At Work & Theology 101

Knowing, Feeling & Doing: Towards An Integrated Faith

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Ed. Note: This post has been adapted from its original form. Read the full paper here.

How can you begin to integrate a Biblical perspective of work into your daily life? How do you apply it on a personal level?

Integrating a theological view of work and cultural change is difficult for many Christians. One problem in the church is the failure to connect what we do with what we think and feel. How we live is not always linked to what we believe or the emotions we experience.

My colleague Hugh Whelchel writes in his book, How Then Should We Work,

A genuinely Christian worldview is more than an intellectual collection of philosophical and religious beliefs. If it is going to affect the way we live, it must embrace both our minds and our hearts.

Reconnecting knowing, feeling, and doing helps us integrate our faith with our work. In this way we can manifest wise, passionate practice that demonstrates to the world the truth we profess.

Knowing, Feeling, & Doing in the Spiritual Life

I know a pastor whose study contains a desk, a kneeler, and couple of chairs. Sometimes the pastor will study something that leads him to praise God or feel a need to repent. He will quickly move from the desk to the kneeler. He uses the chairs for counseling, mentoring, and offering spiritual direction. It is not unusual for the pastor to move to the desk to study questions raised in these sessions, or go to the kneeler to pray for people and situations of concern.

Knowing, feeling, and doing – study, piety, and ministry – as pictured in the desk, kneeler, and chair are integrally related. If you remove one, damage is done to the other two:

  • If you eliminate the desk, you lose depth in prayer (kneeler) and substance in ministry (the chairs).
  • If you eliminate the kneeler, you may have deep knowledge (the desk) and consistent practice (the chairs), but you may lack passion and joy in your spiritual life – resulting in a cold, passionless legalism.
  • If you eliminate the chairs, you are left with theoretical thought (desk) or piety (kneeler) that makes little difference in the lives of others.

Neglecting any one of these practices results in the loss of all three.

The Importance of Knowing

The Bible gives a solid basis for knowing and doing grounded in an infinite personal God who exists and reveals Himself in Scripture. We are created in God’s image, with capacity to reason. Sin and our finite nature limit the extent of our knowledge. There is nevertheless that which is true, good, and real – and we can know it objectively, at least in part.

Knowing is important to Biblical spirituality. In Matthew 22:37, Christ calls us to love God with all of our hearts, our souls, and our minds. A central problem with the church and its failure to impact culture is that we have not emphasized loving God with our minds.

This is a mistake because, as James Davison Hunter argues in To Change the World,

It is the mind that matters, the ideas that are operative in culture. 

II Corinthians 10:5 tells us to,

Destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God…take every thought captive to Christ.

  • The first part of this verse exhorts us to refute objections to faith and alternative systems of thought.
  • The second part emphasizes taking every thought captive to Christ.

These tasks are not merely intellectual or speculative duties, but spiritual obligations. The failure to pursue them has led to a virtual loss of the “culture wars.” By and large, believers have lost the following to a more secular perspective:

  • Universities
  • Media, journalism, television, and movies
  • Foundations

Books such as The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, No Place for Truth, and Passion for Truth document this problem in contemporary society. We need reformation individually, corporately, and culturally in this area.

Note that Biblical knowledge involves more than the merely cognitive. It also involves intimacy and responsibility.

The Hebrew word for knowing is Yatha. When Genesis speaks of Adam knowing his wife, it uses this word. Likewise, our knowing is to lead to personal intimacy with God.

The Greek word for “hear” is Akuo, and the Greek word for “obey” is Hupakuo. The prefix “hup” in Hupakuo is the word from which we get the word “hyper.” It is one thing to hear, and another thing to “hyper-hear.”

To really hear is to obey. It is one thing to allow truth to go into one ear and out the other. It is another to allow God’s Word to go into your ear, down into your heart, and out into your hands and feet.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be talking about feeling, doing, and the impact all three practices have on the church.

What do you think? Do you find it difficult to connect knowing, feeling, and doing in your own walk with God? Leave your comments here

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  • Vicky Thomas

    Thank you for this topic. I especially like the visual concept for integrating our faith with our work: Spiritual passion/piety, knowledge, and work/ministry … a 3-legged stool. And 3-legged stools don’t work with only 2 legs! I also love the explanation of hearing and ‘super-hearing’, obeying.

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