanity and the corruption of sin (pp. 55-60), I would have liked more discussion on total depravity. The heart is not neutral, being corrupted by sin and strengthened by faith. The heart is totally depraved from the beginning of life. Viewing the heart as corrupt and fallen is not significantly emphasized. It is true that at regeneration the human heart is given a new capacity for godliness but this needs to be better clarified.
- Similarly, while the author mentions the battle between the flesh and the Spirit (pp. 78-81), this struggle is not well addressed. The New Testament, when dealing with our spiritual warfare, focuses on the flesh and the Spirit (Gal 5:16-23); this interplay is seldom mentioned in the book. I am not sure how Pierre makes connection between the flesh and the heart.
- Pierre (while clearly demonstrating its flaws) gives more credence to psychological testing, such as the Meyers-Briggs, than I believe is warranted (p. 96).
- His section on self-image and self-love (pp. 124-144) left me with numerous questions as to where he is taking these concepts. Since both terms have their roots in modern psychobabble careful handling is necessary.
- Pierre’s statement that some “people’s experience of gender does not perfectly match their given biological sex” is confusing (p. 132).
- The author’s short discussion of involuntary victimhood needs further development as to what he means (pp. 133-134).
- Pierre accepts “already-not yet” eschatology (p. 38).
- His views that prayer reshapes desire (p. 220) and is a vital part of seeking the presence of God (p. 236), lacks biblical support and, in fact, in the book no Scripture is used to back either idea.
- As is common today, Pierre uses the word “gospel” to describe broader categories than the good news definition found in the New Testament (p. 231).
- The idea that Jesus lived dying the whole way (p. 232) at the very least needs more explanation.
Even with the above issues, most of which could probably be clarified by the author, I would recommend this book, but not to the average reader. It is designed as a textbook, a manual for biblical counselors, and best utilized by those who have already studied such material intensely.
The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life, Connecting Christ to Human Experience by Jeremy Pierre (Greensboro, NC: 2016) 254 + xiii pp., paper, $15
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher, Southern View Chapel