“You have no heart! You are heartless!”
These are phrases we often hear in response to someone who has just done or said something we consider to be quite inhumane or inconsiderate of another human being. The phrase is meant to convey the idea that the human heart is loving, kind, compassionate, and considerate. So, if someone acts in a way that is contrary to those things, they are considered to be without a heart.
What may seem like a harmless throw away phrase is a theological train wreck. Someone who acts in an inconsiderate way is not doing so because "they have no heart." They are doing so precisely because they have a heart.
The Scripture teaches clearly, and indisputably, that the human heart is the direct source of evil. Any teaching that tries to say otherwise is entirely contradictory to the clear testimony of Scripture and it falls out of line with church history.
Our Lord Jesus, himself, had this to say about the human heart in Matthew 15:18-19 - “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”
You might ask, “But why is this such a big deal?” Besides the fact this is the truth of Scripture, this affects our understanding of the gospel. If we have a wrong understanding about the human heart, we can easily have a wrong understanding about the gospel. But, a robust understanding of the sinfulness of the human heart leads, by the grace of God, to a right understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
If the human heart is inherently good, this means humans are inherently good. If humans were inherently good, then God would be a moral monster in allowing people to go to hell. It would be a treacherous injustice for a good person to be punished in hell. We can be confident that there are no good people in hell, because there are no good people. And we can be confident that there are no good people in hell, because the God of the Bible is a God of justice and goodness. We can be confident that there is no one in hell who does not deserve to be there; everyone who is there deserves to be there.
Any doctrine that teaches any form of works-based salvation is totally dependent on a false doctrine of an inherently good human heart. But the gospel of Jesus Christ is better news than that of a works-based salvation. The gospel of Jesus Christ is meant for people with sinful hearts who cannot earn their way to heaven. The gospel of Jesus Christ grants the free offer of forgiveness of sins and the imputed righteousness of Christ by grace through faith.
God knows our hearts are desperately wicked. So, He made a solution. He made provision. Through regeneration, we are given new hearts - hearts that love God. Hearts that want to obey God. Hear the promise of the gospel shouted forth from the prophet Ezekiel: “I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
As humans with sinful hearts our great need is a new heart. As Charles Spurgeon once put it, “Christ is the great heart changer.”