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  • Writer's pictureRichard Parrish

Head vs. Heart

“Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!”
– Psalm 119:1 (ESV)

The Psalmist makes it clear: Those who are blameless walk in the Law of the Lord. In other words, they not only know God’s commandments, but they also obey them.

Recently I met with my friend and former seminary professor.

The conversation quickly turned to how easy it is to forget who we are as followers of Christ. “One of the reasons,” he offered, “is the lack of thorough and skillful biblical interpretive methods.”

Immediately I felt as if I had walked into the seminary classroom!

“Yes,” I replied. “But I also believe many pastors and priests are skilled to define Scripture accurately.” “Because we fail to guard our hearts intentionally,” I added, “we are easily influenced by outside sources, forgetting WHO we are to follow and WHY.”

It’s not sufficient to engage the head without the heart. And it’s dangerous only to practice the heart without the head.

Our dialogue reminded me of the two teaching processes in Judaism: “Halakah” and “Haggadah.” Both are distinct approaches to understanding Scripture.

“Halakah” is instruction about the legal rulings of Scripture (i.e., what you can or cannot do on the Sabbath). “Haggadah” engages storytelling of biblical narratives that interprets the meaning behind the text (i.e., why we can or cannot do certain things on the Sabbath).

We live in a time when many do not understand the “facts” of Scripture. Proven “Halakahic” interpretive methods are essential. But knowing the “facts” about God is not the same as “knowing” God. A “Haggadahic” way of instruction is what moves us from understanding to action.

The Pharisees were diligent in their attempt to make God’s instructions clear. They knew the Law but failed to obey God’s commandments.

“Head” without “Heart” encourages legalism. “Heart” without “Head” invites experience without substance. Both are needed.


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