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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Christianity--Who Rules Reason or Emotions?

A man is either led in life by his reason (one’s rational thought process) or his emotions and which makes all the difference in the world.  A life ruled by emotions is a life destined for disaster, a life where reason is always found in the back seat where it cannot be heard over the roar of the engine of emotion as it propels an individual down the road of life.

When emotions rule your life decisions are made on the basis of feelings with minimal thought being given to truth or reality.  We do not see because we do not want to see.  We are not looking for fear we will see.  Divorce courts, bankruptcy courts, drug rehab facilities, prisons, and even the local hospitals maintain a heavy business because emotion has ruled in way too many lives and reason took a back seat.

We have the same thing in the Christian religion but since Judgment Day has not yet arrived we have not yet been forced to confront reality.  We sometimes wonder why it is that a person cannot seem to see the truth.  Well, you have to have a desire to see it and thus be looking for it to find it.  “Seek and you shall find” (Matt. 7:7 NAS) is the rule, that is the way it works.  But one only seeks when one has a desire to find and if you are satisfied with what you have little seeking will be done.

We do not want to see a reason why we should not marry an individual we have fallen in love with.  We do not see because we do not want to see.  What was obvious to those looking in from the outside whose emotions were not involved is not just hidden from us but willfully so.  Down the road we end up in a divorce.  The same principle applies in Christianity as defined by the hundreds and hundreds of denominations.  We see what we want to see if our religion is emotionally based and eventually, if that is the case with us, it will lead us to disaster.

Truth and reason will always win out given enough time.  Emotion rules for a season, truth and reason for eternity.  God’s word is truth (John 17:17).  It does not matter how you feel emotionally about what he has said.  It doesn’t matter whether or not you like it or would like to see it changed or given a different twist than what it seems to have.  Truth is not dependent upon how one feels about it.  It stands on its own regardless of what the world thinks about it.  I use the following as an illustration for a point I want to make.

Many who say they are Christians today want to see women given what they perceive to be a greater role in the church but Paul said, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” (1 Tim. 2:12 NKJV)  They say Paul’s prohibition was a cultural thing and thus relates only to that time when Paul lived but Paul gives the reason for his command.  He says, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.  And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” (1 Tim. 2:13-14 NKJV)  If that was the reason for the command, and Paul speaking by the Holy Spirit says it was, then it was not a cultural thing and is still binding today for those historical facts can never be changed.

Am I concerned with the role of women in the church in this article?  No, but I am making a point using that issue as an example.  Emotions lead us to desire a greater role for women in the leadership and assemblies of the church.  It is not God’s word that does it.  But mark this, if your religion is emotion based sooner or later you will have what you desire no matter what the Bible says.  With that being the case, many denominations now have women preaching and in leadership positions.  Jesus said of God’s word that it was truth (John 17:17) but in emotion based religion truth must take a back seat and really does not matter for emotion rules whatever the issue. 

An emotion based religion is a religion that will in time no longer see the need for Bible authority.  Nevertheless, they will still call themselves Christians.  Paul said, in Col. 3:17, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (NKJV)  It is a little hard to see how one can do a thing in the name of the Lord Jesus about which the Lord Jesus has said nothing.

To do a thing in the name of the Lord Jesus means by his authority thus if he has not spoken on the matter he has not given his authority.  If as a student in a high school a teacher has given you authority, either a written word or a spoken word, to leave class you have authority to leave but if not and you are found in the halls you are in trouble.  You acted without authority.  So it is in Christianity but why is it we are able to see the principle so readily in our daily life but not in our religion?

John says, “Any one who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 9 NAS)  The side margin note in the NAS translation says the literal Greek behind the text “goes too far” is “goes on ahead.”  To go ahead is to go beyond Christ’s teaching.

Thus, in different words, John is saying the same thing Paul said in Col. 3:17.  You cannot be doing as you please, adding to God’s word, taking from it, going outside the book of authority that you have--the teaching of Christ, the pages of the New Testament.

But, when emotions rule scriptures like these do not matter.  We will do what we desire word from God or no word from God and we will say whatever it is we are doing is to God’s glory and he will be pleased.  Jesus said, “God is spirit; and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24 NAS)  “Thy word is truth.” (John 17:17 NAS)  We say by our actions it doesn’t matter for our word is also truth as much as his word.

We become God and make the rules by which we will live and worship.  Truth, reason, and objectivity are tossed out the door while emotions (subjectivity in all its purity) are embraced.  Many people will tell you today they no longer need scriptural authority in Christianity and that they are free to do as they see best and that is exactly what they are doing.  However, scripture is the only way God gives authority of any kind to man.

I think one writer put it best several decades ago when he said, speaking of one religious body, they are ruled not by what the Bible says but by what it does not say (G. K. Wallace).  If the Bible does not specifically say not to do a thing they feel they are free to do as they please.  It is emotion based religion.  It is a religion that does not live by a Bible.  It is a worship of man and man’s desires.  If we are to be ruled by what the Bible does not specifically condemn, by what the Bible does not say, then the door is wide open to all kinds of extra-biblical practices.  We can do anything we please as long as we cannot find a “thou shalt not” for it in scripture.  Theoretically, we could incorporate all kinds of dances, performances, and plays into our worship because the Bible has no “thou shalt not.”

“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me.  But in vain do they worship me, teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men.” (Matt. 15:8-9 NAS)  They would never admit to making commandments and would say it is a lie if you said they were doing so.

However, what if the leadership decides that next Sunday we will have a special worship service where each one present will come forward, light a candle, and kneel at the bottom of a picture of Jesus before returning to their seat.  Would that not be commandment making?  You can find no authority for it in the New Testament and yet your leadership has said we will do this.  The leadership is forcing this upon you.  It is as much a commandment of men as is anything the Pharisees ever dreamed up and it is going on every Sunday all across this nation in one way or another in worship services, the same general sort of thing in a thousand different manifestations.  We dream something up and we do it and we say God is pleased and not a word about the activity can be found in the Bible.

We say it is okay, I do not mind.  So what?  What does that have to do with it?  The question is does God mind?  We say no because he knows we are doing it out of love for him.  The trouble with that is he said, through John the apostle, “this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” (1 John 5:3 NAS)  One of those commandments is that we worship him in spirit and “in truth.” (John 4:24)  There is not a word of truth to be found in the New Testament with regards to what it is we want to do on our special Sunday.

I could probably not give a better Bible example of the destructive nature of emotions ruling in religion than the case of the Jews who refused to believe in Jesus.  Their emotions ruled them, overrode all reason, and ended up destroying them.  There was no reasoning with them.  The miracles of Jesus were to them like water off a duck’s back.  So Lazarus was raised from the dead.  So what?  But that is the mindset you get into when you are dealing with emotion based (or should I say “emotion ruled”) religion.  You will never change a person whose religion is based on emotion for reasoning with them is out of the question.  They do not think with their minds but with their feelings.

Saul, who became the apostle Paul, was a perfect example.  If Jesus had not directly intervened miraculously on the road to Damascus it is exceedingly doubtful he would ever have been converted.  He could take an active role in seeing people put to death without remorse due to the hold his emotions held over him in his blind allegiance to Judaism (see Acts 26:10, Acts 23:1).  Stephen’s death at the hands of an emotional religious mob also comes to mind as another example.  The mob was blinded by emotion.

Later on Saul, now having become the apostle Paul, would say of the Jews, “they have a zeal for God” (Rom. 10:2 NAS) in reference to the Jewish nation.  He would go on to say, “But not in accordance with knowledge.” (Rom. 10:2 NAS)

We can learn from that passage if we will.  We associate zeal with deep emotions.  No one is zealous who does not have deep feelings.  But according to this passage which must rule--zeal or knowledge, the emotions or the mind, which needs to be given top priority?

The reader should not misunderstand what I am saying in this article.  I am not saying emotions in religion are bad.  They are good.  Man is an emotional creature.  God made us that way.  He too has emotions.  (Did you ever hear anything in the Bible about grieving the Spirit or God being sorry he made man?)  The central theme of this article is not that emotions are bad and the lack of emotions is good but only that emotions cannot be the ruling force in the life of one who would live a Christian life pleasing to God and be saved in the end.

In speaking to Judah through Isaiah the prophet in Isaiah 1:18 the Lord said, “Come now, and let us reason together.” (NKJV)  That is what we ought to do and must do (use the head, not the emotions) if we are going to do God’s will and be saved on the last day.

There is always hope for man as long as there is a Bible provided the man will go to the Bible and let it talk to him versus the man talking to the Bible.  Sometimes we just ought to shut up and listen, hear and heed, but you cannot do that with emotion based religion for it must speak and have its say.

Jeremiah, the prophet of old, said, “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.” (Jer. 10:23 NKJV)  That pretty much closes the door on any allowing of our emotions to rule our life as far as the word of God is concerned.  There is, however, something outside man that can direct his steps.  What is that?  The word of God.  Let us all allow it to do its work.  If we do so in the end we will reap an everlasting reward.

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