Monday, January 30, 2006

Head and Heart

Les Newsom at Common Grounds Online wonders if he's the only one who hated hearing at every youth retreat he attended that the 18 inches between his head and heart were what was keeping him from being a committed Christian. I didn't become a believer until I was 19 so I missed out on the youth retreats. But I hear that kind of thinking from adults (who may have been at the same retreats as Les) and I hate it now (see yesterday's post).

While I don't share Les's conviction that substance dualism (recognizing a distinction between soul and body) is ultimately to blame for the pitting of head and heart against each other, I'm in wholehearted agreement with his contention that the head/heart dichotomy has no biblical warrant. Les writes:
...any good exegete of Scripture will tell you that the Bible’s understanding of the “inner zones” of humanity centers on the conception of the “heart.” In Scripture, the “heart” houses not just the feelings, but all of life. My thinking, my feelings, my believing, my committing, my loving: it all proceeds from the heart. Proverbs 4:23 comes to mind, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
The head/heart dichotomy is so popular among Christians that it's unlikely that we'll let go of it easily. But Les points out the advantages of doing so:
Leaving the head/heart dichotomy as an apparatus to think about my inner life reorganizes the priorities of Christian self-discipline, helps keeps first things first, and gets me off the hopeless treadmill of trying to figure out if I feel like a Christian today.
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2 comments:

Byron said...

Allow me to protest a tad, Keith; I think that it all depends upon what you mean when you speak of a head/heart dichotomy. I use this analogy---hey, maybe I need to give it up---but I think that the way I intend it to be understood isn't necessarily at variance with your point. When I speak of "head", I'm speaking of mere intellectual assent, as opposed to "heart", signifying not so much an opposition to head as a trust in , a commitment to, an obedience in, those things which the "head" rightly understands. In my understanding, then, I wouldn't speak of a head/heart dichotomy, as though the two were opposed in some either/or scenario, so much as I'd think of "heart belief" involving a commitment to, a fulfillment of, those things to which the "head" mentally assents. 'Zat make sense?

read with open eyes said...

The problem with the "18 inch separation" is that according to Biblical anatomy the head does not think. The heart does. From Proverbs 23:7 reference to a man thinking in his heart, to Hebrews 4:12 thoughts and intentions of the heart, Scripture consistently places the intellect and its process in the heart. It is a modern error that associates thinking with the head (brain), based on our "discovery" of how the brain functions, and based on psychology's analysis of separating functions that God tells us are a single whole.