Growing up it seemed that nearly every movie I watched ended with the moral imperative, “follow your heart!” And the implication is that as long as you trust your heart and act accordingly you can’t go wrong. Recently, I was reminded that this idea is far from fading. A couple of fresh examples are the latest season of The Bachelor and Miss California Carrie Prejean. In case you missed the very public breakup on The Bachelor, Jason, a charming young single dad narrowed his selection down to two. After much deliberation, Jason gave the final rose to Melissa only to dump her a few days later on national television for the other contestant, Molly. The second example comes from the recent hoopla over Miss California’s response to the question regarding gay marriage. After Perez Hilton asks whether all fifty states should follow suit with the recent Vermont decision to legalize gay marriage, Carrie Prejean boldly responded that she believed marriage should be “between a man and a woman.”
As expected, both The Bachelor and Miss California received mounds of scrutiny and criticism for their decisions. To be clear, I’m quite indifferent about Jason’s decision between Melissa and Molly, yet am rather proud for Prejean’s stance on marriage. My interest, however, is neither in Jason’s choice nor in Prejean’s answer, but rather the way in which they defended their answers to various media and talk show hosts. Both were pleased to rest their case with the comment that “I am following my heart.”
This interest in the “follow my heart” motif is particularly heightened by the counsel I heard a church member give to a few young teens some weeks ago. A couple teenage boys were wrestling with a spiritual decision and the counsel given was a mix of ‘what does the bible say?’ and ‘what is your heart telling you?’ And the latter drastically eclipsed the former.
So, how should Christians think about this? First, we must recognize the influence of the media and entertainment on our daily decision-making. This is not suggesting that we should get rid of our televisions and computers. Rather, we must be active in our intake of various media sources and not passive. In other words, be careful not to simply allow whatever is playing on the tube to soak into your soul because you’re tired from a long day and don’t feel like thinking about what’s being communicated. Be sure to constantly filter the media through the grid of Scripture. Some things can pass thru with no problem, some things should be quarantined for further consideration, and others must be immediately rejected.
Secondly, and most importantly, Jeremiah 17:9 states, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (ESV) The counsel of “follow your heart” is a very dangerous one. The New Testament consistently reminds us to ‘not be deceived’ either by deceiving ourselves or by allowing others to deceive us (1Cor 3:18, 6:9, 1John 1:8, James 1:16, Gal 6:7).
Brothers and Sisters, the harsh reality is that far too many Christians operate under a “follow your heart” model. This is the kind of thinking that leads a wife to leave her husband because “she doesn’t love him anymore.” This is the logic that encourages the man to ‘come out of the closet’ because he believes “God wants me to be happy.” When a person’s heart becomes his/her primary counselor the results are soon to be disastrous.
Let us return to Scripture as our highest source of authority. Let us couple this with godly counsel from other brothers and sisters (preferably older ones) who can provide correction, instruction, and wisdom. Let us “keep a close eye on this heart of mine” and constantly weigh it against the Word of God that is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. Proverbs sums it up well; “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (14:12)
In my discipleship group we have been reading Tim Challies book on “Spiritual Discernment” . . . chapter 5 deals with objective biblical truth but he also deals with “gray areas” (those areas where the bible seems silent). He sights some very clear principles for a Christian when you work through a “gray area.” Cheif among them was how “rare” gray areas were. Plus I think many people don’t want to put in the work to see what the bible may actuallysay (cohesively) on a given matter.
Good post. Scripture is full of examples where “following your heart” leads to trouble. Look at Sarai and Abram – when she had not yet conceived she “followed her heart” and told Abram to take her maidservant Hagar. And disaster followed, which is still evident to this day. King David, while he followed something other than his heart, still had the same result; the sword never departed from his house. Whenever we trust anything other than the Word of God to lead us, disaster usually follows.
Thanks for what you guys are doing here with Baptist21.
Good stuff bro…well done, thanks for serving me in this.
Brothers, thank you all for your comments and encouragement.
Doesn’t the book ‘Wild at Heart’ tell men that they need to follow their hearts? I’ve never actually read it, but that’s what I’ve been told it’s about. I agree with you that this is a dangerous philosophy.
I’m not sure. I’ve not read it either. I’m interested to know, though. Let me know if you find out.
Here are the first couple of sentences from the product description on Amazon. It certainly sounds like it’s about following your heart. But like I say, I should probably read it before I go any further.
“God designed men to be dangerous, says John Eldredge. Simply look at the dreams and desires written in the heart of every boy: To be a hero, to be a warrior, to live a life of adventure and risk. Sadly, most men abandon those dreams and desires–aided by a Christianity that feels like nothing more than pressure to be a nice guy.”
Interesting comments from the Eldredge book. You’re right; still sounds like “follow your heart” but I want to be careful since I haven’t read it. Thanks for your thoughts.
First, thanks for the article Ben. You must be from Mississippi. Secondly, I have read “Wild at Heart.” While it has been several years and I don’t agree with all he said the basic idea of the book seems to be men need to be men and do men things. He argues that God has given men a desire for adventure and stresses men need to have an adventure in their lives. It does stress a lot on fulfilling the desires of the heart, but it is desires he argues that God has given man to be fulfilled.
anyway, thanks for the post my fellow Mississippian.
So much of what WAH says is about first discerning what it is that God has created you for. And then following the good desires, out of your regenerate heart and mind, in the light of scripture and the Spirit.
The basic premise, which has been with us from the beginning, is summed up in Irenaeus paraphrased words, “The Glory of God is man fully alive.”
Unless we “Arise O Sleeper”, are fully alive in the Spirit, the bible is only a book of Law, and of death.
This is honestly a fairly controversial topic within the church. I think we have to start at this verse… “For whoever desires to save his life, he shall lose it. But whoever shall lose his life for My sake and the gospel, that one shall save it.”
What does it mean to lose your life for the gospel, in a 21st century American context? In a 1st century context?
It seems that following after Jesus then was a radical thing.
Is it, or should it be, any different now?
I don’t know if this helps, but it is a very good discussion topic for sure!
Theo, I think if you look at “Wild At Heart” through the eyes of Scripture, you would see that there is much wrong with the book. Since the whole idea of this article is to look at things through the “eyes of Scripture” and not through “our deceitful hearts”, I just could not let this go without comment.
Let’s look at some of the things that Eldredge has in his book and measure them against Scripture. If you look at his view of sin, you would be led to understand that Satan is to be blamed when we sin. If you look at what Scripture says, we are 100% responsible for our sin.
I think that when you look at a lot of the Scripture passages that Eldredge uses, you will find that he is taking them out of context. He is pulling individual passages out and asking them to stand on their own. I agree that it makes it appear to be a Biblically based book, but this is a very good example of what the author of this article is saying NOT to do. Eldredge has allowed his heart to speak to him in the writing of this book, and pulled away from the Biblical Truth of the Scriptures. We must be very careful not to get sucked into the author’s emotional experience-based theology. This is just another pop-psychology book, with a bit of Scripture added, so that it can be sold through Christian bookstores.
There is an extensive review from back in 2004 by Gary Gilley, which I found to be quite informational. It can be found here:
And part 2 here:
You may not agree with all he has to say in his review, but there should be enough sound Biblical discernment here to cause any Christian to question the validity of the book’s value.
As far as a great quote from Irenaeus I really like this quote:
“Heretics are always wanting to find something more true than the truth. They are always choosing new and unreliable ways. Yet like the blind led by the blind, they will fall into the abyss of ignorance by their own fault.” -Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5, 20 (Harvey II, p.379)
I believe we are living in strange days where right seems wrong and wrong seems right. In the same way that Irenaeus was dealing with Gnosticism, we must be on guard to protect the Church from false doctrines that are making their way into the Church in many different ways. These may include but are not limited to movies, books, pop-psychology and unbiblical methods of interpreting Scripture.
Thank you to this author for a reminder that we truly cannot trust our sinful hearts to know what is right, but must measure everything against the Word of God.
Thanks for the timely article. I read this after meeting you at the B21 luncheon in Louisville. Our mutual friend from MS who has seen many spiritual “Battles,” encouraged me to read some of these articles. I’m thankful for Godly friends and influences. Thanks for the reminder to run “everything” through the filter of Scripture.
Thanks for your words, brother. I’m glad you enjoyed the article, and I too am grateful for Godly friends!
Carrie Prejean deserves to have her crown. She is beauiful and is also entitled to her own opinion about gays. ‘;
Hello! This is my first comment here i really i would like to provide a simple shout out and tell you I absolutely love reading through your blogs. Can you recommend some other blogs
Hi Conan, cool name. Three blogs I would recommend right away are 1. All blogs on the Gospel Coalition site (Justin Taylor, Kevin DeYoung, Thabiti, etc.), there is a variety of opinions expressed on these which often provides good insight, 2. Between the Times, and 3. and Russ Moore’s blog, “Moore to the Point.” Of course, much of it depends on what type of info you’re looking for. Nevertheless, these are good places to start. Hope this helps!