A Response to “Biblical” Criticism of Spiritual Witnesses Part 7

Go back to Part 1.

Jeremiah 17:9

The first wave in TBC’s attack comes in the form of a twisted Jeremiah 17:9:

“A basic Bible fact is Jeremiah 17:9. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. . .” Therefore, it may be concluded that even a burning conviction or “testimony” is totally untrustworthy. Tragically, even many “answers to prayer” fall under this description when based primarily on feelings.”

Whew, I hardly know where to start.

Clues from the Context

When Jeremiah speaks of the heart, to what is he referring? Let’s look at some contextual clues. Earlier in that chapter Jeremiah teaches,

“Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord…

“Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is” (Jeremiah 17:5,7).

Jeremiah contrasts those who trust in man with those who trust in God. One’s heart departs from the Lord, and one’s “heart” is with him. Of the heart of he who “maketh flesh his arm”, Jeremiah then teaches,

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

He then promises that

“I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10).

Clearly, the heart is related to where we put our hope or trust. What else can we learn from the context?

Throughout the chapter Jeremiah uses the word “heart” four times, and each time as a symbol for innermost desires. Clearly, “heart” here is not a symbol for “feelings”, or even for revelation from the Holy Ghost. Our heart is a symbol for our innermost desires, and those who put their trust in God will find that he will test and try their hearts so that they become purified and centered in him.

There is a fantastic sermon here, but it has nothing to do with revelation. As such, we cannot draw the conclusion that TBC draws, that testimonies or answers to prayer connected to emotions are “totally untrustworthy”.

Heart – Our Innermost Desires

Surely this must be some fringe Mormon interpretation, right?

Not at all. From the Bible Tools page for Jeremiah 17:9, we get a similar interpretation. John Ritenbaugh teaches,

“A person breaks the second commandment when he exalts himself against God by trusting in his own or another’s reasoning and lives that way rather than the way God ordained and commanded.  Too often, the heart is easily led to satisfy its own desires rather than follow revealed knowledge. But God faithfully searches and tests our hearts to rid us of all idolatries so we will follow His way as closely as possible.

He continues,

Human nature, the law of sin within us, is always seeking to pull us again into the defilement of sin, seeking to destroy our hope of sharing life with the holy God. That is why God counsels us in Proverbs 4:23 to keep — that is, guard, preserve, and maintain — our heart. It is very easy to become defiled by lapsing back to old habits…. The normal human mind deceitfully convinces each person that they are good and love God, men, and law. But the reality is just the opposite: It is at war with God and men, and hates God’s holy, righteous, and spiritual law. It loves itself and its desires far more than anything else. It is this deceitful, self-centered enmity that exerts constant influence, pulling us into the defilement of sin.

This kind of legitimate commentary is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg.

More from the Scriptures

And what do other scriptures teach about the heart? I’ll offer just two references from a myriad examples.

Paul tells us,

“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10).

And the Savior himself promised that

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8).

The heart is not condemned in scripture. Just the opposite, it plays a key role in our salvation.

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