Singleness of Heart: Restoring the Divided Soul

Clifford Williams

Eerdmans, 1994; Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2008
140 pages

“Clifford Williams writes with the acuity of a philosopher and the seasoned faith of a deeply reflective believer. This book restores the soul.” – Cornelius Plantinga, author of Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be

Singleness of Heart is an experientially deep yet sophisticated treatment of the dynamics that constantly hinder a simple and straightforward doing of the good for God’s sake.” – Dallas Willard, author of The Spirit of the Disciplines

From the preface:

The Christian heart is a strange paradox. Though it clings to God tenaciously, it forgets him and flees from him. Though it humbly receives God’s forgiveness, it feels that it does not need forgiveness. Sometimes it acts from motives that are alien to its God-commitment; sometimes it pretends, both to others and to itself, to be better than it knows itself to be.

On occasion it is acutely aware of these contradictions and struggles with them. More often, though, it has only a partial awareness or no awareness of them.

This book is an invitation to explore the dividedness that infects the Christian heart. Singleness of Heart investigates the ways in which this dividedness is exhibited and probes behind it to concealed and unacknowledged motives.

Accepting this invitation involves risks. It might produce distrust in the genuineness of Christian love or skepticism about whether we can be open to God’s grace. It might even lead to unremitting despair about human nature.

However, if the exploration is not made, the reward may never be obtained. Healing requires that the condition needing healing be brought to light. My aim is not to foster distrust, skepticism, or despair. It is to incite single-minded openness to God’s grace.


1. Introduction: Doubleness and the Pursuit of the Eternal

2. Singleness and Doubleness

3. Motives Undermining Singleness of Heart

4. Barrier to Singleness of Heart

5. Illusory Experiences of Grace

6. Openness to Grace

7. A Community of Grace

8. Beyond the Self

9. Conclusion: Singleness and the Pursuit of the Eternal

From the epilogue:

I began this book by remarking that the Christian heart is a strange paradox. Now we see that it is no longer so strange. We know why we like being ambivalent and why we persist in illusion. We have unmasked the motives that make us spiritual schizophrenics. It is no wonder, we say with a sad shake of our heads, that we live outside ourselves.

Still, the strangeness persists. There is intrigue in a rejuvenated existence that will not give up its illusions, uncomprehending wonder about a being that anxiously flees the love it so delights in, knowing that it flees but convincing itself that it does not. Who can grope to the bottom of such a thing?

Perhaps we must leave matters this way: the Christian heart is tragic and beautiful, torn and mended; about it we need despairing confidence. Though it casts out the grace it longs for, it also lets itself be healed by grace. If we recognize these oppositions, we will have made progress in our journey toward restoration.

From Singleness of Heart: Restoring the Divided Soul (Eerdmans, 1994; Wipf & Stock Publishing, 2008), xi, 140. Copyright 2008 by Clifford Williams. Used with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

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Also by Clifford Williams:

The Divided Soul: A Kierkegaardian Exploration

The Wisdom of Kierkegaard: A Collection of Quotations on Faith and Life

Books dealing with dividedness:

Augustine, Confessions, Book 8

Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment

Jonathan Edwards, Treatise on Religious Affections

Soren Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing

Pascal, Pensées

Merold Westphal, Suspicion and Faith

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