Drinking Deeply

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 at 10:31 PM

Head vs. Heart

Oftentimes people talk about the "head knowledge vs. heart knowledge" comparison. The question in the table is "is this Biblical?"

I think Eric got a good answer when he said, "In Matthew he says that in many cases their doctrine is quite correct, and the trouble is that they don't do what they preach. He doesn't use the words "head" and "heart," but isn't that a classic case of what we mean by "head" knowledge vs. "heart" knowledge?"

Yes, that seems to be how we as Christians oftentimes talk about "head" vs. "heart," (though the caution would be that the Sermon on the Mount was about how they completely got everything turned around, so it seems that they lacked even "head" knowledge then).

One thing I do want to point out is that man in the Bible is not head, heart, and body, but rather is head and body. This is, in some regards, a terminology issue, but I will explain why it's important later. To prove my point:

Some resources:(http://bibletools.org//index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.default/alpha/A)

(From Easton's Bible Dictionary)

According to the Bible, the heart is the centre not only of spiritual activity, but of all the operations of human life. "Heart" and "soul" are often used interchangeably (Deuteronomy 6:5; 26:16; Compare Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30,33), but this is not generally the case.

5. Heart and Mind:
(From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

As the central organ in the body, forming a focus for its vital action, it has come to stand for the center of its moral, spiritual, intellectual life. "In particular the heart is the place in which the process of self-consciousness is carried out, in which the soul is at home with itself, and is conscious of all its doing and suffering as its own" (Oehler). Hence, it is that men of "courage" are called "men of the heart"; that the Lord is said to speak "in his heart" (Genesis 8:21); that men "know in their own heart" (Deuteronomy 8:5); that "no one considereth in his heart' (Isaiah 44:19 the King James Version). "Heart" in this connection is sometimes rendered "mind," as in Numbers 16:28 ("of mine own mind," Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) ex proprio corde, Septuagint ap' emautou); the foolish "is void of understanding," i.e. "heart" (Proverbs 6:32, where the Septuagint renders phrenon, Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) cordis, Luther "der ist ein Narr"). God is represented as "searching the heart" and "trying the reins" (Jeremiah 17:10 the King James Version). Thus, "heart" comes to stand for "conscience," for which there is no word in Hebrew, as in Job 27:6, "My heart shall not reproach me," or in I Samuel 24:5, "David's heart smote him"; compare I Samuel 25:31. From this it appears, in the words of Owen: "The heart in Scripture is variously used, sometimes for the mind and understanding, sometimes for the will, sometimes for the affections, sometimes for the conscience, sometimes for the whole soul. Generally, it denotes the whole soul of man and all the faculties of it, not absolutely, but as they are all one principle of moral operations, as they all concur in our doing of good and evil."


Ok, having proven that the heart is equivalent to the head in Scripture, I want to answer the question: "Why is this important?"

A couple of reasons:

1) A head = heart perception allows us to realize something important about the link between emotions and thoughts, and that is that emotions are part of our thinking process. We should be as much in control of our emotions as we are of our thoughts. In fact, if you consider it, extreme emotion (like rage) in a human (it's different in God) is actually a problem of thought.

Lets take rage as this example for man.

Say I'm really angry at someone. Maybe I discovered that my wife was cheating on me or something like that. I, in my fit of rage, decide to buy a gun and shoot her. I later regret that decision, having been caught, thrown in jail, tried, and executed. To top it off God says He's going to judge every single work, so unless I excercise saving faith in Jesus Christ as my only savior, I'm going to be eternally punished for that as well as other sins.

This probably was not the most rational system of thought. One such possibility (which is more rational at least) is to realize that she will be judged for her adultery, in this world as well as the next, and trust in God when He says "vengeance is mine, I will repay."

Thus my rage demonstrates itself in a failure of logic. Instead of trusting God's promises, I doubt Him and take the law into my own hands.

Now, with God this isn't the same, since God isn't controlled by emotion, but rather He controls emotion, which is the same policy we should excercise toward emotion.

2) Being Biblical is important. If all of Scripture is useful for equiping for every good work, then knowing the Bible and living the Bible is important for every good work. As we learn more from Scripture, it, being God's Word, teaches us more about the nature and character of God. This is a knowledge that is of great importance.

To understand properly the connection between the head and the heart (namely that they are the same thing) opens the floodgates to understanding many passages that often seem very "emotional/spiritual" but in reality are highly intellectual in nature. "Open the eyes of my heart" is a common prayer and a fairly well known song, but little do they know that the verse is from Ephesians 1:
6I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might
What is this actually a petition for? Not just a prayer of devotion, but a prayer asking God to give us knowledge. To have a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knolwedge of God. To know the hope to which he has called us, which are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. To know the greatness of God's power for those who believe... the verse continues and it is a prayer for knowledge.

So now the question is, "but what about those people that know God is faithful, but don't really believe it?"

Now, this is typically what we call the "head/heart" distinction. But notice that there aren't really "emotions" involved as we would expect, but rather it's a problem of "belief."

The distinction the Reformers drew (they affirmed the dichotomy [two parts] of man) was between knowledge, assent, and trust. Now, I don't see a difference between "assent" and "trust," but that may be because I never had them formally defined, so let me give my perspective.

There is a difference between cognitive "knowledge" that states "The Bible says that God is faithful and works all things out for His glory" and a belief that lives that out, trusting God with his very life, ascribing to God all good like Job.

The difference is in the head. One is just repeating of words absent meaning, but the other is words lived and acted. Faith, biblical faith, is the same as "belief" and "trust" as I understand it. It plays itself out in works, though it is aquired (supernaturally) through words and teaching. This is the same with "knowledge." Do we live it out? or do we just repeat words?

Yes, we will always have that "I believe, but help my unbelief!" problem. The solution is not to try to look within ourselves to see if we can dig up within our "heart" the answers. The solution is twofold -

1) knowledge of Scripture. Sometimes the problem is simply that we don't know enough to have faith. We don't know that God promises that all things will work for those whom he has chosen. We don't know that God will not withold any good thing. Or maybe we've forgotten. We do need to constantly preach to ourselves. "Why are you downcast oh my soul? Do you not remember that God is faithful and will deliver us? Has delivered us?"

2) The cross - Through the cross, we are given the blessing of the Holy Spirit. With that knowledge, we need God to apply it to our minds, to convict our minds and bring us to places of repentance and faith, which results in a life that trusts God. This is what the Spirit does for us, and that is one of the many spiritual blessings we have in our war against sin for God's glory.

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Blogger no_average_girl said...

just wanted to "drop a thought" and say thanks for sharing what you are learning! though i rarely leave comments - probably should leave more! - i keep up with your blog and find your posts very thought provoking!

keep on seeking Him! He's the source for all knowledge and wisdom!



Blogger E! said...

Hey Mc. I had to do quite a bit of digging to find this post, and it was a timely rebuke. You know those funky states of head/heart you get into and think, I think I read something about this sometime before, probably Edwards... or less archaically and convolutedly, Mxu...

Anyhow, wanted to pick your brain on gchat but was met with a yellow dot and "my sister is better than your brother" instead!

Catch you later, then.  


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