Head Knowledge

3 H diagram
It’s one of my pet peeves, and someone said it again. “You shouldn’t memorize for head knowledge but for heart knowledge.” Where are people coming up with this stuff? That’s totally unbiblical.

Are we just supposed to FEEL our way through the Christian life? Of course we memorize for head knowledge. How else are we going to think biblically if there’s no knowledge in our head? Does God only want us to feel his presence, or does he want us to know that he is with us, even when we don’t feel it?

Why head knowledge is important:
• Jesus restated the great commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength…” Mark 12:30. Love is not intended to be merely an emotional experience.

• Paul prays that you will know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18-19). Paul prays that we will know the depth and breadth of the love of God (Ephesians 3:18).

• Peter tells us to “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

• John tells us, “We love God because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Our love for God depends on our knowledge of His love for us. The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.

• “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

I think we can all agree that we memorize for more than head knowledge. The Bible must be applied, not just memorized. I agree with that, but only because I know these words from James: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22). The conviction to apply God’s Word comes from the knowledge that it is the expected behavior.

Head knowledge is not an end in itself, but rather it leads the way into loving God with all our hearts and into submitting our wills to live out the knowledge we have.

We cannot trust our deceptive hearts. Head knowledge informs our heart what to believe and where to set our affections.

Knowing the promises of God gives us hope, grows our faith, shows us what love looks like. Don’t be led by your heart. Know what is true, and then inform your heart.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

16 comments to Head Knowledge

  • warren

    Well stated!! thank you..

  • Chérie

    So grateful to have this well written response to an argument I have heard so many times. I have not only heard it a lot — but I have heard it in many variations.
    It is easy to feel like it is an attack on something we mega memorizers hold so dear. At least for me.
    I will keep this thorough, truthful and Biblical response handy.
    Way to go Janet. Way to go.

    • Hi Cherie, Well maybe it was just my opportunity to vent my own frustration at recent comments. Truth matters, and God gave us a brain for good reason.

  • Juliana

    I’m also thankful for this succinct and scripture-based description of the relationship between head knowledge and heart knowledge, best summed up for me in the statement, “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.” I also appreciate your “Head-Heart-Hands” illustration, which reminds me of the Awana program’s goals in working with children – that they will come to know, love, and serve Jesus. Scripture memorization is a significant part of this – knowing the words helps us know (and love and serve) the Word.

    • Hi Juliana, A great reminder about AWANA. We must instill God’s Word into the minds (and hearts) of our children and grandchildren.

  • Ethan

    Excellent! I could not agree more. I might add, “and do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your MIND, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” ( Romans 12:2) Does it say the renewing of your heart? No, your mind. If you don’t fill your mind with God’s Word, what will it be filled with? The world. How does information get into your heart? It goes through your mind first. Memorizing God’s word is just as much about the mind as it is about the heart. We all need to THINK biblically.

  • Lise

    Well put Janet. Your blog is a reminder to us all to be careful in using little phrases that may have some point but may be non-Biblical and lead someone astray. If I don’t know in my mind what God directs me to do then I am susceptible to making up my own rules or following the world’s directions.

    • Hi Lise, Well you’re right about us making up our own rules and/or following the world. That’s our only option if we don’t know God’s Word. No wonder the world is so messed up.

  • Janet,
    I left a comment yesterday but I’m not sure if it delivered…and I wanted to comment so I’m trying again.

    I really appreciate your wonderful post. John 17:3 tells us “Now this is eternal life: that they KNOW you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (NIV). God wants us to know Him with all that we are.

    • Hi Paul, Thank you so much for your persistence. Your comment is the the crux of the whole matter. To know him is everything!

  • Teresa

    First of all, I would like to say that I wholeheartedly agree with what you are saying. But I would also say that I memorize easily. But to get it from my head to my heart has to be intentional. I have found myself in seasons where I am memorizing and weeks later realize that while I have memorized a chapter, I have not really stopped to think through what it means and how it applies to my life. I was just memorizing to check it off a list. I have to consistently purpose to pray for God to reveal Himself to me while I am memorizing. If it is only head knowledge, it is not penetrating to divide my soul and spirit, joints and marrow. And it is not judging the thoughts and attitudes of my heart (Heb. 4:12) So, while I don’t agree that we should not memorize for head knowledge, I think some people who make that statement are getting to the point where I often fall. I also love your head, heart, hands illustration!

    • Hi Teresa, I’m so glad you shared your experience. And I agree that we must be intentional to make sure the Word affects head, heart, and putting into practice. Thank you for your words of exhortation.

  • Joanne

    Thank you for this post Janet. It gives me renewed motivation in memorizing the word.