A God-Shaped Heart

Praise for The God-Shaped Heart by Tim Jennings

Jennings does it again. I read Jennings’ seminal work, Could it be that Simple, a number of years ago and was so impressed, I purchased a case of books and gave them to my best friends, and now he has outdone himself. Tim takes his psychological, developmental principles of morality and expands them in The God-Shaped Heart, and does so in an easy and extremely captivating read. I couldn’t stop reading it and chugged it down in two sittings, highlighting passages throughout. Then I read it again.

At the heart of his message stands seven levels of moral development.

7-Levels of Moral Development

LEVEL 1 – Reward and punishment. Right and wrong is determined by whoever holds the power to rule by threat of punishment and hope of reward. Mercy (failure to punish) is seen by others at this level as being weak, rather than being moral.

LEVEL 2 – Marketplace exchange. Right and wrong is determined by an equitable agreement between two parties, also known as quid pro quo – “I’ll do something for you if you do something for me.”

LEVEL 3 – Social conformity. Right and wrong is determined by community consensus, for example, when a child says, “But everyone else is doing it.” Right is deemed right by the approval of peers.

LEVEL 4 – Law and order. Right and wrong is determined by a codified system of rules, impartial judges, imposed punishments, and respect for authority. Right is getting a proper pay or reward for good work, and proscribed and inflicted punishment for breaking the rules.

LEVEL 5 – Love for others. Right is determined by doing what is in the best interest of others, realizing people have value in who they are irrespective of the rules. Wrong is determined, not by a checklist of rules, but by not doing what is actually helpful and beneficial for another.

LEVEL 6 – Principle based living. Right is understanding the design protocols and principles upon which life is constructed to operate and intelligently choosing to live in harmony with them. Right is not doing something because a rule says to do so, but because it is understood to actually work this way.

LEVEL 7 – Understanding Friend of God. Those at this level not only have love for God and others (Level 5), not only understand God’s design protocols for life (Level 6), but also understand God’s purposes and intelligently choose to cooperate in fulfilling their role in His purposes.


Why Is This Important?

Most people read the Bible like it’s a codebook or a cookbook believing that with every page God is relaying his perfect will for his people. But nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible is a record of God’s relationship with his people, and sometimes we are not thinking or acting at our best. Sometimes, God has had to meet us in the muddy moral valley and then years later on the moral mountaintop. It is not a one-size-fits-all book. Like the Israelites at Mt. Sini, we might be–might is right–thinkers and God answers us with thunder and lightning. Other times, we might be like Elijah, speaking with God at the mouth of the cave, listening for a whisper. This can be confusing if we don’t realize that God speaks to his people at their current moral level.

For more by Timothy Jennings and Come and Reason Ministries: https://comeandreason.com/

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