Head, Heart & Hands: Overview – Definitions of “Head,” “Heart,” and “Hands.” Part 1

“Head, Heart and Hands” Cover

“Holding together what people tend to pull apart”

To facilitate conversation (inspired by Gene’s comment on the previous post):  Would love to have you briefly share …

  • How you describe your “theological/spiritual development.”
  • How your “theological/spiritual development” guides/relates to your academic, community, family, personal, spiritual/religious life.
  • Whether you consider yourself to be “theologically/spiritually” “eclectic” or on a “journey” within the Christian tradition.

In response to “What theologians have influenced you?” Dennis Hollinger shares:

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 & 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. — Coordinating the Head, Heart, and Hands: New president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary seeks to hold together what others pull apart. Collin Hansen. Christianity Today International. Posted 7/28/2008 09:08AM.

Help us identify beneficial “Head, Heart and Hands” resource materials

To facilitate conversation (and benefit ESN more broadly): Please pass along in the comment section …

  • Other resources (articles, books, conferencing, quotes, study centers, websites, youtube clips, etc) which you’ve found of value in understanding and living out the relationship of head-heart-hands (or some combination such as heart-mind, heart-soul-mind-strength)? Could be inspiration (with ESN or in other places) for future conferences, posts, readings, studies, talks, etc 🙂

A few to start us off …

  • The Christian seeks a proper blend between the heart and the mind. There is no incompatibility between the warm heart and the clear head. Just as children may need to learn to think logically, adults may need to rediscover the magic of the imagination. Scripture points to our rationality as a part of the divine image in which we are created. On the other hand, God made us emotional as well as rational. We humans are capable of deep feelings of love, compassion, and sorrow. Significantly, Jesus was not ashamed to express emotion. Twice he burst into tears in public. Lewis allows Screwtape to say that humans “are amphibians–half spirit and half animal….As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to the eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change….” — Seattle Pacific University Professor Emeritus Michael H. McDonald’s 1986 article, “In Defense of Permanent Things” with an assist from Screwtape Letters’ Letter 8.
  • One of the greatest weaknesses which we Christians (especially evangelical Christians) display is our tendency to extremism or imbalance. It seems that there is almost no pastime the devil enjoys more than tipping Christians off balance.  My conviction is that we should love balance as much as the devil hates it, and seek to promote it as vigorously as he seeks to destroy it. — Balanced Christianity – a Call to Avoid Unnecessary Polarisation (John R.W. Stott. Hodder and Stoughton, 1978.). Note: If you haven’t don’t such already, take some time to read the Emerging Scholars Network Blog series on John Stott’s Your Mind Matters.  Comments are still open …

That’s enough for today. Tomorrow I’ll post on “Jesus and Head, Heart and Hands” and “The early Church and Christians and Head Heart and Hands.” Until then, looking forward to your responses and praying for God’s blessing upon Christ’s work by the power of the Spirit through your head, heart, and hands.

Postscript: What words do you associate with Head, Heart & Hands?

Feel free to add more, debate the categorizations, question categorizing such items, or argue for how various ‘characters’ are actually in more than one category — possibly with one category taking a lead, but none-the-less in all three. Maybe Tony Campolo serves as an example 🙂

  • Head: mind, the intellect, thoughts, biblical knowledge, theology, wisdom, truth, the Word, faith, rationality, cognitive approach, scholasticism, orthodoxy, doctrines, Presbyterian
  • Heart: emotions, feelings, affections, spiritual experiences, soul, spirit, imagination, passion, the Spirit, piety, personal holiness, mysticism, the inner self, Pentecostal, charismatic
  • Hands: works, social action, Christian action, ministry, outward expression of faith, service, justice, acts of mercy, Tony Campolo

Next post in series: Overview – Definitions of “Head,” “Heart,” and “Hands.” Part 2.

*Drawn from an adult elective based upon Dennis Hollinger‘s “Head, Heart & Hands: Bringing Together Christian Thought, Passion and Action” (InterVarsity Press, 2005). Kevin Milligan facilitated the class at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church. Note: See the first post in the series for more on the genesis of this study guide as part of a local Emerging Scholars Network partnership (South Central Scholars Network PA FB and Christian Scholar Series).

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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  • kentannan@gmail.com'
    Kent Annan commented on June 16, 2011 Reply

    Thanks for the post, Tom. I like this head, heart, hands as a reminder to keep fully engaged in following and searching. One of the ways I’ve found this work its way out in my life is: After college I worked with a refugee ministry in Europe for a couple of years, which was hands and heart. And then I felt a strong pull to seminary to more fully love God with my mind. Then by the end of seminary, I was going a little crazy feeling cloistered via studies, so then almost immediately after graduation went to work with refugees in Albania and Kosovo (to re-engage the hands). I’ve jumped back and forth, and now have found a bit of equilibrium between them by working with Haiti and writing. It’s of course not the same path for everyone, but sometimes having a balance and sometimes focusing (graduate studies or hands-on work, etc) seems to make some sense. And part of the discipline/hope, it seems, is to, as much as we can contribute (allowing that the Spirit moves), to have our hearts engaged whether we’re focused on the work of head or heart. with our minds or hands.

    Okay, this is a bit rambling, but appreciate the post and good to reflect on it. I’ll have to think a little more of how this is working in my life right now.

    • Tom Grosh IV commented on June 16, 2011 Reply

      Kent, I’ve enjoyed getting to know you better and posting on the “gritty” lens of head-heart-hands which you bring to your walk with God (or should I say you find God calling you to and you having to respond to with your whole person), https://blog.emergingscholars.org/?s=kent+annan. Looking forward to having you connect with Emerging Scholars and Health Care Professionals in South Central PA. Hope Spring 2012 works out. I’ll be in touch. Your brother in Christ, Tom

      PS. I had a similar experience with ‘mind overload’ as a Grove City College graduate. When I visited seminaries I realized that I needed more field work. It took almost seven years for me to ‘unpack’ what I learned at Grove City College. I did this through InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s labors in Western PA (with an emphasis on Carnegie Mellon University). When I came across the Masters in Higher Education at Geneva College, I had a hunger for more equipping. Interestingly enough, it took about another seven years after Higher Education program before investing in classes with the Brethren in Christ and now at Evangelical Theological Seminary, Myerstown, PA. I’m taking a slower pace of classes which has enabled me to apply with more depth in head, heart, and hands. I may be in school part time for years to come with focal points of study AND lots to share on the blog, on campus, and through conferencing/speaking 😉

  • jinwon@gmail.com'
    julie p_ark commented on June 16, 2011 Reply

    I had skipped this post earlier but went back and read it–it really resonated with what I’m thinking about, looking for a church in a new city…and it also gave me some language to realize what i felt was “missing” in certain ways at a previous church (or helped me understand how time in a more head-heavy church affected me, coming from a heart/hands upbringing). Thanks for posting!

    • Tom Grosh IV commented on June 17, 2011 Reply

      Thank-you for sharing Julie. It is so affirming to read/hear when and how a blog post has been an encouragement in “real life.”

      May the Father richly bless you in your next steps in becoming part of a local congregation in a new city. Keep pressing on in the upward hope of Christ Jesus, guided by the Word, Spirit, and the Body of Christ.

      PS. The next post in the series goes up later this morning.

  • jmulholl@uchicago.edu'
    John Mulholland commented on June 20, 2011 Reply

    Interesting set of ideas here, and in the 2nd part. I will respond here, where others have responded.

    Dallas Willard has been the biggest help to me – all of his books, and all of the papers he posts on his website – not all of them at the same time.

    The main idea I have learned from him – when we are smarter, when our brains are working better, when we are focused on learning more, our hearts get bigger and our hands are better prepared and trained to do effective work.

    In short, God, Father Son and Holy Spirirt [yesterday, was the Festival of the Trinity in the Church’s liturgy of the year] wants us to use and train our minds, wants us to grow in knowledge and understanding, so that we too can grown in the favor of God and other people, by having bigger hearts and abilities to serve.

    When I study materials from International Justice Mission, the knowledge I gain leads to a larger heart and hands better prepared to do some things to promote justice. When I study any academic discipline, my heart, my love, for the subject grows, and my ability to do something with that increases. When I spend time thinking and learning about my wife and children, …

    God wants all of us, all of the time. The better we understand the relationships among the parts, the better we will be as apprentices of Jesus, prepared to serve and help in the Kingdom of the Heavens [see Dallas Willard]. The better we understand this, the better we will be able to address some of the issues raised by the atheists of all stripes.

    When the lawyer asked Jesus for the greatest commandment, Jesus gave him 2 – “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” and “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

    There is a constant interplay among the parts. As we grow in one area, we grow in another. But for those of us involved in universities, we need to affirm that developing our minds really does mean total growth, which in turn makes us better able to do – to “love our neighbors”.

  • Dwight Schwartz commented on June 20, 2011 Reply

    Have a look at this picture I took in Baltimore just last week. I was struck by the use of the “head, heart, hands” theme, (having known of Hollinger’s book).

  • Dwight Schwartz commented on June 20, 2011 Reply

    Here’s the actual link (linked to my name in my previous post.)


    • Tom Grosh IV commented on June 20, 2011 Reply

      Wow! Thank-you for sharing the picture Dwight. I wonder if Dennis Hollinger influenced Hampden Christian School, which according to the website is affiliated with Urban Mennonite Ministries, http://www.hampdenchristianschool.org/? As you may know, Hollinger had a “Reformed-Mennonite” blend when he served as the pastor of Washington Christian Fellowship Church, Washington, D.C., http://www.wcfchurch.org/about/.

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