When I was a child, there were three boards at the playground that were mounted at three levels. The object was to walk the boards like a tightrope walker to the very end of the top board, turn around, and walk back. If one leaned too far to the left, one would fall. If one leaned to far to the right, one would fall. It was only by keeping oneself centered and balanced that one could make it to the end and back.
God has made the universe and everything in it with checks and balances. If an environmental system gets out of balance, the system is designed to correct itself…perhaps by Divine intervention at times. In life, it is also important to keep things in proper balance. In politics, one finds that those on the ultra-liberal side promote issues too far to one end. Those on the hyper-right side also take issues too far to the other end of the spectrum. People are reactionary. If something bad happens, people will go to extremes to ensure that the event will never occur again. Unfortunately, these protective measures are often extreme, as well.
Solomon gives a great lesson on balance. Solomon writes,
“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
2 A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
5 A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
6 A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, NASB).
Along with these balances given by Solomon, a balance must be kept between the mind and the heart. Jesus said, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38, NLT). Jesus shows that a person should love the LORD with all their spirit. This is a given. But, Jesus especially shows that a person should love God with their whole heart and mind. The heart (GK. kardia) was seen to be, as James Strong suggests, “of the soul so far as it is affected and stirred in a bad way or good, or of the soul as the seat of the sensibilities, affections, emotions, desires, appetites, passions” (Strong). The mind (GK. dianoia) was, “the mind as a faculty of understanding, feeling, desiring” (Strong). Therefore, it seems, at least to this writer, that there is a call for a love of God with a balance of the mind and the heart. Unfortunately, many in today’s church seem to think that it is an “either/or” affair instead of a “both/and.” In this article, an examination will be given, showing that the Christian does not have to choose between intellectual Christianity and an emotionally-charged Christianity. In fact, the Christian can…and in fact should…enjoy both.
LOVING THE LORD WITH THE MIND
In certain ultra-fundamentalist circles, education and Christianity are like oil and water. They seemingly do not mix for some people. Some claim, “A preacher does not have to be educated.” At the heart of it…no pun intended…the Scripture seems to give exactly the opposite charge. Some will use the charge given of the disciples that they were uneducated in Acts as it is written, “The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13, NLT). However, this does not mean that Peter and John were dumb by any means. It simply meant that Peter and John had not been trained in the council’s schools. By the way, it seems that there is a common bias today in this regard. Some pick and choose the “scholars” in which they listen. But, is this not in fact a bias in and of itself? Truthfully, Peter and John were extremely educated. If Jesus is who the Bible claims Him to be, then Peter and John had been educated by the greatest educator of all time…God incarnate. They had the greatest PhDs and ThDs ever known to humanity as they spent 3 and 1/2 years with “The Logos.” So, how do we love the Lord with our minds? It is done in four ways.
The Scripture, in fact, demands that the disciple be a student. The term disciple (GK. mathetes) means “a learner, pupil, disciple” (Strong). Joshua demanded that the people be learned in the Book of Moses as he wrote, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do” (Joshua 1:7-8, NLT). Paul, in fact, was a learned man. Paul writes of himself, “I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law” (Philippians 3:5, NLT). Paul was so much a scholar that he was able to carry on debates with Epicureans and Stoics in the halls of Athens. Therefore, the Christian should have a call to study the Scripture. In our day and time, Christendom needs more individuals adept in the truths of the Bible so that they can, as Peter said, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15, NASB). This does not mean that all Christians should have advanced degrees. A call is given for those who are called to higher education to minister to those who do not. Paul writes, “For I have a great sense of obligation to people in both the civilized world and the rest of the world, to the educated and uneducated alike” (Romans 1:14, NLT). However, it does mean that we all take seriously the call to become true disciples, or students, of Christ Jesus.
Logic and Reason
There is a call for Christians to check their interpretations of Scripture. Fundamental truths exist for Christianity. These truths are those in which the Christian is convicted as to their veritability. The fundamental truths of Christianity which construct a biblical worldview are such truths as: the existence of God, the fall of humanity, the person and work of Christ, the resurrection, the trinity, and the like. However, many other convictions fall in line with personal interpretations, preferences, and/or traditions. A good example of one who holds an illogical view is the advocate of the King James Version of the Bible who says, “That’s the Bible I read because that is the Bible that Paul read.” This becomes embarrassing if the Christian seeks to show the veritability of one’s convictions because English did not exist in the first-century. Furthermore, the New Testament was written in Greek. Also, Paul would have read the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament) which would have either been in Hebrew or would have been in Greek if the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Hebrew scrolls) was used. I never will forget Dr. Kent Blevins, my professor of theology at Gardner-Webb University. He held different beliefs than I when it came to the foreknowledge of God and the like. However, his demand in the class was, regardless of our view of God’s sovereignty, that our views were constructed logically and were coherent. If you believe that one can lose his or her salvation, what do you do with passages of Scripture that seem to indicate that we are sealed and have assurance in Christ? If you hold to the belief that one is secure in one’s salvation, what do you do with the passages in Hebrews and others that seem to indicate that a loss is potential? If you believe in the Rapture…great! This writer does. But why do you believe it? Can you prove that it a biblically sound event? These things are important for the Christian to work through in order to have a coherent and logically sound faith.
It is important to love the Lord with our minds. However, if one loves the Lord with the mind and does not love the Lord with his or her heart, then one is left with a calloused, cold, and legalistic religion. It is important to love the Lord with the mind, but if there is no heart then one’s faith can become dangerous. Paul writes, “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1, NLT). One needs more than just the mind. The Christian needs to love the Lord with his or her heart.
LOVING THE LORD WITH THE HEART
Jesus also mentions loving the Lord with all of one’s heart. What constitutes a love for God with the heart? Truly, many may be intellectual Christians who can bring forth great theological truths, present cogent arguments for the faith, yet lack love. It must be admitted that this writer does not know the Slick family. However, after reading the testimonial of Rachel Slick, the daughter of CARM’s director who turned atheist, it appears that she did not feel loved. Now, I am not saying whether or not there was love in the home. I do not know and will not dare to make such a judgment. However, this appears to be a common theme among many who turn from the faith. It is just as important for a Christian to love God with his or her heart as much as it is to love God with his or her mind. Francis Chan indicates as much as he writes, “If God cared only about outward appearances and religious activities, then any effort toward ministry would please Him. But, God tells us repeatedly that HE cares more about the heart than the externals. If God cared only about religious activitites, then the Pharisees would have been heroes of the faith” (Chan, 39). This love from the heart involves three constituents:
Emotions are powerful. Our emotions can direct our thinking and our decision-making. At times, an individual will become hurt and will allow his or her emotions to dictate one’s actions towards the offender. The problem is that the offended can easily become the offender. Some times, there may be a call to action. Nonetheless, a person should seek the Lord’s guidance before acting. It is amazing what 30 minutes of prayer can do for one before engaging in an action.
In this regard, it may be best to act according to the old contractor’s advice, “Measure twice and cut once.” Once the cut has been made, the thing being cutted could become beyond repair. Before we lash out with words and actions, it is wise to consider what the words and actions could do. This is something on which this writer admittedly is still working. Of course, the Christian is not going to be perfect on this side of eternity. The Christian should wear a caution sign that reads “God at work.”
When one speaks of the will, the person is speaking of the decision-making process or choices that a person makes. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the “will” as, “used to express desire, choice, willingness, consent, or in negative constructions refusal “ (Merriam-Webster, “Will,” http://www.m-w.com). The will must allow an experience with God. I could give you all the evidence, all the reasons to believe, and all the logic to accept Christ in your life. But, until you open your life and be willing to allow God to infiltrate your life, all of this is just talk. Likewise, it is possible for a person to believe all the right things and have everything lined up correctly in his or her life and still be as much of an unbeliever as the skeptic and cynic. Jesus said, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say” (Luke 6:45-46, NLT)? When a person has correct doctrine and not a right heart, caustic and cynical religion develops. It may be that God would do greater miracles in your life, but you might be too restrictive in your theology to allow His Spirit to move and flow. It is possible to quench the Holy Spirit. Paul writes, “Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. 20 Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22, NLT). Could it be that heartless religion stifles the Holy Spirit? I think it does. In my life I have found that when I surrender to the power of God, God’s Holy Spirit flows through my life and gives great joy, love, and peace. This is just the beginning. Every day we are confronted with decisions which holds consequences. Every decision, every choice, holds a particular consequence. Will you allow the Spirit to conform and transform your will? If every Christian would do so, hypocritical religion would be a thing of the past.
Lastly, loving God with the heart opens oneself to love others. Paul says it all when he wrote,
“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! 9 Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 10 But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:1-13, NLT).
Love is necessary if we are to claim to be a Christian. This love comes from a relationship with a holy God. It also comes from the willingness to love the Lord with all the heart.
Yet, in this, Christianity can lose its’ balance. If one simply loves and does not stand for truth, then a person will float like driftwood never holding any bearings in life. James writes, “Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6, NLT).
God has created the universe with a great balance. The Christian life must hold balance. When the Christian leans too far to one side or the other, their life and faith becomes unbalanced and unfocused. A Christian faith that holds intellectual prowess with no heart becomes legalistic, caustic, hypocritical, and worthless. Likewise, a Christian faith that holds compassion with no intellect becomes flimsy, watered-down, flippant, and holds no foundation. It is when a Christian allows the Spirit of God to infiltrate one’s life with truth and love that the individual becomes centered, focused, and a living example. This is not the only balance. In future articles, further balances will be presented.
Seeking to love God with the mind and heart,
Pastor Brian Chilton
Chan, Francis. Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2012.
New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.
Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2001.
Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation, 3rd ed. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007.