The Role of Emotions When Examining God's Word.
"People who like to think, have a hard time distinguishing between the pleasures of thinking about God, and the pleasures of knowing God." -John Piper1
There is a group of Christians who approach God’s Word as if they were from the planet Vulcan. Perhaps you have ran across a few of them. Just as Moses removed his sandals from his feet before the burning bush, they feel compelled to leave their emotions at the door when studying scripture and formulating theology. Like Mr. Spock, they are devoted to pure logic, or in this case, pure doctrine. Because of our sin nature, they suppress their emotions based on the belief that they will pollute their understanding of God’s Word. They believe that their emotions will corrupt their analytical skills. When it comes to their understanding of God’s Word they are Vulcan and they seem to hate their humanity.
While I understand the reasoning behind this methodology, I question its wisdom. It suggests that our emotions play no part in our understanding of God’s Word. It ignores the reality that the gospel message is designed to evoke emotional responses. Shame and regret which leads to repentance, the fear of God, hatred of sin, love, mercy, Joy, and so on. The parables of Christ are ripe with emotions. Indeed, I am hard pressed to come up with anything contained in scripture that doesn't trigger an emotional response of some kind. Ironically, the motivating emotion behind a Vulcan scholar's methodology is fear, specifically the fear of error.
I don’t believe God’s Word would have us ignore or cast aside our emotions, rather, He would have us better understand and manage them. When I study, reason, and consider doctrine; I refuse my emotions the right to rule me. I take them into captivity, just as I do my thoughts, to the obedience of Christ. (2 Cor10:5) They become a part of my submitted will. This is true in every area of my life. Emotions can be overwhelming but we must learn to rule them.
Bless the Lord oh my soul, and that's an order!
How does this work? Well, when I dive into a chapter like Romans 3, a portion of scripture that is particular hard on the human nature, I experience a basket full of emotions. Anger, shame, outrage, shock even disbelief. However, as I reason through the chapter my emotions change to humility, repentance, gratefulness and finely relief as I realize that Christ is my justification. During the process, my emotions seem to ask questions. I allow their questioning, but as a Christian, I answer them from God's Word.
Psalms 103:1 and 2. Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits
I love how David commands his thoughts, will, and emotions to bless the Lord. I am finding that I am not at the mercy of my emotions, they obey me, and I obey God's Word. Our emotions play a vital role in our understanding of scripture; we should embrace them and welcome them to the table. We do not dismiss them, we command them.
First Love Lost
The Vulcan Church
Revelations 2:2-5 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lamp stand from its place—unless you repent."
Whenever I read this passage I am reminded of my own time as a Vulcan. It reminds me of how I exchanged my emotional past for a cold pursuit of Logic. I turned away from my Pentecostal roots. I had come to realize that my Christian walk, up to that point, lacked stability. My lack of scriptural knowledge made me vulnerable to every wind of doctrine, in addition, I felt that I was addicted to, and controlled by, my emotions. As a result, I was drawn to a group of believers who emphasized Bible study and scripture memorization. It was their influence that led me to placing Bible study among my highest priorities.
Sadly, as often happens, I went from one extreme to another. In my zealous pursuit of God’s Word, I forgot to bring my heart along. I went from an overly emotional Pentecostal to a cold blooded Vulcan. Revelations 2:2-5 perfectly described what happened to me. I became focused on understanding scripture and doctrine. I labored long, and I could not stand those whom I judged to be evil. Sadly, I can’t say that I was very patient, but I did persevere. Boy did I test folks. Not to see if they were apostles, rather to see if they were really saved. As a Vulcan, I became very critical and judgmental of others.
I remember the day this passage came alive to me, God showed me my Spock like state. My walk with God had become cold. I no longer sensed His sweet presence, and my worship was dry and robotic. I was no longer moved to tears by a beautiful song of praise, and worst of all, I had stopped spending time alone with Him in prayer. All the things that my humanity brings to the God/Man relationship had been cast off. I had learned the Bible, but it had become nothing more then an intellectual exercise. I had purposely drained all emotions from my worship. Indeed, I had lost my first love.
In Spirit and Truth
John 4:24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
As instructed by the passage, I returned to my first works. I opened the door to my emotions and welcomed them to the table. As I embrace their questions, they send me to God’s Word for answers. I have learned from the Loveless Church at Ephesus that God desires an intimate and personal relationship with me. I have traded in my pointed ears and raised eyebrows for a smile and a heart of flesh. I will no longer be satisfied with simply thinking about God. I now have the pleasure of knowing God.
It is my sincerest prayer that you too have the pleasure of knowing Him. Just as we are not from Vulcan, God is not from Vulcan. In the same manner that he wishes us to set our hearts and minds on knowing Him, He in turn, Knows us and loves us in a intimate way. If you get a chance, go an read Psalms 91. Pay special attention to verses 9-16 I love how God responds when we love Him. There can be no doubt that He is an intimate and loving God who desires a relationship with us Humans from the planet earth.
Your Brother in Christ
1.John Piper- Desiring God: Unconditional Grace.
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Aaron Rushing (author) from USA- Florida on March 06, 2013:
Thanks again for stopping by. Hope all is well with you and yours.
Aaron Rushing (author) from USA- Florida on March 06, 2013:
Shofarcall: As always it is pleasure hearing from you. I am gobsmacked, as you would say, that someone in South Africa is reading my stuff. What a blessing! I am so honored that you take the time.
I am finding that a great number of people are not sure of what to do with their human emotions. A sad reality that is birthed from extreme doctrines that grab one side of the God/man relationship.
Go well dear sister, may your road trip be fun and remember do not drive faster then your guardian angel can fly.
William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on February 25, 2013:
What practical words spoken. I love John Piper's quote as well. May we all hear and follow.
shofarcall on February 24, 2013:
Thank you for this pertinent hub in which my being resonates to the truth of it. We cannot leave our emotions behind because it is part of being human. I tried that all once before!!! It is called suppression. But as you said, we can take them captive whilst we consider the word of God and reason together with Him.
I too turn to blessing the Lord and His Holy name when I reach a stumbling block and call on the Holy Spirit to guide me through and give me the understanding and sight that is needed to overcome. Yes, the psalms of David are such inspiration.
I have received much from this writing. Thank you for sharing of it and putting words to my understanding of having a balanced life in our Lord Jesus Christ who loves us with a passion and welcomes our passion for him too. Loved the use and imagery of vulcan which you used. God Bless you dear brother-in-Christ.