It is not uncommon to hear a theologian or a philosopher or a student say this, “We have to bracket that thought or belief or conviction, in order to work on this problem, etc..” For instance, you will sometimes hear a scientist say he or she has to bracket his or her personal beliefs (about God and creation) when he or she does work in the laboratory. I’ve heard this, indirectly usually, with doctoral students who are working on the Gospels or on the Pentateuch — they bracket their own beliefs in order to work on those texts with a method that will satisfy their supervisors.
This isn’t just a procedure for academics. It can happen in any field — business persons bracketing off their convictions about truth and honesty and justice, politicians bracketing off the same in order to be elected or to gain support for a bill, children bracketing off their faith to find friendships, and we could go on.
To bracket off one’s beliefs is dangerous business. Two reasons.
First, it creates an alternative world where our faith or convictions do not hold sway. Before long, that alternative world could become our only world, and our former convictions, because they have been sundered from our life, will no longer be needed. To bracket off our beliefs is to learn to live without them. It is no wonder many lose their faith when they operate like this.
Second, it creates a world where the modernist scientific world is something that is safe from beliefs and immune from convictions and where heart does not impact head — it is objective and not subjective. But, in so creating a world like that we are creating a world that does not adequately reflect who we are and what God made us to be. A world that is immune from the fullness of who we are destroys the holism necessary for a full life.
To bracket the heart is to break the heart.