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The Stigma of a Heart-Driven Faith

Heart, mind, and soul, when you get to the truth of the matter, are one and the same. Why do we separate them? Why do we appeal so much to the heart one day, the mind another day, and our moral sense another day? If we're trying to attract people to the Christian faith for the first time, we take the heartfelt, emotion-driven approach: "Just give your heart to Jesus" ... "Do you have a personal relationship with Christ?" ... When we're talking to friends who believe, we dive into the theological, philosophical, and intellectual discussions surrounding Christianity: "Solo Fide, Solo Scriptura, the kerygma, charisms, etc. When we're raising our children we talk all about the rules: "Get up, it's time for church" ... "Treat others the way you'd like to be treated." But the best testimonies, talks, and personalities I've met bring all three together. Present the faith as anything less, it loses its power.

In our culture the main problem with the transmission of the faith seems to be over-emphasis on the heart, at the cost of the mind and the soul. By "heart" I mean the gut feeling, the inner voice; that personal, visceral ache telling you to put a little extra money in the offertory basket one week, and then driving you mad when your team loses the following week. By "heart" I mean the emotion singers sing of, the thing some guys say they're about when they're really "only about ... That thing, that thing, that thi-i-i-ing." In a word, I'm talking about eros. And just like the Greeks knew there is more than one form of love, Christians should know that there is more than one dimension to the faith.

I've just had too much emotional garbage thrown at me in regards to what the faith is all about. I feel none of it. They try to instill an emotional need within me, and then say God fulfills it, but the emotional need for God is not there. My religion has never been about loneliness or some deep desire for love. A personal loving relationship seems to be what I need and what God provides--according to the heart-driven gospel so prevalent today. Sorry, I just don't feel the need for it in the first place. They could talk all day trying to instigate the need within me, but it's just not there.

I just don't understand, and I get really discouraged when that's the main message of the gospel I hear. There have been times when I've asked myself, "Is that really what it's all about? Is faith just an emotional charge? Is it just a heartfelt thing? Is an encounter with Christ something like meeting the love of your life?" All of that is just emotion, and it all goes away. It's superficial. If that's what it's all about, then to hell with it. Even when it comes to loving a person, it's the same thing. The heart is a good start, but a relationship built on emotion is not going to last.

Faith is not only about heartfelt emotion. Even in marriage, when you find the love of your life and have this emotional connection to them--it means nothing in the end. I'm sorry, I'm just so frustrated by the emphasis on that aspect of the faith. Then they say, "It's not just about the law, it's not about the head." But an emotional faith seems to be the only brand of the faith they offer. Emotions, emotions, emotions. God is there to fulfill the longing in your heart. If you're lonely and your heart is restless, rest in him. That's true, but that's just part of it. I have not experienced in a long time the truly meaty reality of the faith, and it's really starting to wear on me.

This watered down, heartfelt, emotion-driven version of the faith is what has made Christianity a trivial matter in the eyes of the influencers of society, the media gurus, the celebrities, politicians, the talk show hosts, and those who shape our view of the world. This is so because if we don't appeal to the intellect and to people's moral sense, the faith is going to hold little more weight in their lives than their high school crush or their favorite childhood comic book. This is why the faith has lost so much ground in academic circles, and why Christian morality is so often forced to submit to moral relativism--we've focused so much on the heart, we have no leverage in these other areas. When we're sharing the gospel message, we have to keep in mind that people desire more than the satisfaction of their feelings. I just really hope that someday the Church realizes that, and that they're really not going to reach a large amount of people if they just make the faith about feelings.

And I'm just repeating myself now, but hopefully you get the point.

Photo by Rachel Walker on Unsplash.

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