Don’t be a Wackaroo

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Have you ever been so angry you threw something against a wall or smashed it on the floor?

Sadly, I have and most of you probably have as well.

It’s a human problem that dates back to the days of Cain and Abel. Cain was so jealous and angry with Abel that he killed him, probably with a rock or club to the head.

Some of you may be saying there is a big difference between smashing something against a wall and killing someone.

You would be right; there is a big difference…in consequence.

To read more go to Missio Dei Fellowship

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Defining Emotions

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As a certified biblical counselor (ACBC) I am often confronted with the power of emotion and the havoc that emotion can play in a person’s life.

In the past week I’ve seen this played out numerous times. The case of Eliot Rodgers and the massacre he perpetrated comes to mind first.

We live in a highly therapeutic  culture that takes an evolutionary, non-cognitive view of emotions especially at the popular level. This explanation of the non-cognitive view is found  in Pastor Brian Borgman’s Faith and Feelings book.

Emotions? Cognitive or not cognitive?

Emotions? Cognitive or not cognitive?

The non-cognitive view is generally an evolutionary perspective that sees emotions as a physiological change in feeling ( e.g. sweaty palms, racing heart, euphoria), which is claimed by the person experiencing the change (fear, happiness, etc.) In other words we are subject to our emotions and not ultimately  responsible for them. They are something that happens to us, physically and chemically. We cry and feel sadness. We feel anxiety because our hearts race.

The non-cognitive view is the prevailing view in our therapeutic culture and frankly, it’s the prevailing view in many evangelical churches. It means, among things that emotions are sovereign and that humans are nothing more than a “bag of chemicals” to use counselor Elyse Fitzpatrick’s phrase.

The other view of emotions is the cognitive view. Again, here is Borgman with an explanation:

The cognitive view of the emotions sees the emotions as based on beliefs, standards, judgments, evaluations, concerns and thoughts. The emotions and reason are interdependent. The emotions are not simply impulses; they are indicators of what we value and what we believe…The  emotions reflect and express the inner man, the heart, the soul, the mind.

Borgman’s explanation of what emotions are is the biblical explanation. The contrast between the non-cognitive view and the cognitive view could not be sharper especially when we realize we are responsible for our emotions! The old “I can’t help how I feel” simply does not line up with  Scriptural teaching.

It should be quite clear that if emotions influence motives and conduct then we had better be able to do something about controlling them. And Christians should look to the Scriptures as to how to do that.

Borgman concludes, “the emotions are more than feelings; they tell us what we value and what we believe, producing desires and inclinations that affect our behavior.”

If this was not true then the apostle Paul’s words below would not make any sense at all:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV)

For more on the cognitive view of emotions follow the link to an op ed by David Brooks in the NYT. His comments on human nature are helpful.

Book Review_Faith and Feelings

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I think that one of the challenges for a biblical counselor is ministering to the person who has been heavily psychologized and tends to live by their emotions as if emotions were centers of truth. More than once over the course of many years of ministering to people I’ve said, “I do not care what you feel, but do care what you believe.”

Of course I do care about what a person may feel but it’s important for that person to come to terms with the fact that emotions are but one aspect of the soul, are God-given, and designed to illustrate what is going on in their soul (heart). That thought is usually counter-cultural and for many a paradigm shift in their thinking.

In Faith and Feelings: Cultivating Godly Emotions in the Christian Life Pastor Brian Borgman has written a useful book that lays out a biblical doctrine of emotions.

The first part (Parts 1 & 2) of the book lays out a biblical foundation for understanding our emotions while the second part of the book (Parts 3 & 4) is application as Pastor Borgman discusses the emotions common to man in depression, sinful anger, fear, worry, anxiety, unforgiveness and bitterness. Part 4 is the application of cultivating Godly emotions using Jesus as our model and then the importance of biblical thinking.

I think it’s important to qualify Pastor Borgman’s use of terms “Godly emotions.”

The expression at face value seems to indicate that positive emotions such as joy, a sense of contentment or happiness are automatically “Godly” while the negative emotions like fear, anxiety, sadness (depression) and discontentment are “ungodly.”

The feelings wheel used by AA. http://aca-arizona.org/feelings-wheel/

The feelings wheel used by AA. http://aca-arizona.org/feelings-wheel/

All of our emotions are God-given and in and of themselves are neither Godly or ungodly. Emotions serve or function as warning lights like the lights on the dashboard of a car. They tell you something about what is going on under the hood. What may be going on under the hood may be Godly or ungodly and that’s why the person needs to give the inner man a good hard look especially when the emotions are chronically negative.

To be fair here Pastor Borgman would not argue with me on this and probably consider my point to be a quibble. Fair enough.

As I said I found the book useful especially because it fills a needed niche in the biblical counseling world and so “liked” means to me recommended. The book is well researched, well foot-noted and has a Scripture index.

I got my copy at Faith Baptist Church in Lafayette, IN. It’s one of the best biblical counseling bookstores around. Faith Baptist Bookstore link

Living by Feelings is a Bad Plan

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Recently a friend, another biblical counselor told me of a conversation she had with her sister.

The sister was venting, being anxious about a great many things and going on and on regarding her feelings in her trials.

My friend listened for quite a while and then quietly said, “living by your feelings is no way to live.”

There was a moment of silence on the other end and then comments that indicated that my friend must have lost her mind for what other way is there to live life other than by “how you feel.”

What is your source of truth?

What is your source of truth?

The answer to the question is that one can live their life by how they feel or they can live their life according to truth.

The problem is we live in a post-modern world where it is assumed the truth cannot be truly known. Following that logic it makes a certain amount of sense that one can live according to how they feel; after all, it’s truth for them and who are you to say different.

Regrettably, the church often falls into the same trap by catering to people’s feelings and providing an experience rather than preaching the truth and letting the chips fall where they may. The result is a water-downed gospel designed to make the listener “feel good.”

Mr. Olsteen is not the only one just the best bad example.

Mr. Olsteen is not the only one just the best bad example.

On the other hand God gave to the apostle Paul what the purpose of His truth (the Bible) is:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

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There is  nothing in the passage about living life according to how one feels. It is about truth, truth for daily living, truth for eternal salvation, truth for trials.

This link will take you an excellent sermon on 2 Tim. 3:16-17. The part about living according to feelings is especially spot on and useful for those who have ears to hear.

Sermon Audio link