Friday, July 19, 2013

The Epic Head vs. Heart Showdown

“How far is heaven? Not far really. Just 18 inches, the distance from your head to your heart.”

I’ve heard variations of that statement quite a few times. I recently saw it in a witness tract, encouraging people to not only know about Jesus but to come to know Him personally. And that is a good and valid point. I appreciate that emphasis.

But I kind of wonder where the complimentary tract is to be found. You know the one that talks about having all heart and no brains. After all isn’t it true that a person can be very sincere in their beliefs--giving their whole heart to them--and still end up in hell because they very sincerely worshipped a pig-god named Steve?

In actuality that guy doesn’t exist*. The dude who sincerely worships a pig-god named Steve doesn’t do it because he’s an idiot. He worships a pig-god because he is a rebel. And in the same way the guy that intellectually understands the gospel but just can’t bridge that 18 inches—he’s a rebel too.

The Bible does not like to create a chasm between head and heart. We do.

And in our culture we like to pick heart over brains. We are as Os Guinness has noted like the Tin Woodman, in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,

“Why didn’t you walk around the hole?” asked the Tin Woodman.

“I don’t know enough,” replied the Scarecrow cheerfully. “My head is
stuffed with straw, you know, and that is why I am going to Oz to ask
him for some brains.”

“Oh, I see,” said the Tin Woodman. “But, after all, brains are not the
best things in the world.”

“Have you any?” inquired the Scarecrow.

“No, my head is quite empty,” answered the Woodman. “But once I had
brains, and a heart also; so, having tried them both, I should much
rather have a heart….”

“All the same,” said the Scarecrow, “I shall ask for brains instead of
a heart; for a fool would not know what to do with a heart if he had

“I shall take the heart,” returned the Tin Woodman; “for brains do not
make one happy, and happiness is the best thing in the world.”

We have, says Guinness, made the Tin Woodman’s choice. And it’s a choice that the Scriptures do not make. The biblical picture is that head and heart are interdependent. One serves the other. We are whole people that are wholly redeemed by God.

If there is a chasm between your head and your heart it doesn’t really matter from which end you started the dig. If you’re all head then you need to repent of a cold and dead orthodoxy. After all Satan could ace every doctrine test a seminary through at him. But he doesn’t treasure truth—and it doesn’t cause him to break out into doxology.

So also if you are somehow “all heart” but don’t care much about digging out the Scriptures you are just as rebellious as the cold yet orthodox guy. The Bible says that it’s both/and.

Love and dig.

Dig and love.

We shouldn’t put friends like this in the boxing ring.


*Not the pig guy…he might exist.


  1. I've been reading Scripture, something that I have returned to doing since I've strayed from the path, but I don't feel a delight, pleasure, or joy in God as I would like. I don't want to be "all head" like I've done before I strayed. Even though I don't feel a delight in God's Word I guess I should continually read no matter what.

  2. The current idea of “heart” wasn’t known as such by the human authors of the Bible. For the OT writers, emotion was typically located in the bowels. The term “heart” referred to more to the center of one’s thinking. It is perhaps best understood as our ideological presuppositions. Sometimes we are aware of these and sometimes we aren’t. When you ask a teen why he did something and he says, “I don’t know,” he probably isn’t aware of the motive he had for doing something enough to articulate it. It’s on this level that the Holy Spirit sanctifies us. It can be emotional when our deepest motives are challenged because what is at stake is the way we understand the world.

    But that’s not what we mean today. Unfortunately, when read the Bible, we import what we understand today. When we talk about “heart” we usually talk about the emotional reaction we have to something as though it’s a moral imperative. So we talk about knowing something with our mind and feeling it with our heart as though knowing something is not real, but feeling it makes it real. This is a romantic idea that was not around until about the 12th century. It’s not part of the Biblical accounts in the least.

    What is part of the Biblical ideology was written about by the early church fathers. Rome stifled this teaching because they felt it only applied to the church structure and not individual Christians, and Luther didn’t deal with it directly. Calvin picked it back up and Lutheran theologians later followed suit. Poythress and Frame brought it to light and called it “multiperspectivalism.” More recently theologians have called it “triperspectivalism”.

    Triperspectivalism is based on the offices of Christ and applied to individual believers. For the difference between the “head” and the “heart” in modern parlance, “head” would comport with the office of Prophet and “heart” would most closely align with the office of Priest, although not perfectly according to what I wrote above. What’s missing is the office of King.

    The office of Priest calls us to the ministry of reconciliation. We must seek reconciliation with others according to the admonitions by Christ and the Apostles. Inasmuch as we have been ontologically reconciled with God, we must existentially practice that reconciliation through worship, prayer, and participation in the ordinances. This is more than simply feeling love for other people or internalizing our faith toward some rank emotionalism. When we don’t feel like it, we must still practice our faith relationally.

    But we don’t rightly know God nor pursue our relationship with him without acting on it in the fulfillment of the Great Commission. That’s the office of King. We can’t claim “head” and “heart” without including “hands and feet”.



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