We all have emotions. How often do we consider emotions from a biblical perspective though?… Yet, what better place to turn than God’s word! So, what does the Bible say about emotions?
Emotions are part of God’s good design
First, it is important to realize that “Our emotional capacities are part of our nature as personal beings created in the image and likeness of God.” Second, Emotions are part of God’s good design. Third, We often don’t think about it but we are actually commanded to be emotional. For example, Psalm 2:11 says “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” And there’s a bunch of other examples (Deut. 28:47-48; Ps. 51:17; 97:10; 100:2; Matt. 6:25-34; Rom. 12:9, 15; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:15).
So, Jay Adams says:
“The fact is that there are no damaging or destructive emotions per se. Our emotional makeup is totally from God. All emotions of which He made us capable are constructive when used properly (i.e., in accordance with biblical principles)… All emotions, however, can become destructive when we fail to express them in harmony with biblical limitations and structures.”
You may have heard: “Don’t follow your emotions” or “don’t let your feelings get the best of you,” or “use your head.” But emotions are not bad in themselves. God created us with emotions.
Even our negative emotions are not always wrong. It’s not always bad to feel bad. Sometimes feeling sad and angry is good and right. It’s important to realize that in the Psalms the genre of lament is most dominant. It is also important to remember that there is no book of Joys but there is a book of Lamentations. We don’t always have just “good” feelings and that’s okay. On the other hand, God made us at least in part to experience profound joy and to experience this forever, Psalm 16:11 says. So, our first take away is for us to realize that emotions are not bad in themselves.
But what’s wrong with emotions? Or, why is it that sometimes we can’t or shouldn’t trust our emotions? Because…
Emotions are broken by sin
A lot of us remember the (true) story of Adam and Eve. John Frame has said, “the fall… was rebellion of the whole person—intellect as much as emotions, perception, and will—against God.” After looking at Genesis 3:1-6 (notice the highlighting) we can agree with what Frame says:
“Why should I believe the Bible?” Well, one reason I believe the Bible is because I find it very…
The Bible presents a very viable explanation of the world around us. It gives us a worldview that makes sense of reality. It adequately addresses and answers the most fundamental questions of life. Questions like: How did we get here? Is the world chaotic or ordered? What is a human being? Do humans have intrinsic worth? Why do we have a sense of morality? Is there truly morality; right and wrong, good and evil? What happens after we die? Why is it possible to know anything at all? What is the purpose of life? Why is the world so messed up? And is there any hope?
We must follow our beliefs to their logical conclusions even if some would label those beliefs as crazy. It must be noted that unless we truly believe the truth of the Bible and its gospel, it will appear insane to literally or metaphorically take up our cross and follow Christ. Once understood rightly, however, it will be realized to be the logical response. We are told in Romans to present our bodies as a living sacrifice because that is our reasonable (logical) worship (12:1). 1 Kings 18:21 says, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”
Charles Spurgeon comments: “If God be God, serve him, and do it thoroughly; but if the world be God, serve it, and make no profession of religion.” Later he goes on to tell us, “Either keep up your profession, or give it up… Let your conduct be consistent with your opinions.”
If the Bible and the gospel are true we must live as though they are. We must live in line with what we believe. As the scriptures say, “The LORD is God; there is no other… therefore be wholly true to the LORD our God, walking in His statutes and keeping His Commandments” (1 Kings 8:60-61). If we succeed at living out the logical conclusion of what we believe we may appear crazy but we will be quite sane. Radical, but sane.
Francis Schaeffer said, “As Christians we must consider what the logical conclusions of our presuppositions are.” I whole heartedly agree. James R. Sire adds:
“It is important to note that our own worldview may not be what we think it is. It is rather what we show it to be by our words and actions… Even when we think we know what it is and lay it out clearly in neat propositions and clear stories, we may well be wrong. Our very actions may belie our self- knowledge… If we want clarity about our own worldview… we must reflect and profoundly consider how we actually behave.”
If we say God is Lord over our entire life but do not show that He is Lord in our lives then it is very unlikely that we believe it. Further, if God is not our Lord then He is not our Savior. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The religion of Christ is not a tidbit after one’s bread; on the contrary, it is the bread or it is nothing else.”
In a survey The Barna Group conducted in 2006 they found that
“Faith commitments sometimes play a role in what people do – but less often than might be assumed. In comparing the lifestyle choices of born again Christians to the national norms, there were more areas of similarity than distinction… In evaluating 15 moral behaviors, born again Christians are statistically indistinguishable from non-born again adults on most of the behaviors studied.”
This should not be the case because as Christians we are called to be different. We, as believers, are called to act in accordance with our beliefs and live holy lives devoted to the Lord. It is possible to profess to know God and yet deny Him by our works (cf. Titus 1:16) but let this never be true of us. May we always profess to know God and also demonstrate that we know God by how we live our lives.
Let’s live like the new creations that we are.
We all have dispositions. A certain bent to live one way and not another. We all see the world through a lens. A lens of upbringing, culture, education, and more. We each have a view of the world. This is known as a worldview.
So, what is your worldview? How do you view the world and what are the shapers of that view? These are important questions because, whether we know it or not, we all have a view of the world and what makes up the “good life.” And it is shaped by all sorts of things. But is it shaped by the right things?
Do we get our worldview simply from our parents? Our education? The entertainment we ingest? Everything is speaking to us.
However, are we listening critically or just unconsciously breathing it all in?
The vehicles we drive are all equipped with windshield wipers so that our view will not be obstructed. It is dangerous for yourself and others to drive when you cannot see clearly.
In the same way, it is important that as we drive down the road of life we see things in the correct way. It is important that we have a worldview that is in line with reality and will not send us or others crashing to our deaths.
When traveling down life’s road it is important to consider the destination. There are pertinent life questions that need answered if we are to go down the path of life with direction and intentionality. If we have a correct view of life, i.e. worldview, we will avoid many pitfalls along life’s path.
God is outside time. He is the author of time. The author of the cosmos. And He is also the author of Scripture. We would be wise to get our view of the world from the great Architect. His Word truly is a light to our path (Ps. 119:105). C. S. Lewis said, “I believe in God like I believe in the sun, not because I can see it, but because of it all things are seen.”
How do you see the world? Start by considering these questions:*
- What is reality? What is really real?
- What is the nature of the world around us? Is it chaotic or orderly? Is it all natural or is there supernatural?
- What is a human being?
- What happens to a person at death?
- Why is it possible to know anything at all?
- How do we know what is right and wrong?
- What is the meaning of history?
- What personal, life-orienting core commitments are consistent with this worldview?
- What do you desire? What is your view of the “good life”?
*Cf. James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009).
John is attracted to men. Jane is attracted to women. And so, our cultural says, “Go for it! If that’s the way you feel (the culture’s only form of “objective” truth). After all, that’s the way you were born. It’s in your genes.”
I, Paul, am attracted to women (pl.) and yet I am married, to a singular woman. I also have the tendency, bent, disposition, because of innumerable factors (nature, nurture, etc.) to be angry and act out in anger. If I left myself unchecked and just did whatever I felt like, I, sad to say, would be an abusive adulterer. Something that would not be good for me, my wife, my children, or society.
So, even if I am by nature a genetic abusive adulterer is that ok? Should I be content with that? Promote that?
I do not see how that is admirable. Many people would lead me to believe that is the higher good; to be something akin to animals. To do whatever we want, whatever our natural self would want to do. It sounds like many would sniff the wind and follow their inner impulse. However, does anyone realize that our inner impulse, whatever it might be, will often lead to some very bad places?
We all have many dispositions: selfishness, pride, boastfulness, etc. but that does not make it right; even if natural. If we want to just say that everyone should just do whatever their genetic disposition has given them, then we should just do away with the penal system and society in general. For what, in that line of thought, would allow us justification to repress any inner and natural desire?
Many studies, for instance, show that many drug addicts, whether meth, heroin, or cocaine, have a genetic disposition to drug addiction. However, we don’t say, or most of us don’t say, that drug addiction is okay. Why? Many would say because it harms the body and harms society. Just because someone has a disposition for something does not justify that disposition.
The logic that says homosexuality is fine because people have a disposition towards it is faulty. That just does not follow. People have dispositions in all sorts of ways. But that does not make it morally good.
People say: “To your own self be true” and other such phrases. But where does our deepest self lay? In our pants? Or does our mind and our convictions play a pretty big part? Maybe being “true to our self” also, and more fundamentally, means being true to our convictions, to what we think and believe at the core of our being. If I ask, “Is love more than bodily fluids?” This will be answered not unbiasedly but according to other deeper and more fundamental questions. The real issue at stake in this conversation is about fundamental convictions; how we see the world, our ultimate desires, our view of life and our view of “the good.”
People, for instance, compare sex to eating. Yes, sex is like eating in some ways. It is a natural enough thing (although much more significant psychologically, relationally, etc.), yet if we don’t eat we die. That is not the case with sex. Yet sex, under certain belief systems, e.g. naturalistic hedonism, will be seen as close to ultimate. Whereas the Christian sees sex as a good gift from God. A gift that must be enjoyed in the right way to the right end. In the Christian’s belief system there is something more awesome more significant than sex, infinitely more.
When the Christian, whether their tendency is more towards heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual temptation, has found that there is something more significant, lasting, and satisfying than sex (yes, something better than sex!) it obviously impacts them. They can be recreated and desire what is more significant than some of their inner dispositions. Through relationships, whether with friends, a spouse, or God, we see that we are not just sexual animals; that is one part of our constitution. It is not, or I don’t think we should let it be, the fundamental and driving part. That view is shallow, problematic, and simply just not accurate to reality.
What we are seeing in our culture is two worldviews colliding. One says we are fundamentally animals and thus expects us to live according to our innate animal desires. And from that worldview, it’s consistent. Only why stop with adultery or homosexuality?… whatever one finds to do, whatever the desire, it should be allowed in that system. The other worldview says we are not animals and we should not live simply according to our desires. Our desires can be wrong, very wrong. The Christian says that we were created in the image of God but have been marred through sin. We need to be remade in God’s image by listening to His Word. The problem happened in the beginning exactly because we were not listening and did what we (wrongly) desired.
Our desire must be shaped, informed, led by He who knows; namely God. God has all wisdom. Not us. He, as our good Father, knows how to give good gifts, even if we think we want something else. He knows what we ultimately need and what will ultimately satisfy.
So, there may be “genetic homosexuals” that are not practicing homosexuals. I myself am a “genetic adulterer” yet, by God’s empowering grace, I am not a practicing adulterer.
 Of course, here, if someone sees humans as fundamentally just sexual animals then what I am saying will be scoffed at. However, I will also rightfully scoff at their shallow, sad, and bankrupt view. If we are mere animals then what of love, what of society, what of the penal system? Obviously, “non-Christian presuppositions will lead to non-Christian interpretations and ultimately to non-Christian conclusions” (Michael J. Kruger, “The Sufficiency of Scripture in Apologetics,” 87 in The Master’s Seminary Journal, Vol. 12, No. 1, Spring 2001). Yet, those conclusions are chaotic, problematic, and wrong.
 “Logic, science, and morality make no sense within the non-Christian worldview. For example, how can the atheist justify and explain the origin and universal applicability of moral absolutes? He simply cannot. Consider philosopher William Lane Craig as he explains the impossibility of moral absolutes in an atheist worldview: If there is no God, then any ground for regarding the herd morality evolved by homo sapiens as objectively true seems to have been removed. After all, what is so special about human beings? They are just accidental by-products of nature which have evolved relatively recently on an infinitesimal speck of dust lost somewhere in a hostile and mindless universe and which are doomed to perish individually and collectively in a relatively short time. Some action, say incest, may not be biologically or socially advantageous and so in the course of human evolution has become taboo; but there is on the atheistic view nothing re ally wrong about committing incest. If, as Kurt states, ‘The moral principles that govern our behavior are rooted in habit and custom, feeling and fashion,’ then the non-comformist who chooses to flout the herd morality is doing nothing more serious than acting unfashionably (William Lane Craig, The Indispensability of Theological Meta-Ethical Foundations for Morality, located at http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/meta-eth.html, 4)” (Michael J. Kruger, “The Sufficiency of Scripture in Apologetics,” 83n35 in The Master’s Seminary Journal, Vol. 12, No. 1, Spring 2001).