December 2014 / January 2015 - Vol. 77

leftbrain rightbrain

Spiritual Lobotomy
by Sam Williamson

I recently heard a Christian speaker say, “Thinking is the devil’s territory; I just want to experience God.” He continued, “Hearing God is a totally rightbrained activity. We need to turn off our analytical thinking and lean into our intuition.”

He’s wrong, totally wrong, and dangerously wrong. But I think (oops, I feel) that I understand his dismissal of the analytical. He is reacting.

He’s reacting to the modern era’s enthronement of reason. In the modern age (which began with the Enlightenment), rational thinking became the epicenter, the very essence, of humanity. So Descartes —a prominent rationalist—penned his famous declaration, “I think therefore I am.”

Many people (including the speaker above) react against crowning reason as king. They see too many “intellectual” Christians who spend too many hours studying supralapsarianism vs. infralapsarianism * (who makes these terms up?); such highbrows might hold right doctrine, but they often live harsh, anxious, and
miserable lives. Something isn’t working.

So nowadays we reject reasoning. Instead we feel, intuit, or “just believe” because it “seems right.” We prefer the right-brain, we choose imagination over discernment (unless the discernment is based on a gut feel), and we leave thinking to those brainiac eggheads.

The Enlightenment divorced the heart. Today we chop off the head. Both approaches are stupid. Divorcing the heart doesn’t help us think better, and a lobotomy doesn’t help us feel better.

Guillotining the head is not an improvement over stabbing the heart.

The whole person
We are meant to be whole people, neither a heartdeprived Tin Man nor a lobotomized tomato.
In the Old Testament, God commands, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength” (Deut. 6:5, edited). But when Jesus quotes that passage, he inserts a word, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” (Mark 12:30).

Did you ever notice that? Why did Jesus add “mind”? Because the Greeks are the ones who birthed the idea of divorcing the head from the heart, and their word for “heart” failed to capture the full meaning of the Hebrew word. We are meant to love him with our whole being.

Including our mind. God made us both thinking and intuitive beings, and “What God has joined together, let no man cast asunder [or separate].”

The whole brain theory thing
The Greeks birthed the baby of head vs. heart; the Enlightenment re-birthed it; now believers proclaim it born again, baptizing it with the right-brain/left-brain idea. They say we only hear God in our right-brain, intuitively and spontaneously. Just empty your logical, left-brain minds.

The problem is, this newborn right-brain idea is stillborn. And neither scientific nor biblical.

The right-brain/left-brain idea came from the work of Roger Sperry who studied a specific set of brain surgery patients (however Sperry himself claimed the idea has no broader value beyond those specific patients). Numerous studies prove false the modern myth of any right-brain/ left-brain dominance (see these Psychology, Huffington, and Wiki (articles).

The analytical (left-brained) person analyzes better when also using the right-brain, and the creative (right-brained) artist creates better when also using the left-brain.

And we don’t hear God better through our intuitive right-brain. Rather, divorcing the two halves of our brain disrupts any ability to communicate at all. Halfbrained thinking is half-as… (well, you know what I mean).

Rejection of the right or left brain is hare-brained. God means us to be whole-brained.

Christianity and thinking
I don’t know how to say it plainer to our feelingdominated society of believers; but Christianity
means thinking, and thinking hard. Yes, it’s more than mere mental activities. But not less.

To feel good, we need to believe good, and believing good begins with thinking good.

When Jesus addresses anxious people—who feel bad because they’re scared—he says, “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin…” (Luke 12:27). He instructs us to, “Consider.” Jesus says the answer to bad feeling is good thinking.
And thinking a lot. The Greek word for “consider” (katanoeo) means to think hard, to ponder furiously, to immerse ourselves in contemplation; to scrutinize until we perceive. Jesus says to ponder God’s approach with lilies, to think and re-think, until we perceive God himself.

We don’t stop at thinking (that’s the Greek, Enlightenment, left-brain heresy). We “consider” until we begin to see God. It is seeing God that leads our hearts from anxiety to confidence.

Let’s retake our vows
Let’s divorce ourselves from culture’s stupid answers, and let’s re-marry our head and heart.
Try this experiment. God frequently tells us to, “Remember!” Take five minutes and actively
remember an action of God (the lilies, crucifixion or resurrection, or one of his answers to a prayer). Ponder furiously his actions, his goodness, love, and incredible power.

As we consider with our minds something changes in our hearts. His great riches overshadow today’s credit card bills. We begin to see God with the eyes of our hearts. Remembering joins together—it re-members—our head and heart. Besides, a wedding is always more fun than a divorce.

* I’m neither supralapsarianism nor infralapsarianism. I’m super-napsarian. Whenever I try to understand those speculative schemes, I just want to take a super, long nap.

© Copyright 2014, Beliefs of the Heart, Ltd. All rights reserved.

Sam Williamson grew up in Detroit, Michigan, USA. He is the son of a Presbyterian pastor and grandson of missionaries to China. He moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1975. He worked in London England from 1979 to 1982, helping to establish Antioch, a member community of the Sword of the Spirit. After about twenty-five years as an executive at a software company in Ann Arbor he sensed God call him to something new. He left the software company in 2008 and now speaks at men’s retreats, churches, and campus outreaches. His is married to Carla Williamson and they have four grown children and a grandson. He has a blog site,, and can be reached at 
(c) copyright 2014  Living Bulwark
publishing address: Park Royal Business Centre, 9-17 Park Royal Road, Suite 108, London NW10 7LQ, United Kingdom