In the Head or In The Heart?

People have many interesting ways of denigrating arguments for the existence of God. For some, any argument that depends on human knowledge or understanding is invalid because it is so easy for humans to be wrong. There is no doubt that humans are prone to error, but everything we do in life has some kind of human connection or dependency. For others, the subject of the spiritual is so intangible that any discussion attempt is doomed to failure before it begins. One mistaken concept frequently heard from people who already believe in God is that "you have to have God in your heart, not in your head." The idea is that religious belief has to be something you feel and which involves you emotionally--not just something you can scientifically or philosophically explain. People are quick to point out that there are biblical statements like "The people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me" (Isaiah 29:13 ). Others will quote passages like Romans 10:17 which says "Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of God."

Some people are so turned off by science and/or by the negative things science has brought into our lives that they want no part of any amalgamation of science and faith.

It is a serious error to assign the development of faith to feelings or emotions or even to blind acceptance of biblical passages. Emotions can be controlled by other human beings. They are influenced by changes in our age, our diet, and a variety of environmental factors. People like Jim Jones, David Koresh, and Marshall Applewaite have been able to control the emotions and feelings of people in extreme and destructive ways. People whose entire religious experience is emotional in nature tend to have a rollercoaster type of faith--extreme highs followed by crushing lows.

It is important to know why we believe what we believe. An unreasoned faith is acceptance--not real faith. Many of us have accepted what our parents told us. We have followed it, perhaps as a cheap means of keeping the peace at home--but the faith is not ours. The result is that when our faith is tested in any way, it crumbles. When people who claim to be Christians make monsterous errors, a lack of belief is at least partially at the root of their collapse. Life brings a lot of disappointment, failure, and disillusionment. If we are not solid in our faith it is easy to be shaken so badly that we compromise what we believe or reject God all together.

The Bible contains strong support for rational building of faith through evidence. A study of Thomas in John 11 compared to John 20 will show a man moving from total belief and a willingness to die for his faith, to rejection. The way Jesus deals with the faith problem of Thomas is to provide him with evidence " reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe" ( John 20:27).

Romans 1:19 tells us we can know there is a God through the things He has made. In the ministry of Paul we see him offering apologetic evidences in his dealings with the skeptics of his day- in all cases suited to the faith needs of the audience that he was addressing.

It is not the purpose of his discussion to suggest that there is to be no emotion in our religious expression or belief. Getting excited about our faith or any part of it is also expressed in Scripture. Joy, feeling love, peace, security, and satisfaction are all feelings we may have in our religious lives. These are not a basis for belief, but they may help our faith just as pain, sorrow, death, and loss may challenge it. We are not to be what we are religiously in a cold mechanical sense, but neither are we to be puppets guided by the beliefs of others or our feelings. Apologetics is an area that all of us need to continue to examine as we mature our faith and grow in our application of faith to our choices in life.

--John N. Clayton

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, JulAug99.