Affirmation of the Lausanne Covenant and the Apostles Creed.
Eden’s Theory of Change An Augustinian perspective*
First, humans are not primarily driven by knowledge or the will, but by desire. We are creatures of the heart. We are creatures of love, meaning our discipleship is fundamentally driven by desire. We point our lives towards what we love. Bruce Waltke states, “From the viewpoint of the writers of the Bible, the heart was the central organ that moved the rest of the body. It denotes a person’s center for both physical and emotional-intellectual-moral activities.”
Second, the human heart is hard to change. Our hearts are shy and strongly resist direct efforts to change them. Have you ever tried to change someone's mind about a political issue through rational argument? Has anyone’s mind ever changed via an insult on social media? Augustine was aware long ago, the human heart is hard to change.
Third, after the fall of humanity, we’re wired in such a way that judgment kills love. When we feel judged, we put up walls and resist feedback both consciously and unconsciously. Any theory which depends upon simply telling people what’s wrong with them and then expecting change will be constantly ineffective and frustrating. And yet a Barna study found that 81% of self-identified Christians “contend that spiritual maturity is achieved by following the rules in the Bible.”** Augustine disagrees in his Treatise on the Spirit and the Letter stating that the Law merely teaches us of a disease without healing it. The Apostle Paul in Galatians refers to The Law as a tutor showing us how badly we’re failing the test. Awareness is essential, but it alone does not heal us. Rather, it grows our desire to encounter the Great Physician who dispenses the medicine of grace with great attention and care tailored to the ailments of each person.
Therefore, our discipleship must begin with where we are and what we want. It all turns on desire. Becoming like Jesus requires an emotional encounter with the God revealed in Christ. We must be present to ourselves and present to God. The good news in Christ with the coming of the Holy Spirit God has already come and is present to us in love. Romans 5:5b… ”God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” We now have new hearts, empowered by God Himself slowly beginning to desire what God desires, which is always our highest good.
We are transformed from one degree of glory to another as we behold “God Actual.” Broken images of God will slow our growth in connecting deeply with God.
Given these convictions about how people change, we invite leader to slow down, to pay attention to what you’re paying attention to, to be honest about what you really want. Even if that desire is sinful (or you suspect it may be partially sinful) that’s ok. To start with the truth about you. Start by being honest about your heart. And we do well to heed the wise words of Dr. John Hannah, “Do less that is meaningful, rather than more that is hypocritical.” We invite leaders to not pretend they’re further along. To avoid mimicking spiritual people who seems to be further along. To be honest with yourself in community and with God is first step on the Journey back home to the love of God.
*Influenced and adapted from a lecture “The Cure of Souls: Theory of Change in Christian Ministry” by Simeon Zahl professor of theology at Cambridge University.