I recently heard a Christian speaker say, “Thinking is the devil’s territory; I just want to experience God.” He continued, “Hearing God is a totally right-brained activity. We need to turn off our analytical thinking and lean into our intuition.”
He’s wrong, totally wrong, and dangerously wrong. But I think (oops, I feel) that I understand his dismissal of the analytical. He is reacting.
He’s reacting to the modern era’s enthronement of reason. In the modern age (which began with the Enlightenment), rational thinking became the epicenter, the very essence, of humanity. So Descartes—a prominent rationalist—penned his famous declaration, “I think therefore I am.”
Many people (including the speaker above) react against crowning reason as king. They see too many “intellectual” Christians who spend too many hours studying supralapsarianism vs. infralapsarianism* (who makes these terms up?); such highbrows might hold right doctrine, but they often live harsh, anxious, and miserable lives. Something isn’t working.
So nowadays we reject reasoning. Instead we feel, intuit, or “just believe” because it “seems right.” We prefer the right-brain, we choose imagination over discernment (unless the discernment is based on a gut feel), and we leave thinking to those brainiac eggheads.
The Enlightenment divorced the heart. Today we chop off the head. Both approaches are stupid. Divorcing the heart doesn’t help us think better, and a lobotomy doesn’t help us feel better.
Guillotining the head is not an improvement over stabbing the heart.
The whole person
We are meant to be whole people, neither a heart-deprived Tin Man nor a lobotomized tomato.
In the Old Testament, God commands, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength” (Deut. 6:5, edited). But when Jesus quotes that passage, he inserts a word, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” (Mark 12:30).
Did you ever notice that? Why did Jesus add “mind”? Because the Greeks are the ones who birthed the idea of divorcing the head from the heart, and their word for “heart” failed to capture the full meaning of the Hebrew word. We are meant to love him with our whole being.
Including our mind. God made us both thinking and intuitive beings, and “What God has joined together, let no man cast asunder [or separate].”
The whole brain theory thing
The Greeks birthed the baby of head vs. heart; the Enlightenment re-birthed it; now believers proclaim it born again, baptizing it with the right-brain/left-brain idea. They say we only hear God in our right-brain, intuitively and spontaneously. Just empty your logical, left-brain minds.
The problem is, this newborn right-brain idea is stillborn. And neither scientific nor biblical.
The right-brain/left-brain idea came from the work of Roger Sperry who studied a specific set of brain surgery patients (however Sperry himself claimed the idea has no broader value beyond those specific patients). Numerous studies prove false the modern myth of any right-brain/left-brain dominance (see these Psychology, Huffington, and Wiki articles).
The analytical (left-brained) person analyzes better when also using the right-brain, and the creative (right-brained) artist creates better when also using the left-brain.
And we don’t hear God better through our intuitive right-brain. Rather, divorcing the two halves of our brain disrupts any ability to communicate at all. Half-brained thinking is half-as… (well, you know what I mean).
Rejection of the right or left brain is hare-brained. God means us to be whole-brained.
Christianity and thinking
I don’t know how to say it plainer to our feeling-dominated society of believers; but Christianity means thinking, and thinking hard. Yes, it’s more than mere mental activities. But not less.
To feel good, we need to believe good, and believing good begins with thinking good.
When Jesus addresses anxious people—who feel bad because they’re scared—he says, “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin…” (Luke 12:27). He instructs us to, “Consider.” Jesus says the answer to bad feeling is good thinking.
And thinking a lot. The Greek word for “consider” (katanoeo) means to think hard, to ponder furiously, to immerse ourselves in contemplation; to scrutinize until we perceive. Jesus says to ponder God’s approach with lilies, to think and re-think, until we perceive God himself.
We don’t stop at thinking (that’s the Greek, Enlightenment, left-brain heresy). We “consider” until we begin to see God. It is seeing God that leads our hearts from anxiety to confidence.
Let’s retake our vows
Let’s divorce ourselves from culture’s stupid answers, and let’s re-marry our head and heart.
Try this experiment. God frequently tells us to, “Remember!” Take five minutes and actively remember an action of God (the lilies, crucifixion or resurrection, or one of his answers to a prayer). Ponder furiously his actions, his goodness, love, and incredible power.
As we consider with our minds something changes in our hearts. His great riches overshadow today’s credit card bills. We begin to see God with the eyes of our hearts. Remembering joins together—it re-members—our head and heart. Besides, a wedding is always more fun than a divorce.
* I’m neither supralapsarianism nor infralapsarianism. I’m super-napsarian. Whenever I try to understand those speculative schemes, I just want to take a super, long nap.
Tell me what you think. Or feel. (I want the whole person.)