Can God Care Without Emotions?

If God doesn’t have emotions, can He care about you and me? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I was browsing Facebook and I saw someone make a post asking how God can care about us if He has no emotions? This idea has been known as impassibility where God has no emotions. It has been the teaching of Christians, Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox, up until around the 1800’s.

If you want to respond and say “But look at this text where it says God was moved with compassion or was angry or XYZ!”, then I will tell you “Look at this text where it talks about the hand of God or the eyes of the Lord or any other number of bodily references? Most of us know that those bodily references are not to a real physical body, but they are describing God in ways we can understand. I do the same with the passages about emotions.

How about Jesus? Jesus had emotions in the text! Surely you’re not suggesting that those are just figures of speech are you?

Not at all! Jesus definitely has emotions and had them in his earthly journey and I contend He still has them today. However, if you want to say that means God has emotions, then you have the same problem again. Jesus still has a body and if you want to go this route, then you need to say that God has a body as well. If you want to say because of Jesus, God has emotions, but not a body, then you’re just picking and choosing.

Yet the question still remains. If we accept this, how can we say God cares about us or God loves us? It sounds like a difficult question until we do consider that we regularly do the same thing without emotions.

If you are married and think that the degree to which you love your spouse is dependent on your emotions, then you are going to be in for a hard time. There could be times you have a great degree of negative emotions towards them, such as in an argument, and when you do, you can still say that you love them. When you make a promise to love until death do you part, you do not make a promise to have an emotion. No one can make themselves have an emotion or else we would all make ourselves happy all the time. We can make ourselves act, even when a part of us doesn’t want to. Many of us do that when we get out of bed in the morning.

Too often, we start this also with ourselves. “When I have love, I can have emotion. Why not God?” It’s a mistake to look at us and say “God is like that.” God is not really like anything at all. As Scripture says “To whom can you compare me?” No one. It is really that we are like God. God is said to be the Father from whom all fatherhood comes. It’s not that a man can say “I am a father and I can see God is like that.” It’s really “God is a Father, and I am somewhat like Him.”

God loves us and God cares for us and that is not because He has an emotion, but because that is who He is. God is not loving, but rather God is love. God does not act and then develop an emotion, as if He was a changeable being in time. God consistently acts out of His nature.

We can say all day long “I don’t understand how that works,” but why should that matter? We can go to our churches and say that we believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. Is anyone going to stand up and say that you understand entirely how that works? If we think we understand God, then we have a really small God, hardly one worthy of worship.

Also, if one wants to question impassibility and simplicity and other doctrines, that is fine, but we have to ask why. If there is a consistent line that goes from the early church to modern times accepted by all three branches, what did we discover that they did not know? Before we take down a fence, we should see why it was put up in the first place.

God can have love towards us and have compassion towards us without emotion. Is that hard for me to understand? Of course, but what of God is easy to understand?

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

Doing No Harm

Is doing no harm a sufficient moral principle? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Often today, we don’t hear about if an action is good or evil. We hear about if it is harmful or not. Now, causing harm is one aspect to consider in morality, but it is not the only. When it comes to the idea of redefining marriage, part of the question asked is “Well who is it hurting?”

For one thing, changing the meaning of marriage for anyone changes it for everyone. Everyone’s marriage is shifted to not a union designed to bring about children for the prolonging of civilization, but rather to a sort of union from two people who are committed to one another. By this standard, we could say that two roommates could be married or a brother and sister who choose to live together are married or a son who brings his mother who is a new widow into his home are married.

However, while those are important situations to bring up, why not go back and question this principle about not harming anyone. Consider the scenario of a peeping Tom for example. he has found a peephole outside of a showering area where he can stand and watch naked women shower. He is never caught and the women never have any idea they are being watched? Are any of them being harmed? If not, then can we say this is wrong?

Consider also a dentist who has a private practice. To keep costs down, he doesn’t even have a secretary. He works alone and makes all his appointments. From time to time, beautiful women come in and he has to put them under for surgical operations. What they don’t know is that sometimes when they are unconscious, he undresses them and fondles them. The women never get pregnant and so never find out about what he’s done. Has he done any harm?

If you’re a Christian or even most any other kind of theist, you could say this man has damaged his standing before God in each case and so he has done harm at least to himself. He has lowered himself from being what a human being ought to be to being something less. If you are a secularist though, you do not have this option.

Not only that, but we know that there are times that causing harm is the good thing to do. I have a friend who just had a quadruple bypass operation. Right now, he is still in a lot of pain. I have told him some about my having scoliosis surgery and how I too was in a lot of pain and understood what that was like. In both cases, our doctors harmed us and left us with tremendous pain. The thing is, we knew this would happen and we went through it willingly and even paid our doctors for it. Why? Because we were not being harmed to be harmed. We were being given some degree of harm in order to get a greater good.

Another example is telling a loved one a hard truth. Sometimes, this is very harmful to the person for the immediate and short-term, but it is good in the long run. Again, consequences are not all that is to be considered, but they are a part of this. Consequences alone are insufficient. We need to look at the action, who is doing it, and why they are doing it.

No one being harmed by itself is insufficient. By this standard, the Peeping Tom and the dentist are both okay. By a Christian standard, they are in the wrong because they are lowering themselves as human beings and actually in the long run making themselves more likely to be the people who will take further steps to do actual visible harm to others.

Our moral thinking needs to go deeper than just utilitarianism. We need to look at who we are and why we do what we do.

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

Divorce And Rejection

On what level is divorce experienced as rejection? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was talking with a good friend of mine over the weekend about divorce and rejection and I figured this would be something good to write about. Divorce is a form of rejection indeed, but there is a deeper sense of it than any other kind that I know of. Divorce is a rejection that stings every day.

I understand being rejected by the opposite sex. That happens, and it stings, but the worst part of this rejection is that in this case, you have given everything you have to a member of the opposite sex and made a promise to honor them and have been living it out and you still get told it’s not enough. This is not to say there are not times where divorce can be a sad necessity, but this is talking about people like myself who strived every day to honor our vows.

I remember being in DivorceCare and hearing a girl say “Well, when the person who made a promise to you to honor and cherish you always breaks that promise, other rejections really don’t bother you.” Good for her, but I was on the opposite end. For me, every rejection reminds me of that one.

It is something that remains with you every day. I had an interview for a scholarship opportunity here over the weekend and in talking about it since the man wanted my story, and he told me if I wanted to know who all tends to hate divorce the most, the answer is simple. Divorced people. He’s absolutely right. We hate it.

Rejection is painful because you are being told you are not up to quality in some way. It hurts to the degree that the person has a place in your life. If it’s someone you have a crush on and ask out and they say no, it will hurt to the degree that you put a certain amount of hope in that person. If it’s a parent or family member, it will hurt to the degree that you wanted to have a good relationship with that person.

A divorce hurts you to the degree that that relationship meant to you. Considering it’s someone that you, if you’re in a Christian marriage, made a promise to God and man to honor forever, it can hurt all the more since this is the last relationship that should have ended. It was entered in freely with a promise and it has become shattered.

Peter Kreeft has said divorce is like a suicide and a murder at the same time. You take the one-flesh union that has been built and you kill it. It is destroying another person, the other one in the covenant, and yourself as well. Of course, it’s up to the parties involved how they choose to live from that point on.

For all concerned about me, as I said in the interview, I am still playing to win. It’s why I’m still looking to remarry again someday. It hurts every day, but it’s up to me if I am going to have the hurt conquer me or if I am going to conquer it. I have deliberately chosen to do the latter. My writings on this are mainly to let others know what it’s like and to encourage those in this situation.

When you talk to people who are divorced or going through it, remember what you say. The only people who really understand it are the ones who have gone through it. Others can have compassion, but it will be one that doesn’t see what it’s fully like through no fault of their own, and hopefully, they never will see it.

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

 

What Is It?

Do we think about what things are anymore? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If you are a cat owner, you understand the curiosity of a cat. Many times when I open my closet door to get out clothes for the day, my cat will just happen to wander in and I wait as he explores a little bit before he comes out again. After all, it’s been a few days since he’s been in there and something might have changed. Cats are curious. They want to know.

Yesterday, I wrote about how people don’t talk about what marriage is. Today, I saw someone post on Facebook Seth Dillon of the Babylon Bee asking why some people hate jokes more than child porn? This about Balenciaga and their advertising activity lately whereas the Babylon Bee can get banned on Twitter for a joke. I also had someone respond to my blog on TheologyWeb about how words like marriage are pretty much meaningless in our society today.

There is a case to be made that marriage is our third most meaningless word in society today. The others are God and love. When normal people talk about these terms, they never define them. They just talk about them as if everyone knows them when really hardly anyone does. The terms become whatever the speaker thinks they are.

Our culture sadly abandoned metaphysics long ago. Because of that, we no longer think of what things are. Why should we? After all, Kant came along and said we can’t know the things in themselves, but only how they appear to us.

Now it could be said that science is the exception to this. Don’t we go out and discover reality? That’s the goal, but that’s also the goal of most every other field out there as well, just done differently. Every field has its own methods, but each is aimed at truth to some degree.

Yet nowadays, even that has been lowered. A lot of people look at how “Follow the science” worked in 2020. We also see science being used to control in the case of something such as climate change controversies. We see how science is selectively ignored when it comes to abortion as all of a sudden, it does get closer to metaphysics supposedly asking “Well what is a person really?”

If we are the ones who are ultimately at the center of reality, then words are what will matter the most to us. If we determine reality, it goes a step further. It is not just what the person said, but how we feel about what the person said. It doesn’t matter what the other person meant to say. It is how we see the words that matters and if I see your words as violence, then they are violence.

This is especially the case in the area of sexuality. We talk a lot about the topic, but we don’t think about it. We don’t ask what it is, how it came to be, and what we should use it for. This is the last thing our culture wants to do.

After all, if you define something and talk about a purpose of it, you have to talk about a right and a wrong way to use it, and that cannot be allowed. We might  say “Well, we don’t allow XYZ yet”, but it’s easy to respond that we are allowing activities today that we never would have dreamed of allowing years ago. Every step that has been taken by those on the left to push the envelope has led to it being pushed further and further. It’s easy to claim the slippery slope fallacy, but the truth is sometimes slopes are slippery and people do fall down them.

What is needed in our culture? A return to learning what things are and to watch the terms that we use. Defining terms is not just good for debate, but it is also good for society. We use so many words without thinking about what they mean. Kierkegaard once said something about how we care so much about the freedom of speech, but think so little about the freedom of thought that gives our speech meaning.

Until we learn what we’re talking about, maybe it would be best to just not say anything at all.

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

But They’re So Nice

Should you change your mind because your neighbor is nice? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My parents are part of the Methodist Church which just underwent a huge split over the issue of the definition of marriage. Naturally, my folks want to talk to me about what’s going on and my thoughts on the matter. One comment I have heard from them is that they have friends who know someone who’s same-sex attracted and they’ll say “But they’re so nice….”

I don’t have any reason to question that. There are several who are nice people. However, how does that become an argument to say “Therefore, I should vote to redefine marriage.”?

The issue when it comes to what the Methodist Church wants to do is “What is the nature of marriage?” Now if you think nature is fluid, meaning that a man and a woman is not the essence of marriage, meaning something essential to marriage, it’s up to you to define what is.  You can say marriage is fluid, but if there is nothing essential to marriage, as in marriage has no real characteristic of it, then marriage is essentially nothing.

I have written about this in several other places, so I don’t want to make this blog on the nature of marriage. I do want to discuss the question about people being nice. I really don’t understand why this is so persuasive, aside from the fact that people think with their emotions more than they do with their heads.

For one thing, if every same-sex attracted person was among the nicest people on the planet, that would say nothing about the nature of marriage itself. I regularly hear, and have experienced, that Mormons are usually incredibly kind people. If someone is willing to grant that, does that mean that they should rush down to the Mormon Church to convert?

Of course not, and even if they did, how many contradictions would you have in your mindset on the same issue? If you met a really nice Muslim after that, would you determine that Mormonism is false and Islam is true? If you encountered a nice atheist then, would you conclude that God doesn’t exist? If every atheist was practically a saint, that would say nothing about the arguments for or against theism.

Contrary, suppose Christians you met were jerks, and sadly, this could be true. Christians shouldn’t be, but if one encounters a Christian who is a jerk, that doesn’t say anything about whether Christianity is true or false. Christianity could have the best ethical system in the world and yet if people fail to live up to it, that says nothing about the system of ethics. It just says a lot about the followers.

We could say that people who vote to redefine marriage are implicitly saying then that everyone who holds to marriage as has always been understood is a jerk. Do they really want to say that? If you vote because person A of this persuasion is nice, does that mean the person opposed is mean?

When you look at the nature of marriage in the church situation, only one question needs to be asked. What is marriage? If you see it as fluid and changeable, then act accordingly. If you hold to a reality that says the man-woman unit is essential to marriage, then do the same.

Give a real reason. Even if you support the redefining of marriage, I hope this is something that can be agreed to. People should strive to be moral, but that doesn’t mean their position is true.

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

Can I Have Some Bread?

What kind of father doesn’t give his son bread? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’m continuing my look at what Tyler Vela has shown and commenting from my view as a divorced man as well. This time, we’re going to look at Matthew 7. In this passage, Jesus asks that if your son asks for bread, will you give him a stone? If he asks for a fish, will you give him a snake? If a wicked father gives good things to his children, how much more will your good Father give good gifts?

To start with this, I want you to know that your Bible has a major difference from the originals. There is something that they have that was not written in the original documents. At this, I wonder if any atheists could be booting up their blogs and their video equipment so they can write and make YouTube videos and podcasts about this. An apologist is going to admit a major problem with the Bible!

You’re going to be disappointed.

I am simply talking about chapters and verses. Matthew did not start out and write “Chapter 1, verse 1.” Those numbers weren’t added until later. They do have a benefit in some ways in that it’s easier to find one isolated statement. There is a downside in that we can read chapters and not connect them to earlier chapters.

In Matthew 6, Jesus has been talking about being provided for and that includes basic staples. Food, water, and clothing. He does not mention luxury goods. I don’t see any reason to think that that changes after Matthew 6.

There are plenty of reasons to not give some good gifts. Something could be good in and of itself, but bad for a child. A lollipop could be fine for many children, but not for a child who is diabetic. Some good things could be too expensive. Sometimes a parent might want a child to learn some discipline and self-control and save a good gift for when something good has been done, such as not giving money until chores are done.

Yet Tyler is asking about something simpler. Can God show me that He loves me?

That is a real and noble desire. Yet as I see it, God has already done that. The question is “Why is He not believed on the basis of the cross and the resurrection?” I understand doubt. Doubt is real, yet is God obligated to give us extra special revelation if one is not accepting what He has already said? As Jesus said, if they do not believe the Scriptures, they will not believe even if someone rises from the dead.”

What is most important to ask about this is “Why is this doubted?” I can’t claim to know the answer, but let’s consider a guess. What if you think “If my wife didn’t really love me and could betray me so quickly, why should God be different?” That is something that needs to be worked on and therapy can be a great way. However, it also has to be asked “Why is she being given that power that her voice speaks louder than God’s on an authority basis?”

Let’s suppose it was because of a wrong done on your part that led to the divorce? I say this to cover both ends. If you are the wronged party, you can wonder if you are lovable. If you are the party that did the wrong, you can wonder if God could love and forgive you. Again, Scripture says if you have repented, He has. You have to figure out why you feel otherwise.

One problem if God does do something special and exceptional for you alone to show He loves you is that if you have an underlying issue, it can be a temporary fix. If that happens, then you would need an experience over and over again. This can get the idea of being hooked on a feeling or hooked on an experience.

What also has to be asked is why we have the standard often that if God doesn’t do what I think He should, then He doesn’t love me? Those kinds of conditions for love are dangerous put on anyone. That can also lead to the dissolving of a lot of marriages. A husband can say, “Well if my wife really cared about me, she would do XYZ.” It could be sex, letting him watch sports on the weekend or go fishing with friends or buy a new video game. A wife could say if her husband cared about her, he would help with the chores or assist with the kids or bring home flowers or know what she really wanted for Christmas. Both partners could even be right, but the conditional is a killer.

Keep in mind, none of this is meant to be a cure-all. Issues about struggling with the love of God, or anyone else for that matter, cannot be answered by a simple blog post. However, I do hope this can be a key that could lead someone to understand what is going on with them and come to conclusions.

I also want to stress that I can understand this concern that God doesn’t love you. I have gone through it. I suspect most every Christian who takes his Christianity seriously has gone through this as well. This is another way the church needs to talk about this issue. Maybe more people could be helped if they saw they weren’t unusual.

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

Silence In Divorce

Is anybody there? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I did a discussion with the Mentionables over the situation involving Tyler Vela. This involves an apologist having a deconversion of sorts. I really wanted to speak on this because something that Tyler and I also have in common is that we’ve both gone through divorce.

Something Tyler wrote on his Facebook about this was talking about the silence of God. Now in all of this, he was praying and memorizing Scripture and doing things like that all the more. Those are good things, but I don’t think that addresses really the so-called silence of God.

I saw so-called because a major error of our Christian culture today is the idea that God is always speaking to us on an individualistic basis. Usually, this is said to be done through our emotions. Don’t believe me? Just see how many times you hear in a church service talk about being felt led to do something. Now who is leading you in this idea? God. How? Through how you feel.

Does that sound like a recipe for chaos?

How do you know God is leading you somewhere? You feel Him leading you. We also take it further. How do you know the favor of God on your life? You feel it. How do you know God loves you? You have those feelings also.

If we applied this to any other area in our life, it would lead to chaos.

What is one reason we have a major increase in divorce? Because we base our marriages more on feeling in love than on love itself. If you had to divorce your spouse every time you didn’t feel love, you would divorce a lot. It’s not just there either. I’m sure a mother having to get up at 3 AM for a fussy baby to change a diaper and everything else and knowing she has to be up again in a few hours is not overflowing with love at the thought. Some of you might be, but I’m quite certain you’re the exception.

No relationship should be based on your emotions, not even your one with God.

This is not to deny there can be emotions in these relationships, but one should not make a diet out of them. One should enjoy the good ones and work through and understand the sad ones. Every life has its ups and downs. Not even our Lord could escape sadness on this Earth and we have intense pride if we think we are the exception still.

That still doesn’t address the problem about the silence. However, we have to start at the beginning and say it cannot be based on your emotions. Otherwise, if you feel the love of God, well God loves you. If you feel that God is distant and not there, well you have to deny that feeling. It becomes an exercise in question-begging. Bad emotions? Not good. Good emotions. Good.

Consider it like the test the Mormon missionaries give you. Do you feel the burning in the bosom? Good emotion. God. Do you not feel it? Then the problem is you.

If we seek that feeling more, then we can be in the case of not that we are seeking God, though we think we could be, and maybe to some degree we are, but we’re really seeking a feeling. The confirmation we have found God is that a feeling occurs or something similar. If God doesn’t give us that feeling, then He just doesn’t care about us.

Let’s be clear. Even though I don’t think God is obligated to speak to us or to give us feelings, that quiet is still painful. It is hard to feel like even God has rejected you.

In divorce, you are rejected in every way. The biggest analogy I can come up with to a guy feeling rejection in marriage is the way a wife can say “Not tonight, dear. I have a headache.” Divorce is a way of not just that rejection one time, but that and every other rejection for life permanently. In every way as a man, you are not the man. You are rejected.

You lose your best friend. You lose your love. You could lose your kids if you have those. You lose your relationships as they were. Sadly, too many times if your friends were other couples, it’s hard to have that now.

Loneliness is a major problem. When you go to bed at night, you sleep alone. When you go to a church service, it’s other couples that you see and people talk about their families and every instance of seeing that is a little stab to the heart reminding you that you’re alone.

The church can be one of the most painful places to go and the worst part is the church is often not very therapeutic. People want to cure your negative feelings instead of just listening to you about them and working through them with you. Everyone at church is expected to be happy and joyful. People often treat Christianity like a neverending adventure of joy.

We also put on our spiritual faces in church. You hear of people who pray for hours and get endless joy from reading their Bible as they learn something new every day. People talk about how God is speaking to them and answering all of their prayers so very specifically.

If you don’t have those experiences, well, you’re just not a very good Christian.

Also, add in that if you’re divorced, too often you are really looked down on. I am thankful I have not experienced this from churches for the most part, but I know I am an exception based on what I hear from others. Even if it was a sin of yours that ended your marriage, you are still in pain. There are many churches that will not let a divorced man in the pulpit. Never mind that a large portion of the New Testament was written by a guy who was a murderer.

Now you get the silence of God on top of that.

No wonder it hurts!

Still, turn back to Scripture. Is God speaking the norm? No. Abraham, the friend of God, had the heavens silent for well over a decade and he’s even an exceptional case in God speaking. Those times that God speaks are recorded not because they are normative, but because they are exceptional.

Look at the Israelites with Moses. They actually beg Moses to have God NOT speak to them, and when He spoke, it was not a feeling in their hearts, but a booming voice from the mountain. Moses was the one exception.

If people were really experiencing this regularly, they would not need the prophets. What about the New Testament? We could say the same. What did they need the epistles or apostles for if they had the Holy Spirit just telling them everything? We have taken something exceptional and made it normative because we’re just so special.

The idea of the silence of God is the result.

My idea of the love of God for me is not based on my feelings, but based on what He has said in Scripture. The cross and the resurrection tell me God loves me. How do I know I am one of His? Because I am trusting Him and seeking to live a holy life.

These truths are what kept me going in my divorce and still keep me going, even when temptation comes to give up. I’m still battling and I have been told that it could be the only real end of the battle this side of eternity could be remarriage. That’s why I’m in therapy over here as well to learn social skills and even the dreaded small talk. I really want to get remarried again and I know I have to work for that.

If you are struggling and experiencing so-called silence, it doesn’t mean God is not there. Now I do realize there are some Scripture passages that people use. Isn’t God near to the brokenhearted? Doesn’t God say if a boy asks for a fish he will get it? God willing, I plan to handle this next time.

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

 

To A Friend Struggling With Faith

What do you do when you want to throw it all away? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

People on Facebook have been talking about someone who has said they just can’t believe in Christianity anymore even after years of being in apologetics and producing media on this. Now a number of people are coming out with their own views on the matter, which I understand and I don’t condemn. Some are blaming Calvinism, which I don’t care for, or presuppositionalism, which I also don’t care for, but i think there is something else going on here.

Now with so many people entering into this discussion, why am I jumping in? Do I think I have something to contribute that others do not? Indeed, I do, and this is not because of anything arrogant, but it is because of similar life circumstances. I can contribute that I have been through divorce as this person has.

Divorce is betrayal and rejection through and through. It is a pain that stabs at me every day still. Imagine what it is to think someone loves you so much that they want to share every aspect of themselves, nay, their very lives with you, and then in the end they reject you. You, the totality of you, all that is you, has been cast aside. You have been declared no longer worth it.

Now we all know theoretically that our identities should not be determined by other people, but you are a fool if you think that this doesn’t hurt. This leads to pain. Intense pain. I have said before there were times I would be ready to go to bed at night and see a bottle of Benadryl and briefly think, “You could.” I never came close, but it was there. There were some times I did think maybe I should check myself into a hospital for a few days. Again, never did.

I can say on my end, that I have a hard time today trusting people. I can say my thinking gets caught up in difficulties from time to time. I plan to date other women, but I also worry about self-control now seeing as I have been there before and as a divorced friend told me, “It’s easy to move on auto-pilot.” This is all real.  I also realize some people will look at me with a scarlet letter.

I fully understand if at those times it feels like God has abandoned you.

My friend wrote also about the Christian subculture and this is something I have the biggest problem with. People treat prayer like they can pray for an hour and it just comes so easily. People treat Scripture as a magic book and it’s such a joy to read every day and you learn something new. People talk about how you are supposed to feel as a Christian and that you are supposed to hear from God regularly and speak as if you have some secret hotline to God.

It’s individualism, and it’s a cancer in the church.

When people talk like this and suffering comes, they don’t know what to do then. After all, if your Christianity has been based on your emotions before, what happens when those emotions turn negative? When you don’t have them, what do you want? Do you want the emotions, or do you want what the emotions signify?

When I was married, there were times I had a deep feeling of love for my wife. There were also times that I did not. However, I always had a deep love for her. Today, I still want the best for her. The feeling was nice when it was there, but it wasn’t part of my diet to be expected.

What happens though if I focus more on the pointer instead of the reality the pointer pointed to? I am pursuing a feeling. It is like an addiction. If I have that feeling, then I love her. If I don’t, then I don’t. That leads to chaos. Would I want my love for my ex-wife to be based on a feeling?

The same can happen when we look at it in reverse. How do I know God loves me? If I base it on a feeling, what happens when that feeling goes away? Does God no longer love me? In the end, am I pursuing a feeling as a way of certainty?

I understand when my friend spoke about how if his son wanted comfort and to know that his Dad loved him, he would give it in a moment. I get that. It makes sense to us. It is easy to look at Matthew 7 and see about a son asking for bread or a fish. Doesn’t that apply here?

No. In Matthew 6, Jesus had been talking about food and clothing. The same is still going on in Matthew 7. Jesus is talking about provision for daily staples. This is not to say that God cannot give other things and that He doesn’t, but those are not promised.

So what if God did do what we ask and provided for us an experience of His love every time? Could we not get caught up in ourselves more? Could we not get caught up in experiences? What happens when that experience fades into the past? Do you need another hit.

The thing is, if I want to know if God loves me, and I understand that struggle, I need to trust what He has already said. It is written large in Scripture. How do I know I am one of His? Because I am trusting Him. I am not perfect, but I am striving.

What about pain? Pain can be the crucible that gets us more like Jesus. I can say that every pain I went through was horrible, when I was going through it. Years later, I look back and I am thankful I went through it. I suspect some time in the future, I will say “That divorce was horrible when I went through it, but I am a better and more holy man for it.” Hopefully, that will be when I am married to someone else. Maybe I will even have some of my own children with her.

I do want to say though that I get the silence of God. The problem is not really God, but it is a Christian subculture that is rooted in experience. Let’s also point to another sad reality about divorced people. We are quickly often isolated.

You used to do things with other people as a couple. It wasn’t you got together with your friends so much as you and your spouse got together with other couples. Those couples can like to hang out with you then, but, and I’m not saying everyone did this, when you become single, those couples can go away. Christians can also look at you in church as a lesser Christian.

Not only that, you have to explain your divorce so often to everyone. Divorce is treated like it’s the unpardonable sin and every time you have to repeat it, you live it all over again. The church is too often ready with condemnation instead of consolation. We are to mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep and when you are going through divorce or suffering with it, you are mourning and weeping. I am thankful some people did just that. I am thankful that I found DivorceCare. I am thankful I had people who had been divorced who walked with me through it and I hope someday I can do the same for someone else walking through divorce.

To my friend, I hope I got a lot of what is going on correct, not because I want to be right, although I do, but because I want you to understand that I can relate. I also see you are asking the question about Jesus and who He is and I think that is a great place to go. It’s really hard to say anything negative about Jesus and I think really looking at who He is is the way to go.

I also encourage you to not believe anything just to believe it. I have not done that with my Christianity. For every position I have a strong stance on, I have a litany of reasons for why I embrace it. There are some issues I don’t argue and I just don’t care about. (Calvinism vs. Arminianism being one of them.) Don’t believe anything just to be consistent or to fit in with the people or look good in popular culture.

Be real. If things suck, say they suck. If you are angry with God, be angry. No sense hiding it. If you want to cry, then cry. Mourn. I had a friend come by on my next to last day in Georgia who was in the area when I found out I had to clear out because of the divorce and he saw me bawling my eyes out and never thought less of me for it.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out and talk if you need it, and I encourage this to everyone else. Before trying to win someone back to Christianity, just be a friend. Listen. Care. Besides, I suspect if you do this right, the Christianity will fall back into place anyway.

I understand the crickets, but I am also thankful for them. They have caused me often to go back to what is more foundational and not transitory. They have pointed me to what I really believe and what it is rooted in and not being based on feelings means I have a firmer foundation I can rely on when things get hard, and they do.

Here for you, if you need me.

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

Hard To Love

Who is it hard to love? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was at the New Orleans library Saturday to pick up some books for research purposes. While there, I saw a book by Joyce Meyer on display about loving people who are hard to love. That idea stuck with me a bit, You want to know who is hard to love?

You are.

Yes. You.

Look at yourself. Look at all your faults and failures. Look at all your annoying habits and quirks. Look at all the ways you can regularly mess things up and hurt those around you. You are hard to love.

“Not I! I am a great person! I am easy to love!”

If you think that, you are a prideful person and, well, hard to love then.

“Okay. So thanks for slamming me in your blog. You’re not any better!”

Absolutely right! As someone in the dating sphere now, I do think about that. Sure, I have friends who point out my positive traits but there’s a lot of negatives. I don’t know anyone who goes out there saying “I would really like to find a nerdy theological gaming apologist on the spectrum in his 40’s.” I could list a number of my faults and annoying quirks. I know I am a very hard person to love.

Yet here’s something else. I have said that because of so many negative traits others have, we have a hard time loving them. It would seem then that if we eliminated those traits, then people would be easy to love. Right?

Well how about Jesus?

Is He easy to love? If He was, we would all do a whole lot better at keeping His commandments. We don’t. We struggle and sin against Him every day. At those times, we love ourselves more than we love Jesus, and we ourselves are very hard to love.

Also, if Jesus was easy to love, everyone would have done so. However, Jesus got crucified. People who are loved by everyone do not get crucified. Jesus is the best person who ever walked this Earth, and He is hard to love.

Naturally, this goes to the Trinity entirely. Every person of the Trinity is hard to love. If they were easy to love, the history of Israel would be quite different. If God was easy for us to love, we wouldn’t have all the struggles of the flesh that we constantly have. However, we regularly fail in our love for God.

So let’s review here. We have said that people like ourselves are hard to love because of all our faults and failures. We have also said that God is hard to love, despite Him having no faults and failures. It seems that it is hard to love everyone. Yet what is the common reason that makes it hard to love people?

Us.

When we fail to love someone, it is not because of a deficiency in them, no matter how real that deficiency is. It is because of one in us. Can’t love your neighbor? Your neighbor might need to change and in reality, they definitely do, but it is not their fault if you find them hard to love. It is yours.

That’s also good news because that means it is yours to change. It is your power to repent and seek to change and learn to love. You learn to love others, yourself, and God.

Admitting the problem is the first step. It is you. It is me. We are the ones that we can change the most and we need to get started.

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

Book Plunge: Spiritual Friendship

What do I think of Aelred of Rievalux’s book on friendship? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I know someone here who has also gone through divorce and he knowing my struggle with it let me borrow this book from him and recommended that I read it. I don’t remember entirely if Aelred ever mentions marriage in it or not specifically, but even if he does, it is not the focus. This is about friendship and is men discussing with themselves what friendship is. Aelred lived in the 12th century, one before my favorite of Aquinas, but his words still speak deeply to us today.

The book can easily be seen as a guide for relationships and what kind of relationships you can enter in to, what kind you should seek out, and how they end. It is also about how you are to be a friend to someone and ways to tell if someone is being a true friend to you. One such example of the latter is normally if you are friends with a poor person, it is genuine. I have friends who have money and some have told me to reach out to them if I am in a bind, but I am hesitant to do so. I love the gifts and generosity when they come, but I don’t want to risk being one of those people who is seeking that out.

Aelred argues that we should love everyone, but we should not seek to be friends with everyone and not everyone is suitable for a friendship. (p. 89) After all, a friend is someone you can trust and bare your heart to. You shouldn’t do that with everyone. This is one reason to not speak out everything on social media.

On the next page, he says that nothing is more detestable than one who harms a friendship and nothing tortures the spirit more than abandonment or attack by a friend. How true! If a random jerk I don’t know mistreats me, that hurts, but if someone is a friend and they do that, that really stings. It happens from time to time and I am sure I have done it sometimes to my friends. I do try to mend the relationships where I can.

He also calls us to a higher standard. If a friend doesn’t love you, love him still. If he withdraws his friendship, do not withdraw yours. (98) It is easy to love someone when they love you and be kind when they are kind to you. It is not so much when they do not love you and are unkind to you.

All of these come from the third book as this book is divided into three books. I found this one to be the most beneficial as did the person who let me borrow it as he has multiple lines underlined and many notes written on the side. Aelred writes with practicality as I don’t know a single person who doesn’t value friendship. It is strange that we value friendship so much, but really, there does not seem to be much being written on friendship from a scholarly perspective.

When I was allowed to borrow this, it was also with the hope that as I enter into other relationships here, dating and friendships, I would be mindful of who I would let into my world. We all should be. Perhaps we could refer to Aelred as the Boundaries writer of the 12th century.

Aside from the language that is used often, I recommend you get this book. Much of it could be read as if it was written today. I hope someday to get my own copy.

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

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