Jeremy Pierre. The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life: Connecting Christ to Human Experience. Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2016. See here to purchase the book.
Jeremy Pierre teaches biblical counseling at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he is also the Dean of Students. Pierre is also a pastor and a member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.
The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life is about the desires of the heart and how they can lead to problems in life. The book offers guidance about how one can counsel someone else and help that person to identify and apply Christ-centered solutions.
A strength of the book is that it highlights the importance of appreciating where people are. Simply telling people to stop sinning and to obey the Bible does not necessarily work, according to Pierre, although those are ultimate goals. Helping people to identify the desires of their heart and the role that they play in their decisions, by contrast, can be effective. For instance, are they obsessed with approval from others, and this is why they are angry? Do they play video games a lot because that gives them a sense of accomplishment, which they are not getting at work?
In terms of spiritual guidance, a biblical counselor can help people to clarify their views on God and prayer, in order to assist them in dealing with any roadblocks in their Christian walk. Pierre has a lot of narrative in the book, but he also includes thoughtful questions that a biblical counselor can ask. A point that Pierre makes is that a Christian worldview can enable people to place their struggles in some sort of perspective: to focus on glorifying God, rather than just on themselves and whether their own desires are being met.
Pierre is clear that this is a process and that many people do not do it perfectly. Pierre also acknowledges that such a Christ-centered approach will not solve every problem: a person with clinical depression may still be clinically depressed, for instance, but she can still glorify God, and perhaps even be closer to God on account of her depression. Pierre seems open to the possibility that his suggestions can help non-believers, too, but he says that the help would have limitations, in their case: one can do righteous things without being a Christian, and God’s common grace can help a non-Christian, but a transformed heart that accompanies spiritual regeneration is what can enable a person to love God and to desire and do God’s will.
The book had positive and constructive insights about how one can look at life and other people. For instance, the book talked about how people can fall into ruts when they are isolated, how church can be a place where people value others apart from their social status, and how we should view people realistically, yet charitably. The author was honest about his own personality flaws. And the book was clear, yet it had a sophisticated prose, which can give readers a sense that they are reading something substantive. I cannot say that this book taught me anything earth-shakingly new, but I was edified in reading it. This book perhaps can help people to organize and to clarify what they already know to be true. If they lack previous familiarity with the sorts of points that Pierre makes, on the other hand, then they will learn something new.
In terms of critiques, the book could have been more specific about some things. How, for instance, can Christ meet the desires that people are seeking to meet elsewhere? What exactly is it about Christ that does that? Pierre says that people should seek to build others up in the Lord, but what does that mean, on an interpersonal level? Pierre may feel that he answered these questions, and maybe he did, on some level. The book has its share of constructive insights: about gratitude to God and service to others, as well as the importance of depending on God in spiritual struggles. Still, after reading the book, the sense that I get is that Pierre diagnosed the problem well, and he effectively showed that people need something constructive apart from their self-centered desires to focus on. The Christ-centered solution to distorted human desires, however, perhaps could have been better developed.
Pierre seems to write from a Reformed, Calvinist perspective, and there is nothing wrong with that, necessarily. Still, there was a case in the book when he was using his Calvinism to help people to feel better, when it could potentially raise some troubling questions. For example, he encouraged victims of abuse to think about God’s justice and hatred of sin, but then he also said: “[God’s] relationship to evil events is indirect: he withholds the common grace of his righteous character directing the actions of people created to be like him” (page 172). Does that imply that God somehow causes evildoing? Perhaps such a thought can encourage a victim that God has a plan for horrible experiences (not to put words in Pierre’s mouth), or to rest in God’s sovereignty. Still, a number of people would find that concept troubling.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through Cross Focused Reviews. My review is honest.