Patrick Schreiner

The Role of Emotions

In Quotes, Short, Theology on 06/18/2011 at 11:52 AM

People who lack emotion don’t lead well-planned logical lives in the manner of coolly rational Mr. Spocks. They lead foolish lives.

In the extreme cases, they become sociopaths, untroubled by barbarism and unable to feel other people’s pain…emotions measure the value of something, and help unconsciously guide us as we navigate through life—away from things that are likely to lead to pain and toward things that are likely to lead to fulfillment.

The brain is not separate from the body—that was Descartes’ error. The physical and the mental are connected in complex networks of reaction and counter-reactions, and out of their feedback an emotional value emerges.

Reason and emotion are not separate and opposed. Reason is nestled upon emotion and dependent upon it. Emotion assigns value to things, and reason can only make choices on the basis of those valuations. The human mind can be pragmatic because deep down it is romantic.

The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement (David Brooks)

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  1. This sentence is most helpful to me, and it is quite amazing that Brooks comes so close to what Edwards stated some 250 years ago (because, per our discussions, it does not seem that he is a new creature). We see then the glory of God in the gift and ability to reason and so “feel his way to God,” and be found by Him if he would be repent and trust in Christ. Anyway, to that sentence:

    “Emotion assigns value to things, and reason can only make choices on the basis of those valuations.”

    Essentially, Brooks says that our reason is captive to what we desire most at any given moment. Perhaps unknowingly he undercuts the American goddess of free will in that totalitarian and autonomous sense. I could not agree more with this sentence, but of course, as a Christian, I would “convert” it for Christ. Where Brooks may not go is to the biblical understanding that those decisive emotions are enslaved to sin such that all human choices bear the same chains . . . apart from the truth of Christ which sets us free. The person who has become a Christian by no virtue in himself but solely by the free and sovereign grace of God in Christ has had his desires regenerated and made new and true to God’s own desires. Thus, at any given moment the Christian, by grace and the principle of spiritual life in the soul, when making a decision is free in the region of his desires not to sin but instead love and choose and do that which is pleasing to God. In other words, God sets our emotions or desires free from the tyranny of sin and brings them into the free and precious bondage of Christ’s Spirit. If Brooks is not a converted man, may the Lord graciously bring him to Jesus through whom both his emotions and his reason may be set free for God.

  2. I agree Brian. I think the error in this age is to put too much weight on reason. For example, we think that someone will be converted when they understand the gospel and we answer all their objections. But they will only be converted when God changes their emotions to this truth and opens their eyes to this truth as beautiful, lovely, life-giving. How this works out practically is that I need to pray more when I share the gospel.

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