Avoiding Schizophrenia Or Finding the Middle Ground
Authors Note: This article covers two extremes, understand biased will be shown.
They are two opposite extremes. One makes people think we are crazy and the other makes people we think we are stiff and judgmental. Yes, I’m talking about what New-agers have dubbed Emotionalism and Intellectualism. Two very different viewpoints, and yes extremes. Emotionalism is just that, an Ideology based entirely on experience through emotions, whether that be of God or of some other thing that may hold our attention. While Intellectualism is based in the intellect, the mind can solve the problems, we must have head knowledge over heart. The idea here is that we gain knowledge about God or our relationship with God is based entirely on biblical knowledge.
Traditionally the Emotional ones look down on the intellectuals for never “having loosening up and being boards.” At the same time the Intellectuals look down on the emotional ones for being “immature” or “Overly charismatic.” Interestingly enough not much work has been done to try to reconcile the two viewpoints, but that is not surprising when you consider how often one viewpoint blasts another in the church today. Is it so surprising we have no sort of reconciliation in the matter. We either Blast Rob Bell for his existential remarks of never understanding God or we go after John MacCarther for his overly intense application of his vast knowledge.
Wherever we fall on this issue most of us have visited one extreme or the other throughout our spiritual walk. Emotionalist rave against scripture and theology, while creating a dangerous personal theology that rejects discipline and sound doctrine. Relying on a “God fix” or “Spiritual High” to allow them to experience God on some “level” that is apparently higher than everyone else. While Intellectuals yell at the flock to “Settle down.” Creating legalism where there was none before, acting as though knowledge of scripture will save them There has been no attempt to reach a middle ground, we go right or we go left and as we attempt to stand divided we crumble under out own
So here we are once again, doing it wrong and ignoring the rifts until they are too unstable and the church resembles an opinionated social club rather than a family. But not anymore, no more, we need a middle ground. But we’ve been given one, one that both emotionalist and intellectuals misinterpret, the Word of God.
You see, we are commanded by Jesus to know and teach in full, the commandments of God (see Matt. 5:13-20). To also be salt and light, a preserver of the world and flavor adders, making the Life that God offers us so much more appealing than a high we chase or a bit of knowledge to grasp. John writes to the saints in his letters “So that our Joy may be complete.” As if to say that knowledge of who God is, when transferred to the heart, becomes an emotion, Joy. Do you see where I’m going? If we claim to know God we “Keep the commandments of God,” and “Anyone who claims to know God and does not keep these commandments is a liar” (2 John 2:3-4).
The point is that scripture presents itself as a focal point for the believers life. If you and I were to study scripture and seek to follow God through scripture then we will find ourselves united. Paul writes to Timothy: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, as one who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). To keep the commands of God we must first know the commands, for them to transfer to our hearts there first must be a transformation of the mind. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2, Italics mine).
Am I rejecting emotions? By no means, my first goal is to encourage spiritual growth so that we “are no longer infants, tossed about by every wave of doctrine” (Eph 4:14). It is essential for the believer to have head knowledge but from that head knowledge, when it becomes hidden in our hearts we find that our emotions become truly defined in the way that they were meant to be.
My father recently told me “the presence of God and the word of God is so deeply engrained in us that sometimes we forget it is there. We do not always realize how much God’s presence and the Word of God impacts our day to day lives.” But what is the impact? I find I have Joy, a deep unfailing Joy, Joy is an emotion, but this is not some spiritual high this is ever present. I have love, I have a love for people that is so deep and overflowing that most days I cannot keep it in. I have sadness when one of my brothers or sisters is mourning or suffering. Instead of a fleeting feeling I have found eternal assurance both in who I am as a Christian and who God has revealed Himself to be through His Word and through prayer. So I do not reject emotions, they are a part of me, just as my spiritual gifts of teaching and exhortation are a part of me. Knowledge, wisdoms, emotions all stemming from a deep abiding faith in God, letting His Word guide and renew my heart and mind.
But here’s the kicker, this is not easy, but it also is not hard. Yes, it requires us to study, to put aside a simple feeling and to know. But we do not do this alone. We have the Holy Spirit which we received at Salvation, to guide us to show us scripture. We have the older saints who are wiser and more seasoned than us to Disicple us and most importantly we have the grace of God Himself, and the Word that He has given us so that we might be sanctified and given a place in a vast and varied body of people who love God and love each other, and who do their best to be a witness to everyone.
So that one day we may hear the encouragement and heed the advice of Paul, who tells the Thessalonians: “Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” (1 Thess. 4:11-12). We need a balance, we need reconciliation, we need to find the middle.