Whoa, Feelings! Are We Losing Our Minds Over Emotion?
February 25, 2013 § Leave a comment
In the first Star Wars film (Episode IV), the Reverend Obi-Wan Kenobi preaches Humanistic New Age Theology while teaching Luke Skywalker the ways of the Force aboard the Millennium Falcon. From Obi-Wan’s sermon, we learn that “you must do what you feel is right,” “a Jedi can feel the Force flowing through him,” and as a follower you ought to “let go of your conscious self and act on instinct.” Observation is secondary, so “your eyes can deceive you; don’t trust them… Stretch out with your feelings.” The Jedi wisdom from the likes of Mace Windu and Yoda also exhort Luke to rely on his feelings.(1)
Well, enough with the Star Wars trip. In more recent years, I’ve noticed it seems increasingly acceptable to substitute “feel like” for “think” in normal speech. I work in graphic design and am no stranger to hearing phrases like, “I feel like that blue is too harsh.” Color isn’t a feeling; it’s perceived with the eyes and mind. But “I feel like” commonly precludes descriptions of many types of experiences, mainly ones more accurately perceived by sight and sound. Rooms that look cluttered “feel” cluttered. Music that sounds happy “feels” happy. About people we see who are visibly upset, we “feel like” they’re upset.
An emphasis on feeling has, I feel, been pervasive in many Christian churches as well. Alistaire Begg spoke about knowing vs. feeling in worship(2), as certain churches seem to have given themselves over to Emotionalism and Mysticism, conflating emotional high with experiencing the Holy Spirit and genuine worship. A worship leader at one such church beckoned the congregation, “Hey, how do ya’all feel this morning?” Alistaire says, “Don’t ask me how I feel. Ask me what I know… You have to get yourself under the control of the Scriptures. It is what we know, the verities of the Scriptures which then fuel our hearts and our emotions and lead us on.”
Christian author and philosophy professor J. Budziszewski (3) affirms that “the mind is an instrument for thinking, not for feeling” and that “our modern writers are…confused about the difference between feeling and reasoning…” He suggests a proper relationship and balance between the two: “Am I suggesting that feelings and intuitions are irrelevant to thinking, that they should be ignored? No, they should be taken seriously. To ignore human feelings is as dangerous as to have no human feelings. The right way is to recognize them as part of the data with which any account of human matters will have to reckon. The wrong way is to treat them as though our feelings about a subject proved anything about it all by themselves.”
We have feelings and emotions because God does. Ours is a God of reason (Isaiah 1:18) but also emotion. He loves (John 3:16), hates (Psalm 11:5), has compassion (Gen. 19:16), grieves (Gen. 6:6), and rejoices (Isaiah 62:5).(4) Experiences are meant to be multi-faceted. The fullest experiences involve not only reasoned thinking but feeling emotions. The only reason to abandon reason or emotion is when we’ve lost control of one of them—and then we ought to seek to regain it. Sin can affect both reason and emotion. Obviously, both have value and are needed to assess the world properly, and to worship God in Spirit and in truth.
Our mouths can’t help but speak from our deepest convictions (Matt. 12:34, Luke 6:45). If it comes naturally to say that “I feel like we are drifting toward a more prevalent Cosmic Humanism”, could that actually be true? Maybe that’s an overreaction; language is subject to trends and people often use terms without thinking about the implications, but that in itself may be a sign that we aren’t thinking enough. Feel and think as creatures that were made to use one to keep the other in check.
(Related post: Putting Anxiety in its Place)
1) The Jedi Q, by DT Strain, http://dtstrainphilosophy.blogspot.com/2006/01/jedi-q.html
2) Wretched Radio: Alistaire Begg isn’t nuts about some contemporary worship music, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJhCWrdckpc&sns=em
3) Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law by J. Budziszewski, page 220.
4) Does God Have Emotions? by Matt Slick, http://carm.org/does-god-have-emotions