Does God Have Emotions?

What does it mean when we hear about emotions of God in the Bible? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, my Princess wrote a blog post about a book she’s reading. She said in it that it’s my view that God doesn’t have emotions, which is true. I realize that for a lot of people, this view is something new to them. It just seems pretty obvious. We hear in the Bible several times about the anger of God and the love of God and such. Am I saying that God doesn’t love us if I say this? I figured I’d write something to let everyone know what my view is.┬áThis is not meant to be an attack on my own wife. I disagree with her view, but it doesn’t change my great love for her and I want it to be that if she needs to, she can always point to something I have written on the topic.

She is indeed correct that it is my view that Jesus did have emotions, but that is because Jesus is human. God in His essence is not human. While it is true we are in His image, I take that to mean that we are the ones who are meant to represent Him on this Earth since He’s not physically present. To be in His image does not mean that if we have something, God has it.

So then the question now comes up to if I deny that God loves us. Absolutely not. God loves us with a perfect love. The problem is we take love to be an emotion. It is not. Love is an attitude and an action. We can act loving and have an attitude of love even if our feelings are telling us otherwise. A lot of mothers might not feel very loving when their infant cries at 3 in the morning and they have a busy day ahead of them, but that mother will get up and do the right thing if she loves her child.

We could go so far as to say one of the signs of true love is when you act wrongly even if the opposite feelings are there at the time. I have had some say that if you do not feel it when you act loving, then you are being disingenuous. I disagree entirely. It is always easy to act a certain way if you feel it. It is much more virtuous to act contrary to wrong feelings.

Part of the notion of emotions is that they are built on just that, motion. They are subject to change. We know from Scripture that God doesn’t change. He is entirely the same. I would also say that if we have a God who changes, then we have a problem.

Do we want to serve a God that we can emotionally blackmail? Do we want one that will do things for us because it will leave Him feeling good? (Note that this puts God on the timeline with us. God is then undergoing change from being sad to being happy to being angry, etc.) It also seems like a pretty weak God if God can be in the joy of the blessed Trinity Himself and yet somehow, that sin that I do is enough to leave Him brokenhearted. Do I have more power over God than God does?

What about eternity? Is God really going to be eternally angry because of sinners? Don’t think that if you take the position of annihilationism where God destroys the wicked in Hell that you’ve avoided this. God will still have eternal memory of these sins. He can’t block them out. He can’t not know them. That’s part of being omniscient.

You cannot change God one bit by any of your actions. You could lead the most holy life of all and it would not change God one iota. You could lead the most wicked life of all and it would not change God one iota.

That is very good news.

Why is that? Because it means nothing can change God’s true love for you which is not rooted in feelings, but is rooted in the fact that His very nature is love and that nature is unchanging. He cannot not love you. Don’t dare think that my view of God means that God does not have a great love for us. Absolutely not! Passages like 1 John 3:1 are certainly true that God wants to lavish His love on us.

God loves all that is good and we are good because we are in His image. It is our behavior that is not loved. No. God does not love all the things that we do. He sure loves us. You cannot change Him. You cannot blackmail Him. You cannot pull His heartstrings. He will do the right thing by you regardless.

He also loves you too much to leave you as you are and this is where we hit further difficulties. We think love often means sentiment. It doesn’t. Sometimes, love is tough. This is the hard part of love. Picture your loved one who is an alcoholic crying out for a drink. It will often pull at your emotional heartstrings, but the loving thing to do is to NOT give him a drink.

God’s love is a love that wants to shape us into being who He made us to be. We are too often resistant to the ways of the Potter and we, in turn, call His love into question. If love is rooted in Him though, then it will not change. This also tells us that our love is not based on what we do. We do not earn love. Love is given freely.

This has ramifications for how we live as well. I say this as a man married for what will be six and a half years tomorrow. I am also thinking of a friend who was married just last month. We are both learning still what it means and how much marriage has to change our sinful attitudes. It is tempting to go and do what you want every time and focus on your wants and desires when really, you have to learn to focus on that of your spouse. How will your desires be met? Well if your spouse has the same focus, they will be.

There will be plenty of times in marriage where you do not feel love for your spouse or could even feel angry. What do you do? You love anyway. You do the right thing. Doing the right thing does not depend on your feelings. It will not be a good defense before the throne of God to say “I knew the right thing to do, but I just didn’t feel like it.”

God does not feel love towards me, and that is a good thing, because His love is deeper than a feeling and rooted in that which is unchanging. I cannot change God in that way, which means everything He does for me is genuine. I certainly do have emotions here and I am to get them to be tempered so that they fit the situations of my life properly.

In Christ,
Nick Peters