False Choices between head and heart

Christian writers, for centuries and jewish writers for centuries before that, have sought to understand the inner workings of people. Early Christians taking their lead from a trinitarian understanding of God, moved to imagine humans trinitarianly, Body, Soul and Spirit. As with all images, metaphors they break up into the abyss of mystery. Whilst the three categories help us in someways, we are infinitely more complex and altogether more integrated than these 3 parts suggest.

One description of our lives as they engage in the life of God is the dichotomy of head and heart. Again, in many ways, this breakdown is overly simplistic, but it does speak to many peoples experience of life, and particularly their lives lived in and before God.

As we glance through church history there seems to me to be a perpetual pattern of;
1) Move of God amongst his people to renew an area of their lives/witness that has been neglected.
2) Fixation, over-indulgence in that area, to the point of excess, leaving others in the body concerned.
3) A reactive movement seeking to correct which ends up in the ditch on the other side of the road!

Not an inspiring picture, yet we hold on to Jesus’ promise to build his Church, and us as His people moving towards His glorious image. It seems like this reaction and over correction pattern has often moved between a Christianity that has rooted itself in Head OR the heart.

The heart has emphasised the experiential and relational life of God, the imagery, poetry, symbolism and mystery.

The head has tended to attempt to bring an ordered account through theology, to align the church’s witness to the scriptures.

At it’s worst the Church has moved between these poles to seek validation before the world’s intellectual climate, at best, it has sought to stay passionately and faithfully a people for God’s name.

I’m convinced we don’t need a balance, but in fact, the fullness of both. A while back a speaker I heard denounced language of balance, citing scales as a measurement for the world. He argued, In God there is the fullness of all good things, therefore we don’t have to live in half measures of anything. In fact we reach out for the fullest expressions of every good and perfect thing that comes from the Father. I think it makes some sense in the scheme of things.

I’ve recently been reading some books on Discipleship; how we grow up in Christ, and I’ve picked up an even deeper conviction that it is essential we cultivate both of these ways of loving God, the head & the heart.

Leanne Payne in the healing presence writes;
“A sound understanding of the Scriptures therefore evokes true imagery within the heart, just as it grants a sound theology to the mind.” pp.139

I really enjoy theology, I’m aware that makes me weird in certain circles, but it genuinely draws me into worship. Part of the implication of that means that Im inclined towards the head a little more than the heart. I’m becoming fuller (in the sense described before), but the inclination is still there. But I’ve been more and more convinced we need not just a clear understanding in our mind of our faith, but we need a vision of the heart in order to live out our faith well.

Discipleship, our growing up in Christ, relies on our ability, in the power of Holy Spirit to change. Most of our reactions are unconscious, it seems we are made that way. So in order to react in holiness (that is, in line with the Spirit of God, not a reduced moralism that the usage has begun to evoke), a sort of spontaneous holiness if you will, we need to not only be able to think about what we want to do, we need desire that is pre-cognitive (snaps in before we think it through).

How often do you consciously think something clearly through and then act on it? Maybe 10% of your actions? I think even that might be generous. One of the books I’ve been reading spoke about being in a car with a new driver. It’s terrifying, they are thinking about everything, and it doesn’t work very well. It is only through practise that the new driver internalises a sense, a spontaneous reactive ability to drive well.

So what is the equivalent for discipleship? I think (there I go again!) it is worship (when I talk about worship I’m including but not limiting it to singing, communion, liturgy, psalms, corporate prayer etc.)

When we worship, we are practising living in a world where God is God, we are not, BUT, we are like God, and we are becoming like God (specifically into the image of Jesus). That is where we get a vision for our heart, where we find Holy Spirit breathing on our new desires. People often talk about worldview as this re-orienting, but I think we need more than a way of seeing the World, we need a new way of being and reacting in the world.

Just like the driver who sees a car swerving in the other lane, and before a conscious thought has passed through her head, steers out of the way. The driver didn’t need to think through the steps of why that was bad, the driver, at a pre-conscious level knows she is in a world where one car hitting another is dangerous.

Worship describes in heart language, a world, that in turn gives us the compass points to a way of being in that world.

So, don’t allow yourself and your journey of discipleship to exist in false dichotomies between head and heart, Word and Spirit, Worship and Word, intercession and prophecy.

Every good and perfect gift comes from our Father, and he intends them to grow us up into little Christs (the derivative, originally derogatory root for the word for Christian), so that His rule and reign, alongside the flourishing shalom of His people may ever increase.

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