Head, Heart & Hands: Fragmented Faith and Fragmented People (Intro/Chapter 1)

Let’s begin our study of Head, Heart & Hands by asking the provoking question:

“Head, Heart and Hands” Cover

As you characterize your conversion experience, would you say that it is one

  • Of the head?
  • Of the heart?
  • Of the hands?
  • A combination of one or more?

Hmm. Of the cuff I’d say, “First my head, then my heart and finally my hands. As my hands have followed Christ, I’ve found a ‘way of life’ emerge which weaves together ‘head, heart, and hands.’ How about you?”

Background on the study …

As I mentioned in The Spiritual Life as an Editorial Process, Dennis Hollinger contends in Head, Heart & Hands: Bringing Together Christian Thought, Passion and Action (InterVarsity Press, 2005):

head, heart and hands all play a significant role in our Christian faith. Moreover, each dimension plays a crucial role in the expression of the others. Our minds, passions and actions interact in such a way that unless all three are present and nurturing each other, we are less than the people God created us to be. To be whole Christians, head, heart and hands must join together as joyous consorts. The problem is that most believers and Christian organizations or movements have accentuated one dimension to the neglect of the others (10).

The holistic perspective offered by Dennis Hollinger (President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) serves the whole believer and the whole Body of Christ, including Christian scholars. In response the Central PA Christian Scholars Network/ESN, in partnership with Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church and Hearts and Minds Bookstore, invited Hollinger to speak for a series in Fall 2010. Part of the congregational engagement with Head, Heart & Hands included a fall adult elective based on the book.  It is from Kevin Milligan’s excellent class leadership (and notes) which I draw these posts. In distributing books among participants and local Christian scholars (some who participated in the class), I couldn’t keep enough copies of the book in stock, even with the help of InterVarsity Press and Hearts and Minds Bookstore.  People are still looking for copies and gathering for small group discussions! If you don’t have a local/campus book discussion which you’re a part of this summer (or you’re looking for a book to read), I encourage you to gather some friends, start one up, and share your group’s thoughts with us on-line. As an individual and/or group, please feel free to answer 1, some, or all the questions in the comments section below.

Back to the study:

What words do you associate with Head, Heart, and Hands? (My first words are below, I’ll share more after the conversation has started  …)

  • Head: mind, doctrine, Presbyterian
  • Heart: emotions, Pentecostal
  • Hands: works, social action, Tony Campolo

Statements which characterize each of the three faith perspectives

  • For the Head
    • Approaching faith rationally is the most important part of faith
    • Christians are asked to be ready to give the basis of their faith in Christ.
  • For the Heart
    • The important part of life doesn’t come from what I think.  It only comes from within, what I feel.
    • Faith is characterized by an increasing awareness of who God is and how He speaks to and acts within me.
  • For the Hands
    • Faith (head AND heart?) without works is dead.  Care for those in need and acts of justice demonstrate the reality of being a Christian.
    • Hearts and minds are transformed by do, acting out the Christian faith.

A few more questions for our consideration

  • Which of the 3 “H’s” characterizes me?
    • Deeper reflection: Is this generally true for those in higher education, my discipline, my “faith tradition,” and/or my family roots?
  • Which represents my greatest opportunity for growth?
  • Which presents the greatest hurdle to personal spiritual growth?
  • How is the local congregation, ministries such as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and the larger Body of Christ to be involved in working so that the people of God are encouraged and equipped to grow in all three H’s?

Next Post in Series: Overview – Definitions of “Head,” “Heart,” and “Hands.”

Tom came across the ‘Head-Heart-Hands’ graphic at Gateway Christian Church, http://www.gatewayontheweb.org/index.php?p=1_28. As one of his colleagues shared with him via email, “It rocks.” Amen.

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Tom Grosh IV

Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the South Central PA Area Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). The Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine is the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!

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  • jmpeck2@juno.com'
    Miller Peck commented on June 10, 2011 Reply

    tom, some scattered thoughts about this book, and your website… faculty and students are not projects for christians to work on… jesus talks about hiding our light… we have to be present with them in a variety of contexts… they often hold to myths about what it means to be a believer… something simplistic for little minds… recently a former student of mine (PhD in computer science)invited himself to spend a couple days here at my home… he has christian friends, but has not yet taken a step of commitment…i had no agenda while we had hours of conversation over many areas… witness took place in many unplanned ways, most often related to “Christ in you, the hope of glory… we have this Treasure in earthen vessels”… just our presence with others is most telling… he was most confessional about many areas of his life during our marathon time together… he has been fighting cancer, and that has mellowed him and made him think… he emailed several times after getting home… came back with his wife for lunch here… told me in an email, “I am a believer, but not devout like you.” what does that mean… i’m guessing intellectual assent… not a matter of the heart yet… students and faculty need safe places for conversation…to share doubts and hurts… someone said students need a place where heresies can bounce off the walls… yes! a free zone, where anything can be talked about without fear of judgment, rejection, loss of a friend… we have to find ways and places to mix in one-on-one… for lunch, by internet, whatever… large scale programs are increasingly limited… when christy wilson (former missions prof at gordon-conwell) visited us at westminster he said he decided early in life not to give his energy to promoting programs… rather, he was looking for individuals with potential… to spend time discipling and befriending them… what a difference that made… blessings, miller

    • Thomas B. Grosh IV commented on June 10, 2011 Reply

      Dear Miller,

      Thank-you for sharing your thoughts, stories, and presence “as Christ”! Your life and ministry is a great encouragement to me. As for safe places for conversation and engaging good, challenging questions 1-1* is better than a vast public space such as a blog — even this one 🙁

      I regularly receive emails/messages and come across people at gatherings who have questions/thoughts regarding the posted material (and related topics) which is better wrestled with in a smaller context. That is part of the genesis of my recommendation of small groups digging into ‘Head, Heart & Hands.’ I hope some people take me up on it.

      I would argue that the strength of any program is the relationships at the core and direction which they are taking the vision.** Keeping vision on track demands returning to the foundations, for followers of Christ that is 1. loving God with head, heart, hands 2. loving one’s neighbor. God-centered movements begin and (Lord willing) sustain a relational model which takes precedence over programming and finances. God provides.

      Keep pressing on in the upward hope of Christ Jesus. To God be the glory!

      In Christ, Tom

      *and well designed small groups.
      **a framework along the lines of Robert Coleman’s “Master Plan of Evangelism”/”Master Plan of Discipleship” and Andy Crouch’s “Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling.”

  • emergingscholars-p@venables-r.us'
    Peter V commented on June 10, 2011 Reply

    As you characterize your conversion experience, would you say that it is one

    Of the head?
    Of the heart?
    Of the hands?
    A combination of one or more?

    My original conversion was probably more a matter of the heart than head or hands, but there’s an on-going process in which my head, heart, and hands are continually or repeatedly converted a little bit more. The emphasis shifts over time from one to another and back again, going deeper each time. I’d also say that each type of conversion can be a lever the Holy Spirit uses to work the next one. For example, a change in the “head” can bring about a change in the “hands” which helps to bring about a change of heart, or vice versa. Ultimately, it’s probably a false trichotomy since they are all inter-related, but our limited minds find it convenient to separate them in order to more easily think about them.

    • Thomas B. Grosh IV commented on June 10, 2011 Reply

      Well said Peter.

      I hope this doesn’t steal my ‘thunder’ for next week, but Dennis Hollinger shares in a Christianity Today Interview by Collin Hansen (Coordinating the Head, Heart, and Hands: New president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary seeks to hold together what others pull apart. http://www.ctlibrary.com/ct/2008/julyweb-only/131-11.0.html. Posted 7/28/2008 09:08AM):

      What theologians have influenced you?

      The writings of C. S. Lewis have been very significant. I’m eclectic in my theology. I have drawn from the wells of Wesley, Calvin, Augustine, and the Anabaptist tradition. One thing that characterizes my own life and my approach to ministry and theological education is holding together what people tend to pull apart. My book Head, Heart and Hands reflects that approach. Those oriented toward the head have said that if we get our biblical and theological knowledge down, that will really put us in the good spot for the rest of our lives. The heart-oriented folks say that if our hearts are strangely warmed by God, that will develop Christian maturity. Others focus more on the action side. What I do in that book is argue that not only must all three be present, but also that they really need to nurture each other. That insight stems from my background of having worked in a number of different denominational settings.

      Do you see the tensions between evangelicals stemming primarily from the head, the heart, or the hands?

      Our perspectives are never purely theological. We’re shaped by our context. We’re shaped by our personalities. We’re shaped by our experiences in life for good and ill. When we do theological education we need to be aware of the context that has shaped us. That carries over into ministry, because then we recognize the way in which we take the Word of God. It’s transcendent, but we always bring it into the midst of a very specific context, meeting people with their unique personalities, hurts, and struggles, particular cultural backgrounds, and particular geographical locations.

  • chase@messiah.edu'
    Gene Chase commented on June 11, 2011 Reply

    Dennis Hollinger’s thesis calls for an autobiographical response. People who are professional teachers like me tend to be synthesizers, so I resonate with his thesis. When I became a Christian, I was clearly saying, “I want to be a Christian like Alice Huntington.” It was her passion for God, her appreciation for nature, and her love for me that drew me to Jesus, whom I saw in her. As with most Christian & Missionary Alliance folks in the 1950s, she was clearly of the heart — pietistic.

    But the same analytic approach to life that made me a good mathematician made me a good Calvinist. I still am a Calvinist, although resisting what can be too much black-and-white thinking in that tradition. Black-and-white thinking served me well in growing up in a dysfunctional family. The motto of my undergraduate university, MIT, is “mens et manus” — mind and hand. But we were mostly brains in a vat in the 1960s.

    Today I’m much more likely to embrace mystery than to require a systematic theology. Since 1973, teaching at an Anabaptist college has sensitized me to living a simple life to free up resources to give to physical needs. My life, then, has been a trajectory through Hollinger’s categories.

    I’ve grown too cold. Music helps me to return to the warmhearted faith of my youth.

    • Thomas B. Grosh IV commented on June 11, 2011 Reply

      Dear Gene, Thank-you for the beautiful snapshot of your story which gives testimony to the importance of mentors, models, perspective, and community in relationship to “head-heart-hands”! How true it is, but seldom commented upon:

      1. Anabaptists embrace mystery in their “‘simple’ way of life,”
      2. music brings us back to “warmhearted faith,”
      3. one can journey through and embrace the various Christian streams with their focal points. As one does such, the Truth in them holds onto us!

      Two further musings:
      1. Reflecting upon my experience as an InterVarsity staffworker at Carnegie Mellon University for a decade, I’ve wondered if the intricacies/parts of well crafted/played music may have a particular draw to (and ministry among) mathematicians and computer scientists. Even if not classical in nature, I was in a number of contexts where parts/instruments were intuitively added (increasing complexity) and enjoyed by all 😉 Thoughts?
      2. I likewise have traveled several streams of the Christian faith [Presbyterianism (Presbyterian Church USA), Orthodox Presbyterian Church/Calvinism, Anglican/Liturgical Calendar & Practice, Christian Missionary Alliance/Pietism, Brethren in Christ) AND find myself drawing heavily from each of them. I find the Brethren in Christ a unique blend of traditions (Anabaptism, Pietism, and Wesleyanism) with space for where I’m coming from and where I’m headed in Christ as part of the Body of Christ. Note: I guess I shouldn’t leave out that the community of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship* has had a lot of influence. More on that another day …

      In Christ, Tom

      *including InterVarsity Press — books,commentaries, dictionaries

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