Head, Heart and Hand Essay

Question 3
Which of the three types of faith (head, heart, hands) do you most identify with?
Least identify with?
How have you come to develop the faith expression?
Question 4
How do you think we might be able to overcome the fragmented faith that separates head, heart, and hands?
How might churches and Christian organizations seek to overcome this separation?

Chapter 1
Jeff was a thoughtful Christian. He grew up in a secular home that had no time for matters of religion,
but during his high school years came to faith in Christ. Because family and friends Because family and
friends chided him for his newfound beliefs and commitment, Jeff began to seek answers for the hard
questions tions he faced. By the time Jeff graduated from a university as a philosophy major, he had
developed intellectual rigor regarding Christian beliefs and apologetics. getics. He knew the difficult and
skeptical questions to his faith, but read broadly to find answers to the challenges. Jeff often found
himself in the middle of intellectual debates with fellow students and had ready answers swers for
them. Christians on campus frequently found help through his philosophical and theological responses
to the tough issues. Jeff knew what he believed and why he believed it. But, interestingly, there were
significant elements of true and vital faith that seemed to be missing in Jeff’s life. Personal prayer,
spiritual disciplines ciplines and fellowship with other Christians increasingly became a low priority in his
life. At times they were hardly evident. In fact he sometimes times showed contempt for the personal
piety of other believers, noting their shallow emotionality and lack of theological or philosophical depth.
Moreover, in his zeal to defend the faith against skeptics, he sometimes showed a lack of compassion
and care for people.Jeff believed, articulated and defended biblical faith. He had what we might call a
faith of the head. Unfortunately, that’s about where it ended. Christina was a middle-aged woman with
a faith expression very different ferent from Jeff’s. For her, biblical faith was not so much about beliefs
as about a vibrant inner experience, demonstrated with deep emotion. When she led worship in her
home church, she exuded enthusiasm, vitality tality and spontaneity. Christina felt her faith in Christ,
and the Holy Spirit was continually speaking to the depth of her being. Passion was the essence sence of
her spirituality, and she particularly cherished the various mystical, tical, emotional experiences through
which she was drawn nearer to God.Christina read the Bible, emphasizing that it was not for knowledge
and understanding but for “a spiritual zap,” as she termed it. She yearned for the Word to move her
heart and she yearned to feel the presence ence and power of God. When it came to making decisions
in life,she relied little on the wisdom of others or on reflection on the situation at hand; she prayed for
God’s direct, inner direction. She felt the leading of God. The Lord was her personal friend. But there
were aspects of Christina’s life that caused some to wonder. At one point she had a very emotional,
mystical experience in which she claimed that God was telling her to divorce her husband. When friends
in her church raised questions from a biblical standpoint, she responded, sponded, “I know what the
Bible says, but this is what God has told me to do, and I’m going to do it.” God had spoken deeply in her
soul, so she said, and the divorce became reality. Christina had what we might call a faith of the heart. It
was vibrant and alive at one level, but it never seemed to go beyond the affective or emotional tional
side of life. Her inner passions alone dictated her actions, thinking and relationships. Jennifer had a kind
of faith very different from either Christina’s or Jeff’s. She had grown up in a home and congregation
that prized solid biblical teaching and the practice of personal piety. She went to church several times a
week and was soaked in an “indoctrination” of the faith. When Jennifer went off to college, she was
exposed to new ways of thinking and began to react to her own family and church. She didn’t reject her
faith, but believed it needed a radically different form. For Jennifer, action was what it was all about.
She came to believe that most acts of piety were hypocritical forms of religiosity that Jesus had
repudiated diated in his injunctions against the Pharisees. The point was not primarily marily to
understand the faith, and certainly not to feel it emotionally The whole point of following Jesus was to
do it-to embody his teachings ings and actions. Acts of justice and compassion were the focus of
Jennifer’s Christianity. ity. She became involved in various programs and movements of social justice in

her community, attempting to address issues of environment, race and poverty Jennifer was living in the
heart of the inner city and wanted to give hands and feet to her beliefs in Jesus. But, interestingly, there
were some missing parts to Jennifer’s faith. When back home on one occasion, she confessed to a friend
from childhood hood that she did little to nurture her spirituality. She had minimal time for her local
church and most of her reading now focused on social issues. sues. As she put it, “I just don’t find
theology to be helpful to the causes.” Jennifer’s life reflected faith in action. She had what we might call
a faith of the hands. Her commitments to Jesus were primarily about living out his ways in the hurt,
anguish and injustices of this world. But that’s pretty much where her faith ended. Jeff, Christina and
Jennifer (perhaps in overstated form) reflect three types of faith: head, heart and hands. Taken alone,
these types are deeply flawed and inadequate, for thought, passion and action separated from each
other are in conflict with the way God created us. Such a separation is inconsistent with what Jesus
demonstrated in his own life. Too often throughout the history of Christianity, these types of faith
expression have tended to focus on one dimension and minimize the others. At one level we can
perhaps read the whole history of Christianity through this lens of head, heart and hands, as individuals,
churches and movements have tended to emphasize one approach, often in reaction to the others.
The Christian faith is rooted in transcendence. That is, our personal faith in Christ, our directives for
Christian living from the Bible and our own personal spiritual experiences all have their ultimate
foundation from beyond this world. They are grounded in the triune God of the universe verse and
made known through divine revelation. Nonetheless, our faith is experienced, understood and lived out
within the framework of a fallen world, in specific cultures and within the limits of our own finite, sinful
selves. Thus, as we understand, experience and express this transcendent scendent faith, we do so in
ways that to some degree reflect our environment ment and even our own personalities. As a result,
individual believers, churches and Christian movements frequently accentuate one dimension of faith
over others. Thus some of us are somewhat like Jeff as we accentuate the head. Some of us are a bit like
Christina as we focus on the heart. And still others of us are a bit like Jennifer as we make the hands our
priority By themselves, none of these orientations can do justice to the rich understandings of biblical
faith. Taken alone, thought, passion and action render a fragmented mented faith that only further
engenders a fragmented self and a fragmented mented church. Isolated from the other dimensions, our
mind can never truly be the mind God intended; our affections can never truly be the affections God
intended; and our actions can never truly be the actions God intended. What we need today, in a
fragmented world, is a whole faith of the head, heart and hands, with each dimension feeding and
sustaining the others. After all, God has created us as whole beings so that the three dimensions
mensions are just that-three dimensions of our unified selves. It is in the joyous consort of our whole
selves that we begin to experience God’s design for our lives. And it is precisely this model that Jesus
exemplified in his life and ministry But to understand where we need to be and how we get there, it is
helpful to explore these types individually Perhaps we find ourselves or our churches in one of these
three expressions. Although few individuals, als, churches or movements are ever purely of the head,
heart or hands, we have a tendency to accentuate one at the expense of the others. FAITH OF THE HEAD
Many Christians have understood their faith to be primarily a cognitive enterprise. For these folks,
Christianity is a set of beliefs, doctrines and ethical understandings-a worldview to which one adheres.
In turn this worldview is then the fountainhead of one’s feelings and actions. Most faith-of-the-head
types do not avoid affections and expressions of witness ness or mercy, but believe the key to them is
the mind. From the faith of the head perspective, conversion is seen primarily as a transformation of
thinking, with old idolatries and commitments giving way to new perspectives. The Christian life is a

growth in knowledge, edge, mediated through the Word of God. The primary goal of life is to cognitively
know and defend the Christian understanding of reality Mastery of the Bible and theology are the most
important elements in spiritual development. Underlying a faith of the head is the assumption that the
mind, the ratio, is the center of human personality, that thinking is the essence of human nature. This
approach, therefore, assumes that if we have our thinking straight in beliefs about God, the Bible,
salvation, ethics and the like, everything else will fall naturally into place. Jeff, for example, clearly
believed that if a person’s head was screwed on straight regarding God and his designs, most personal
and social problems would be solved. Why? Because the human mind is the key to transforming the
inner ner self, motivating right human action and even impacting the world for Christ. Thus one reads
the Bible not to be moved to action or inward affections, but to gain understanding. Worship of this type
is primarily cognitive in that the music, liturgy and sermons all focus on mental understandings
derstandings of divine realities, from which will come a transformation of the will and actions in
everyday life. One recent author, attempting to correct evangelical negligence of the mind, seems to
reflect this type. He argues, “That the mind is the crucial component in the spiritual journey cannot be
accurately denied.” He goes on to contend that “the mind is the soul’s primary vehicle for making ing
contact with God, and it plays a fundamental role in the process of human maturation and change,
including spiritual transformation.” 1 Adherents to the faith of the head in many ways reflect the famous
rationalist tionalist dictum of seventeenth-century philosopher Rene Descartes: “I think, therefore I am.”
Thinking is the seat of our passions, inclinations and behavior. It is the salient feature of our lives and the
crucial element in Christian expression. And of course one can seemingly find good biblical lical
affirmation for such an approach: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the
renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable
and perfect. (Rom 12:2) Always be ready to make your defense [apologia, a reasoned defense] to
anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you. (1 Pet 3:15) Christians of this
type emphasize that knowledge of Scripture, understanding standing of theology, a clear grasp of God’s
designs and even a cognitive grasp of our world are the primary means to Christian faithfulness. There is
a long history of this approach in the Christian church. Often it has appeared in reaction to emotional or
activist excesses; sometimes it has emerged in response to the intellectual challenges of the larger
world. Here are some examples of faith focused primarily on the mind. Medieval Scholasticism. Perhaps
the clearest example of a faith of the head was the Scholastic movement in the twelfth through fifteenth
centuries. turies. Attempting to give precise philosophical and theological definition tion to Christianity,
these theologians understood the faith primarily as a rational endeavor through which humans could
understand the truths of God. Scholasticism was often practiced in the medieval monasteries, which
were committed to an inner devotional life as well. But many of the theologians in the movement were
primarily oriented toward a faith of the mind. The Scholastics are often caricatured as engaging in
pointless theological ical absurdities, such as how many angels can dance on the head of a pin-a debate
that never occurred as far as we know Scholasticism “does not refer to a specific system of beliefs, but
to a particular way of organizing theology-a highly developed method of presenting material, rial,
making fine distinctions, and attempting to achieve a comprehensive sive view of theology”2 Like the
medieval mystics, the Scholastics saw the end or goal of human life as the vision of God. However, they
tended to travel toward this vision primarily through rationality. Protestant Scholasticism. After the
Reformation, Protestants also developed veloped their own Scholasticism in the late sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries. Leaders of the Reformation like Luther and Calvin had given significant attention
to theology and spirituality and to Christian ethics and action. But many of their followers in the

Lutheran and Reformed strands of the church tended to focus almost exclusively on theology as they
developed “a confessional orthodoxy more strictly defined in its doctrinal boundaries than the theology
of the early Reformers.”3 In the post-Reformation era these thinkers and many lay people in the church
increasingly identified Christianity primarily “with doctrinal and sacramental mental correctness.”4 They
assumed that orthodoxy was sufficient to maintain vital Christian thought and life. As a result, Christian
piety and outward expression were sometimes neglected. Protestant Scholasticism was not restricted to
the centuries immediately ately following the Reformation. For example, in the nineteenth century
Charles Hodge of Princeton Theological Seminary attempted to show that theology was akin to the
natural sciences. He wrote, “The Bible is to the theologian what nature is to the man of science. It is his
storehouse of facts; and his method of ascertaining what the Bible teaches, is the same as that which
the natural philosopher adapts to ascertain what nature teaches.”5 Aspects of Scholasticism are
currently found in some of the confessional movements within Lutheranism and the Reformed tradition.
Liberalism (modernism). A faith of the head, however, has not been limited to theological orthodoxy, for
nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century century liberalism (or modernism) had one strand that was
highly rationalistic in orientation. While some strands of liberalism were more romantic and heart
oriented in their accommodation of faith to the modern impulses, others attempted a rational
harmonizing of Christian thought to modern ideals in philosophy and the sciences. The common
stereotype is that liberals focused on ethics and action, but some were content with a faith of the mind,
arguing that classical Christianity must be expressed in new categories that modern humanity could
accept. These new categories often minimized transcendence and the supernatural. ural. Reason,
without affection or actions, was the primary criterion for these theologians, so that even divine
revelation was pushed aside. Fundamentalism. In reaction to rationalistic, liberal theology (and other
strands of modernism as well), parts of fundamentalism in the early twentieth century reflected a faith
of the head. While the movement often fostered a strong anti-intellectual stance with regard to
knowledge of the world, it had a tendency toward a rationalistic orthodoxy as the key to battling
unorthodox theology Fundamentalist leaders were separatists from the culture and from suspect church
leaders and movements, but they assumed that the watershed battles of the faith would be won and
lost in the minds, not the hearts or the hands, of people. Though they had a place for inner piety and
missions, the fundamentalists talists were frequently suspicious of emotional expressions of faith and
social ethic engagements within culture. They attempted to construct airtight categories in their
theological arguments, with minimal room for deviation on doctrines that historically were deemed
secondary to the core of Christian belief. This head-oriented legacy of fundamentalism deeply impacted
later-twentieth-century twentieth-century evangelicalism, at least in some quarters. For example, ple,
seminary education usually focused primarily on biblical studies, theology, apologetics and pastoral
functions, with virtually no attention to spiritual formation, ethics or cultural context. I have friends who
have told me that in their ordination process they were pressed heavily on matters of theology, with
little examination of their spiritual state, relational lational capabilities, leadership qualities or
emotionally stability. The assumption seemed to be that right exegesis and theology would take care of
everything in ministry and the life of the church. In the contemporary porary evangelical scene the
landscape is far more diverse and fragmented mented than several decades ago, but many still see the
mind as the key to authentic faith. FAITH OF THE HEART Advocates for a faith of the heart see
Christianity primarily in terms of feelings, passion, affections and deep spiritual experiences. Faith is
understood derstood as an inward, mystical or emotional encounter with the living God. In this view,
conversion is a shattering of the soul. The believer encounters counters God in a deeply personal, living,

dynamic fashion, so that feelings ings and inclinations of the heart are forever changed. Christian growth
is perceived as an increasing awareness of the presence of God and an unleashing leashing of divine
power within. In this manner, one’s will is refashioned and one’s thinking and actions are brought into
line with God’s will. Here one reads the Scriptures much like Christina in the beginning of our chapter,
not for cognitive understandings, but to have one’s heart warmed and moved by God. Even the
interpretation of God’s Word often banks more on the immediate, inner directions of the Holy Spirit,
with minimal attention to hermeneutical principles that are tested over time by the church. This was
evident, for example, among some of the radical theologians of the Reformation such as Thomas
Muntzer and Caspar Schwenckfeld, who taught that “every individual had the right to interpret pret
scripture as he or she pleased, subject to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”6 Worship in this type is
primarily emotive, with music, liturgy and sermon all aiming to move the affections Godward. The
underlying assumption of a faith of the heart is that affection and emotion are the most significant
features of personhood. We are most truly ourselves in the deepest recesses of our being. The locus of
Christian tian expression is primarily inward, for it is the heart that affects our mind and our deeds. In
this paradigm, Descartes’s dictum would be “I feel, therefore I am.” If believers could only have their
hearts enflamed by the power and presence of God, they would be different people, the church would
change and the world would be transformed. As one recent cent work on spirituality put it, “The nature
of the faith to which Jesus calls and that our times demand is a religion of the heart.”7 And of course the
heart folks can find plenty of biblical ammunition: The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my
heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults. (Ps 28:7) I will give them one heart, and put a new
spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, so
that they may follow my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them. (Ezek 11:19-20) They [the
disciples] said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the
road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” (Lk 24:32) There is a long history of the heart
approach to faith in the Christian church. It has often emerged in response to a cold orthodoxy or an
action-oriented faith that lacked spirituality. Mysticism. One of the classical examples is mysticism in the
medieval church. Mysticism in general is the inner, spiritual quest for union with the divine, sought
primarily through noncognitive processes, such as the purging of physical desire, purification of the will
and inward illumination. tion. It has often been characterized by a strong anti-institutional demeanor
meanor and thus has sometimes been considered highly suspect in the eyes of the institutional church.
In the medieval church, mystics were often at the opposite spectrum from the Scholastics in how they
perceived Christian faith and spiritual life. The primary means to experiencing divine realities was not
through the mind, but through intuition and an inward absorption of transcendence. dence. The
Christian mystics varied significantly in the path to this inward ward experience and in the perceived
relationship between the contemplative plative life and the active life. However, most agreed that the
inner journey to God was to be found primarily in the depths of the inner self. Writing in the midst of
various upheavals in medieval culture, such as the Crusades, religious and political conflict, and the
plague, the mystics looked away from the external world to the inner world to find new apprehensions
prehensions of God and the human condition. The mystical absorption of God from within is well
captured by the Spanish mystic Saint Teresa of Avila: “One sees nothing, either within or without, but
while seeing nothing the soul understands quite clearly who it is and where it is and sometimes even
what he means to tell it. How and by what means it understands it does not know” 8 Most mystics
denigrated the body and rational thought in favor of the souls direct absorption sorption of God’s
presence and ways. As one anonymous British mystic put it, “All the time we are living in this mortal

body, the clarity of our perception of spiritual matters is always distorted by some kind of illusion, sion,
and this applies particularly to our ideas about God.”9 Some mystics tics emphasized the active life
flowing from the contemplative life and most did assume a theology, but the movement was clearly a
faith of the heart in its starting point and primary focus. Pietism. Another faith of the heart movement
was Pietism in the seventeenth enteenth and eighteenth centuries. Beginning in Germany with leaders
such as Philipp Spener and August Francke, Pietism was a reaction against Lutheran Scholasticism and its
perceived cold intellectualism and dead orthodoxy. Whereas Luther, and particularly the Protestant
Scholastics, had emphasized the more objective side of salvation, the Pietists etists emphasized the
subjective side, with its focus on personal repentance tance and faith, growth in personal holiness and a
daily appropriation of God’s grace within. For the early Pietist leaders “the true criteria of authentic
thentic Christianity were orthopathy (right feelings) and orthopraxy (right living) along with orthodoxy
(right believing).” But they also argued gued that “right experience and right living would inevitably lead
to right believing.”10 Historians give different renderings on the importance of the mind for the Pietists,
but clearly the heart had priority. For the most part they gave significant attention to the active life,
embodying both evangelism and deeds of compassion. The movement was particularly known for its
collegia legia pietatis (gatherings of piety), in which the followers, usually while remaining in the state
church, gathered in small groups for accountability, ity, enabling each other to develop a heart-oriented
faith. Johann Arndt, often revered as the precursor of Pietism with his widely read book True
Christianity, portrayed the sentiments of many in the movement: “This is true repentance when the
heart internally through sorrow and regret is broken down, destroyed, laid low, and by faith and
forgiveness of sin is made holy consoled, purified, changed and made better so that an external
improvement in life follows.”i i Most Pietists believed that the orthodoxies of the day simply could not
engender der that kind of inner, personalized faith. Their impact was significant, helping to give rise to
John Wesley and the Methodists, revivalism, holiness ness movements and a host of free-church
movements that emerged in subsequent centuries. Pentecostal/charismatic movements. A more recent
example of a faith of the heart is the Pentecostal/charismatic movement of the past century
Pentecostalism usually refers to the earlier phase of charismatic expression (early twentieth century) as
well as the continuing emphasis in denominations that began in that era. Charismatic (sometimes called
neo-charismatic) usually refers to more recent expressions outside those traditional Pentecostal
denominations, including unlikely places such as the Roman Catholic and Anglican/Episcopalian
churches. Both strands focus on “the empowering charisms or gifts of the Spirit and the nurturing ing
fruit of the Spirit. This Spirit-empowered way of living addresses the deep yearning for the immediacy of
God’s presence among his people.” 12 The modern Pentecostal movement began in the early part of the
twentieth century with Holiness preachers such as Charles Parham and W J. Seymour. Seymour, an
African American, was barred from a black church in Los Angeles because of his emphasis on a
Pentecostal experience ence similar to that of the early church in the book of Acts. Early followers ers
began to speak in tongues accompanied by unusual displays of spiritual itual power, and their message
and experiences began to circulate throughout the world. In the early days of Pentecostalism there was
an unprecedented racial integration, which unfortunately soon gave way to the racial segregation of the
times. The movement spawned numerous denominations, had a significant missionary zeal, but was
sometimes wracked by theological controversies, most notably over the doctrine of the Trinity. By the
1960s the Pentecostal experience was moving beyond the traditional ditional denominations and was
influencing mainline Protestant and Roman man Catholic bodies. Today the Pentecostal and charismatic
movements constitute the second-largest family of Christian churches (following Roman man

Catholicism) and are the fastest growing religious movements in the world, with 250 million adherents.
Above all, the Pentecostal and charismatic movements stress an immediate, mediate, spontaneous
leading and empowerment of God, most visible through a “baptism of the Holy Spirit” and speaking in
tongues. Adherents herents are by no means of one mind in all theological matters, even pertaining to
these most notable features. But they all stress the inward ward work of the Spirit as the key to outward
expressions. As one executive ecutive of a Pentecostal denomination put it, “The unknown tongue is not
the stammering of excited vocal organs, but rather the clear utterances ances of spiritual ecstasy. When
the Spirit speaks through you, it will be exalted praise or convicting exhortation.” And as another leader
put it, “When we speak in tongues, we communicate directly from our spirit to God.”13 These
movements emphasize that the gifts of the Spirit are not confined fined to the apostolic age and are
essential to the life and mission of the church. Along with glossolalia (tongues) are gifts of healing,
prophecy, discerning the spirits and words of knowledge and wisdom. Spontaneity is highly valued, for it
demonstrates the immediate leading of God within the spirit of a human being. Thus, as one writer
describes the more traditional Pentecostal style: The fundamental precept of Pentecostal worship was
that the Holy Spirit alone should direct the order and conduct of a service. Prepared speeches, rehearsal
and formality were censured as hindrances to the free operation of the Spirit. Often no speaker would
be designated beforehand-with the expectation that the Holy Spirit would make the appointment at the
proper time. Sermons were to be delivered extemporaneously as well, as the Spirit-not the note cardsgave the utterance.14 In segments of the movements today, such spontaneity is sometimes balanced by
emphasis on preparation and education, but clearly the Pentecostal and charismatic movements are the
most visible contemporary rary expression of a faith of the heart. They have had an impact on the wider
church, particularly in the current “praise and worship” movement, ment, with its emphasis on passion,
spontaneity and the immediacy of God’s presence. FAITH OF THE HANDS In contrast to emphasizing the
mind or the heart, advocates for a faith of the hands stress that the pivotal element in Christian
experience is action-it is a faith of doing. Christianity at its core is not about beliefs, doctrines, mystical
experiences or inward feelings, though these all may have their place. Rather, the essence of true faith is
an outward expression sion of divine realities, particularly in witness, service, justice and acts of mercy.
While faith is a decision of the will, it is demonstrated as an outward ward reflection of the living Christ.
It is a lived faith, in contrast to a believed lieved or felt faith. In this type of faith expression, conversion
is exchanging an old way of life for new patterns of existence within the world. Faith must be lived, or it
is not genuine faith. Christian growth is most evident not in what one believes or in what one feels, but
in actions. The most salient mechanism for ensuring maturity is actions in the human body, for people
ple grow by doing. A faith of the hands does not deny the head and the heart but emphasizes phasizes
that human action is the starting point in Christian responsibility sibility and the most significant sign of
a genuine relationship with God. Moreover, it is the catalyst for personal beliefs and inward sentiments,
timents, and thus has a way of actually developing and nurturing Christian faith. Witnessing to one’s
faith in Christ is not primarily a matter of right theology but of actual practice. Justice and mercy are not
learned in a workshop or classroom, but are carved into the human man heart and made habits of one’s
being through getting into the rough and tumble of the real world. In the process of doing, according to
faith-of-the-hands proponents, hearts are curiously transformed and thinking is solidified. The
underlying assumption of this approach is that the essence of human man nature is homo faber the
person as doer or maker. What distinguishes guishes us from other creatures in the world is our ability
to choose and to act in meaningful ways. God grants us the ability and task of caring for the world, and
we are most human in carrying out that stewardly task. In this perspective, action is the lens into the

human soul and the best evidence of our worldview. Because actions best exemplify our humanness,
manness, the dictum would be, “I act, therefore I am.” Of course there is much biblical warrant for a
faith of the hands: For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God
prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Eph 2:10) What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say
you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily
food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not
supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (Jas
2:14-17) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of
the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. (Mt
28:19-20) Throughout the history of the church, this type has been manifest in two main subgroups:
those who emphasize proclamation of the gospel (evangelism) and those who emphasize presence
(actions of mercy, justice tice and service). Some have managed to keep these two domains of word and
deed together, but often they have been distinct or polarized agendas in the church’s mission to the
world. Both, however, represent an activist faith of doing. Ministries of proclamation. The emphasis on
proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ is one of the expressions of a faith of the hands. For this strand,
the most important task in life is to tell others the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection for
human sin and to invite them to salvation. This form of activism is readily seen in parts of the modern
mission movement beginning in the eighteenth century and reaching its apex in the later part of the
nineteenth century. “When in 1792 a self-educated teacher, shoemaker and pastor wrote An Enquiry
into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, an utter explosion
sion of missionary zeal resulted, and the `means’ that he wrote about stimulated the founding of
countless mission societies.”15 This book became came the catalyst and guide for the modern mission
movement, and through it William Carey came to be known as the “Father of Protestant Missions.”
Carey had a vision that the gospel must be preached to the ends of the earth, for obedience to the Great
Commission was at the heart of responsibility to God. Despite the protests of church leaders, Carey
went to India and his example became an impetus for thousands who would follow his example in the
next two centuries. The modern mission movement was not without its theologians and those who
attended to inward spirituality, but many who heeded the call agreed with Carey that the most
important task in the world is proclaiming ing the gospel to those who had never heard it. A faith of the
hands through proclamation or word has also been evident ident in many evangelists of the past several
centuries. One of the best known was Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899). Moody was converted in Boston at
age seventeen while working in his uncle’s shoe store. He moved to Chicago and became a very
successful shoe salesman, while simultaneously multaneously beginning to minister in the Chicago
slums. Eventually Moody began to preach, and in the last several decades of the 1800s he drew
enormous crowds in England, Scotland and Ireland, as well as the major cities throughout the United
States. Moody never had formal theological training and tended to be skeptical tical of theological
education. He was an activist who brought new strategies egies of management into his evangelistic
campaigns. For Moody there was too little time to debate theological minutiae or await mystical visions;
sions; the priority task of evangelism was to be done now Moody said, “I look on this world as a wrecked
vessel. God has given men a life-boat, and said to me, `Moody, save all you can.’ … This world is getting
darker and darker; its ruin is coming nearer and nearer. If you have any friends in this wreck unsaved,
you had better not lose time in getting them off.”16 Such was a faith of the hands with a powerful
impact on an activist, ist, pragmatic evangelicalism of the nineteenth century.Ministries of presence. The
second form of a faith of the hands stresses Christian presence-actions of mercy, justice and service,

particularly addressing dressing the social and physical needs of humanity and the structural
arrangements of society Throughout Christian history, ministries of presence ence have been evident in
a variety of people and movements. One of the best-known adherents to a faith of the hands was Saint
Francis of Assisi in Italy during the early thirteenth century Francis grew up in the home of a wealthy
merchant and lived a carefree life, void of spiritual commitments. Through imprisonment and illness
Francis had a life-changing encounter with God that eventually led him to a ministry of preaching and
charity, characterized by a life of simplicity. He devoted much of his life to leading a small group of
followers who cared for the outcasts and lepers of society. A faith of the hands was so important to
Francis of Assisi that he purportedly encouraged his followers to “preach the gospel at all times, and if
necessary use words.” The Anabaptist movement is another expression of a faith of the hands through
presence. At the time of the Reformation some leaders wanted to push the Reformation further with
emphasis on a believer’s church marked by adult baptism, discipleship, service and a rejection of the use
of violence. These radical reformers were often called Anabaptists tists (that is, Rebaptizers), and today
the movement is best evidenced in the Mennonite churches. While piety and evangelism have
sometimes been marks of Anabaptism, the primary focus has been service toward both those within and
those outside the church. In the past half-century some strands of Anabaptism have moved beyond acts
of mercy to emphasize phasize justice and peacemaking within the larger society One of the most
influential examples of a faith of the hands was the social gospel movement in the late nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries. turies. In the midst of sweeping social and cultural changes, a number of
theologians and pastors began to apply the teachings of Jesus to the social realities around them, most
notably the economic world. At the heart of their teaching was a belief that the kingdom of God
(understood as a set of principles embodied in and taught by Jesus) could become a possibility within
history The social gospelers emphasized that God not only wants to save individuals (an emphasis that
was often neglected in the movement), but also wants to transform social structures. One of the bestknown theologians of the social gospel movement was Walter Rauschenbusch, a Baptist minister who
pastored in Hell’s Kitchen on New York City’s West Side. He was more orthodox theologically than many
of his cohorts, but was a staunch defender of the idea that the kingdom dom of God meant human
action, change and progress in society. For Rauschenbusch, “Christianizing the social order means
bringing it into harmony with the ethical convictions which we identify with Christ.” 7 While some of the
social gospelers gave moderate attention to matters of the mind, matters of the heart were frequently
minimized. The gospel was primarily about a kingdom that could reshape the patterns of society. ety.
The leaders of the social gospel movement were not Utopian, “but their estimate of human potential
was consistently high so that in most cases they believed humans could be guided to make the right
choices and so contribute to the `building of the kingdom.”’18 Clearly the social gospel movement was a
faith of the hands. A more recent rendition is liberation theology, which flourished in the last several
decades of the twentieth century. Emerging in the context of Latin American poverty and oppression, a
theology based on the exodus (that is, liberation) motif of the Old Testament began to be articulated by
a number of Roman Catholic theologians. Drawing on Marxist social analysis, liberationists emphasized
that God was on the side of the poor and oppressed in a unique way, and thus any valid faith must join
in that identification and quest for social liberation. Eventually the movement spread to other parts of
the world and church traditions, and was applied plied not only to economic realities, but also to issues
of race and gender. Liberation theology is not only a mandate for social change; it is also a new method
for doing theology The starting point of this theology is praxis, a unity of theory and practice in the
concrete situations of society. One does not begin theology by reflecting on the Bible, God, salvation or

the kingdom, but rather by confronting the realities of this world, most notably social oppression.
Liberation theologians have clearly given attention to the mind, for they write theologies, and some
have even articulated spiritualities for liberation. Nonetheless, both the starting point and the goal of
liberationists tionists is a faith of action. Gustavo Gutierrez, who wrote what many perceive to be the
most significant theology of the movement, contends that while social liberation does not exhaust the
full meaning of Christian tian faith or salvation, it must always be a foundational element. He believes
lieves that the goal of any theology is “a profound transformation, a social cial revolution, which will
radically and qualitatively change the conditions in which they now live.”19
Dennis P. Hollinger. Head, Heart & Hands: Bringing Together Christian Thought, Passion and Action
(Kindle Locations 288-296). Kindle Edition.

 

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