What actually transforms the human heart, making it the source of joy, peace and fulfillment as opposed to the guilt, fear, and aimlessness which many of us routinely experience instead. Orthodox Christianity often answers this question by proposing some sort of supernatural operation by God which is initiated by following their strict salvation prescription, the concrete actions by which salvation is achieved by the individual. Their emphasis is always on the idea of obedience to divine commandments as the trigger for a transformed life. Once we obey sufficiently, properly, then God works His magic on us.
Not surprisingly, Christianity’s idea of obedience carries a threat of punishment. That is inherent in the very word obedience in our everyday language. Whenever one must obey, there has to be a punishment for disobedience. Thus Christian transformation becomes a mandatory process to avoid the punishment. The proposed change in the heart may be desirable, but the avoidance of punishment largely overshadows the promise of peace, joy, and fulfillment.
That is unavoidably so for two reasons. There is no outward evidence that the salvation prescription has worked- no way to know for sure that salvation has actually been achieved. Then there is the insistence in many cases that one’s grip on salvation and transformation has to be maintained till death by personal effort. One must remain faithful to church doctrine in order stay saved.
The very fact that transformation is based on obedience under threat means the desired result of a transformed heart never happens. An insecure, constantly threatened believer
is never going to live a guilt free, peaceful, abundant life. It cannot happen. The more the preachers insist on obedience and faithfulness and doctrinal purity, the more they sell a story of transformation which affirms and reinforces the untransformed heart with its negative, self destructive nature.
Telling this orthodox story to people who are suffering is abusive in the extreme. And just repeating it over and over makes it no more transformative.