The Real Source of Emotions

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

More from Dr David Eckman

Becoming What God Intended

Sex, Food and God

April 26, 2010. Food For Thought, Online Classes.

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