Feeling Is Not Thinking

Does our little use of wordage make a difference? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Years ago, I heard N.T. Wright on Unbelievable and I don’t remember the show or the context, but I remember very much what he said. I am sure Justin Brierley, the host, had asked him how he feels about a certain topic. Wright responded that it needs to be asked how he thinks because the confusing of thinking and feeling is one of the great problems of Western culture.

I think he’s quite right and if you watch, you will be amazed how often this happens. One time it really struck me as I began to start noticing it was back in college. In the lobby area once where the students hung out, someone had on the TV some sports talk show. One person at the newsdesk said to another about a recent event in sports, “How do you feel about that?”

I used to have this happen with Jehovah’s Witnesses when we lived in Knoxville. They would come and visit us and then do something like read a passage of Scripture and say to me “How do you feel about that?” I would usually say something like, “Happy.” “Okay.” “Good.” Then I would say, “I think what you really want to know is what I think about it.”

What is most concerning about this is that we take our feelings then to be revealers of thoughts just as much as our thinking is. Our feelings can only tell us about our emotional response to such things. It might be an appropriate or inappropriate response and we should think about what our emotions are telling us, but they’re meant to tell us about ourselves. Your emotions cannot tell you about another human being or about God.

We spend so much time emphasizing our feelings that we don’t really think. It’s understandable that sometimes we act on emotional responses immediately, though it should be a goal to try to avoid this. If we just listen to our emotions over and over though, we become purely reactional beings and will always be reactional beings.

If we take it too far, we will start to often think our emotions are telling us the truth about God. That can lead to us thinking God is angry with us or doesn’t love us or anything like that. Now I think God cannot not love us and He cannot be angry with us in the way we take anger to be. When we put our emotions at that level, we put them at the center of the universe and more than that, we put ourselves there as well.

I recommend today you watch the people around you and watch the people on the news or anywhere you see people talking. Watch and see how often thinking and feeling are confused. Once you start seeing it, it’s hard to unsee it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Does It Mean To Love?

When we say we love something or someone, what do we mean? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Like God, love is one of the most meaningless words in the universe.

Wait. Does that sound problematic to some of you? Do I sound like a nihilist? Well, on both counts, I believe both of them.

Is it because neither are real? Absolutely not. Love is real and God is real. The problem with these words is usually they’re said devoid of content. Ask someone if they believe in God. Whatever the answer, you always have to ask what they mean by that. Someone in a pantheistic religion means something far different by that than a devout Christian in the West does.

And what about love? I can tell you numerous things and people that I love. God. My wife. My family. Friends. Gaming. My cat. Reading. Good debate. All of these are things or persons that I love. The problem is I can’t give love the same meaning across the board entirely.

I love my God, but that has to be a far greater love than anything else on the list. I also love my wife, but when I say I love the rest of my family, there are certainly ways that I love my wife that I will never love my family. This is so strong that if anyone in my family or even extended family with marriage tried to love my wife the same way, we would be moving away from them entirely and possibly having a lot of counseling.

Generally, when it comes to persons, I think the idea of love also means that we seek what is genuinely good for the other for the sake of the other. We won’t do that perfectly in the sense that we can have a false idea of what is good for the other, though to be fair, our intentions are good.

But what role do our feelings play in this? Some people have this idea that if you love someone, you should always feel a certain way towards them. You won’t. Sometimes, you might feel the opposite. There are mornings I have got up and I have been upset about how my life is going and I have not felt love for God in me. What of it? That means that day I have no responsibility to walk a Christian life? Not at all. God is my king, and when you have a king, it doesn’t matter if you feel like serving Him or not.

I have a wife also, and there are many times that I can be upset with her about something. In every marriage, there is some conflict. I do not believe Jesus was married, but if He was, He would not have had a perfect marriage because He would have been married to an imperfect woman. If He could not have had a perfect marriage, I don’t expect I will.

So what happens if I get up in the morning and Allie and I are fighting and I don’t really feel a lot of love in me? I love anyway. We have this strange view in our culture that if you love someone when you don’t feel like it, it’s not genuine. On the contrary, I think that’s when love is the most genuine. It’s when one rises above their moods and does the right thing regardless.

Lindsay Harold on her blog wrote a piece arguing that wives as an example should have sex with their husbands even when they don’t feel like it. It’s another example. What virtue is it to do what you feel like doing? Wow. You did good because you felt like doing it. You obviously deserve a reward!

Can love produce feelings? It sure can. Does that mean it is a feeling? Of course not. We have turned the idea of falling into love as something sacred and there can be no wrong. It’s why we have this idea that our hearts are so infallible and that we just need to follow our heart constantly. We all know from Scripture that that is not really the case.

How did we get to this point in our culture? It’s because like many other things, we stopped thinking about it. We don’t think about God. We don’t think about love. We don’t think about sex. We don’t really think much about anything. We spend a lot of time doing things. We don’t spend time thinking about what we’re doing. We do what we feel like and that’s that.

None of this is to say feelings and emotions are evil. They are not. God gave them to us for a reason. It is to say that they are not to control us. When we know the right thing to do, we are to do it anyway. If you feel like it, fine. If not, it doesn’t matter. Do it anyway.

In Christ,
Nick Peters