I told a friend I’d write on this a few days ago and I haven’t really got to do anything in-depth in pondering the question, but I like to write like this at times. It means that you get to journey along with me on my thought process and not just see my ideas but how I got there.
What I’m wanting to speak about is feelings in the Christian life. These seem to have a high place to many people and I would say, I sadly put them on a level that they should not be put on. Have we abandoned the Christian approach of reason though and decided to let feelings be the guide?
Why would we abandon reason though? It could be because the church dropped the intellectual foreground in the late 1800’s due to such events as liberalism coming in from Germany and the rise of the evolutionary theory. The church decided to make Jesus be the Jesus of faith then and who cares about the evidence? Naturally, not all did this, but anti-intellectualism began creeping in.
If you can’t trust your reason, where can you go? Only one place is left. Feelings. Today, we have a church culture that bases much on feelings. I want to scream every time I’m in the church and hear a preacher talk about how he wants someone in the church to do as they feel led. Why do we have committees to handle things if we really believe that God will do it all?
That is where the danger lies. Too often, we believe we can determine truth by our feelings, especially such things as “God’s will.” There needs to be a stronger guide. For one thing, we are great deceivers and most especially, great deceivers of ourselves. How many times have we worried about something and felt something about it and it turns out later we were entirely wrong?
Feelings can tell you about your perspective on something. They cannot tell you about the true perspective. If I am feeling depressed, then I am depressed. That does not mean I have an objective reason to be depressed. I could even be happy, but I would have no true basis for that happiness.
Imagine doing this with forgiveness and the love of God though? Actually, you don’t have to. Many of us probably do. Does God’s love for us ever change? I see no reason to think so. Yet how many of us think that at times, God doesn’t love us because we don’t feel it? Do we not often feel guilt for the past even though God has forgiven us? I wonder what that says of our view of God’s forgiveness if we keep asking him to forgive us of what he’s already forgiven us of. I wonder how that alters our view of his forgiveness.
Now what about God’s will? God’s will is to conform you to the likeness of Christ. That’s not a matter of feelings but of truth. Your feelings can tell you what you desire though and how you’re going on that path. I am in apologetics, for instance, because I have felt a strong desire and joy to do so since starting and I don’t see any reason for me not to be in such a field.
Are my feelings an accurate measure of if I’m in God’s will or not? No. In fact, our feelings can often control our reason when they take the forefront. The tail usually wags the dog. To let you in in my world, it starts with some negative feeling that must be analyzed and then that analysis produces “reasons” and then those “findings” are shown to be truths to lead on to other truths. Nothing in the external world has changed though. Just me. That should be enough to show how flimsy the approach is.
By the way, I am not in condemnation of good feelings. You can have good feelings in the worship of God. However, good feelings are not a go ahead from God nor are bad feelings a stay back. In fact, our emotions should not control our theology. Because we feel really good about something does not mean that it is right or good.
This should also tell us to avoid trumping one another with spirituality. When we meet a brother or sister in Christ we disagree with, we should not answer their arguments by pointing to our spiritual life or use statements like “Ask the Holy Spirit to tell you.” We should answer their arguments with arguments. We could be wrong in our beliefs, but the Holy Spirit is not to be used as a trump card.
Also, we need to learn about joy and happiness. I believe you can have these and have sorrow at the same time. I am sure of it because this has happened to me before. It is an experience I will not forget. We don’t always have to feel happy though to have true joy in our lives.
However, if we return to reason in the forefront, that means something else. More time in study and learning the truth, especially the Scriptures.
Now there’s a good place to find God’s will anyway.