Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
CAJ 8:2 (Fall 2009) p. 91
Desperately Wicked: Philosophy, Christianity and the Human Heart. Patrick Downey. InterVarsity Press, 2009. 196 pp. $18 (paperback). ISBN 978-0–8308-2894-4.
Following the introduction the book is divided into nine chapters titled as follows: (1) The Ring of Truth, (2) Just Fears, (3) Erotic and Thumotic Desire, (4) What We Don’t Want to See, (5) The Heart of Philosophy, (6) The Knowledge of Good and Evil, (7) Can We Be Good? (8) The Heart of Christian Faith, and (9) Being Good. This is followed by a bibliography and indexes.
In this work it appears that the author’s intent is for us to know ourselves through an honest, unabashed self–examination of our heart. The desired result is that a candid confession be made of our inability to be good with a subsequent plea for a new heart. Two traditions, classical political philosophy and the Bible, are used to expose this truth concerning the state of the human heart. In philosophy the author draws primarily from both Plato and Aristotle. However, he claims that their accounts of who we are do not suffice, so for an adequate understanding the author declares the need to turn to the biblical narrative. The Bible refers to the “heart” in its treatment of man’s condition. Drawing upon these two sources, Downey compares the Bible’s concept of “heart” to Plato’s middle part of the soul, thumos. This book
CAJ 8:2 (Fall 2009) p. 92
provides an extensive examination of thumos from the perspectives of philosophy and the Bible. In addition to arguing that the human heart is desperately wicked, the author argues that to be good requires the generation of a new heart, born out of the death of the old, wicked one. It is the God of the Bible that alone can satisfy our new heart’s desire, which is to be truly good.
Downey demonstrates a firm grasp of Western philosophical writings and draws from them a vivid depiction of the condition of the human heart. In turning to the Scriptures, he carefully and precisely correlates the depiction of the human heart found in it to that found in the philosophical writings. While true that these depictions of the human heart cause despair, Downey clearly propounds the hope of redemption for the human heart, namely, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The end result is a work that provides a comprehensive view of the human heart drawn from the complimentary disciplines of philosophy and theology with the solution to the moral quandary being presented by the latter.
This work is a valuable addition to other works in the areas of philosophy, theology, and ethics. While specifically focusing on the condition of the human heart, it also deals with matters included in both moral and p...
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