If you have had the misfortune of hearing the teaching about Heart Motives, you are one of many who have been duped by a complicated, neurotic, distorted mess of horrifying pop psychology. Developed by Reverend Min Chung — who I gather is otherwise an extremely passionate, amiable pastor who dearly loves his people — this is a sick system of categorical criticism that must first defend itself by saying it is not judgmental, and then proceeds to judge everyone under the cover of “love in truth.”
Someone first recommended me the series by email. It has become especially popular with Asians, taught at least annually at the OIL (One In Love) Conference, which is full of Asians. I have written on it briefly before. The following is a breakdown of its contradictory claims.
1) It claims to be biblical, then claims it’s not. – The first session inevitably begins with Romans 3:23, which is a safe starting point. I thought I’d be in good hands here. But several hours later there are absolutely no Bible verses. The Bible may be mentioned in passing, but hardly anything about Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or salvation. The teaching itself is never found in the Bible, nor could you logically progress from biblical wisdom towards it. No exegesis of the Bible will ever lead to “Heart Motives.” Essentially the Heart Motives (from here on called H.M.) begin with your sin and then aims to correct it through thought re-arrangement. What’s that called again? Oh right, religion. Works. Performance-driven. Image-centered. Jumping through hoops. What the Pharisees did. Trying to be good enough.
The counter-defense is that H.M. was never meant to be biblical nor does it claim to be so. Except 1 John 4:1-3 is clear about testing the spirit (pneuma, used in this sense as the disposition) of any teaching. Any spiritual guidance taught without acknowledging Jesus Christ as the Son of God is heresy. Since H.M. is a moral-spiritual system taught in the church grounded on at least one Bible verse, this is much different than the instruction manual to your microwave. All sorts of false philosophies come from 95% truth and 5% lie. Which is 100% false. I doubt that H.M. is an intentional deception but it’s such a misguided, human-centered mess that it’s not sure what it wants to be.
2) To be sanctified is to be like Christ, not to adjust your personality. – There are four categories: Love Me, Like Me, Respect Me, Perfect Me, and then there are majors and minors, and then a high and a low. This convoluted breakdown is like a Geiger counter at a nuclear plant: it tests the radioactivity of your particular label. So if your H.M. is “Like Me,” you just watch out when you’re trying to get someone’s approval. That’s sinful so proceed with caution. And that’s it. Watch out. Is the whole lesson.
There is absolutely nothing in us that can change by itself. Only humbling ourselves to the Holy Spirit will do it. Sanctification is found in four simple words: Not I But Christ. Jesus not only saves us but gives us the exchanged life, in which he empowers us by the Spirit’s work in our lives. The main fallacy of H.M. like many other therapeutic bandwagons is its unbiblical method at self-realization by adjusting elements of your personality to avoid sin and to find compatibility with others. This is explained under the cover of “repentance” or “spiritual tools,” but really it’s just pseudo-morality with a pinch of paranoia. For those who would defend H.M., really, there is nothing deeper than labeling your motive and navigating it carefully.
3) No better than a horoscope. – As complicated as this system is, I’m surprised at how shallow and simplistic the actual lessons are. Several factors to consider:
Do you ever …? — Pastors often say, “Do you ever –” followed by a specific truth that won’t apply to all but will be sure to hit some. It’s a cheap tactic but it works. I think it’s best used when it’s a general human truth that the majority will understand, such as, “Do you ever get mad when someone steals your car?” But H.M. teachers take this to an unfair extreme. Do you ever fantasize about your own funeral? Do you ever daydream about dying for your loved one? Do you ever test people to see if they really love you? If you affirm, it’s followed with, Then you’re in this category. Such wide-sweeping statements fool the unwitting listener into thinking they fit every category, or just the one category like a glove. It reminds me of fortune cookies or those horoscopes you see on grocery stands; if everyone passes it to the left, it reads the same way for the next person. These misleading statements can apply to anyone, or convince you into it.
It’s just my Heart Motive, that’s all. — There’s definitely a fun appeal to this whole thing. It’s an attractive system made for attractive college students that love the intellectual stuff. Where such analytical knowledge evolves, so then spiritual growth falters. Ever see people talk about it? “Oh I’m a ‘Perfect Me.’ I’m a ‘Love Me.’ When I do that, it’s just my heart motive, that’s all.” Repentance is shallow at best. It makes for interesting conversation. The kind where you have pillow fights and draw ponies and fart in a can.
If you’re that, then you’re this. — The system is self-defeating. While Apostle Paul wrote a nuanced description of our conflicting human struggle in Romans 7, the H.M. way is to claim that if you’re in a category, then so the following must follow. If you try to avoid the mistake that your category predicts, this is only compensating for your shortcoming, which is probably another H.M. And being doomed to a H.M. speaks ill of the Holy Spirit’s work and our milestone life changes. It’s fatalism at best and suicidal at worst. A college student certainly has different needs and motives than a mother of four, just as she will think differently than a retired widow. Oh right, your H.M. can’t change, sorry.
4) It’s destructive to fellowship. – One thing that H.M. gets right is that the heart is an absolutely wicked factory of manipulations and deceit. The initial claim is that H.M. shouldn’t be used to judge others. Immediately you see the conflict. If the heart has nothing good and then a system explains the categories of that which is not good, then not-good people will fit others into the box they see fit.
The counter-defense, as always, is that it’s sad and wrong to see H.M. abused this way. So then: why one more system to teach and possibly be abused? Why have an angle where you can judge someone else? Why place people in inescapable categories that must be worked through? The absolutely disgusting part of H.M. is that they teach how one category can deal with another. Of course this is immediately bundled with, “Don’t use that to manipulate others.” We being evil: what do you think we’ll do? Not manipulate others? Not a chance.
I’ve seen friendships ruined over this. It’s infuriating. People live and die by this stuff; married couples are based on it. I can see that it has some value; it is very possible it has been used wisely to a small extent. But to idolize this as the main discipline of the household is making the Bible secondary in godly living. We’re called to humble ourselves to the Holy Spirit in following Christ. Dancing around your H.M. is like negotiating with a terrorist: no one will make it.
It would be easy to name-call hater, or that I have a specific H.M. which leads me to deny it. Except I have nothing against the developers of such a thing, only the development itself. The heresy of Heart Motives is no better than the charlatans offering miracle cure water or spiritual sell-outs preaching easy sugar-driven gospel. While I can give credit to the creativity and minimal usefulness of H.M., I would examine it first with a critical eye. God is the ultimate authority over all truth.
2 John 1:9
Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.
1 Thessalonians 5:21
Test everything. Hold on to the good.