Thursday, February 12, 2009


When I was a young believer, I often heard in sermons and Bible studies that there is some sort of distinction between the head and the heart. “It’s not enough to believe with your head.” we were told, “That’s 18 inches too high! You’ve got to believe with your heart!”

I recognize that the preacher was equating the head with the brain, but what did he mean by the heart? Certainly, not that physical pump within our chests that circulates the blood?

I came to realize that the head or brain represented the mind while the heart seemed to represent the emotions. I still occasionally hear or read this sort of thing in sermons and devotional literature.

But this sort of dichotomy just isn’t true! And I believe it’s a major factor in the “dumbing down” of much of Christianity.

Now I realize that when I get on this soapbox I am sounding like a curmudgeon, but wiser and godlier men than I have said things like this in the past.

“There is, unfortunately, a feeling in some quarters today that there is something innately wrong about learning, and that to be spiritual one must also be stupid. This tacit philosophy has given us in the last half century a new cult within the confines of orthodoxy; I call it the Cult of Ignorance. It equates learning with unbelief and spirituality with ignorance, and, according to it, never the twain shall meet. This is reflected in a wretchedly inferior religious literature, a slap-happy type of religious meeting, and a grade of Christian song so low as to be positively embarrassing.”
-- Dr. A. W. Tozer, May, 1952

“An outstanding fact of recent Church history is the appalling growth of ignorance in the Church … the logical and inevitable result of the false notion that Christianity is a life and not also a doctrine; if Christianity is not a doctrine then of course teaching is not necessary to Christianity.”
-- J. Gresham Machen, 1923

Where does this sort of (non) thinking come from? I believe it is partially due to a misunderstanding of the Old Testament in our English Bibles. The Hebrew of the Old Testament had no word that was the equivalent of our word “mind.” Rather, it used the word LEB or LEBEB, “heart” to refer to the whole inner man, including the intellect, emotions and will. Many modern translations translate this word as “mind,” but I believe the KJV translation “heart” has been affecting our thinking to this day.

Fortunately our New Testament was written in Greek which has at least a half dozen words for the mind and/or thought processes, as well as the word heart (kardia).

Look at the Shema, the great commandment in Deuteronomy 6:5 (Hebrew) demanding complete love from the total person: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

One text of the Septuagint (the Greek translation – ca. 200+ BC) substitutes the word “mind” (dianoia) for the word “heart.”

When we get to the New Testament we find Jesus quoting the text thus: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). He has added a word for mind to the description of the requirement for total love.

So when we come to faith in Christ, we don’t kiss our brains goodbye! Rather, living the Christian life requires mental effort!

Paul seemed to feel that it was important for his readers to think! Among his favorite words was the word phroneo (or some form of the word) which could be simply translated “think,” as I have translated below:
“For I say … to everyone … not to overthink beyond what he ought to think, but to think soberthinking” (Romans 12:3).

“When I was a child … I used to think like a child” (1 Corinthians 13:11).

“ … think the same thing … having the same thinking” (Philippians 2:2).

Think this among yourselves” (Philippians 2:5).

“Let us, as many as are mature think this, and if anyone thinks differently … “ (Philippians 4:15).

Think on the things above … (Colossians 3:2).

I do not believe that it is possible to live the Christian life without seriously engaging our minds. I know that there is a strong trend toward “doing” today, and that’s good. James tells us we are to “become doers of the word and not hearers only” (2:22), but this is not an either/or proposition. I believe that we need to engage our minds while -- even before -- we get involved in Christian ministries.

Bill Ball


The Family Clan said...

It almost seems like a dichotomy perhaps even stemming from gnosticism? That the mind would relate to the flesh/material, where as the "heart" would relate to the least that's how I would understand it. It definitely does seem like there is kind of a negativity towards gaining knowledge.

In my philosophy class we discussed how a lot of Christians are very skeptical of philosophy, fearing that it only leads to bad things...but what it encourages a person to do is THINK! I now wish I had been able to add a degree in philosophy in order that I might think LOGICALLY!

I almost wonder if there is such a backlash high-church in America that this is yet just another area affected. I mean that in: the Catholic (and Anglican?) churches have a lot of intellectuals and (mabybe?) had a large amount of control over (some) philosophy, but a lot over scripture, that when America was founded on "religious freedom" many believers became devoted to do anything nearly anti-catholic. I'm not sure if that makes complete sense.

It seems like now if someone dares to study something different from what one believes for the sake of understanding, it's somehow a bad thing. But how can knowing another side be bad? How can KNOWING your own beliefs be bad? It seems like a lot of Christians nowadays are just told what to believe and aren't allowed to ask "why?" and if they do, they must not have enough faith. There's definitely a lack of passing down faith in the family, and maybe that breeds some of the lack of "mind-nourishment" because people don't know HOW to do it as they've had no example...

What do you think, Opa?

Love ya!


Bill Ball said...

I'm not quite sure what you mean in your third paragraph, but I think we're in basic agreement.
Of course, we need to be really grounded in the Scriptures for our worldview. We need a "grid' to pass things through