If you have been thinking about whether you have a faith of the head (emphasizing thought), a faith of the heart (emphasizing passions), or a faith of the hands (emphasizing actions), you may have wondered which is more important. You may have even compared your faith expression to that of others and wondered which is the right kind of faith, and which is not. The truth is, all of them are right. And all of them are necessary to your life in Christ.
The faith of the head provides a compass. It provides guidance for life’s challenges and the ability to understand God’s Word and apply it to our lives in a meaningful way. Therefore when faith of the head is neglected, believers tend to stray from the faith. Losing discernment, they follow after false teaching and mix worldly doctrine with their faith. Because their faith becomes distorted, they also “lack the ability to engage the world in such a way that the church is truly salt and light within it.” (Hollinger, 61)
However, the opposite error is just as likely. Emphasizing a faith of the head while neglecting the heart and hands can produce a legalistic, cold orthodoxy that “fails to give attention to human affection and actions.” (63) A false sense of security can arise from trusting too much in human understanding–to the point of self-deception–and beliefs can be used as a shield to prevent us from dealing with the problems of the world around us.
Now consider the faith of the heart. Once again there are two equal errors we may fall into. It is in the heart that we experience intimacy with God through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if we neglect the faith of the heart, God becomes, for us, more of an impersonal force or an idea than a Person. We lose the sense of mystery and awe surrounding God’s nature and we fail to be silent before Him.
The opposite error of making faith of the heart supreme to the neglect of the head and hands also leads us astray from true faith. We begin to depend on our variable emotions as a gauge of our faith and our walk with God tends to rise and fall with our circumstances. We may be passionate about sharing our faith, but our witness “lacks wisdom in methods for evangelism and strategies for in-depth discipleship.” (101)
Consider lastly, the faith of the hands. James said, faith without works is dead (James 2:17,26). When our actions are lacking, our faith can be considered dead “not only from the standpoint of a person’s own spiritual existence, but also dead in terms of its impact on others” (129). In addition, when we do not put our faith into action it affects our beliefs: “We are quite at home with the idea that distorted thinking leads to distorted living. We are less at home with the idea that distorted living can lead to distorted thinking… Because we are whole beings it goes both ways. Thus the way we think is often significantly influenced by our actions.” (130-131) We see the same principle influencing the sentiments of our heart. “A good example of this is love. Love is both action and affection… our actions of goodness… create even greater affection toward the person we love.” (133)
When we make the opposite error of placing all of our trust in a faith of the hands, we run the danger of falling into works righteousness: trusting our works to save us rather than falling on the mercy and grace of God. God’s Word takes a back seat to social reform and human psychology. Lacking a reliance on the empowering Holy Spirit, we become weary in doing good.
Thus we see that there is no one right kind of faith expression, but that a healthy balance of faith of the head, heart, and hands is the only way we can truly love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Next month we will consider how we can nurture the areas of our faith which may be lacking, both independently and corporately.
[For more information, read Dennis P. Hollinger’s book, Head, Heart, & Hands: Bringing Together Christian Thought, Passion and Action. Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press. 2005.]