When filmmaker Woody Allen was publicly exposed in 1992 as having an affair with the adopted daughter of his partner Mia Farrow (Soon-Yi Previn, 34 years his junior), his defense was simply, “The heart wants what it wants.”
In quoting a statement made in an 1862 Emily Dickinson letter, Allen perfectly sums up the rationale underpinning today’s prevailing secular worldview, which is a deadly combination of post-truth and pragmatism, and driven solely by the adherent’s heart wanting what it wants.
And so what ends up happening?
The heart wants what it wants so it elevates itself above everyone else, putting others last, thus becoming the quintessential, prideful Captain You-Planet.
The heart wants what it wants so it commits smash-and-grab, follow-home, and brazen what-are-you-going-to-do-about-it robberies, taking from others what it hasn’t earned.
The heart wants what it wants so it goes to a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic to end the life of a person it finds currently inconvenient.
The heart wants what it wants so it breaks its marriage vows and destroys its family all for nothing more than a muscle spasm.
The heart wants what it wants so it refuses to work and lives off of others because it bizarrely believes it is entitled to do so.
The heart wants what it wants so it suppresses truth and rewrites history to fit a lying narrative that furthers its agenda and enriches itself.
The heart wants what it wants so it cancels disagreement and slanders others because they threaten its echo chamber’s false peace.
The heart wants what it wants so it misuses religion in order to murder, suppress, oppress, and exploit people in hopes of getting the power, position, and wealth it desires.
The heart wants what it wants so it deliberately thinks with its feelings instead of using the mind and facts to arrive at conclusions that may be distasteful at first, but saving in the end.
In his article for The Blaze, Jason Whitlock writes, “My problem [with today’s culture] is its aspiration to redefine every form of sin as a natural desire we should not tame. “Do what thou wilt” is the unstated overarching theme of progressive politics. “Do what thou wilt” is the primary tenet of the Thelema occult practice established by English writer Aleister Crowley, a Satanist.”
This dovetails exactly with how the Bible describes the natural, sinful heart. Scripture says that “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5), that the heart is “more deceitful than all else and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9); that we are “brought forth in iniquity” (Ps. 51:5) and “he who trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Prov. 28:26); that “the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives” (Ecc. 9:3) and “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders” (Matt. 15:19).
Needless to say, it’s a terrible thing when that kind of heart gets what it wants.
What God’s heart wants
God knows the sinful heart wants what it wants and so He’s provided a cure that’s announced throughout Scripture. His Law acts as a tutor (Gal. 3:24) to bring us what we really need because, says Tim Keller, a sinful heart is one where “law only restrains the heart; it doesn't change it.”
That being true, we find early in the Old Testament God said, “[I] will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut. 30:6). In the pages of the prophets, God says: “I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them” (Ez. 11:19-20), and “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it” (Jer. 31:33).
The awesome end result is a person where “the law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip” (Ps. 37:30-31) and they say, “I delight to do Your will, O my God; your Law is within my heart” (Ps. 40:8).
The miraculous change is perfectly captured in a verse from John Newton’s hymn, "We Were Once as You Are": “Our pleasure and our duty, though opposite before; since we have seen His beauty, are joined to part no more.”
And so what ends up happening?
The heart wants what God wants so it elevates others above itself and washes others’ feet.
The heart wants what God wants so it doesn’t rob others and steal what it hasn’t earned.
The heart wants what God wants so it values the life of everyone, including the unborn.
The heart wants what God wants so it is loyal to its spouse and keeps its marriage vows.
The heart wants what God wants so it works with its hands to support itself and is generous to others.
The heart wants what God wants so it upholds and speaks the truth in love, following the narrative of Scripture.
The heart wants what God wants so it respectfully engages dissenting voices and is in no way threatened by different opinions (Phil. 1:28).
The heart wants what God wants so it engages in pure and undefiled religion (James 1:27), serving those around it with no self-centered agenda.
The heart wants what God wants so it is deliberately mature in its thinking (1 Cor. 14:20) and is Holy Spirit led vs. emotions driven.
Needless to say, it’s a fantastic thing when that kind of heart gets what it wants.
In truth, Woody Allen’s explanation for his actions is correct. However, the effect of “the heart wants what it wants” on culture is dependent on whether the heart in question is one that gives itself over to its natural, sinful desires or one that is born again (John 3:3) and acts under the direction of God.
Needless to say, what the world desperately needs today is the latter where everywhere society turns, it sees people who are, “a letter of Christ … written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor. 3:3).
Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.