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Missing Heaven by Eighteen Inches

eighteen inches head heart

Most Evangelical Christians believe humans are tripartite beings comprised of body, soul, and spirit. Some Evangelicals believe humans are bipartite beings — body and soul. According to the doctrines once delivered to the saints by Billy Graham, every human has an eternal soul. No one has ever seen a soul, but that doesn’t stop Evangelicals from asserting that it exists. Evangelicals believe in all sorts of fanciful, mythical things:

  • Jesus’ mother was a virgin whom God impregnated.
  • Jesus died and resurrected from the dead three days later.
  • Jesus healed blindness with dirt and spit.
  • Jesus turned water into wine.
  • Jesus walked through walls and walked undetected through a crowd.
  • Jesus walked on water.
  • Jesus raised people from the dead.

These are just a few of the myths Evangelicals believe are true, so it is not a stretch of their imagination to believe that humans have souls. Ask an Evangelical WHERE their soul resides, he or she will most likely point to their heart. One the favorite church hymns of my youth was the song He Lives! The first verse and chorus go like this:

I serve a risen Saviour, He’s in the world today.
I know that He is living, whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him He’s always near.

He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me
along life’s narrow way.
He lives! He lives! Salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.

You ask me [the Christian] how I KNOW He [Jesus] lives? He lives within my heart.

It is the soul, then, that must be saved. It is the soul that goes to heaven after death, awaiting the day when it is united with a new body. Evangelical preachers implore congregants to be soulwinners. I attended Midwestern Baptist College in the 1970s. Midwestern was an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist institution that prided itself in training soulwinners to reach sinners with the gospel. Students were required to attend chapel daily. One song that was frequently sung during chapel went like this:

“Souls for Jesus!” is our battle cry

“Souls for Jesus!” we’ll fight until we die

We never will give in in while souls are lost in sin

“Souls for Jesus!” is our battle cry

Students fanned out over the Pontiac-Detroit area looking for souls in need of saving. Each week, students were required to report how many souls they won to Jesus. Many students quickly learned the art of speaking “evangelistically” — inflating the number of notches on the grips of their gospel guns. After graduation from Midwestern, many students started new churches or pastored established churches. Their goals remained the same as they were in college — win souls. I pastored a church in Southeast Ohio that had over six hundred souls saved over an eleven-year period. Children were bused to the church so trained soulwinners could share the gospel with them and pressure them to get saved. While this was going on in the church annex, I was busy preaching the gospel to teens and adults in the church sanctuary. A “good” Sunday was defined by the number of souls saved. A “bad” Sunday was when no one walked the aisle to be saved.

Most Evangelicals think that the soul is separate from the mind. Long-time readers have witnessed countless zealots tell me that I was never a Christian; that I had a HEAD salvation, not a HEART salvation.  The head (mind) is where the intellect resides. According to these zealots, I had an intellectual understanding of Jesus, but not a heart understanding. When asked how the heart “thinks” apart from the mind, Evangelical eyes glaze over, revealing that they have no idea about how someone can have a head knowledge but not a heart knowledge of Jesus. They just know it is true because their preachers say it is. Religious faith will do that to people – it results in them believing things that would be considered signs of mental disturbance in any other setting.

People raised in Evangelical churches have likely heard a sermon or two (or five hundred) on people missing heaven by eighteen inches. Eighteen inches is the distance between the mind (intellect) and the heart (where the soul resides). Paul Empet explains it this way:

Can anyone actually get that close to heaven and yet hear the Lord say, “I never knew you: depart from Me”?

However, this will be the terrible fate of many professing Christians in our churches today. Some of these people are even in responsible positions in the church, but they only have a “head” or intellectual-acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ. Tragically enough, even teachers, preachers, and religious workers are not exempt from the possibility of the chilling indictment above.

The distance between the head and the heart is 18 inches. Unfortunately, a “head” knowledge of Jesus Christ—fully knowing and giving mental assent to the plan of salvation…without a “heart” acceptance that brings the personal relationship that the Bible demands—avails nothing to anyone.

Listen to Paul’s heart cry concerning Israel as he spoke under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” He was speaking about misdirected efforts, energies expended in the strength of the flesh but not under the direction of the Holy Spirit. The lack of power today in many of our churches, as well as the lack of power today in the lives on many professing Christians, can be laid directly to this.

It is only as we see ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word as without excuse and without hope, utterly lost and undone, that the truth of the Scriptures convicts us, for the bible clearly reveals that this is how God sees us.

Then, when the wonderful truth of the Gospel brings us to recognition of our own sinfulness, and in true repentance we cry out to God asking forgiveness and help, asking Him to come into our hearts, not our heads, we experience the new birth.

Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” The Bible also tells us that “He that hath the Son hath [eternal] life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”

Also, the Bible promises “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Christ wants your heart, not just your head because “The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”

It is vitally important that you make sure it is not just head knowledge and mental assent you have given to Jesus Christ. He needs your complete trust so that you can be truly born again.

Eighteen inches can mean eternity with Christ or an eternity without Christ. Are you sure of your personal relationship to Him? Why not settle the question in your heart once for all right now?

Bruce, this is nonsense, nothing more religious gobbledygook. Yes, it is, but millions and millions of Americans believe this to be true. They KNOW in their heart of hearts that Jesus is their savior and the Holy Ghost lives inside of them — I assume residing in the same place as the soul. These born-again Christians have what is called a “know-so salvation.”  The Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:12 “… for I know whom I have believed…” Evangelicals are certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have souls and that their souls have been “saved” by Jesus. And they have a tape measure to prove it.

Do you remember hearing sermons about head versus heart knowledge/salvation? Please share what’s on your heart — sorry I couldn’t help myself — in the comment section. Perhaps someone can answer this for me: if an Evangelical has a heart transplant, does he or she have to get saved again? And if an atheist receives a transplanted heart from an Evangelical, does this make him or her a Christian?


  1. Avatar
    Ian, for a long time

    Now, I’ve got that song stuck in my head. Thanks.

    I don’t know what would happen if a transplant were performed. Maybe the bowels of mercy and compassion can cover the deficit.

    In the 90’s, we had a pastor who said that there is some emerging scientific evidence showing that the heart controls the brain, therefore the Bible is correct when it talks about the heart. He said that the heart felt emotion and made decisions for the body, which were then transmitted to the brain, so these actions could be carried out. It sounded good, so we believed him. He never showed us that evidence, though. This was just one more way to try and contort science to fit the Bible.

  2. Avatar

    Fortunately I never heard this sermon. All I could think about when I read the title was about a movie review I read years ago for an X rated movie called, “12 inches from heaven”. It was about a woman who inherits her grandmother’s candles and it turned her into a slut. (I never saw the movie though.)

  3. Avatar
    Angela Murphy

    Oh Bruce, I love reading your posts but when I got to the end of this and read your provocative questions, I sat here and laughed my guts out! I think Dawkins & Hitchens were they here, would’ve laughed with me!
    Keep it up!

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    YeS Bruce,,,, 2 verses come to mind

    PROVERBS 21:2 “All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord WEIGHS the heart.”

    PSALM 26:2 “Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my mind and heart”

    It instantly reminded me of Ancient Egypt which I was also studying. To get to heaven,in the Judgement Hall, the pharoh would have his heart weighed on the “Scales of Justice” against a feather, and the Lord Thoth, would write down the results. And interestingly, the Pharoh would state his Declaration of Innocence, all 42 of them…..I have not sinned, I have not covetted my neighbours wife, I have not killed…..etc. Amen-Ra priests the overlookers. Amen.

    Yes, probably a coincidence, but Archangel Micheal also weighs ‘souls’ on the scales?

    * The Pharoh, was also called the “Shepard of the flock”, and carries a shepards crook(crozier).

    How dare I suggest any religious link to Egypt…..NO! Abraham,Joseph, Moses & Jesus never mention the Pyramids!
    NO obelisks in London ,Washington or the Vatican. NO Pyramid on the dollar note…….. I must be delusional.
    Good! No Lake of Fire, or consumed by the Beast of the Underworld, for having a “heavy heart”. lol :):):):)

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