In a previous post, I lamented the fact that much of fundamentalism is driven by emotionalism/mysticism/subjectivity that results in “peace-and-fleece” living. Decisions are made based on either gut feelings (“I have peace about this.”) or circumstances (“I’ll put out a fleece: if God wants me to move, our house will sell.”). It starts early: college break-ups are almost always justified by saying, “I just don’t have peace about dating you anymore” or some similar sentiment. What girls really mean is, “The thought of marrying you scares the willies out of me.” What guys really mean is, “There’s a cute girl in my History of Civ class that may very well be an upgrade.” Sad, but true. Of course, saying “I don’t have peace” sort of sanctifies those brutally honest facts. Joking aside, I fear that we can breed a pseudo-spiritual subjectivity into our young people, and when we do, we’re setting them up for trouble. It’s an agonizing and spiritually dangerous way to go through life. Even worse, it opens the door to continued direct revelation from God. Yikes!
Reading through For the Sake of His Name, I came across a stellar quote on this topic which my (published) friend Pearson Johnson highlights. Kenneth Kantzer is speaking specifically about not allowing emotions to dictate doctrine, but his words are germane to the subject of emotions in general:
“Our emotional life is as fallible as our intellectual life. Our minds are warped by sin and molded by pressures from those around us. Our finite intelligence simply cannot probe into the mind and plan of God. Because of this, we must be guided wholly by the written Word, the Bible, that God provides to shed light on our path.” (For the Sake of His Name, p. 172-173, quoting from Kantzer’s “Preface” in Through No Fault of Their Own?, p. 12)
Notice that Kantzer warns that our emotions and intellect are fallen. So we’re not calling for mere thinking. Rather, we’re calling for minds and emotions that are “guided by the written Word, the Bible.”
Another good though on the danger of emotionalism is expressed in today’s blog post by Al Mohler. Though they’re not addressing the central theme of his post, I want to highlight three profound sentences. Asked if he was offended by the Pope’s saying that the Catholic Church makes up the entirety of the catholic church, Mohler responds this way:
“No, I am not offended. In the first place, I am not offended because this is not an an issue in which emotion should play a key role. This is a theological question, and our response should be theological, not emotional.”
Amen and Amen. I believe that’s the point Dave Doran repeatedly tried to make during the “A, B, C” saga. The discussion tended to focus on feelings and degrees of “niceness” rather than on the legitimacy of the points being considered. Mohler’s call for biblical thought rather than visceral reaction in the face of theological questions is welcome indeed!
As I noted in the previous post, Mark Dever addresses the subject of subjectivity here, as well. And speaking of the previous post, my quick thoughts on this topic are buried there. I’ll reproduce them here, though I know there is much more to be said on this important issue:
“A proper understanding of the deceitfulness of our own hearts would do much to alleviate [our reliance on our feelings and circumstances] (Jeremiah 17:9; Mark 17:21-23; James 4:1). Our own ways almost always seems right to us (Proverbs 12:15; 14:12; 16:2, 25; 21:2; 30:12). Yet, Scripture is clear that trusting in our own hearts is folly (Proverbs 28:26). The sort of feelings-based, “glandular” thinking which ********** describes is prevalent in our movement, and we need to weed it and replace it with a stout commitment to the sufficiency of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:14-4:4; 2 Peter 1:3-4). Otherwise, we will be subject to the whims of our own “gut feelings”—the very thing we’re warned against in Proverbs 3:5b.”
Now, here’s a confession: I’m an emotional sieve. I get misty watching Hallmark commercials, for Pete’s sake. I’m not suggesting that we become a movement of stoic “Spocks.” I am suggesting, however, that we force our emotions take a back seat, far behind biblically-saturated thinking, whether the issue is decision-making, theological positions or worship. Unfortunately, that’s often not the way we work. We make our emotions sovereigns, when they make much better servants. The good news is, we can change this, and we must.
Let’s rethink the way we think, friends.