Emotion and Theology


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One of those unique relationships in our human experience is the relationship between what we feel and what we believe. We were created with the ability to feel as well as the ability to believe, but often the two of them conflict. This shows up in how we often worship … some have an emotive time in worship while others are more reserved. The worship style is not important, but emotion and belief can influence how we practice our faith.


Let me dig deeper into some of the issues when an imbalance happens with either one.


Emotions are important in worship. I think we should feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, and we need to use our emotions to trigger ourselves to action. For example, if the emotional experience was about the joy of the Lord, why am I not joyful all the time? God does not change, so the problem is with me. It might prompt me to look deeper into some course correction in my life, or pursue more spiritual mentorship, or study and recalculate my spiritual journey.


When theology drives our worship, there can be a sense that we should see no emotion. Emotionalism is not worship … it is simply an expression of the emotions, but not necessarily true worship. Theology can say things like, “Emotional worship is just a pep rally on steroids, and doesn’t move God.” “Emotions may change tomorrow, so we need to be careful in how they are used in the practice of worship in the church.”


Of course, emotionalism can be a problem and often is because some of the hyper-charismatic ministries use emotion as a platform to get results. People who make decisions for Christ following an emotional experience through a worship service may be allowing that experience be the driver in accepting Christ. I have seen friends and relatives accept Christ from this kind of setting and the result was not always long-lasting. Decisions for Christ need to be made from conviction, repentance, and an act of the will to follow Him … not from an emotional experience.


If emotion is your platform from which you worship and serve the Lord, it might be as the seeds sown on the hard soil in the parable that Jesus told. If we only respond through our emotions, we can be setting ourselves up for disappointment. Emotions can change and will change depending on circumstances … this is not the kind of faith Christ wants us to develop. If theology is your platform from which you worship and serve the Lord, you may find that theology is not relationship because it is a series of guidelines or footprints in which we structure our beliefs.


I have met people who are so into doctrine that it overpowers everything in their Christian life. Doctrine is important, but it is not faith, it is not love, and it is not hope. Doctrine doesn’t necessarily teach us character, nor does it teach us compassion. So, when we are strictly doctrine-oriented people, we may lose some of the more emotional characteristics that put flesh onto our faith practice. Doctrine can also be so restrictive that we miss the true nature of truth. I would like to say to anyone who holds to a specific doctrine to be careful that the doctrine doesn’t replace your faith. Remember, doctrine is a guideline … it does not save you or give you relationship with Christ. So, when we use doctrine as the driving force in our lives, we may lose perspective on the Cross and the truth of the Gospel as a whole.


So, what’s this blog all about? Simple. Your emotions and doctrines need to submit to the Holy Spirit. He becomes the measure of how these two elements are used in your life. We have heard it said that the Holy Spirit is a gentleman … which means He doesn’t force emotion or doctrine upon us. What He does is bring truth into focus and strengthen us to live by it. We rejoice in the truth, and that releases joy that is evident to everyone. It is not emotion but is joy that is pleasant and desirable. The Holy Spirit helps us to know good practices or doctrine so that our life isn’t tossed to and fro and we become unstable in our faith walk. That doctrine is based upon His Word, and sometimes it takes faith to believe in what truth teaches. It is not a scripted doctrinal statement that becomes the core of who I am in Christ.


Listen carefully to what is said here. This is not a treatise on taking emotion or doctrine out of the Christian life, rather it is giving you perspective on how emotion and doctrine are to be controlled by the Holy Spirit for healthy spiritual growth.


Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler

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