Friday, March 18, 2011

Emotions Within a Rational Christianity

I've been pondering lately what role emotions play in our rational acceptance of Jesus of Nazareth as our Lord and Savior. This is a bit of what I've come up with.

Emotions aren't bad or don't lead to inherent irrationality if they aren't doing our thinking for us. If one is thinking clearly, then emotional reactions may be the most rational thing to come out of the process. If our emotions are the reason we are making decisions, ie if we decide the doctrine of hell is false because it makes us feel icky, then we're reasoning irrationally.

The crucifixion should evoke a very strong emotional reaction in the Christian if they are being rational. It has driven me to tears many times, and it always evokes a sense of great thankfulness and joy in knowing what my God did to resolve my rebellion. It is very rational to react in such a way when a Person who is not just innocent, but morally perfect and worship-worthy, dies a physically and spiritually excruciating death for your crimes. Anything less than an emotional reaction would be irrational.

Likewise anger at ideas and individuals should crop up in the Christian when the One who did this for us is blasphemed, whether through false doctrines or in denying His reality.

Worship should naturally flow from us not just because of what God has done, but also for who He is. He is the creator, the ultimate reality. He is the very source of goodness, and we exist because of Him and for Him.

My final thought in this post is that the Bible constantly records people of God reacting emotionally to different things. People reacted to the gospel with joy (Acts 13:52). Jesus Himself reacted in anger at people defiling the temple (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18; John 2:13-22), and He wept when His friend Lazarus died (John 11:35). God created us with emotions to aid in our reasoning. He placed within us the ability to feel joy for His gifts and to become saddened and angry at the state that sin has put the world in. There's nothing wrong with being an emotional person, as long as you're doing so rationally and Biblically.


Anonymous said...

Yes, Christ shows us how emotions can be productive.

He never divorced them from reason, nor should we.

Managing the interaction though is no easy task. How fearfully and wonderfully we are made!

Tony-Allen said...

A balance between rationale and emotion is an important thing for a Christian to strive for. As you pointed out, Christ, through His humanity, often displayed emotion, although it was always for righteous reasons. That is, it was anger at the heresy and hard hearts of the Pharisees, tears for the suffering of humanity in sin, and love as a shepherd has for his flock. Other biblical characters displayed emotions through different degrees (Jeremiah "the weeping prophet," the psalmist, etc.).

I think the balance needs to be maintained, because otherwise you have one of two extremes:

1) You become cold logic, at which point all you are is a Pharisee: a good memory of what the Law is, but complete forgetfulness about who the Lord of the Sabbath is.

2) You become empty emotionalism, which is the fault I see in many hyper-Charismatic churches. Some even go so far as to say that you should throw out your Bible and just "experience" your religion.

drwayman said...

God shows deep emotion in the OT as well.

Emotions, when used as data to make decisions, can be quite helpful.

Zachary Kroger said...

You might enjoy Descarte's Error, by Antonio Damasio. It is all about the importance of emotion in regards to decision making.

drwayman said...

ZK - Thanks for the suggestion. I got the idea from Jung. I wonder if Jung took it from Descartes...