Head, Heart & Hands: Bringing Together Christian Thought, Passion and Action

Those who follow Hearts & Minds know that we sometimes get to go out to speak at conferences and retreats, doing presentations on vocation, worldview, cultural engagement, social justice and, of course, talks on reading and other book-related themes.  We were thrilled this past weekend to be a part of the student leadership retreat for those involved in the Gordon College chapel ministry.  Held at a lovely, classic, lakefront camp in New Hampshire, I spoke to vibrant students who do various sorts of ministries and mission projects through the chapel.  Dr. Greg Carmer and his extraordinary staff do great work offering programs, discipleship, worship and mentoring and it was a delight to seem them in action with their student leaders—and to hang out with very impressive college students.  (Plus, I will never hear Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’ again, without thinking of the epic Verizon spoof, Free Callin’.  I love college kids!)

head heart hands.JPGThe theme of our time was captured by the wonderfully titled book by our friend, ethicist and now President of Gordon-Conwell Seminary, Dennis Hollinger, called  Head, Heart & Hands: Bringing Together Christian Thought, Passion, and Action (IVP; $15.00.)  What an important concept and challenge, to bring together these facets of Christian growth in a balanced and wholistic way.  It is a theme Dennis has written about, preached on and listened to folks discuss for years, and this book is a culmination of his good insights.  I think it is very important and helpful.

I think we know the sort of reader who attends to our reviews, here, and I think you’d find this to be a great resource, just as the students did at the retreat.  Hollinger tells good stories, sharing about people he has met who have lived in only one facet of their faith, overstating the role of thinking, or feeling, or doing.  That is, many people (and many churches or faith traditions) tend to miss the depths and riches of a truly balanced and multi-faceted faith journey and live with distortions and subsequent problems.  To put it bluntly, they are lopsided. Yes, yes, we must think, and think deeply; we must feel God’s Spirit and be open to heart-felt faith; of course we must live in obedience, doing concrete acts of daily service, deeds, and mission.  But to see faith as only or mostly a matter of the head or heart or hands is to live a fragmented and reduced form of faith that is not adequate, sustainable, or Biblical.  The distortions are real, and dangerous.  Head, Heart & Hands shows us why, and what do to about it.  Perhaps you might refresh your faith this season by considering your own imbalances or peculiar tendencies.  Or you might know somebody whose faith is less than robust, perhaps a bit odd, maybe toxic.  Maybe your own congregational leadership is a one-note song.  Sadly, many churches are not good places for helpful growth, but feed the very distortions described in the book.  This book could help.

Interestingly, this call to nurture all three aspects of faith reminded me of why we chose “hearts & minds” as a phrase to capture what our store is about.  This stuff is important to us, and important to our calling, here.  Do you, too, have a passion to help others grow in balanced and wise faithfulness?  You should know this book.  It is a book that I truly love, and that speaks well to what we hope will be the fruit of selling the books that we do.  We do indeed need to reject shallow faith, anti-intellectualism, or a religion that fails to grapple with life’s deepest questions, and the culture’s toughest critics.  We need to “think Christianly” and read widely. However, we don’t want just arid dogma or a brainy faith, but an experiential encounter with the Spirit (which leads to a wholesome and authentic sense of self, emotional health and a well-centered personality. It was John Calvin, by the way, who insisted that knowledge of God and knowledge of self are intimately related.) And, of course, it is our calling to live out daily discipleship in real practices, coram deo, especially in our particular careers and vocations, seeing all of life as service to God and neighbor.  Besides daily acts of kindness and obedience, we need to be advocates for public justice and peace and creation-care, working hard in the culture for the common good, as neighbors, citizens, and as people of faith communities. 

One of the great strengths of Head, Hearts & Hands is the way Hollinger shows that we don’t just need more of all three aspects of faith.  Actually, all three are deeply intertwined, and our thinking/feeling/doing can be mutually related.  To think more faithfully will truly allow us to love differently–that is, to care–which, if authentic, will cause us to live differently, as we embody the passions of are heart.  And these experiences of passionate feeling and living will naturally allow us to hold new insights, even as we ask deeper questions about the very things we feel and do.  This leads to what he calls “mutual reinforcement” as we seek a whole faith for whole people.  Dennis is very clear about this, concise and helpful, and we really recommend his work.  I only wish I could have cited him more to the students, as re-reading the book helped me prepare for my passionate messages to these young leaders.  So, I commend it to you, here. 

A beautiful, rich book that deserves it’s own review on similar themes, by the way, is the profound Reordered Loves, Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness by David Naugle (Eerdmans; $18.00.)  I have referred to it here before, and told the Gordon students about it.  What we most love, what we care most about in life, will indeed shape what we think and do. Naugle reminds us that worldview formation and spirituality and distinctive Christian lifestyles are, finally, less a matter of our rational views or creedal affirmations, but a matter of the heart and imagination.  You can learn more about it here. 

We hope our book reviews and book-selling facilitates among God’s people more thoughtful
Byron at Gordon retreat.jpg faith, mature spiritual formation, and relevant, faithful social action.  It is our hope that Hollinger’s ruminations on this in Head, Heart & Hands are read and discussed, helping us all with a faithful, balanced, healthy disposition to the things of God’s Kingdom.  And here is a picture of me in lovely Deer Run lodge.  You can’t see it, but the orange chair to my right has a book on it.  Guess what?

meaning of sex.jpgDr. Hollinger, by the way, has a recently released book, (which I actually mentioned earlier this summer, I believe.)  It is called The Meaning of Sex: Christian Ethics and the Moral Life (Baker; $19.99.)  As a wise and thoughtful ethicist, I think Hollinger gives us, as Richard Mouw writes, “a rare combination of theological-philosophical expertise, cultural savvy, and pastoral sensitivity.”  Walt Mueller (of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding) says “it is the best contemporary treatment…I’ll be recommending it as a must read for all pastors, parents, youth workers and young adults.”  We stock that too, of course.  It is a real case study of the need for a unity of tender thinking, passionate feeling and embodied deeds, eh?  Hollinger is really on to something.

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