Heart and Mind

For the last few years, members of the Laidlaw School of Theology have had a regular contribution to Stimulus, but we have never got around to giving it a decent name. Realising it was time we christened it, we have agreed with the title, “Heart and Mind.” 

The proposed label beat out a range of more literal options including “Theologia,” “Theological Reflections,” “Catechistic Conversations,” “Theology in Conversation,” and “Insight.” It was also preferred to other more creative suggestions including “Areopagus” (Acts 17:19, 21), “Tyrannus” (Acts 19:9), and “Through a Mirror Dimly” (1 Cor 13:12). One suggestion, “Exposé,” perhaps missed out because it sounds a little too journalistic or even risqué. Four were likely less popular because of their ambiguity, although they are most interesting options. One idea was “White Fire, Black Fire,” based on a little known rabbinic tradition that the words of the pages of the Hebrew Bible are black fire and the spaces between words, white—hence, “theology talks about the seen and the unseen.” Another clever but obscure idea was “Queen Bee,” a creative play on the idea of theology as the “Queen of the Sciences.” However, I suspect many contemporary scientists would raise more than an eyebrow at this idea. The other option was “Nein!” which theologians would instantly recognise as Karl Barth’s famous response to Emil Brunner’s positive views on Natural Theology, to which Barth responded, “No!” For him, there is no such thing as Natural Theology or General Revelation. To be honest, I was keen on “Areopagus,” or “Tyrannus,” but that really shows my bias to my own ideas and anything from Scripture related to the Apostle Paul. I also liked “Through a Mirror Dimly,” but it is a little too wordy.

So, why did the majority of the School of Theology Faculty prefer “Heart and Mind"? I thought I would ask those who voted for it as their number one why. Here are some of their interesting responses.

Greg Liston, a theologian in our school responded in this way:

"There is a common (mis)understanding that exploring something in detail makes you less in awe of it. Hardly! The physicist who examines the nature of light is not less enthralled by a rainbow but much more, precisely because there is some understanding of what is going on. So it is with theology. The more we know of God, the more enamoured we are with all he is and does for us. Heart and mind go together in a symbiotic relationship."

Graeme Flett, lecturer in pastoral theology says he likes “Heart and Mind,” “because it better embodies the notion of being human.” He refers to James K. A. Smith who argues that we humans are not merely thinking things, but rather are creatures who feel, that is, we are desiring creatures.[1] Our “loves” can’t help but shape our actions. This implicitly suggests our actions are connected to our being, in as much as “desire” is the engine room of what we both we think and feel (and imagine). In simpler terms, heart and mind suggests an integration of theory and practice; theology and praxis.

Val Goold, director of the Manukau campus responded in this way:

"A common perception is that theological study is all about the mind. But if we do not push ourselves to understand the world more fully from God’s perspective how can we respond whole-heartedly to the challenges that we all face? Without challenging the mind, we tend to respond by assessing how it affects those we care about and can be overwhelmed by what is happening in the now, without developing the heart. We can have all the knowledge in the world and still lack wisdom. This world needs Christians who develop the mind and the heart in the way God intended."

Linda Flett, lecturer in Church History and Internship, suggests that “the title invites us to explore issues through a dual lens, e.g., Spirit and word, praxis and theology. More broadly it could be whole person theology in practice.”

For myself, the first thing I thought of was the Great Commandment: “and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ (Mark 12:30 and par’s).

This, of course, is a citation from Deut 6:4–6, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” As is well known, this text is labelled “the Shema,” so named due to the first Hebrew verb, šā·mǎʿ, in the Qal imperative, calling for Israel to “listen.” The verb speaks not only of hearing, but heeding. The Shema lay at the heart of Israel’s worship, recited daily.

The three aspects of being summoned to love God are the heart (lē·ḇāḇ), the soul (ně·p̄ěš), and the strength (meʾōḏ). Merrill says of these terms: "The heart (lēb) is, in Old Testament anthropology, the seat of the intellect, equivalent to the mind or rational part of humankind.The 'soul' (better, 'being' or 'essential person' in line with commonly accepted understanding of Heb. nepeš) refers to the invisible part of the individual, the person qua person including the will and sensibilities. The strength (mĕʾōd) is, of course, the physical side with all its functions and capacities.[2]

Thus, the believer is to love God with every aspect of the being; the inner being visible and invisible, and our whole physicality.

The Greek OT, the LXX or Septuagint, reads “and you shall love the Lord your God from your whole mind (dianoia) and from your whole soul (psychē) and from your whole strength (dynamis).” Two things stand out here. In line with Greek interest in the mind, there is a more marked focus on this aspect of personhood. Secondly, dynamis speaks less of the body and more of full exertion—one is to love God with all one’s might.

The New Testament text differs from the LXX, beginning with the heart (kardia) and making “the mind” (dianoia) third in the sequence. The final noun, ischys (strength), replaces dynamis with the same effect—love God with all one’s might. The really significant thing here is the addition of kardia, the heart. While in Hebrew thought, heart (seat of passions) and mind (seat of thought) were integrated in one idea, in Greek thought, the heart and mind were separate, with the mind superior to the passions of the body and the means of controlling them. By using the two terms, the Gospel writers emphasize that love for God includes our mental faculties and our being and passions. We are to give our whole inner and outer life over to God. We are called to express love to God with everything we are and have.

Of course, Jesus doesn’t stop at the one command, but adds a second from Lev 19:18—“love your neighbour as yourself.” In Luke, this text is exegeted by Christ through the story of the Good Samaritan that teaches that love of our neighbour is the compassionate care of any other needy person we meet on the journey of life, enemy, or otherwise (Luke 10:25–37). New Testament thinking entwines the two commandments together—to love God involves loving our neighbour, and, to love our neighbour is to love God. Hence, we not only express our love for God in gathered worship (great though this is), but also as we bring God’s grace to a broken world. This we are to do with everything we are, have, and own.

Love for God from heart, mind, and whole being is our motivation to study theology. Wholehearted love for God is also the goal of all theology. We study Scripture, the theological traditions of our church, and consider the thinking and wonders of our world, so that we will love God more. We seek knowledge of God and his purposes so that our hearts and minds will be transformed. As we study, we are moved to express adoration of God and care for those in need.

Our prayer is that your hearts and minds may be strangely warmed as you read future contributions to this column.

Mark Keown is the co-editor of Stimulus and New Testament Lecturer at Laidlaw College. 

[1] James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), 43-46.

[2] Eugene H. Merrill, Deuteronomy, NAC 4 (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 164.