Inner Formation of the Heart

Part 5: Key Terms for this Inner Formation Series

    Posted by on November 10, 2009

             Since I’ll be relying on the following main terms in the series, at this point I'll provide a general orientation to the concepts.  In the next musing, we’ll move on to the first principle or feature regarding Inner Heart Formation.

            “Willing-doing gap” highlights the difference or disparity or mismatch between the ideals we aspire to as taught in the Scriptures, and what we in fact say or do that obviously misses that high mark. We feel we should be doing better but often we cannot. What may come to mind is the Apostle Paul’s famous words, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do . . . For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Rom 7:15, 18-19).  This gap represents a key component of what has been labeled as the “sanctification gap,” a term apparently coined by Richard Lovelace to describe the lack of any clear and consistent doctrine of sanctification held by evangelicals, resulting from an overemphasis on the debates about conversion during the nineteenth century.  (Theology Today, 29:4, Jan 1973: 363-369; basically reprinted in his Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1979, Chapter 7: 229-270).

            Furthermore, will power alone was never meant to carry the weight of right living. It is too limited to defeat the various temptations we face and to change the sinful habits and compulsions we have developed over a lifetime. Will power is also too weak to bring about positive change—we cannot will joy, peace, kindness.  We can will certain actions, but not character traits. Rather, as Jesus taught, our mode of life is primarily directed by our inner life or heart.

            “Heart” will signify particularly the changeable aspects of our inner life, the source of our character. Throughout the Old Testament the term “heart” (Heb. lēb) represents the self, including thoughts, feelings, and the will (e.g., Ps 22:26; 1 Kgs 3:12; Ex 36:2); the word can even be interchangeable with “soul” (Heb. nephesh, e.g., Josh. 22:5, 1 Sam. 2:35). The New Testament mostly follows this usage for “heart” (Gk, kardia, e.g., Lk 21:34, Acts 14:17, 2 Cor 5:12) and it is also occasionally used in parallel with “mind” (Gk, nous, e.g., 2 Cor 3:14-15). [see T. Sorg, “Heart,” in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 2, ed. Colin Brown (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1976), 181.]

            In Ephesians 3:16-17 the Apostle Paul uses “heart” in parallel with the “inner being.”  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love.” Peter O’Brien clarifies this point, “In the context of both 2 Corinthians 4 (v. 6; 5:12) and the following verse here ([Eph. 3] v. 17) heart is parallel to the ‘inner person. . . . The ‘heart’ here, as elsewhere in Ephesians [1:18, 4:18, 5:19, 6:5,22] is employed in its customary Old Testament sense of the centre of one’s personality, the thoughts, will, emotions, and whatever else lies at the centre of our being.”  The Letter to the Ephesians, Pillar NTC, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999, 258-59.

            “Central governing worldview beliefs and desires”—[for short, CGWBD]   These are not purely cognitive, but include worldview perceptions of and affections about reality. They are beliefs and desires that are strongly held (say, 75% or 80% or more) and very central in importance within our worldview as indicated by being acted on fairly consistently in our lifestyle. Since our mode of life is primarily directed by our inner life, our CGWBD, we need to grasp the importance of one particular aspect of inner formation of the heart, changing our deep worldview perspective beliefs and desires—a key feature of our character that in turn affects our how we live.  Inner formation of our core beliefs is a mysterious and complex process so we can only attempt some explanation as we’ll be in the next series of musings regarding ten principles or features of the nature and process of inner heart formation.

            Note: The discussion on central governing worldview beliefs draws implications from a concept in epistemology called “indirect doxastic voluntarism,” or “doxastic involuntarism.” This view opposes “direct doxastic voluntarism” a view that holds “at any moment one can directly choose to believe or not to believe a given item” which usually is not the case.” Rather, indirect doxastic voluntarism is “the idea that one’s beliefs result from a process of deliberation in which one exercises freedom at various points along the way, in what one will or will not consider, how one will look at the issue, etc.”       J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, 277; see also Paul K. Moser. Knowledge and Evidence. Cambridge Studies in Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1989, 210-211. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003)


Dr. Klaus Issler