What is the place of ’emotion’ in the Christian life?


I’ve recently been diagnosed with depression. So I’ve been pretty man down lately. I have started on a dose of anti-depressants, and they’re slowly kicking into my system. As I was on my way up I was hit by a solid bout of flu. As much as flu sucks, I honestly quite enjoy the time in bed to sleep, read and think.

During this time I started reading a book called ‘Feel‘. In it Matthew Elliott argues that if we downplay emotions in the Christian life, we distance an important, God-given part of ourselves.

Here’s the description from the Amazon page:

“In Feel, Matthew Elliott takes a critical look at what our culture and many churches have taught about controlling and ignoring our emotions. He contends that some of the great thinkers of the modern era got it all wrong, and that the Bible teaches that God intends for us to live in and through our emotions. Emotions are good things that God created us to feel. Matthew helps us to understand our emotions and equips us to nurture healthy feelings and reject destructive ones. So refresh yourself, drink deeply, and learn to live with a new, passionate heart”.

pulpit I’ll be honest, after reading the subtitle (“The power of listening to your heart”) my sensors were tingling a little. But, surprisingly, it was brilliant! It gripped my heart and sent my mind all over the place as I thought about whether it clashes with anything in my theology. I think the best part was that it got me to read the Bible and pray with a new air of excitement.

Has anyone who checks in here read it? If you have, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it. I’m convinced by his argument, and think he highlights something important which is downplayed or, at least, overlooked in most reformed circles. It has given me something to chew on as I think about how to approach my pretty significant emotional. So I’m looking for an opportunity to chat about some of the ideas he raises.

I realise that most of you won’t have read it though. Obviously I recommend you give it a read. But most of you won’t have the time for that. So, because I would still like you to get involved, I have made a plan for you. I have made something of a summary. Give that a read, and then let me know your thoughts below.

P.S. I’ve also been thinking about posting something longer on godliness, friendship and intimacy. So keep an eye out for that too.

Kyle Groger
Sometimes I wonder about who God is and what the world is all about. Other times I attempt to get Christian African content distributed on the web.
  • j3frea

    With your first response, have you considered that they are affected in different ways?
    The reason I ask is because if that’s the case, it may be possible that where emotion fails, reason is trustworthy and reason is not trustworthy in some other place.
    Although, having said that I’m not sure how that fits with total depravity (in that *every* thing is affected by the fall – arguing that it’s affected in a different way seems like a bit of a cop-out, the point is though that maybe reason and emotion are supposed to counter-balance each other).

  • kylegroger

    I feel a bit uncomfortable with what I perceive to be going on behind your comment, but I’m very keen to hear you develop that thought…

  • j3frea

    The thing is, something like maths seems to work pretty effectively to identify something as true or false.

    1 = 1
    1×1 = 1
    2 != 1

    Emotions don’t seem to be the tool for detecting that kind of truth.
    To make this comment valuable it seems as though I need to say what emotions are good at but I don’t really know because I’m a robot.

  • kylegroger
  • j3frea

    I guess my response to that, which I appreciate you will not find satisfactory, is incredulity.
    I have issues with drawing conclusions about the way we reason based on a case study about someone with brain damage. I struggle to accept that neurologists fully appreciate what is going on in the brain with enough certainty to say, “Ja that bit’s broken so now he can’t make wise decisions” – even the impairment is subjective.
    You may not like it but that’s where I am right now. Would be keen to discuss though.