Heartknowledge vs. Headknowledge and Youth Ministry

The White Horse Inn dealt with the topic of “Biblical Ignorance” on Sunday, April 1, 2007. Michael Horton brought up the well-worn cliché about “heartknowledge,” and the hosts had a little back and forth about it, ending with Dad Rod’s d’ruthers about Youth Ministry.

Horton: One of the justifications for laziness is often to say, “I want heart knowledge, not head knowledge.” “Oh, I don’t want to know about Jesus, I want to know Jesus.” Why is that a cop out?

Riddlebarger: Well, it’s a cop out because Jesus reveals himself to us in his Word, which requires understanding subjects, verbs and objects. It requires reading and studying. And this whole experiential thing is just a Gnostic shortcut to truth and information.

Jones: And I think it’s a false dichotomy. When we talk about the gospel message, we talk about the whole person. Redemption is the redemption of our total being. It includes emotions, but the problem is, our emotions are not just free to go hither and thither, they are governed by the Word of God. I love what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10: “ . . . bringing every thought into captivity, and casting down every high thing and vain thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and bringing every thought into captivity and into the obedience to Christ.” And so, therefore, even my emotions are governed by the Spirit, and that’s part of Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians, you can’t just go your own way and label that “the Spirit,” because he’s the Spirit of order as well.

Horton: I can’t say, “I have this wonderful emotional experience with my wife but I’ve studiously avoided knowing anything about her. If you claim to have a personal relationship with someone, about whom you don’t invest time to learn, then you can’t really pass off to many people in the room your interest in that person.

Jones: Isn’t that what Jesus illustrates in the parable of the talents? The servant that had so many talents, he says, “Knowing that you were this, that or the other, I did nothing with the talents.” But the master comes back and says, “If you had known me, you would have put my talents to use.” So, you thought you knew Me. And when Jesus comes back and many will say, “We did this in your name,” and Jesus will say, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” Or the Samaritan woman, “You worship what you do not know.”

Riddlebarger: Mike, you may remember this category, we had it growing up in fundamentalism, where we would kind of belittle the mainliners because they would go to church to become better people. So when you asked them questions about Christianity, their default setting was always, “Well, it’ll make me a better person.” Or, “I’ll learn to get along with others better.” The kind of answer that kid gave us is a modern version of that same thing: “I just go to experience God—I’m not beholden to anybody, I don’t have to do anything, it’s that cop out answer that basically lets him off the hook and doesn’t say a darn thing.

Rosenblatt: I think there are a lot of youth leaders that desperately need firing. Now, I know the parents aren’t doing their part behind it, but I’d start by firing the youth leaders. In other words, you want somebody who’s going to, because of his talents, he can do some of this, to instill the content of the Faith, slowly, methodically, however he does it, into the kids during the time he has them. I don’t mean that it turns into a monestary, I mean that’s part of what he himself sees as part of his calling. I remember when Francis Schaeffer was almost an unknown, there was a youth leaders thing at Mission Bay, and I went, and if I remember nothing else from that conference, I remember Schaeffer looking out over all these youth leaders from all over America, and saying, “I plead with you, I plead with you, when you present the gospel, present it first of all as true, not as helpful.”

My own church has been going through a bit of a transition over the past couple of months with regard to our own youth ministry. Some things that have developed I find have potential. We were told by the previous youth minister who asked local seminaries to help them find a student who is hireable by a medium-sized to small, traditional Southern Baptist Church. He was told by the man to whom he spoke that if the church is traditional, it’s going to have a hard time hiring from the current crop of seminary students, because they all want to be involved in the big, contemporary, mega-church type of youth ministry. He said we’d be better off finding someone in the congregation with a real desire to commit to working with the youth.
This is what we did. The parents met and discussed and planned and volunteered and we finally decided to have the volunteer who would lead the youth to serve primarily as Sunday School teacher, while the parents would remain closely involved in much of the activities, both teaching and social. I think this is a positive sign. Since nowadays it’s so difficult to lead a congregation to regularly spend time with their kids and teens at home as a family, reading the Bible, being instructed in the doctrines of the faith, worshiping and praying, having this kind of close parental involvement in not only helping to run the kids around from paint ball game to Christian rock concert, but actively involved on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights actually teaching the kids ourselves. Together everyone accomplishes more, especially when their teens know their parents are interested and involved.
The bottom line is to make sure that when we teach our teens, let’s teach them the content of the faith, center it all explicitly on the gospel of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and then after all of that ground work is laid, then and only then, apply it to them so that they learn how to live for the Lord of the Bible, rather than the Lord of their feeble imagination borne of biblical ignorance. Remember, Christianity should never be about knowing versus knowing about, it’s not feeling versus studying, it’s not living versus learning, it’s learning Christ-centered doctrine as the basis for a life that truly glorifies God.

5 responses

  1. Yes and amen and amen and amen….



    Honestly, the Gospel has not helped me at all!

    UNLESS you meant to say, the GOSPEL KILLS YOUR ADAMIC NATURE SO THAT CHRIST’S NATURE OVERCOMES, then, well, by all means, tell the truth about how the GOSPEL HELPS you to die to yourself and deny yourself and find yourself in Him!

    Here is self death in my humble opinion and as we say around here, “HERE COMES MY END”, when anyone, young or old, comes up to us seeking Life in Jesus Christ:

    Joh 21:19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

  2. The state of seminaries…regardless of mainline baptist or presbyterian aren’t pumping out men who wish to do ministry. Sad.

    Gage Browning
    Post Tenebras Lux

  3. You know Cap’n… the fact that a bunch of parents are deciding what’s best for their children, being raised in the fear and admonition of the Lord, almost sounds…dare I say it…hmmmm
    COVENANTAL? Where’s the font?

    Gage Browning
    Post Tenebras Lux

  4. John D. Chitty | Reply

    Working on the font. Don’t hold your breath. I’m personally focusing my energies on the Lord’s Supper. And teaching my children and the children of my church.

  5. In your circumcstance…it is a good thing to do what you are intending. But understand this my brother, the sign of entrance into the covenant people is valuable as well as the sign of the covenant for those in the Kingdom. Circumcision and Passover were both important…thus (baptism and the supper)are as well. Stay in the stuff brother…

    Gage Browning
    Post Tenebras Lux

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