Where do these amazing things called emotions come from? If you are like me, feelings are the bane and blessing of our existence: a blessing as they create an emotive background within us as we look upon our children, or a bane as we experience threatening times of loss and grief. At those various times our emotions match the delights and disasters of life. The source of emotions is a surprising place. I believe this ability to feel comes from our being made in the Image of God.
A short while back, I had the frighteningly interesting experience (more frightening than interesting) of having my eye operated on. The procedure was complicated so the operation was at a hospital in an operating room. While I was waiting outside stretched out on a gurney, an anesthesiologist came over to check on me. We ended up in a conversation. I told him that having a series of eye problems had led me to appreciate how wonderfully our two eyes worked together to create the sense of depth. I did not want to lose that, I said.
Then, he said, “Isn’t evolution fantastic, because a million years ago we had one eye in the middle of our heads, and then it migrated down to our face, and on the way it split in half.” Gesturing, he placed two hands on his head and then he slid each hand down to each eye. “That’s how we got two eyes,” he stated.
Please understand: I had been in pain for several weeks and had experienced high levels of stress. I am not as unsubtle as I will appear.
That is so stupid,” I replied, “that I’m almost forced into believing that God did it.” He got the best of the argument because shortly thereafter I was unconscious!
Our bodies are repositories of wonder. Within our short frame is an unimaginably complex set of abilities. From whistling a tune to thinking up the splitting of the atom, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Yet, the greatest wonder of all is that all of this is expressed by a walking pile of chemical and electrical activity. This is so wonderful that it makes the existence of God reasonable. Inside of us is a world of emotions, appetites, and imagination.
Our ability to do things without, and sense things within, exists because God molded clay into an electrical chemical masterpiece that makes any computer laughable. What was His model in doing so? The answer is Himself. We are flesh and blood expressions of the divine: we are made in His image. If that is so, than the contemplation of ourselves is a basic introduction to deity.
God has the ability not only to think and to will, but also to feel. The language of the Bible expresses it this way: God is said to have two qualities. He is spirit and He has soul. The classic statement is from John 4:24: “…God is spirit.” The Greek construction is anarthrous (without the definite article) and emphasizes spirit as a quality. A way of translating the phrase would be, “…God as to quality is spirit.” Spirit implies self-awareness, reflection, and will. When one examines how the Hebrew word and Greek word for spirit is used, it is commonly connected to terms of reflection, intellect, and intention.
God is also described as having a soul. Soul implies sensation, feelings, and appetites. God has what can be described as a soul since He is a sensate being. Some erroneously take the language revolving around the word soul and almost turn it into some substance within God or man. Soul is probably a category of language and psychological observation and not necessarily a substance.
"Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them." Isaiah 1:14
"Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations." Isaiah 42:1
Sometimes language can generate confusion; this is one of those places. It is easy to presume that soul and spirit imply substances, a spirit substance and a soul substance. Yet it is commonly presumed that God is incorporeal, or is not a body. Instead of God having substance, soul and spirit, these terms may be describing processes within a person. Soul implies that the person has appetites and emotions while spirit implies that the person can reflect and be self-observing.
The source of emotions is therefore God. At the center of reality is a being who feels and thinks. Since that is true, and since the Bible says that we are made in His image, we too feel and think.
That we are made in His image is the reason for our emotions and our thoughts. Men and women are similar to animals in having flesh, soul, and spirit, but the critical difference is that we are made in the image of God:
"For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God." 1 Corinthians 2:11
"Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?" Ecclesiastes 3:21-22
"Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness… So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Genesis 1:26-28
Everything about us is a reflection of the divine: we are an analogy of the divine. Yes, we have a soul like God, but that is only a part of it. And indeed, we have a spirit like God, but it is more than that. Everything about us is an afterthought about deity!
For more information about Dr. Eckman and his ministry click here http://www.whatgodintended.com/content/emotions-source.asp
More from Dr David Eckman
One of the amazing books I have been reading is The Misunderstood God by Darin Hufford. In the book, he addresses the lack of comprehension in our culture of real love – and shows that we have turned love upside down. This of course has many bad effects on us and our culture, because it causes us to mess up relationships constantly with false expectations and understandings, and even worse, creates an upside down and false understanding of God.
A good example of how this impacts our lives can be seen from this quote:
"I know men who have completely closed their hearts off from women. They don’t trust them as far as they could throw them. I know women who feel this way about men. Their hearts are so miserably untrusting and clogged because of the pain of their past that they are actually fearful of the idea of opening up to a member of the opposite sex. Ironically, men and women who feel this way almost always pray (with their mouths) and ask God to send them a mate. When it doesn’t happen, they lose all trust in God because it appears that He did not answer their prayers. The problem is that God did respond to their prayers, they just don’t remember praying for what they received. God is a heart person. He listens and speaks only to the heart. Our answers from God are in accordance with our hearts’ prayers, not our mouths’."
Here, he talks about one of my favorite subjects – the issue of head vs. heart. There are many reasons for this being a favorite topic of mine, but maybe the most important is the last sentence: "God is a heart person. He listens and speaks ONLY TO THE HEART." (Emphasis added). I also note the unprocessed past pain that drives so many to this state. This is one of the reasons we created theBeyond the Shack course series and focused on forgiveness and freedom from the past, because without these tools, you end up with an inner conflict between your head and heart that prevents you from receiving your desires – well, OK, your head desires, because your heart desires are conflicted.
Lance Wallnau teaches about convergence. Brian Klemmer teaches about throwing out all the rocks in your baggage that are holding you back. Both are talking about eliminating the inner war between your head and your heart, and both teach how to retrain your heart, to remove the lies and false beliefs that have been implanted there through exposure to the fallen world around us. It has been a great joy in my life to learn the techniques they teach that bring convergence! Essentially, it is what St. Paul talks about in Romans: Be transformed by the renewal of your mind. And yes, your heart is part of your mind, the deep part that is connected to your emotions.
Dr. David Eckman taught me a great truth: "Emotions are not an indication of truth, but they are an indication of your understanding of the truth." For example, if you believe you have been forgiven by God for your sins – that they are as far away from you as east from west, and you don’t "feel" anything, you don’t feel an overwhelming joy, gratitude and amazement that you stand clean and pure before God, then this is a very strong indication that your heart DOES NOT BELIEVE IT!
The simple method for retraining your heart is this: write down the truth, and post it on your mirror. Every morning, look yourself in the eye and speak the truth with as much force and emotion as you can muster. The goal is to convince yourself emotionally that it is true. Do this for a month. See what happens. I promise you this: your heart will be changed!
This past semester I taught a class on “Christian Perspectives in Contemporary Culture.” One of the themes the class focused on was justice, not justice in the court system but justice in the economic, political and racial sense—the goal is full reconciliation. I had the class read a work by John Perkins, With Justice for All: A Strategy for Community Development.
Perkins has been a pioneer the establishment of justice in rural Mississippi, an area where racial hatred and oppression survives to this day. In telling the story of his escape to Los Angeles and a better life, his conversion to Christ, and his call back to Mississippi he challenges his brothers and sisters in Christ to take the call for justice seriously as a vital implication of the gospel (a theme which we find prominently in Scripture but which somehow falls pretty much on deaf ears in the American evangelicalism). Perhaps this is because we think of the gospel in terms of witnessing rather than understanding the gospel as being about the inexpressible love of the Father, Son and Spirit for their creation and God’s passionate heart that has accomplished reconciliation through the person of Christ.
As Paul says, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5:19 NET) or as Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message, “God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing.”
More info on Forgiveness and Reconciliation:
Free e-book, “Love Killer Solutions”
Online course, “Freedom to Love Again”
Recently my wife Kay and I watched Invictus, the new film from Clint Eastwood starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. The movie tells the story of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black President, and his vision of using the Springboks (South Africa’s rugby team that had functioned as a symbol of apartheid and oppression to the country’s blacks) as a vehicle to unify the severely racially-fractured country in its quest to win the World Cup in 1995. The story itself is historically accurate. But rather than be a dry description of those happenings nearly fifteen years ago, it brings to life those events in quite an amazing way. Although some details are added to the story, as is often the case in Hollywood, the story the film tells is nothing short of gripping.
News reporter Alexandra Zavis who was in South Africa during these events writes:
Of all the improbable images I carry in my head from covering those first heady days of South Africa’s new democracy for the Associated Press, this one stands out. The film "Invictus," directed by Clint Eastwood and based on a book by journalist John Carlin called "Playing the Enemy," captures this extraordinary moment when history really was made on a sports field.
LA Times, December 15,2009
As you may know, I love film. In fact I have taught classes in seminary on Theology and Film on several occasions. The power of film is the power of the story to incarnate truth. And Invictus does just that.
Recently I have been studying deeply issues of forgiveness, abuse, injustice reconciliation, and the person of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in the world. As I sat in the darkened theater and watched the images and heard the dialogue I was overwhelmed as these themes wove themselves together as the story unfolded. In a very real sense Invictus became a lens that focused these themes together in sharp relief. As we walked out of the theatre I turned to Kay and said “I sense the fingerprints of the Holy Spirit are all over that film!”
Coming Up: In my next post I’ll unpack the dynamic truths I’ve been learning as I’ve studied the issues of forgiveness, abuse and injustice.
Forgiveness is something we all talk about as being foundational to Christianity. (Love is foundational to forgiveness.) The first Bible verse that many of us learned, John 3:16, states: “For God (the Father) so loved the world, he gave his only-begotten Son (i.e. His unique and eternal son with whom He was in face to face relationship for all ante-mundane eternity) so that everyone who believes in him will not perish (or be lost) but have eternal life (participation in the very life of the Trinity).” Love is foundational to forgiveness; forgiveness is vitally wound up in justification by faith alone. To vastly oversimplify it, we are declared “not guilty” by God because of the sacrifice of Christ—we stand forgiven, totally, forever and unconditionally!
If we are honest, we must admit that while we cling to the fact that we are forgiven, we are ourselves not good at forgiving others. Oh, we don’t have much trouble brushing off minor offenses but those who have betrayed us and inflicted damage? Here we do not want to forgive; we want justice, or better yet, revenge. Yet refusing to forgive, however imperfectly, keeps our souls from healing and perpetuates hatred and violence.
During the past several years I have been confronted with injustice and oppression in an up-close and personal fashion as I have ministered in Bulgaria. We as Americans think of racial oppression in terms of the Black-White divide in American culture (or maybe the apartheid of South Africa). I have witnessed the oppression of the Roma people (gypsies) in a manner reminiscent of the ghettos in which the Jews were for centuries placed in Europe. Jewish ghettos in Europe were not an invention of the Nazis; rather they were instituted centuries ago during the Renaissance by Christian political authorities who marginalized Jews because of their non-Christian beliefs. The Gypsy people too are historically non-Christian who migrated westward from the Indian sub-continent about a thousand years ago. As a people group they settled mainly in Eastern and Central Europe and remain unassimilated to this day. The song “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” popularized by Cher in the early 70’s reflects the majority population attitude toward them to this day.
In Bulgaria, under Communism, the government erected walls around gypsy communities to further separate them from the larger population. The Roma people in Bulgaria are largely illiterate to this day, and it has only been in the past couple of decades or so that the gospel has begun to penetrate these closed communities. Bulgaria specifically and eastern and central Europe generally stand in need of racial, cultural, and economic reconciliation and justice.
The problem runs deep in that culture, and in a sense, in every culture. Fortunately I have seen a few glimmers of hope in Bulgaria, largely through the ministries of Care For All.
Coming Up: In my next post I’ll share about an exciting pioneer in the establishment of justice in rural America.
Over the past several months I have been heavily involved studying and reflecting anew on the person of God. I became convinced over 20 years ago that our western understanding of the trinity had departed from the understanding articulated by the early church at the Council of Nicea and the explication given by Athanasius and the three great Cappodician theologians: Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzus.
It was they who unpacked the implications of the pre-incarnate Son being homoosias (of the same substance/being) as the Father. Contrary to the Greek concept of God as a passionless, detached “unmoved mover,” the early fathers understood that the Trinity stood at the center of any Christian understanding of God and that the three persons, Father, Son and Spirit were in a dynamic relationship of love. Some of the fathers spoke of this relationship as a magnificent divine dance. God is fundamentally tri-personal existing in a life of self-giving love. As the Apostle John flatly states, “God is love.” And while it may be self-evident, I will say it anyway: “Love, by definition, demands relationship!”
I am heartened by stirrings of the reassertion of this reality within evangelicalism. Within the past couple of months the book The Misunderstood God: The Lies Religion Tells Us About God, by Darrin Hufford was released. Hufford’s thesis is that if indeed God is love then the apostle Paul’s exposition of the nature of love in 1 Corinthians 13 should give us some profound insight into the nature and being of God. (A corollary of this would seem to be that God in his Trinitarian fullness is the source of love seen in his creation.) Similarly Andrew Farley’s The Naked Gospel: The Truth You May Never Hear in Church explores related themes from a slightly different perspective. Both of these books are written on a popular level rather than in technical theological jargon.
Coming Up: In my next post I’ll discuss the challenge of our own dishonesty when it comes to the issue of forgiveness in our lives.
In my last post I wrote about Nelson Mandela and his belief that the way to healing was not through revenge, but through forgiveness. This type of forgiveness is not conditional on apology, for an apology would never be offered. It is an act of free unconditional grace, where revenge is foresworn and the damage is borne by the one who has been hurt. We say that grace is free and unconditional, but there is also a pain in grace. In his latest blog entry Baxter Kruger speaks of the “pain of grace.”
“To be gracious is to hurt,
for it is not merely to wink at a problem,
but to enter into it and bear it personally,
to endure it, in love and mercy and patience.”
Mandela personified grace, healing and reconciliation. He practiced what he preached. As a result of his example and influence South Africa set up the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” in an attempt to heal the abiding wounds of Apartheid.
Witnesses who were identified as victims of gross human rights violations were invited to give statements about their experiences, and some were selected for public hearings. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from both civil and criminal prosecution.
The TRC, the first of the nineteen held internationally to stage public hearings, was seen by many as a crucial component of the transition to full and free democracy in South Africa. Despite some flaws, it is generally (although not universally) thought to have been successful. [Wikipedia, s.v. “Truth and Reconciliation Commission (South Africa)”]
Coming Up: When a political leader models grace and reconciliation it is a rare gift to a country. In my next post I will talk about the recent film Invictus and how the story of the movie brings themes of forgiveness to life.
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Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison in South Africa labeled as a terrorist for his work in opposing the apartheid system that oppressed not just the blacks but all who were not racially pure with full European ancestry. Early in his career he took Gandhi’s non-violence as an example.
Ecclesiastes 7:7 observes: “Surely oppression drives a wise man crazy, and a bribe drives a person mad.” So it was for Mandela. As the pushback from the government came bringing more repression, he became convinced that non-violence would not prevail. He and his group began targeted bombing of critical facilities, being careful to avoid human causalities. The Government labeled him a terrorist. Arrested and imprisoned, he suffered beatings, boredom, and depravation as he lived in a 6×8 foot cell, and broke rocks for labor. During this time he also read and thought.
In 1990, with apartheid unraveling Mandela was released from prison and became the leader of the anti-apartheid coalition of groups dedicated to end the hateful system. It was he who led the negotiations that ended apartheid in South Africa, and he who became the nation’s first democratically elected black president.
As he took the reins of power fear shuddered through the white minority who feared a bloodbath of revenge. But Mandela had grown over the decades. He had learned that the way to victory, the way to unification, and the way to healing was not through revenge, but through forgiveness.
Coming up: In my next post I’ll begin to unpack forgiveness and the pain that is present in grace.
How does the Trinity relate to us and what does the Trinity mean? In this episode of the EduPlex Podcast, Dr Jim Sawyer talks about resources available to study the nature of the Trinity and other concepts present in the Bible. He also reveals some surprises he encountered during his own years of study.
We hope you enjoy it.