Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Emotionalism -

Emotionalism - replacing reason with experience.

Emotionalism is rampant in the world today. Far too many people live their lives based on surface emotion . These are the people who see a television commercial about a starving child, or even a starving animal, and respond in tears. They get the emotional high that comes from ‘doing something good’. Do they actually follow through with actions that would help the situation? It is doubtful that they even make an actual commitment to feed a hungry child, or hungry animal. It is even more doubtful that they follow through with their commitment. The reasons being:

First, they have already got what they wanted. They had an emotional experience. This makes them feel good about themselves and provides some sort of pseudo proof that they are a ‘good person’.
Second, surface emotions are not what it takes to make a deep and lasting commitment.

This desire for emotional and/or sensational experiences leads to something else.
‘Truth’ winds up being determined by experiences.
The more sensation or emotion one derives from an experience, the more true it becomes in his/her mind..

Whatever happens in a society filled with Emotionalists is measured by their emotional response to that event. If their emotions like what happens, then there is a positive response. If their emotions are saddened or horrified by events, then there is a negative response. It all revolves around ‘how they feel about it’. It doesn’t anything to do with absolute truth. Regardless of a negative or positive experience, if emotion was experienced, it was a success on some level.

After the a mass murder in Arizona, there was a ‘service’ attended by thousands of people. I saw part of it on television, but that was all I could manage to watch. It was a memorial service for murdered people, and yet those attending the service were cheering and applauding like they were at a political rally. Emotionalism had taken over. They mood of the crowd was without any solemnity or respect for the dead, wounded, and their families.

Emotionalists in general see themselves as caring people. They think they are at least willing to do ‘something’ about whatever problem they see as important. To them, the solution is simply ‘caring’. If you ‘care’ enough, then the problem will be solved. Their idea of solving a problem is to make as many people care about the problem as possible, and then when everyone knows about a problem, and cares about the problem, suddenly ‘POOF!” The problem will be solved. Emotionalists don’t seem to have noticed, but it isn’t working. No matter how aware people are of an issue or cause such as breast cancer, there doesn’t seem to be much progress made in actually curing it, much less stopping it altogether.. That is unless you count the money made by vendors selling things like pink ribbon stickers.

Christians should be viewing the world’s problems in two ways.

Regarding society:
Whatever problems society is facing, the solution is still the same. Jesus is the answer. That sounds simple, but that is the real solution. The first thing that works to change the world for the better is tell others that:
Their sins have separated them from God.
There is a way of reconciliation through Jesus Christ.
That is the starting point for change for the better for the individual.
1 Corinthians 2:14 says, ‘But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.’ Here are two great sermons on that verse. The first is by Spurgeon. The second is by MacArthur.

Regarding the church:
Christians must stand for the Gospel as delivered to us in the Bible. Unfortunately, earnestly contending for the faith that was ONCE delivered to the saints begins in the church. (see James 1:3) The Bible is sufficient. It tells us all that we need to know to understand the way of salvation and God’s rules for righteous living. It is relevant today, just as it was relevant yesterday, and just as it will be relevant tomorrow. Christians are not in need of any new revelation, man-made tradition, or personal experience to help us cope with the world today. Sola Scriptura. Scripture alone has the truth and the authority to set rules by which we are to live.  Personal actions are to be determined on scripture alone.  Traditions and feelings are not valid markers for determining what to do. 

Emotionalism in the world is not that surprising. It is painful to watch, but not overly shocking. However, Emotionalism in the church is much more painful to watch or hear about. Experience is placed in the arena with truth as a sound pillar for interpreting the Bible and making decisions regarding anything. In some churches and movements experience replaces Bible truth

Surface Emotion seeks sensationalism. It wants more ‘feeling’. A video clip of people at a rock concert shows people in an emotional frenzy. People are in a sort of a frenzied state of chaos.
Now move your thoughts from a video of a rock concert to a mental picture of a church service where emotionalism or sensationalism is the order of the day. Disorder is the first thing you will notice. Confusion is everywhere. It is sort of like a bad painting. In a good painting, there is a ‘center of interest’. That is the first thing your eye sees when you glance at the painting. It might be a mountain peak, a waterfall, and animal, the face of a child, or fruit in a bowl. Then your eye wanders around the painting, taking in the details. But all the details support and compliment the center of interest. Your eye keeps going back to the main point of interest in the painting. A church service is supposed to point to Jesus Christ as the center of the service and the object of worship. During the song service, the song leader is the one who is supposed to be pointing to Jesus Christ. During the sermon, the preacher is supposed to be the one pointing Jesus Christ. If you have a congregation filled with people shouting comments while the preacher is preaching, or even worse, spouting loud gibberish, you have a chaotic mess. (Sometimes people may say or shout 'Amen'.  This is fine as long as it complements the service and doesn't turn the service into a self-centered joke.)

I actually went to a very disorderly church service many years ago with my granddad. He felt like it was just better to show me such a service than to try to explain it. We managed to stick it out for three hours. It was a shocking service to a Baptist kid brought up in a church where Amen’s were allowed to be shouted, a full orchestra would have been allowed if available, and the hymnal was sung at the top of everyone’s lungs. The point is, I was not brought up in some sort of dull overly quiet church. But, I was brought up in an orderly church. So, this ‘tent meeting’ that granddad took me to was just shocking for the first hour. Then it was boring for the second hour. The third hour became almost physically painful. Gibberish was the language of some. Discord was the music coming from more than one instrument, none of which were playing any discernable tune, and certainly not the same tune, whatever it was. People were there seeking to experience an emotional high. A sensational ‘spiritual encounter’ by one person drove the rest of the congregation to look harder for their own spiritual encounter. One man shouting gibberish and then falling flat on his face was classified as a spiritual encounter by many attending the service. If he had been in a beer joint he would have been called drunk! Oh, wait a minute, he was called drunk!. But he was called ‘drunk in the spirit’. Wait a minute. He was slain in the spirit; not drunk in the spirit. Maybe he was drunk first and then slain. It was altogether a confusing service without any clear message relating to the Gospel  By the way - to be 'drunk in the spirit' is to allow the Spirit to control your life to Godly righteous living, NOT to make you act like experiencing a grand mall seizure!

1 Corinthians 14:33 says, ‘For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.’

Being ruled by surface emotions in any circumstance leads to confusion.
Confusion leads to error.
Error leads to disaster.
The longer the error is followed, the greater the disaster.
This is true in the world.
It is true in the church.

You can be looking for anything and have an emotional experience in the process. But, when having an emotional experience becomes the object you are seeking, then there is a problem. When emotion is sought in church services, the ‘feeling of having worshiped God ’ becomes more important than actually worshiping God. Worship God in truth. You may be overwhelmed with emotion and you may not.

True worship cannot be measured by how you ‘feel’ during and after worship. Remember that any ‘feeling’ you can have – the devil can duplicate. The written word of God, scripture alone, is the solid rock on which to base your life.

Something I always find interesting is the story of Elijah hiding in a cave.. I am sure you know the story, too. First Elijah had faith that God would triumph at the battle between the gods of Baal and the Almighty God of the Bible. That day, the people saw with their own eyes the power of God and the powerlessness of the false gods. Then the prophets of Baal were killed. I don’t know what Elijah was expecting at that point, but I am supposing he expected Ahab and Jezebel to admit their error in worshiping inferior gods and turn to God Almighty. Instead Jezebel set out to kill Elijah. Elijah was completely demoralized and took off running for the hills. Read 1 Kings chapter 18 and 19 for the full story. The point is that even with all the spectacular sights the people saw that day; it didn’t turn the hearts of the true followers of Baal to God. And the second point is that when Elijah ran away and hid, the Lord eventually spoke to Elijah in a still small voice.

The spectacular events did not turn unbelievers to God. God did not speak to Elijah in a spectacular way.

Solid basic Bible teaching sets the feet of Christians on a firm foundation. Honestly, emotionalism or sensationalism is not the way of the diligent.. They are seeking to ‘experience Jesus’ instead of learn of Him. Jesus himself said in Matthew 11:28-30:

‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heat: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

Jesus said, ‘Learn of me’. In learning about Jesus, there will be emotions. There will be a deep sorrow for sin – for anything that separates the Christian from God. There will be deep joy at the goodness and presence of God. There will be hunger to know more about the things of God. There will be determination to learn more and to do the things Christ says to do. Knowing what is contained in the Bible is what will give Christians peace that passes understanding in the midst of whatever life brings. Emotions are just a byproduct sort of like peanut shells are a byproduct of peanuts.  Don't settle for the hulls.  Go for the nuts!  Well - maybe I could have phrased that better - but you know what I mean.  Truth according to Jesus Christ revealed in his written word is what matters.  Don't settle for anything less.

Barbara Henderson

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Have a great day.