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Monday, September 27, 2010

Heart, Soul, and Mind

There is a misconception today that theology is a purely academic exercise involving the intellect only. In fact, too often are the head and the heart treated as separate entities residing within the human body. The heart and head are treated as if one does not affect the other. When bringing this thought process into worship, we begin to wade in dangerous waters.
In his work, De Trinitate, St. Augustine says that in order to understand the holy God, we must ourselves be holy. This holiness we strive for is achieved through the process of growth in faithful obedience to God. We relate to and know God better as our desires, intellect, and actions are purified. Augustine then shows us that faith, holiness, and a personal relationship are all inseparably linked with the discipline of theology, understanding theology as that which is known, desired, and lived.
Theology is an intellectual pursuit that cannot be separated from holy living or our desire for the Triune God. Our intellectual contemplation of God helps us desire God more. Likewise our growing desire for God urges us to contemplate God more. The mind and the heart are inseparably linked in the ongoing purification of the soul. Thus, they are also inseparably linked in the impurification of the soul. The things I allow into my heart or mind, the things I delight in or contemplate other than God, do not just affect one part of who I am.
Augustine’s thoughts can serve as important correctives to some false understanding of worship. We must be careful to not create a dichotomy* through such sweeping statements as “Music is for the heart. Sermons are for the head.” Statements such as these run in danger of associating God’s power and movement with emotions. Similarly, these statements risk limiting any outside of that which is intellectual. Similarly, Augustine’s thoughts help us from extremes within the contemporary church, where some have nothing to do with theology because they are interested only in the “love” of Jesus, while others are so interested in “theology” that they develop an intellectual arrogance against any group with whom they disagree.  
We must realize that the purpose of theology, and of worship, is to help us better see and delight in the Triune God. Christ gave us the command to love god with our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matt 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27). Notice there is no or in the command because as humans, this cannot be done. If I truly love God with any one area of my make-up, it will affect all others. Likewise, if I truly come before God in worship through one, all others join.
This leaves us with a few questions to consider. First, knowing that somehow my heart, mind, and soul are inseparable, does this allow a certain freedom in worship away from it having to be an emotional experience or full of intellectual stimuli? Furthermore, have I considered how each is being affected in worship? Finally, if it is true that my delight and contemplation of God will affect my heart, mind, and soul, then what does this mean for my contemplation and delight in things other than God? 

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