I Don’t Care about Your Feelings

Rather, I care about your immortal soul.

 

In this day and age, what’s the primary retort thrown at Christians by the pagans? “Don’t force your worldview on me. Let people be free to do as they feel.”

Let’s examine that.

This assumes that all we (Christians) care about is imposing the way we feel about certain issues (murder, adultery, theft, idolatry, etc.) onto other people. They have feelings too, why are we allowed to express ours but they aren’t? That’s kinda mean. Well, it would be kinda mean…if it was about feelings at all.

Christianity is not about feelings. If it’s about feelings, then, sure, who am I to say a man cannot love a man? I don’t like it, but it’s not my body/soul. If that’s how you feel, you should be free to pursue it, right?

Unfortunately, many Christians have fallen into the trap of thinking that worship of the true God is primarily about feelings. This gives rise to the pitfalls of emotionalism, pietism, and all the candy-hearts precious moments “isms” that plague American Christianity in particular. Salvation comes through how you feel about God, not through any objective measure of a covenantal relationship. All too often, we define that relationship in terms of feelings. Feelings, or emotions, may be influenced by that relationship, but they do not constitute it. True love is never defined by feelings. True love sacrifices itself even when neither party is feeling particularly loving at the moment. If love (or any relationship) is supposed to be defined by how each person feels at any given moment, it’s no wonder marriage is losing its covenantal significance (and losing ground in the War on Marriage).

Rather, Christians ought to realize that we don’t come to God to feel good. We don’t believe His Word because it makes us warm inside. We believe it because, well, it’s the Truth. Objectively. No ifs, ands, or buts. We didn’t decide that’s the Truth. We don’t get to erase the parts that scare us or convict us. There may be parts that we don’t even like. But the way we feel about it changes nothing about the fact that it’s true. In fact, the Word of God is Truth itself. Its objectivity doesn’t change just because you think some parts of it are wrong (sorry, God, my way is better).

Now, do we disagree with exactly what that Truth states? Of course. It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and it is the glory of Kings to search out a matter. Life isn’t easy. And we will disagree. But if we don’t agree that there is one Truth, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us All, that we believe, die for, and strive towards, then we’ll get nowhere.

What use is it to discuss in long debates the implications and nature of the immanence of Christ, if all that really matters is “feeling” like your relationship is ok? Why do you think the early Christians debated long and hard to uncover the nature of the Trinity, or the significance of the Eucharist, if it didn’t matter? It does matter. Because when you belong to the people of Truth, it’s important to know exactly what that Truth is. If the nature of Truth is not objective, then Christianity is just an often violent ideology.

You think you have a good relationship with God because you mostly do good things and you “feel” a connection? Lemme ask something. When was the last time you confessed your sins and were absolved? When was the last time you renewed covenant with God and his People through the breaking of bread and drinking of wine? Have you been baptized? A legal document doesn’t care how you feel about the contract.

The atheists cry foul and say we have no right to force our feelings onto other people. If that’s all Christianity is, a set of feelings/values, then I say they are perfectly right to say so. But if Christians are the people of God who know the Truth, we have every right to denounce Evil. Not only do we have a right, we have a duty to do so.

If Christianity is just about you and your feelings, then it doesn’t matter in the long run.

But it’s more than that. It’s a mending of the sundered covenant between God and Men. And the objectivity of that covenant, of Truth, will not and cannot change because of how you feel about it.

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18 comments

  1. Stan Adermann

    I would agree with you, if as you say you have “the truth” on your side. My contention is that if you really were the keepers of the one truth that would benefit all of us, then it would be much more readily apparent. Unfortunately, you are one of thousands (millions?) of voices all making the same claim. There is Christian truth, Jewish truth and Islamic truth not to mention the thousands of other beliefs that have existed, and within these many different interpretations of each. From an outsider’s perspective, there isn’t a lot of difference. Your truth does in fact appear to us not as the word of God but as the feelings (as you put it) of bronze-age tribesmen, with newer interpretations that vainly attempt to address modern life. I think many of the modern interpretations would leave the original authors askance.

    We are atheist and agnostic because there is no such truth among the world’s religions that stands out as such. They don’t just feel wrong; they are often abhorrent. We can’t simply accept your truth as given; you need to demonstrate beyond any doubt (to us) that it is the way to go. While I do appreciate your desire to keep me from eternal torture, I do believe your efforts will not benefit me.

    • MadDawg Scientist

      Thanks for the read and the comment.

      So you would agree there is a Truth, regardless of whether the Christian is right about what that is? I’m not baiting you, haha. Too often, blog wars degenerate into poo-slinging that helps no one. And I don’t expect you to change your mind from one post you read from a fundamental Bible-pounder 😉

      Perhaps I didn’t emphasis faith/belief enough. Again, though, I want to distinguish between faith and “something you feel in your heart,” as we Christians often erroneously put it. It’s the truth, perhaps, but it’s not the whole truth.

      You’re correct in saying that many “Truths” are abhorrent. This (I would say) is because they are not THE Truth. And I have to admit that many things have been done in the Name of Christ that never should have been done. However, misinterpretations of the Truth, these errors, do not make the Truth itself fundamentally false. Denying it doesn’t either. And that’s my point – it exists regardless of what we think or feel about it.

  2. Stan Adermann

    I’m entertaining the hypothetical idea that there could be such a truth. To me this begs the question, how would one recognize it? I think such a Universal Truth should by its nature easy to distinguish from misinterpretations and false pretenders. Even if we assume for the moment that Christianity is the best example of such a truth, it is clear from the many versions of Christianity available that this is not the case.

    In my early days of Lutheran education, the question would often come up about whether a Catholic, Methodist, Baptist or Jew could get into heaven. The answer was always somewhat convoluted, but frankly any answer other than “they’re going to hell” made me wonder why then it wasn’t okay to attend their services instead of Lutheran. I’m certain the same questions were asked in their churches, probably with similar answers.

    In the end, there is no good way to identify the truth you speak of. All Christians start from more or less the same texts and end up in different places. This leads me to believe that there is no such truth, or that it is not possible to recognize it with any certainty.

    • MadDawg Scientist

      I believe the fundamental difference between you and I is that you believe you have the ability to judge between right and wrong, and I believe that we as fallen humans lack that authority. We have different “first movers,” you might say.

      If life was easy it wouldn’t be fun.

      To your comment about denominations: I wholeheartedly agree that there is dissension in the Church – and I don’t like it. Although I believe some dogmas more clearly interpret the Sacred Word than others (hence the disagreements), all who follow the Truth affirm the same basic principles – faith in the Triune God and hope in Christ alone for salvation. I’ve posted about that somewhere before if you’re still interested. I think most of my posts are directed towards the “modern Church” and “getting it together.” No one believes us if we disagree even with one another.

      The premise I start with is that the Word IS the Truth. Can we interpret it differently? Yes, and we will because we’re all human and we all are fallible. The fact that we misinterpret it does not change its fundamental nature, however. That’s my point. Once you affirm that the Bible is the authority in matters of doctrine, any true interpretation will be consistent with the whole theme of the Book, and that’s how you can weed out the bad doctrine.

      Thanks for discussion! Always welcome.

  3. rowanwphillips

    The two most important commandments given by Jesus didn’t mention forcing others to believe. If the golden rule is more important then shouldn’t you go with that? You wouldn’t want people trying to force you to be an atheist, so the golden rule says you shouldn’t do the same to them. You may think you can interpret god’s wishes better than Jesus stated in the gospels but I don’t think that makes you a Christian.

    • MadDawg Scientist

      Let’s take a look at those Greatest Commandments:

      “You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
      “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

      No one said anything about force. I’m just talking about whats right. Love Yahweh. Keep his commandments. Love your neighbor. Speak up if he falls into sin. You may think I’m directed against atheists with that one, but it’s just as important to keep a Christian brother in the straight and narrow. Not very loving to let someone drive themselves off a cliff.

      Do unto others? I want people to care enough about me to slap me when I’m doing wrong. Simple.

      What would you say defines a Christian?

      • rowanwphillips

        “we as fallen humans lack that authority” – How do you judge what is right & wrong then? You surely can’t use the bible with all its inconsistencies and contradictions?

        “Do unto others? I want people to care enough about me to slap me when I’m doing wrong.” – If this is what you think then you need a slap ever time you tell anyone you know better than they do how they should behave.

        “No one said anything about force….Not very loving to let someone drive themselves off a cliff.” – would you force them to stop?

        In a loose sense a Christian is defined by anyone who believes in the divinity of Jesus. To me a Christian is someone who thinks that reading and quoting from the bible gives them superiority in any argument. A person who believes that a book with many writers writing in many languages (none of which are that spoken by the subjects of each book) then given endless translations into vernacular languages is somehow a definitive ‘word of god’ that cannot be challenged even when proved wrong. A person who believes that the chosen war-god of an obscure, semi-nomadic, bronze-age tribe in the near East, who only really became well known in Europe after an unsurprising battlefield victory by a pagan Roman Emperor, is in any way special or unique. A person who belives that why you do something is so much more important than what you do. A person who believes that belief and sexuality are conscious choices rather than constructs of nature or nurture. Thats a real Christian.

      • MadDawg Scientist

        Inconsistencies? Contradictions? Please. Enlighten me.

        Your argument would make sense…if there was a basis for it. You derive authority for your statements from…where? Your own experience? Experience of others? Chemistry of the brain?

        Demons believe in the divinity of Jesus. But they don’t trust in Him alone for salvation, that’s the difference.

        You are saying that I’m wrong (unless I grossly misunderstand). If this is the case, why are you right? What basis do you have for your arguments? Why are they right and mine wrong?

  4. rowanwphillips

    If you haven’t read the bible or if you have but haven’t noticed the differences, I’m not sure why we’re having this discussion.

    “Demons believe in the divinity of Jesus. But they don’t trust in Him alone for salvation” – who do they think is in charge of salvation then? Or do they not want to be saved?

    • MadDawg Scientist

      I’m well aware of the “contradictions” and all I’ll say on that (right now) is that perceived errors are due to the nature of the interpreter and not from invalidity of the text itself.

      I’m referring to a passage where it says that demons believe in the Son of God. But they hate him, is the point. They believe him in the sense that they are aware of his physical existence and power. The point is, that’s not enough. Belief and faith are not the same, is what I was trying to say.

  5. Stan Adermann

    If truth is open to interpretation then it’s not truth. If you are unable to judge right from wrong then you are equally unable to judge one interpretation of the truth from another. You are, as you said, fallible. As for comparing something vs. “the whole theme of the book” this is exactly why there are so many denominations. Any claim you have to be in possession of the best interpretation looks exactly the same as every other. Imagine a line of 100 people all yelling “I have the Truth! Ignore these other guys!” It’s kind of silly and it’s no basis for morality.

    Determining right from wrong is a difficult task, but necessary. It should fall to society to do it, because society is the authority that will be responsible for enforcement of the rules they set. IMO delegating it to something like the Bible, or worse yet a priest class that interprets the Bible is abdicating your responsibility as a member of that society. And at least if society gets it wrong it can be fixed. If it’s your interpretation of God that is wrong there’s simply no arguing it because you can’t argue against “God said so”.

    I would agree with Rowan, if you’re not familiar with the many inconsistencies of the Bible you should do some reading. Google “Bible contradictions”, there are dozens of sites that outline them. I’d also recommend “Who wrote the Bible” by Richard Friedman or “Don’t know much about the Bible” by Kenneth Davis.

    • MadDawg Scientist

      Ah yes. You raise a valid concern. How do we judge between one interpretation and another? Well, we often speak of “Scripture” as a single object, and tend to forget that it is a fairly large book that speaks to a number of applications. If Scripture is my authority (my position), then interpretations of certain passages or themes are taken in light of and judged by passages that speak more clearly.
      It’s very easy to fall into the error of thinking that you and you alone have the correct interpretation. The key is first humility (“Believe no man, but search the Scriptures daily to see if these things are so”) and secondly to realize that what GOD says is Truth, not what any one person has said. The obvious problem, then, is interpretation, as you both have pointed out. We know what He says from Scripture (despite copying errors over the long period of history, no other ancient text remains nearly as consistent throughout the breadth of even hand-written copies).
      The Scriptures tell us to “lean not on our own understanding,” and thus when we hear or read or think of a different interpretation, we must always be vigilant to be sure that this new (or old) doctrine remains faithful to Scripture itself – no easy task.

      I actually own a copy of “Who Wrote the Bible,” now that you mention it. Forgotten all about that. Haven’t read it in years. I’ll take a look at his arguments.

      So society is your moral/truth basis? Society meaning a metaphysical construct or a collection of individuals?

      By the way, thank you both for engaging.

  6. Stan Adermann

    Genesis 3: “you will be like God, knowing good and evil…Then the eyes of both of them were opened” If you want to use the Bible as a basis (which I don’t), the very beginning says man has the ability to tell good from evil, right from wrong.

    I don’t believe there is a such a thing as “truth” as you define it. Nor do I believe such a thing is necessary to arrive at a consensus about what is best for the group. The laws of society (a group of people) are the reflection of that consensus to the degree that society can resist corruption, although I would hesistate to declare them moral. And they are relative to the times and the needs of that society. The Aztecs practiced cannibalism which you and I would probably agree is wrong. But we have technology where the didn’t; they had overpopulated beyond the capability of their environment to sustain them. Faced with the choice of cannibalism or starvation they came to a new consensus which extended the life of their civilization.

    The divine authority that you assert is simply either an excuse to ignore/circumvent the laws you dislike or an attempt to coerce people into following your idea of morals when reason won’t convince them.

    • MadDawg Scientist

      We do have the ability to discern good and evil, yet that ability is flawed because of sin and therefore not whole able to be trusted. Obviously, we see that many judgments we make are sound, yet always they must be seen in the light of Scripture to derive validity. Being in the image of God, who is Truth, we have a shadow of Truth in us, no matter how depraved and twisted it may often be. That’s why the appeal to Scripture is the only one that can be trusted and ultimately the only wholly true source. Lot of good theology on the Garden and the Fall that I can delve into should you be interested.

      By what means does a society reach a consensus? Is it not the rule of the majority, the sum of the individual morals of the people?

      I’m not going to force you to do anything. I can’t make you believe this. The Holy Spirit may choose to open your heart, but it’s not up to me.

      Reason won’t convince you? For good reason (no pun intended). We stand upon two wholly different grounds. My ground is the Scripture, and all my reasoning is derived from that and leads to it (as is the nature of any argument to return to ground). Your ground is (I gather) either yourself (in which case random brain chemistry), or the society that surrounds us (the random brain chemistry of others).
      Therefore, I recognize that no “logical” reasoning can convince you of my side of the debate. (Then why do I argue. I dunno. I like arguing. Maybe that’s bad.)

      I remain convinced that the best way to “reason the Gospel,” as it were, is to show the fruit of a life well lived in service to God, and to remain consistent to my faith throughout. Unfortunately, the comments on a little-read blog are not the best way to do that, but I do what I can 😉

  7. Stan Adermann

    “The Holy Spirit may choose to open your heart…” I’ve always found that to be a particularly entertaining bit of circular logic. If it takes an act of God in the form of the Holy Spirit to make one believe then the fact that I do not believe must indicate failure or disinterest on his part.

    Don’t discount “random brain chemistry.” First, it’s actually fairly ordered chemistry, and second, it can accomplish quite a bit when several brains collaborate. If it got us to the moon, then it can determine ways to enable us to live harmoniously. We just have to be willing to employ it. Unfortunately, one of the best ways to stop the progress of society is to elevate religion over reason. Islam was the center of science, progress and culture for three centuries. Then a 12th century religious scholar halted virtually all progress by declaring that “mathematics is of the devil”. Islam has never recovered from this.

    A common theme among Christians who attempt to minister to us poor misguided atheists and agnostics is to state “I have the ultimate Truth” and proceed to make pronouncements about how great it is, how we don’t understand it, how everything would be better if all people lived by it. This is an argument that will never work if the other person doesn’t accept your base premise about Truth. Perhaps you’d have better luck if you started with the benefits and worked your way back to why you think your Truth is the reason for it. And you have to understand that we’ve heard most of these arguments before. Many of us were Christians before (I was), have read the Biible (I did in its entirety), studied it (I did), studied its origins and history (check), read several of the books that were left out (check) and studied the history of the church (check).

    As for the fruit of a life well lived in service to God, I still consider my father the best Christian I ever knew. For all of my life he served as a church elder or officer. He contributed to the collection plate without fail and he donated time teaching sunday school, doing maintenance on the church buildings, mowing the lawn or clearing snow out of the parking lot. In spite of this I never once saw him indicate to anyone else that he was more important to the church or better in any way: he was always humble. It was his fondest wish to be with all of his children in heaven one day despite what the Bible says about personal relationships after we die. He encouraged us to do the same without being pushy about it, and we did so. I taught Vacation Bible School, among other things.

    This is why I found it especially entertaining when a new preacher came to our church who cozied himself up to the wealthy members while ignoring, neglecting or criticizing the poorer members like my father. The preacher convinced the church to make expenditures on his family that were far beyond what any prior preacher had received or asked for, and frankly beyond reason. They went along with it largely because he fed the egos of a few ‘important’ members. In the end my father was alienated from the church he served so faithfully at a time when Alzheimer’s was gradually claiming him and he could have used their help. He will be buried in their cemetary, but his funeral will happen elsewhere. Note that all of this occurred after I left my faith behind, but I find it an interesting confirmation of my opinion of the church. I wish you better luck.

    • MadDawg Scientist

      It’s His choice. Most people call that a cop-out, saying that if you can’t give a reason, don’t half-ass it. I say the reason is “For His glory, as is His right.” Slightly different topic, free-will/predestination argument and all that.

      So, there is an order to this chemistry? From whence does that order come?

      It pains me to hear of the way your father was treated. Obviously, that pastor was not living for God, he was living for himself, and hurting others for monetary gain. Even worse, it seems that he and others like him both drive people like you from the faith, and cement their decision never to return (unless I misinterpret your situation). As you can testify, he is a very poor witness indeed. It’s easy to fall into that trap: we want larger congregations, putting ticks down in the “converted” column, income, status, etc. We forget that our purpose is to serve others and not ourselves. Sad. Humility indeed is a rare and precious virtue.

  8. robstroud

    It’s unfortunate about how “feelings” get in the way of truth at least as much as they reinforce it. And, the notion that people lead their lives guided by feelings rather than reason and faith, makes me even more cynical about the destiny of humanity.

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