I like to read. I really like to read blogs. I really really like to read blogs by atheists and others who struggle with issues of faith. But I came across something that has been implied by many of the rationalist type folks finally spelled out right. My atheist blogger friend said, “when you remove emotion from the equation, you see religion for the ancient superstition that it is.” Like I say, it’s been implied often, but that’s probably the first time I’ve ever heard it blatantly said that we should completely remove emotion from the equation.
I know, I know. We’re all products of the enlightenment. We are supposed to be completely rational. We aren’t supposed to be guided by anything as transitory and subjective as our emotions.
I’m not arguing that we should just do whatever we feel and ignore our brains. But if we ignore our emotions we are dissecting our intellect. We split it in half. The rationalist movement is in reaction to the romantic movement. It is a reaction against those who think that what they feel is all that matters. But it is a direct reaction. It is the exact opposite, and it is equally wrong.
And it’s not just atheists who have this mentality. We see it in churches all over. There is such a reaction against the “spirit led” churches. There is a reaction against churches that abuse the Spirit. Against churches that treat the Spirit as a tool to be used by the Christian instead of the other way around. The desire not to be lumped into that group is so strong that often when the Spirit shows up, churches will say in effect, “Um…could you please sit quietly in the back? We’re not that kind of church.”
The Bible teaches a wholistic view of life. We are presented with a book that is equal parts logic and poetry. The Bible is not a book of Systematic Theology for a reason. It is a book about relationship. We can talk about relationships, but we can’t do it without using a certain amount of metaphor. I would argue that the same is true of all of life. To rationalize everything and remove all that is subjective and emotional from the equation is, as Alan Watts would say, to mistake the menu for the meal. It is like trying to ride a donkey down a picture of the grand canyon.
The brain works, in part, by producing neurotransmitters that carry information. The heart, it turns out, produces almost as many neurotransmitters as the brain. The heart and the brain are in constant communication. The heart has an intellect of its own. To sever the intellect of the heart and mind connection is to destroy any ability to have real knowledge. Sacred Heart of Jesus paintings hint at this connection. As do the scriptures that say we are to love God with all our heart (emotion), all our soul (spirit), strength (body), and mind (brain/intellect). These aspects of knowledge cannot be divorced.
Again I want to leave with another Donald Miller quote. In Searching for God Knows What he says, “It makes you wonder if guys like John the Evangelist and Paul and Moses wouldn’t look at our systematic theology charts, our lists and mathematical formulas, and scratch their heads to say, Well, it’s technically true; it just isn’t meaningful.”
It’s like a map of a road to the beach. It tells us the intellectual truth. But it will never put sand between our toes and salt air in our nostrils. It’s technically true, but it isn’t meaningful.