Thursday, February 23, 2012


Emotions and theology...

It was a couple of years ago at VBS. The song was Great Is Our God and the kids were singing along with a worship video. It was instrumental and it was loud. I really couldn't hear the kids but it was clear from their expressions that they were loving praising God.

And then they turned down the sound on the video and all of sudden all I heard were hundreds of children singing how great is our God. Their pure, sweet voices overwhelmed me. I stood there and bawled. Thinking about God, thinking about the pure worship I was hearing. I still tear up even now just remembering it.

I was thinking about this recently when hearing some people justify different types of worship practices based on how the experience made them feel. I am not sure my emotions should be a determing factor in how we worship. It seems too easy to transition to an "end justifies the means" theology. Or should emotion be the byproduct of worship?

But this is not a new debate. Some preachers have manipulated emotions for years. Anyone care for the 8th verse of Just As I Am? But some gave their life to Jesus during those verses. Sometimes it lasted. Sometimes it didn't.

Or maybe we should just structure worship around non-instrumental children. It sure got to me.

Just asking questions. How much should what we feel determine what we do?

Hi Steve,
My question is if people are not practicing their religious doctrine
out of love or fear what else is there?
Good point. I think some would argue it should come strictly from what God's Word teaches. Of course the problem there is that God chose not to be very specific about many things. I tend to want my practice to be motivated by love, but I am not sure I want to formulate doctrines or practices based on an attempt to play to emotions. Maybe it is a cart before the horse kind of thing. Anyway, I am trying to think this through myself.
In this case I assume we are just talking about the Bible, and it teaches both, fear and love.

In today's news the burning of the Koran has insighted riots, these people are fighting out of love. "How much should what we feel determine what we do"? I would assume this is an example of emotion being the byproduct of their worship.

Love or Fear??
I think I understand what you are asking, but isn’t this completely the WRONG question: “How much should what we feel determine what we do?” Indulge me for a minute.

First, you know that I am a very left-brained, logical, thinking person. Things should make sense. They should be the way they are because that’s the way they are. I am not creative. I am not “touchy feely.” I don’t generally care how things make me “feel.”

While I don’t think you intend it this way, what you write almost implies that we should try to take emotions out of worship so that we make the point that we are not worshiping to create any certain emotion. But if we are intentionally basing our worship to prevent emotions or feelings, isn’t that just as wrong (probably even more wrong) than “devising” worship to illicit emotions and feelings?

If we are participating in worship that is truly led by the Holy Spirit – whether it is in a pink pew or an orange pew or a squeaky stadium seat on Sunday morning, or in a hospital room, or in someone’s home after a friend or family member just died, or at lunch with the guys at a local restaurant, or saying bed-time prayers with your children – don’t the emotions and feelings become irrelevant? If we are following the call and leading of the Holy Spirit, are we really sitting around talking and worried about if we are doing something because how it might make us feel?

I’m sorry, but this really seems like a stupid question to me, but maybe that is an indication of what is one of the primary problems in the church today.

Are we truly being led by the Holy Spirit? In our church? In our home? In our workplace?

I think that is the question we should be asking.
Cary, good points. What I am actually trying to figure out is how emotion works in planning worship. do we plan for emotion? Or should it be a by-product of praayful planning, Biblical patterns, or the Holy Spirit? Does an emotional response give validity to the song, practice, sermon style, etc.? Part of this thinking has been because I have had several discussions about emotional responses and how they validate worship practices or preferences. I'm just trying to work thru how I feel about it. Thanks for the input. Love you brother.
Anythime a comment gives you pause, on some level it is successful, that being stated,I think of the emotional responses of Jesus when he fed the hungery, raised the dead,and cried. Emotion was a part of him.

Is it possible to seperate the emotional feeling from the Holy Spirit, or do those emotions create the Holy Spirit, your comforter?

Again the question remains If there was no reward to be received, or penalty to be paid what kind of christian would we be?
It is so interesting to read's like a window into the Southern Hills elders meeting...(not that that is a good thing)

This is good clarification:
"What I am actually trying to figure out is how emotion works in planning worship. do we plan for emotion?"

How does emotion work in planning for a date with your bride? Do you NOT plan your time with her to set the mood or reinforce how you feel about her? If you don't, the result could be pretty underwhelming & bland, or generate the exact opposite response that you had hoped...

I think a better question is this: what exactly are you afraid of when someone wants to plan emotion into worship.

Are you saying that you do not plan your sermons for a desired emotional response? Do you complain when your preacher works emotion into his powerful sermon? Or, are churches of Christ only supposed to elicit intellectual responses through intellectual worship? I guess I just don't understand the difference between worship and sermons.

As you have been working through your thoughts on this for the past few weeks, have you come to any new conclusions?

Or...are you saving that for your blog after the next elders meeting?
I think what you have, Steve, is a divorce between your head and your heart. Get those two back together and you will understand the saved sinner's emotional response to worship their Abba father. I think a great place for you to start would be reading the book "Abba's Child" by Brennan Manning. Read that and reevaluate your position on this entry. I would be interested to know your thoughts then.
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