Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Head Religion & Heart Religion

As has been my practice for some time, now, I was including the singing of Wesley hymns during Morning and Evening Prayer, when I ran across one of my favorite lines. Charles Wesley penned (in hymn #461, For Children, in The Works of John Wesley, Vol. 7) these words:

Unite the pair so long disjoined,
Knowledge and vital piety:
Learning and holiness combined . . .

It is part of that Wesleyan balance that is so often missing, even in the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition. On the one hand are those who hold to an intellectual faith, but have no "warmed heart." On the other hand are those who focus solely on emotional experiences and want nothing to do with serious thought. The former often look down upon heart religion, as though it is, from their elitist perspective, naive; something below them. The latter return the favor with a strong suspicions and often a down right anti-intellectualism.

But God never intended such a separation. Rather, we are called to love God with our whole heart and our whole mind (cf., Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; and Luke 10:27).


I like the way Asbury Seminary (where I did my doctoral work) puts it: "Where head and heart go hand in hand." - That is the call, not just for those of us who stand in the tradition of the Wesley's, but for all Christians. We are called to love God with all of our heart and with all of our head. To be sure, the latter does not require a "religious/academic degree." It just requires that we not shut off our brains; that we use our God given minds to glorify our God; that we never stop learning. It requires that we love God with everything. - After all, our God is worthy of nothing less!

2 comments:

Katharine said...

Very nice, and very true.

Eric said...

Thanks Todd. My experience is completely consistent with the dichotomy you oppose. Two things that very much discourage me are (1) the blatant mistrust; (2) the seeming denominational bias.

(1) There is a seemingly insurmountable mistrust between those who lean toward either intellectualism (head) or emotionalism (heart). Those with intellectual leanings often accuse those who are more heart oriented of being lazy or of not thinking about their faith. Those with emotional leanings often accuse those who are more head oriented of not being authentic in their faith. If we could trust one another, and that we do love God with my heart and my head, I think we would be much better off.

(2) There is, it seems, at least in the CotN, a bias against intellectualism in the pulpit or in the parish. The place for the intellect is in teaching. The place for the heart is in the parish. Though I am finding more and more pastors who are intellectual, I maintain that there is a push for those who are intellectual to get into the academy where we belong. Seriously, why shouldn't I pursue a PhD? Because I am a pastor? Because I am called to parish ministry I should not challenge myself and hold myself to the highest standards? For a denomination with a history of commitment to education, you sure can't tell it by looking at local churches or their pastors!