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Tag: Head Knowledge

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 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 goal remained the same as it was 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 HEAD knowledge, not HEART knowledge; 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 head knowledge but not 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?

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Can You Know Anything in Your Heart?

missing heaven 18 inches

Evangelicals believe every human has a body, soul, and spirit. It’s evident to all of us that humans have bodies, but there’s no evidence outside of the Bible and the pronouncement of preachers that humans have a soul or spirit. Much like evidence for the existence of God, no one has ever seen a human soul or spirit.

Most Evangelicals believe humans are tripartite beings. If you are unfamiliar with this term, Wikipedia defines it this way:

In Christian theology, the tripartite view (trichotomy) holds that humankind is a composite of three distinct components: body, spirit, and soul.

I never believed the notion that humans were tripartite beings. Instead, I concluded that we were bipartite beings, consisting of a body and a spirit, that the words soul and spirit were used interchangeably in the Bible.

As a rationalist and an atheist, I concluded that there was no evidence for the existence of a human soul or spirit; there was no evidence for these things outside of the pages of the Bible. Christians and other religious people continue to try to prove the soul’s existence, but so far, they have miserably failed.

For those raised in Evangelical churches, we have likely heard preachers warn us countless times of missing Heaven by eighteen inches — the distance between the human mind and heart. According to these preachers, many Christians believe in Jesus only in their minds, not their hearts. They have “head knowledge,” not “heart knowledge.” As you likely know, intellectualism is frowned upon in many churches; that believing the right things in your mind is not enough for salvation, that you have to really, really, really believe the right things in your heart. Salvation requires the work of the Holy Spirit in your heart. Just believing the faith once delivered to the saints in your mind — assenting to a set of intellectual facts — is not enough. Unbelievers must have their hearts transformed to become born again.

Of course, the problem with this kind of thinking is that it is based on a false premise: that humans have a “heart” — the seat of the soul and spirit. Where is this heart located? Most Evangelicals point to the blood-pumping organ in their chest. The authors of the Bible certainly thought this was so. The Greek word most commonly used for heart in the New Testament is “kardia.” The only evidence Evangelicals have for the existence of the “heart” is the only evidence they have for a lot of things: THE BIBLE SAYS _________.

This is why it is difficult, if not impossible, to have rational discussions with Evangelicals. Press them on their beliefs, and more often than not, Evangelical believers will say, “I believe in my heart that the Bible is true, God is real, Jesus saved me, and I am going to Heaven after I die.” Instead of using their minds to think and reason, Evangelicals appeal to a part of them that does not exist. Everything they know and feel comes from their brain, not a mythical heart. Yet, because Evangelicals believe God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, resides in their “hearts,” it’s impossible to reach them with rational, intellectual arguments.

Renowned Evangelical apologist and philosopher William Lane Craig had this to say about the matter:

The way in which I know Christianity is true is first and foremost on the witness of the holy spirit in my heart. This gives me a self-authenticating means of knowing that Christianity is true, apart from the evidence. (Thanks Doctor DJ for the quote)

Craig makes his living from arguing for the existence of God, yet when it comes to where the proverbial rubber meets the road, Craig says that it is the witness of the Holy Spirit in his heart, not evidence, that proves to him Christianity is true.

Evangelicals-turned-atheists know where Craig is coming from. We too thought, at one time, that we knew Christianity was true because of the witness of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. It is difficult to move a believer away from this type of thinking, regardless of how irrational it seems. I have concluded that the only way to reach Evangelicals is to disabuse them of the notion that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. If you can get them to question the nature and history of the Bible, this can and does lead to doubt. And as those of us who used to be Evangelicals know, doubt is the first step away from Christianity. Once the Bible loses its power and authority, it is far easier to convince people that many of their beliefs are false.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce Gerencser