Saturday, October 29, 2005

Theology of Asthetics: Emotional Response To Truth

I am sort of a person of intense emotions, but I am driven by my thoughts. I am amazed how many people do not take me seriously when I look at a situation and I feel strongly about it. I am amazed that people count raw facts without emotion attached as more true than facts with emotion attached. In a sense, whether someone feels that Auschwitz was terrible or not does not really make a difference as to whether it actually was terrible. But the fact that Auschwitz was terrible must be felt if it is known. Truth and the emotional response to that truth can not really be separated.

At the same time, some truths are not allowed to be perceived if we have a emotional state that does not allow the perception of a truth. For instance, I had a friend who years ago was involved in a church planting effort. He was working hard and doing as much as he could to make it all work. His church planting effort was not working out though he was trying his best. But he being a harding working, keep your chin up, do right kind of a guy, did not want to give up or even think negatively. One day he caught the flu. As he was sick he started feeling bad emotionally. He started to look at the facts that the church planting effort was not successful. After he got better from his illness, he looked back at the emotional low point as a good thing because he was able to realize what the actual facts were. He moved to another established church and is doing well. His optimistic, keep your chin up attitude hindered his evaluation of his ministry.

There is not a lot of explicit theology of emotions in the Scriptures. However, emotions are expressed in a wide variety of situations. I would say that is because emotions are seen as a response to truth. However in our post-modern world, we see emotions as a result of biochemical processes. We see the most important factor in a person's emotional state as his or her biochemical processes, we hold to a world view of view of biochemical determinism. We see emotions as the result of sleep habit, food and drink consumed, and stress. When we see emotions as merely the result of chemical issues, that means the problem of negative emotions is a chemical solution. But I digress. Then when we approach the Scriptures and the emotions as expressed therein, we see it through the glasses of our modern biochemical deterministic world view. In other words, the emotions expressed in Scripture is disassociated with the truth expressed in Scripture. So when we approach how psalmist felt about his exile to Babylon, we already have a theology that the psalmist was depressed which affected his message. It can't be that the psalmist was dealing with a gloomy subject that required someone to mourn. (Of course we don't mourn, we experience depression instead. There is an object of loss with mourning, depression is treated as a disease.)

I would propose that a theology of emotions requires us to see our emotional states as responses to truths. There is a time to mourn and a time to rejoice.
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