Friday, June 5, 2009

Why Did God Give Us Feelings?

This question isn't on quite an apologetic topic, but still is something that I'd like input on. What is the role of emotions in Christian thinking? That is, why did God give them to us? What use are they?

Some thoughts on the matter:I've already heard that emotions are a very hard thing to define, much less talk about(from a psychology viewpoint, anyway), but what I have heard indicates that they are evaluative. This means that our senses collect raw data, the mind interprets it into something we can understand, and then, as far as I can tell, emotions place value on it in some way(thus our instinctive responses to things).If this is true, then it would seem to me that we feel things in such a way as to help us place value in proper places and on proper things. This also leads me to think that when our emotions are out of whack, blown out of proportion, or simply aren't there(spock-style), then something is internally wrong with our value system. It seems that in this sense they can help us understand what's wrong with ourselves a little bit better.If this is all at least somewhat true, then I would add a little bit to the question: Is it a problem how we treat emotion in church today? When we sing songs that make us feel very 'worshipful', or when days like good friday come around and we try to feel very sad but grateful, are emotions serving their proper purpose? These are, of course, proper responses to their respective situations, but I wonder if people skip the step of understanding and repairing their value systems, and simply manipulate emotions.

4 comments:

Daniel Kim said...

I think you are approaching this issue in the right way when you think of emotions as evaluative. But just like how our minds can also be broken (so that we can't think clearly), our emotions can also be broken so that we can't feel correctly or properly.

Although your emotional response can be a window to your soul and your value system, it can also be that your emotional world is simply broken overall. So you simply don't feel much of anything, and the overall sense is just this underwhelming sense of detachment from life. In that case, I am not sure if we can really determine our value systems from our emotions. What such a person needs is healing.. Because the effect of that kind of spock-like emotionlessness is quite negative -- which is detachment from life, and you will find it difficult to relate to people and feel things like empathy, joy or sorrow.

Regarding the "usage" of emotions in church services, etc.. I agree that people can skip the understanding step and just go for the emotions. And people do. But that is the responsibility of the individuals to make the emotional connection to a particular content. When the church preaches a message, demonstrates the cross and the meaning of the cross, and plays music that accompanies all of that, the individual sitting in the congregation should be held responsible to connect his emotions to the content. Just because there are individuals who don't care about the content but just go for the emotions, that does not mean that the church should not try to encourage a proper emotional response to an appropriate degree. Of course, if a church just goes for the emotions without providing any content, then it would be problematic. But I would think that individuals who skip the understanding part would eventually be revealed, because emotions without understanding are short-lived.

Hope that helps a bit.

Daniel Kim said...

Any other comments welcomed.

dan said...

I have just recently found a message Ravi Zacharias gave on this here(though a little more focused on why we sometimes feel despair despite our faith). What I found most enlightening was David's approach to this whole emotion subject, and his clear standpoint of voicing it all to God. I would state some conclusions here, but to me there seems to be so many factors, and emotions such a widely raging topic. I can agree with the fact that a simple 'value system' model doesn't explain all that much, given how many ways our faculties can be broken. Other than that I'm not sure where to go with it for now.

Jennifer Dong said...

The God of the Bible has a lot of feelings too, and he is very transparent with his emotions. And the Bible does says that Mankind was created in his image, so we were created to have God's heart and his feelings as well. God probably gave us feelings so we could share in his feelings and relate with him.