What does a dynamic heart look like?
Pierre probes the depths of human experience
review by Michael Nelson
As people, we are a lot more complex than we often realize. There is not one formula that fixes all of our problems, nor is there some sort of heart evaluation we can take to get to the core of all our issues. We are dynamic creatures that reflect the beauty of a magnificently intricate and multifaceted God. What this means then is that to understand others, we must understand them as a reflection of their Creator. But, as anyone can tell you, this is not always easy. Essentially, The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life: Connecting Christ to Human Experience, by Jeremy Pierre, was written in order to show “how God designed people with dynamic hearts to experience the world only when connected to Christ” (2). Pierre’s goal is “to give a theological vision of how faith in Christ restores the dynamic human heart and practical vision of how to help people join in on the process” (5). This book, in particular, provides a primer for any biblical counselor seeking faithfulness in his ministry. But this book also provides every Christian with a basic understand of how we as human beings function and how we can help others fully experience redemption in Christ.
On what can be a confusing subject, Pierre does an excellent job explaining how the human heart responds to human experiences. “Human experience is three-dimensional” (12). What this means is that our hearts respond cognitively, affectively and volitionally. It is the way God designed us to worship him. But understanding how the heart responds is not enough. People do not exist in a vacuum, but in a world filled with varied experiences and situations. We must not only understand how the heart responds, but what it is responding to. “The dynamic heart responds to God, to self, to others and to circumstances” (101). What this means then is that we must understand these four contexts to rightly help the human heart function the way it was designed to. Pierre not only proficiently explains the heart and its relationships in context, but he also provides a final section on how to flesh this out in the unique situations God has placed us.
Throughout The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life, Pierre is necessarily Christ focused as he walks a fine balance between providing fault proof explanations and understanding that every person is different. Though the basic framework for the heart is clear and human experiences can be summed up into four contexts, there are still a number of complexities that fill our hearts. It is easy to want to provide simplistic answers in counseling, as if there is a one size fits all formula. But Pierre understands this balance between trusting in a never changing God who has given us his authoritative word, verses a sin-filled world that affects the human heart cognitively, affectively and volitionally in various ways. This, all the more, allows Pierre to point the reader to Jesus. As Pierre says, “he [Jesus] is able to sympathize with human experience in every way, yet he perfected it by his perfect obedience to God.” This means that “faith is the means by which the heart’s dynamic functions are restored to proper use” (205).
One of the refreshing aspects of this book, in the midst of many, is that the personality of the author shines through. In the midst of deep and lofty subject matter, Pierre injects a bit of humor as well as many personal illustrations. His writing style brings the reader into the topic at hand and it allows The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life to come alive with relatable explanations. This shows clear when Pierre explains the concept of being self-aware with an illustration of his uncle’s fighter pilot days (166) or when he talks about self-perception with his own identity as “a Cleveland Browns fan, a father, a husband, a pastor, a professor and so on” (129). Bringing a topic, such as the complexities of the human heart, and showing how they are redeemed through Jesus Christ to respond as God intended, is not an easy task. But Pierre does it masterfully through his clear expertise and his brilliant communication.
The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life has the ability to not only aid in helping a counseling ministry leader help others through their experiences respond rightly in faith, it will also cause the reader to personally reflect on his own heart and its responses to surrounding situations. We are all in need of the “Holy Spirit’s grounding work” (207) as we, through Christ, seek restoration back to the image of God. This book is that resource to help aid us in understanding this transformation in ourselves as well as in others.
Michael Nelson is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Grandview, MO.