Why Can’t Protestants Be More Protestant?

Are we really people who take the Bible as our authority? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many times as a devout Protestant, I hear my fellow Protestants speaking in ways that trouble me. We often talk so much about what the Bible says to us and how it is our final authority in faith and practice. By the way, let’s make that clear, the Bible is not our only authority, but it is the one such that if anything contradicts Scripture, it is false, and any good Orthodox and Catholic would say the same thing. None of us want to believe anything that contradicts Scripture. Whether anyone does is another debate.

Yet when I get together with my fellow Protestants, I wonder about this. Often times, I hear talk about doing what you feel like God is leading you to do. It’s as if God is sitting up in Heaven trying to get your attention by giving you feelings in your heart. Question. Where in Scripture do you see anything like this described? Where do we see anyone being told to follow their feelings? If anything, we know too often that listening to your heart leads to trouble. As Jeremiah tells us, it’s deceptive above all.

Not only that, we would also need a guide as to which feelings are from God and which are not. I remember hearing Derwin Gray talking about talking to a Mormon once who said he knew God was speaking to him when he got goose bumps. Gray said, “If that’s the case, then when I’m watching Rocky 3, the Holy Spirit must be all over me.” It’s humorous, but you get the point. I also realize that we are not Mormons, but we do know Mormons are a fine example of what happens when you listen to strong feelings.

By the way, none of this means that I am opposed to feelings. It means that I am saying feelings must be guided by Scripture and if Scripture doesn’t tell us to listen to our emotions and feelings as cues from God, then we should not do so. Many people look at guilt as such a judgment from God. Guilt can always be a good reason to self-examine, but we all know people who feel guilty for things when they have done no wrong, and we know people who have done wrong and feel no guilt. It’s not reliable.

You may feel like God doesn’t love you. That can tell you that there’s an emotional problem to work out for you, but that says nothing about God. God’s love for you is not dependent on your feelings. If you think it is, then your feelings are greater than God. I have said before if we could ever for the briefest moment of time grasp how much God truly loves us, we would never live our lives the same way. Maybe the reason we don’t have that made fully manifest here is because honestly, in our sinful natures, we cannot handle that.

What would happen if we all took the promises of Scripture more seriously? I realize that my Catholic and Orthodox friends add tradition to the list of something else infallible, but I know they would agree wholeheartedly with this. If we took Scripture more seriously, all of us, we would all be better off. That book contains some pretty incredible promises for all of us. We spend so much time looking at ourselves often that we overlook what Scripture says about the matter.

Let’s consider one example. I am a sensitive guy in many ways when it comes to the fear that I have committed some sin. Of course, we all do, but I know this is one area I am very neurotic in. Now there is no doubt we need to reflect on the gravity of sin, but it would be absolutely awful to see the gravity of sin and then also to miss the greatness of the grace and forgiveness given to each of us. That could actually be a sin in itself. It has a God who would rather judge us than to forgive and love us. (And even if He doesn’t forgive us, He still loves us.)

Maybe you’re like me and your past isn’t filled with heinous sins. Sometimes, we can hear testimonies of people who came from a sordid past and they sound so glorious in a way because they know what they are forgiven for very well. If you don’t have that, it’s hard to experience it the same way. It might seem easy for Paul to write about seeing as he was guilty of murdering Christians, or Peter since He denied the Lord three times, but what about someone like the disciple whom Jesus loved? Are there not plenty of people who are seen as righteous regularly in the Bible and yet celebrate their salvation and thus their forgiveness. We have a hymn in the church about grace that is greater than all our sin. Why do we often act like sin is greater than grace?

After all, any one sin can separate you from God forever. God does not have to forgive you. He doesn’t even have to provide a way of forgiveness. He could have let us all just go to Hell and He would have been justified in doing so. He owed us nothing. That He gave us even an offer is a sign of His grace. If anything, it should tell us God is more serious about our need for forgiveness than we are.

Consider then if you’re a Christian whatever you have done, you have been spared of that. Regardless of if you hold to some form of eternal conscious torment or to annihilationism, you have been spared. Even if you hold to Universalism, you can say that God did not have to do that. We are the ones who have done wrong against God and rejected Him and spat in His face and yet He offers us forgiveness and even still wants to be with us despite the wrongs that we have done against Him, and keep in mind we are to show that love to others as well.

It is something I need to think about as well. I think for instance if an employer wants to do a background check on me, go ahead. They won’t find anything. That’s true. Before the law, I’m a quite clean individual. God help me though if I had to give an answer to Him for any background check. Every careless word and deed and even intention of my heart examined? Instead, forgiveness is given for all of that.

That’s a promise we all have.

Protestants. Our feelings will often lead us astray. We don’t have any guarantee that God is speaking through feelings, dreams, circumstances, etc., but we do know He has spoken in Jesus and in Scripture. Let’s always treat those as our final authorities. There’s a lot of awesome truths in there that we still need to think about.

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

Autism Awareness: Emotions

How do we handle emotions? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s really difficult on the spectrum to make sense of emotions. When I am debating with an atheist who tells me I am a Christian for emotional reasons, I know not to take them seriously. If anything, when I get really emotional, that is when I am most often wrestling with emotional doubt.

Emotions are difficult for someone like me to understand. I wonder what I am supposed to feel in such and such a circumstance. I have heard also that if there is any emotion that a man can really understand and most often experiences, it’s anger. I do not consider myself an outsider on this.

I think it’s also common for men on the spectrum. In the movie Adam, when the main character, an aspie, finds out that he has been tricked by the girl he is dating, he explodes in a barrage of anger and hostility. I have been told that as a small child, if my Mom moved one of my matchbox cars during the night, I would be angry until things were put back.

I suspect this might be because we on the spectrum tend to live in a world of order. We want things to be as close to orderly as possible and fit into their place. When something goes against that, we have a hard time processing it. This is one reason small talk irritates me so much. When you call and engage in small talk, that means that time we could be spending on dealing with what we are meant to dealt with is wasted going through this routine behavior.

Consider this especially with when I have to call a place of business for technical service and have to hear the script that they read. I’m sitting there telling them I know all of this already and could quote it to me. Can we please just move on and deal with the problem?

Sometimes however, we can be very unemotional. This is especially important in a religious context. If you are trying to get someone on the spectrum to the point of feeling in religious discussion, then you could be wasting your time.

This is also why I struggle when I hear people telling me when I am struggling with something to do what you feel like God is leading you to do or what God is telling you. First off, I don’t see that kind of language in Scripture. Second, how can anyone tell what feelings come from God and what feelings don’t?

I have seen this go on at many churches. I have heard Protestant Churches talk about what God has done in their fundraising drives and I have seen an Orthodox Church do the same. I always wonder “How do you know God is behind this?” Suppose the fundraising drive didn’t work out well. Would that mean God was against you? I don’t think this is really a denominational thing. I think it’s more of an American thing.

When I am talking with someone about something, it’s really hard to see something from their perspective. I can know someone is in a lot of pain, and yet feeling it is extremely difficult for me. If you come to me for a counseling situation and expect me to resonate with your feelings, you’ll likely be disappointed. I will stick to talking about the problem at hand and what to do about it.

I even remember in the past a friend told me that they thought the world of me, but if they had a problem, Allie was better at helping them with it because of her better listening skills. I wouldn’t dispute that. I don’t claim to be a therapist. It doesn’t mean I can’t do it, but it does mean that I will not be what you expect.

Now you might be specifically wondering about love. Is an Aspie capable of love? I think unless something comes up, I will tackle that tomorrow.

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

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

 

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

Book Plunge: Emotional Intelligence

What do I think of Daniel Goleman’s book published by Bantam Books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I love the life of the mind. That’s no big secret. Yet due to recent situations, a friend of mine, who also loves the life of the mind, recommended that I read this book. I really am thankful that I did because it did open me up to a newer way of looking at the world. As a Christian, it’s easy to really focus on the intellectual, especially in the apologetics field, but we are creatures who are meant to have emotions as well. In fact, if we do not have emotions, then there is something wrong with us. The reality is that many of us, especially men, tend to downplay this side of us and act like it’s foreign.

Goleman’s research shows that understanding our emotions could be even more important than IQ. Do I think he overstates his case sometimes? Yes. Do I think that there can be a tendency when we get here to do absolutely nothing to not offend anyone? Yes. Does that mean that there is not a case to be made? Not at all. Anyone would be greatly helped by reading the stories about how our emotions work and seeing what the latest evidence is on their study. There is something here that can apply to everyone in every walk of their life, including how they live in their day to day relationships.

Do we have reason to be concerned about marriage? Then you could heed the advice given. Do you have difficulty on the job? Then pay attention. Do you have children that are being bullied or even worse, being bullies themselves? Take note of what is said. A lot of difficulty could be due to unruly emotions and unfortunately as many of us know, it’s quite easy for the emotions to hijack our reason and make us suddenly do things that we would not do. It is at those times that we will look back later on and say “What came over me then that I did what I did?” What happened was an emotional hijacking.

From a pastoral perspective, much of this could be useful in counseling as well. Goleman’s research will show more on how the brain reacts to such situations as fear and worry. He offers advice on how to deal with each of these. Some situations he gives are pretty extreme and yet the principles worked. Consider Elementary school students who made a game called Purdy after the last name of someone who fired shots at their school. In the game sometimes, the kids could defeat Purdy before he got off a shot. This actually turned out to be a coping mechanism that gave the children control.

Overall, while not everything will be agreed with here, there is a clarion call to pay attention to the role emotions have. Having all the IQ in the world won’t be as effective for you if your emotions are constantly holding your reason hostage. Learning to take control of your emotions and how to properly focus and use them can be helpful in every are of your life.

In Christ,
Nick Peters