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    The Roles Of "Heart" and "Mind" In The Christian Life


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    Post  Paeter on September 24th 2012, 9:50 pm

    Got a bit of a rabbit trail going on in another thread that I thought would be good to restart here. (My fault)

    Started with my sarcastic remarks related to the pop-culture slogan "follow your heart".

    I jokingly said:

    I think maybe that's the main message of the Bible, isn't it? Wink


    (Tension building...insides boiling...can't... hold it in...any longer...)

    I am uncontrollably compelled to add that the above is NOT the main message of the Bible, in case you have randomly stumbled upon this thread without any knowledge of my official stance on such matters. In fact, following your heart should be considered among the worst personal philosophies in the history of humankind.

    Whew... Okay, I feel better.

    Then cleireac chimed in and added:

    I'm thinking, Paeter, that leaning too much on the heart or the head can get us in trouble, and I believe the Biblical position is one of balance; we need to use our head to guard our hearts, but sometimes we care called to do things and love people that reason would question heartily.

    Just my part in this continuing threadjack.

    Some good thoughts! So I thought I'd bring the topic here and see what you guys think.

    My position is that the heart MUST be involved heavily in the Christian life. It has a hugely important role. But the point that concerns me is when people believe they should follow their heart above all else.

    The heart is a wonderful thing to follow, when molded and shaped by truth. But if we let our hearts shape our view of truth, that's when we run into problems.

    Regarding cleireac's point about doing things and loving people that reason would question heartily, I'd agree with the spirit of that comment, but I'd construct it differently.

    Personally, I've never had loving someone conflict with my sense of reason. Although I HAVE said to myself, "You're insane if you think loving this person won't bring you pain and trouble." In other words, I can find way's to tell myself that loving someone or radical obedience to God in something is "unreasonable". But the truth is, that's my "heart"(feelings)talking, not my "head"(logic/reason).

    So the real challenge is how to tell the difference between heart and head. (And truth be told, the Bible doesn't make much distinction, as in the Old Testament it was the liver, not the heart, that served as the seat of emotions. The heart was the overall "inner being" of a person.)

    So really, it's not so much that I think we should all follow our heads, worshiping logic and throwing emotions to the wind. It's that I think we should follow truth, especially (though not exclusively) as revealed in scripture. And understanding scripture properly, I think, needs us to prioritize use of the logical mind. As we understand scripture, our hearts are changed leading us to obey. Which leads to more understanding of scripture. A snowballing cycle that i think grows our faith and engages us in life the way God desires.

    So what are YOUR thoughts, everybody? What is the role of the thinking mind? What is the role of the feeling heart? How do we tell the difference when we're wrestling through a logically complex AND emotionally raw problem?

    -Seek The Truth!
    Nathan James Norman
    Nathan James Norman
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    Post  Nathan James Norman on September 26th 2012, 7:41 am

    I've been pondering this topic for a bit now.

    I was involved with a great church for a number of years, but one of the problems was that they were suspicious of emotion, especially in the context of a worship service. Historically, a number of churches in the area had been slowly influenced by the charismatic movement and completely transformed. I'm not criticizing my charismatic friends, but this particular strain of the movement eventually began denying some key doctrines (like the Trinity)!

    So my church began to understand the use of emotions to be synonymous with manipulation, and focused mostly on "head-knowledge".

    Fast forward a number of years and I'm blown away when one of my seminary profs and mentors tells us that our sermons need to engage the whole person: the intellect, will/desire AND emotions. The problems happen when we only try to appeal to a part of our selves and disregard the rest.

    When we appeal to truth, it's not just an intellectual appeal (or it shouldn't be) it should address the whole person . . . the intellect, will/desire and emotion. If our intellect is changed, but our will and emotion are not, we become cold, unloving legalists. If our emotions are convinced only, then we end up serving God in wrong and sinful ways (I've spoken with people cheating on their spouses and they felt God was smiling down on them)! If we only appeal to our will we find ourselves in a situation where we follow God out of a sense of duty and we're miserable.

    I agree, we need to focus on truth. Our whole selves were affected by sin, and our intellect, will and emotions need to be transformed by Christ.

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    Post  ProfessorAlan on October 5th 2012, 5:05 pm

    I agree with what Nathan says.

    I appreciate Paeter's disdain for "follow your heart" as life advice or spiritual counsel, but the human mind is just as fallen as the human heart, and both can lead astray. Both are subject to being deceived or distorted. Extremism on either side (trusting only emotions, or trusting only reason) cuts us off from a legitimate method of communication and communion.

    Pascal, John Wesley, Augustine, all of these great men from the past, intellectuals all (especially Pascal and Augustine, models for me of balancing emotion and reason) all made room in their lives for emotion, and wrote about the way that their "heart" (all specifically used that word) led them into deeper connection with the Lord.

    That being said, the modern American church is more likely to err on the side of "too much heart" rather than "too much mind," so I think that Paeter's message is important as a corrective.

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    Post  ComiKate on October 16th 2012, 3:00 pm

    Matt. 22:37
    Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'

    Mark 12:30
    Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'

    Luke 10:27
    He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'

    In these texts I read that:
    1. we are to love the Lord with our entire beings
    2. there may be something intentional in the order of the wording, since all three texts mention the heart first, then the soul and only then the mind. I think it's suggested here that the heart in some way takes precedence over the others, leaving the mind either last or second to last.

    The question now is, whether "heart" actually means emotions. The Greek word used here is "kardia", which according to Strong's Lexicon can mean anything from an actual physical heart to soul, or spirit, mind, will, character or the seat of spiritual life, etc. The general sense I get from Strong's elaborate definitions however are that the Greek word kardia indeed points to our spirit in these texts.
    By the same token, the Greek word "psuche" (cf. our modern word "psyche"), seems to indicate something like lifeforce, breath of life, seat of our feelings, desires, affections. It reminded me a bit of the Hebrew "ruach", breath of life or living spirit. So the translation of "soul" seems quite accurate here.
    The Greek word that is translated with mind, "dianoia", according to Strong means, among other things, "faculty of understanding, feeling, desiring", "way of thinking and feeling" or simply "thoughts".
    If we also look at strength, like in Luke and Mark, then the Greek word used here seems to primarily refer to bodily strength.

    So in a sense we have "spirit, soul, mind, body" according to Mark, and "spirit, soul, body, mind" according to Luke. Matthew doesn't mention the body at all and just has "spirit, soul, mind".

    Therefore I believe that it's our spirit (in the texts somewhat confusingly translated with "heart") which has to take precedence over both soul (which includes our emotion and will) and mind. It's our spirit that should first be connected to the Holy Spirit, in order for our souls and minds to be filled with God's love and truth.

    Maybe it's like the way we eat and drink: first the food enters our head, then passes through our body from top to bottom. With the head being symbolic for our spirit, and the food a metaphor for God's Word, that passes from spirit to soul and mind.


    By the way, if you want to check out the original Greek and it's translation, you can go to the interlinear bible of


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    Post  DNArington on October 16th 2012, 9:59 pm

    I just want to point out that whatever we put in our mind will come out in out heart and then out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. So I think it is extremely important to be careful what we put in out minds, because it will affect our hearts and it can lead to some very bad places if we only use our hearts. After all our heart is deceitfully wicked according to the scriptures. On the other side though, how often would we show grace to other people if we only use our minds? Just a thought. I believe we must use a blend of our minds and our hearts (and the Scriptures) in decision making.

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