What is the problem being discussed today? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
Yesterday, I wrote about intellectual doubt. Emotional doubt is a different animal, but one that can be closely related. Emotional doubt usually likes to hide behind intellectual doubt. No one really likes to admit that they are an emotional doubter. Thus, the presence of an intellectual question does not preclude emotional doubt. I would like to spend some of this series looking at various objections raised by emotional doubters and ideas on how to handle them, but first, we must discuss what the problem is.
I used the example of phobias yesterday. A phobia takes a fear that has a slight bit of truth to it and magnifies it out of proportion. The effect does not fit in with the cause well at all. Is it possible that the plane could crash. Yes, it is, but statistically you are safer in the air even more than when you are driving, and most people don’t panic as much about driving as they do about flying.
Emotional doubt works the same way and can come about for all manner of reasons. It could be because one is sick with something and their thinking is not as sound. It could be one is in a personal crisis in their life and in an unbalanced state is examining truth claims. It could be one just hasn’t got sufficient sleep or has an insufficient diet. It could be hurt feelings from an event or comment of someone else.
A way you can usually recognize these is that they get presented with a solid intellectual answer and then ask a “But what if?” You can answer that and you’ll get a “But what if?” The chain of “What ifs” never dies. There is no reason that it should. This kind of person wants to have absolute 100% certainty on everything that they believe.
This doesn’t just have to be about the truth of Christianity. One can be absolutely sure that Jesus rose from the dead and still be unsure about one’s relationship to Him. “Maybe when I prayed the prayer to accept Christ, I didn’t say the right thing.” Fortunately for many Christians, they can take comfort in that doubt about salvation is extremely common. This also doesn’t depend on if you’re a Calvinist or Arminian. People on both sides of that fence can doubt.
Thus, as we look at emotional doubt, we will not be looking at answers for questions so much as what is causing the questions. What is the emotional root that needs to be plucked in order for the person to be able to access the question on their own? Also, none of us have perfected these techniques as each person is prone to emotional difficulties from time to time. I personally still have to practice the techniques that I am going to be recommending to you. As the old adage goes, those who can’t do, teach, and those who can’t teach, teach gym.
Let’s hope it’s not entirely like that. With the techniques I am giving, the problem is not going to be them themselves, but our inability to follow through on them. When we learn to practice good control of our emotions, we will find ourselves better able to reason.
One final note. None of this should be seen as anti-emotional. Emotions are good, but they are to be in a balance. Too often, it is the cart that is pulling the horse.