Feeling vs. Being

Where is our focus in society today? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have been pondering lately and this is still open-ended, as all our ponderings should be, about where the focus is in our society and many of the connections come across various lines of thought. For example, this past Saturday I had Mormons come and visit me. If you have ever dialogued with them, you know where they point to every time. It is an experience. It is the burning in the bosom.

I am also going through a book called Irreparable Damage written from a secular perspective on teenage girls coming out as transgender. Part of the work today is affirmation therapy where it looks like if a patient claims to be transgender, well, they are, and it’s best to affirm their attitude and if the parents don’t the child could kill themselves. It is not about why they feel this way or if they should. The inner attitude is given precedence.

While driving, I am also going through Peggy Orenstein’s book on CD, Girls and Sex. Last night, I heard her talk about how girls are having operations done on their genitals while they are teenagers merely for the sake of appearance. These operations do not improve sexual pleasure or function and can actually impede it. Still, these girls are doing this just to make sure they don’t gross a boy out in a possible sexual encounter. As an aside, if you are a parent of girls, either teenage or on their way, you really need to read this book and see what’s coming.

All of these have a common theme and it runs throughout our society. We live in a world where we talk so much about how we feel and talk very little about how we are. Not only that, we are responsible for how everyone else outside of us feels. This does not mean we cause unnecessary pain, but the only person we are in control of us is ourselves. If you feel offended and hurt by what I say or do, it could be I’m a jerk, but it could also be that you need to work on how you receive information and process it.

We don’t often ask what kind of character we are producing. Do we feel good about ourselves, as per the self-esteem movement? That is what is most important to people today. What should be of utmost importance is what kind of character we are producing. Are we becoming good and virtuous people?

After all, there are many times where we should not feel good. I think of my friend David Wood. When his mother died, he was able to go out to a diner and hang out with his friends like normal. Why? Not because he’s heartless, but because he is actually a sociopath and feels no sadness when someone dies.

Sometimes, we may think that is a good position to be in, but would we really want that always? If your loved one died, would you not want to be able to feel the sorrow and mourn it. Sometimes, we want to treat the sorrow as if it is the problem when sorrow can be healthy at times. If you are a normal person and you feel nothing when a loved one dies, that is a cause of concern.

Suppose you are an alcoholic. One of the most loving things someone can do is to not affirm you in your alcoholism. You might need someone to get in your face and tell you you have a problem and are destroying your life unless you get some help. If that’s what it takes to wake you up, that’s what it takes.

This is also true in evangelism. I know some people who didn’t become Christians until someone had the guts to get in their face and tell them they were a sinner. If you want to find gentle Jesus, meek and mild, do not go to the New Testament. He’s not there. This is the Jesus who referred to His own chief apostle as Satan at one point and who called the Pharisees sons of Hell. He was gentle on those who recognized their lack, but on others, He was highly confrontational.

Let’s also talk about the girls having operations done. Too often we are discussing how girls feel about their bodies. Boys can think this way too, but it is largely girls. Very ltitle time is discussed asking what they do with their bodies. Are they using their bodies in a way that is proper to the nature of the body?

For those of us who are Christians, we would contend that the modern sexual ethic is a war against reality. It is our prediction that the further we go down this road, the more chaos will break apart in society. One can only bump against reality for so long before reality will bump back and reality won’t care if it hurts us or not.

Instead of starting with how we feel per se, we should start with how we are. What are we being? What are we doing? A negative feeling could be a bad way of thinking we need to drop, or it could be an indication that we are doing something that is wrong.

If we hold to objective morality in any sense and to objective goodness, there is a right and a wrong to be done. There is a real good to be sought and real evil to be avoided. (Note that I singularized the good and generalized the evil. There’s a reason for that.) If none of those are true, then let’s eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. If they are true, then we could feel great about ourselves and be on the path to destruction.

Think about Brave New World. In this society, everyone was feeling good about themselves and it was a pleasure-oriented society, but it was a nightmare as well. The people didn’t know it and were slaves to their passions and their science both. This is not to say passions and science are bad things, but they are not meant to control us either.

There is no easy solution to this as our society is very far gone in this measure. For those of us who are Christians, it is a return to character and virtue that will most help us out here, working on ourselves and on our children especially. It will also be an open pursuit of virtue as well. We will need to seek to be holy, especially since our own book tells us in Hebrews 12 that without holiness no one will see the Lord. If we want to see Him, we have to be holy.

Again, this is open-ended and with all my posts, I hope this leads to discussion all the more. I look forward to your thoughts.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Are People Inherently Good?

Are we inherently good? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I want to say at the outset that much of my thinking on this is influenced by Clay Jones’s book¬†Why Does God Allow Evil? I would like to say the thinking was all mine, but it was not. I am near the end of Jones’s book and I do hope to review it when the time comes.

Saturday while I was out driving I heard the end of a radio talk show asking if people are good or evil inherently. I tried to call in and answer, but they never got around to me. Since I didn’t get to say what I think on the air, why not say it here?

After the flood, we are told that humans have their every inclination to evil. We all know that a child has to be trained to be good. Being evil is something that seems to come naturally to us. Why do we not often notice this? It is because we live in a culture that has been so Christianized that we no longer consider how radical the Christian ethic was at its time. Today, we look at slavery as something that is just obviously wrong. Go back to the first century Roman Empire and try to convince your average citizen of that. Good luck.

One point Jones brings out is about genocide. Who are the people who do genocide? We would normally think of these people, probably from watching movies and TV shows, as the classical villains who do nothing but think about evil all day long and delight in death and destruction. Not really. Many of the people who ran the concentration camps of the holocaust would be people who would go home and be excellent parents and spouses and be really kind to their neighbors. So what kind of people were they ultimately?

People like you and me.

Really. There is not a great gap separating people capable of genocide. This was found out even further by the Milgram experiment. At the instruction of an authority figure, ordinary people would do actions that could have in other circumstances led to the killing of an innocent human being. You can read about that here.

If you at this point in fact start to think that you are better than the person committing genocide or the person who gives the lethal voltage in the Milgram experiment, congratulations. You have already taken the first step in becoming that person who is committing genocide and capable of giving lethal voltage. You have already assumed that you are incapable of falling like that.

Consider the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. We look at it and see the problem of the Pharisee saying that he is not like the tax collector. What’s the problem then? We go and say “God. I thank you that I am not like that Pharisee.” Oh, we might not explicitly say that, but that is a thought that can come into our minds. Most of us, as much as we don’t want to admit it, are more like the Pharisee than the tax collector.

In the video game¬†Earthbound, at one point the party of heroes goes through a cave and the main character realizes his thoughts are being broadcast on a wall in written form for all to see. Most of us would want to flee out of such a cave as quickly as possible. Most of us I suspect know about the evil inside of us and the thoughts that come through our heads where we wonder “Where did that come from?”

In fact, our society seems to have lost the idea of virtue. I have been considering lately how so many books and such deal with feelings people have, and in a sense, that needs to be dealt with, but very rarely do we deal with the character of a person that can lead to those feelings. The problem we often have is not fixing ourselves, as in our character flaws and such, but fixing how we feel about ourselves.

So where do I come down? People can do good, but the example given on the show was would you pick up a $20 bill for someone if you saw them drop it and they didn’t notice? The sad reality is someone like Hitler might just do that and then go back and gas thousands of Jews and see no wrong in it.

When you see someone doing evil, realize that if it weren’t for the grace of God, you could be that person. This is what makes forgiveness such a key issue. We forgive because God has forgiven us and that could just as easily be us. We need to show mercy because were it not for grace, we could be that person. We need to be desiring that that person grow in character and virtue instead of being where they are.

This should result in humility in all of us. We are all capable of great evil and we must all watch ourselves and be building ourselves up to be the persons that we need to be so we don’t become those people who do evil. Never once do we need to say that we are above a certain sin. If we think that, we are far more prone to fall into it.

And of course then, we must all rely on Christ more and more. The cross is the demonstration of His love for us and to that we must return. At the foot of the cross, we all realize we’re fallen and evil.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Feeling And Thinking

Has our society said two things are identical that are not? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, a long discussion took place on my Facebook page when I said that a person should act loving towards their spouse even if they don’t feel love. The discussion centered around if love was a feeling or not. I contend that it is not. It may result in feelings that we call the feeling of love, but it itself is not a feeling. It is an action and it is a commitment.

I think there’s a great problem in our society today that we have equated feeling with thinking. You’ll watch a program on the news with some commentators and you’ll hear about the latest political event and the host will ask a guest “How do you feel about that?” That could be one thing. That could matter at one point. What matters most is what a person thinks. In fact, if you do counseling, you realize this is a tremendously important distinction. It’s alright to ask how someone feels when something is said, but then you have to ask what the truth really is.

This isn’t to knock feelings entirely. Feelings are very helpful. They alert us to certain realities and can help train our thinking. A feeling of fear can help us think carefully in a dangerous situation. Unfortunately, fallen that we are, it can also take over for us. A feeling of love can motivate a man to love his wife, but a feeling of lust can motivate a man to rape a woman.

Our culture has become one where the feelings are central. We’ve heard the saying “If it feels right, do it.” Just yesterday I blogged about Michael Shermer at a debate and how he said that if we want to see if an action is right or wrong, we ask how it feels to the recipient. Now of course, that is important information, but that doesn’t settle the case.

If it did, then it’s wrong for a girl to ever say no to a guy for a date because, hey, that doesn’t feel good. I could say as a non-profit that it doesn’t feel good to not get donations, therefore anyone who refuses to donate to Deeper Waters is in the wrong, but that would be a terrible argument. A man could say it doesn’t feel good to be laid off from his job, therefore laying someone off is never justified. Of course, there could be cases where it is unjustified, but you don’t know by looking at the feeling.

One of the big problems with feelings is that they come and go. You don’t have a feeling that lasts forever. Even the really really good feelings fade after awhile. People with addictions know this. You meet your addiction and you get your positive feeling and it’s really good, but then you go right back to it eventually. Often times, it takes more and more to satisfy that urge. An alcoholic needs to drink more. Someone with food addictions needs to eat more. Someone with a porn problem needs more and more variety and deeper and deeper fulfillments.

Sometimes, this can be used for good. A couple can have really euphoric feelings over their sexual relationship in marriage, and that drives them to want more of each other. (By the way ladies, most men will not have a law of diminishing returns here either. We instead appreciate you even more.) I find that in my Christian walk, I need even more and more deeper truths about Christianity and that drives me to learn and study more and more. What we have to ask with each desire is “Am I desiring a thing that is really good?” and then “Am I desiring it in the right way?” and finally “Am I desiring it in the right proportion?”

If your thinking is based on your feelings, then you will live in a responsive mode all the time and not a proactive mode. You will also live a very me-centered lifestyle. Everything is about you and what you feel. Again, this isn’t to say that sometimes what a person feels isn’t important, but it isn’t everything. We always say it’s wrong to hurt someone’s feelings. I’d say it’s wrong to do it needlessly. In fact, sometimes hurting someone’s feelings can be the loving thing to do if you have to tell them a hard truth.

We live in a society now that feels more than it thinks. Hopefully we can get a turn around. We can get to a society I hope that will seek once again the good, the true, and the beautiful, and not be caught up with itself.

In Christ,
Nick Peters