Recovering the Lost Unity of Heart and Mind

By James Hoskins

We’ve been sold a story—a cultural narrative—that has hindered both the intellectual and emotional life of the church. This story, like the air we breathe, is invisible, ubiquitous, and has existed long before any of us were born. The story I am speaking of is one of human progress, from religious ignorance to scientific knowledge.

It goes something like this: long ago, humans attempted to make sense of the world through poetic tales, myths, and superstition. As time went on, we learned more. A revolution in thought occurred; science was born. Eventually we discovered that many of the old myths were either false or unnecessary. Now we know better, and we are better for it.

An underlying assumption of this story is that there are two parts to a human being: the heart and the mind. The heart is the center of human emotions, intuition, love, and faith. The mind is the center of reason, knowledge, logic, and imagination. The moral of the story is clear: keep them separate. Those who accept the story (whether knowingly or not) feel the tension of a dichotomy and are compelled to choose between heart and mind.

The Same Story. Opposite Morals. Secularists tend to favor the mind over the heart. The moral they draw (and our culture has drawn) from the story is Don’t let the heart corrupt our knowledge. Passion, love, faith—those are all good things, but they should yield to the mind. Reason, science, and education have provided the tools that help society to progress. We cannot allow our forward momentum to be stifled by things of the heart.

This overarching cultural story, along with the secularist moral drawn from it, has distorted how we interpret almost everything, especially the past. Many of the classic historical episodes of supposed conflict between science and faith (such as Columbus and the flat Earth myth, the Galileo affair, and the Scopes “monkey” trial) have all been exaggerated or revised1 to fit the bigger narrative of human progress. Historians have repeatedly attempted to correct some of these errors, but cultural narratives are more persuasive than facts. This is why so many secularists have fallen into crass scientism as of late.2 The moral they draw from the story compels them to.

It is not only secularists who have been seduced by the cultural narrative, however. Many Christian evangelicals have been as well, albeit unknowingly. We’ve taken issue with little pieces of the story here and there. But its central premise—that the heart and mind are, and should be, separate—has gone largely unquestioned.

Instead, we’ve simply drawn the opposite moral from the story: don’t let knowledge corrupt your heart. Science, reason, logic, even theology are all good and needed, but they should yield to the heart. One’s desires, loves, and affections are what God really cares about. Putting too much importance on things of the mind can stifle one’s relationship with God. All we need is Jesus in our hearts—an encounter with Him. Everything else is vanity. This is the moral I was taught growing up, not by any particular person, mind you, but by the subculture around me…

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Recovering the Lost Unity of Heart and Mind – Christian Research Institute