The [False] Heart v Head Dichotomy (Troxel)

With All Your Heart: Orienting Your Mind, Desires, and Will Toward Christ

“I know it in my head but I can’t feel it in my heart.” “Christianity is more about the heart than the head.” “The heart is more important than the mind.” Christians sometimes use phrases like these while attempting explain the biblical commands to love the Lord with all our hearts and to do his will from the heart (Mk 12:30, Eph. 6:6, etc.). Although perhaps well-meaning, these kinds of statements are not actually accurate explanations of what the Bible says about the heart. Today people might make a sharp and clear distinction between the heart and the mind, but Scripture does not do so. In fact, in text after text the Bible uses the word heart in a way that very much has to do with the mind. To our hearts belong thoughts (Heb. 4:12), remembering (Ps. 119:11), trust (Rom. 10:10), meditation (Ps. 19:14), understanding (Prov. 7:7, 9:4, etc.), and so on. In Scripture (OT and NT), the word for heart often has the meaning of mind (intellect, thinking, remembering, understanding, etc.). There is no sharp distinction in the Bible between heart and mind.

Craig Troxel notes this quite well in With All Your Heart. The first chapter of his book is a longer discussion summarizing the Bible’s emphasis on the heart as a thinking thing: “If your heart principally does one thing, it thinks” (p. 25). Here’s one of Troxel’s conclusions:

One of the most significant modern-day misconceptions about the heart – even among evangelical Christians – is that the heart is opposed to the head. It is said that if we really want to follow our heart, then we will be guided more by our intuitions and non-thinking subconscious than by our thinking and mind. That is, people are lovers before they are thinkers. To embrace this kind of thinking is to be true to Greek philosophy. Friedrich Nietzsche echoed this thought when he denied that great intelligence and a warm heart could coexist. But to put the heart and the intellect into a relationship of tension is not being true to Scripture. Such a false dichotomy is not just a form of anti-intellectualism; it is a misleading antithesis because it seems to create the impression that the mind is somehow less spiritual or less noble than the affective or volitional part of who we are. Actually, such ideas are nothing new. Paul heard the same complaint from the childish Corinthians and expressed how puzzled he was by their eagerness for the supposedly ‘higher’ gifts that bypassed the mind (1 Cor. 14:12, 15, 19, 20; cf. 12:7).

Craig Troxel, With All Your Heart, p. 34.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015