you may have learned the words, my dear, but you’ll never know the tune…

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.


About Andrew

The Universe is Round. View all posts by Andrew

6 responses to “you may have learned the words, my dear, but you’ll never know the tune…

  • Sam Gaines

    A marvelous post, Andrew. OK if I link to it from my blog?

  • theologigal

    This was an amazing post! I love what you’re saying about the balance of logic and emotion. We see the far swings of the pendulum way too often: those who would say, “Don’t think, just believe” and those who would say you have to turn your thinking off to believe. But like you said, in the Bible we see a middle-road, both logic and poetry, both pages full of history and pages gushing with emotion.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    – Amanda

    • Andrew

      Thank you Amanda. I am glad this spoke to you. It was a post that almost didn’t exist. It was very knee-jerk to something I read elsewhere. But of course, that’s how it works…I try and try to write something good, but it’s not until I quit trying and just start talking that anything anyone cares about comes out…Something tells me I might be working too hard. 🙂

  • Matthew

    Not sure Twain would like you using his quote as your title. I did like the blog. But I get a little lost when you start talking about the heart producing neurotransmitters. Are you referring to the physical heart? If so, isn’t that a reference to the body? Or, do you mean heart as the emotions; and if so, how are emotional transmitters measured apart from the brain? Keep em coming!

  • Andrew

    Matthew, you are probably right. Twain would not appreciate me using his words for a Christian blog. That’s the beauty of using stuff by a dead guy. 🙂

    As for the neurotransmitters…I am referring to the physical heart. But I am also referring to the emotions. In the same way as referring to the brain is a reference to the body, but also to the mind. It is because of the way the brain physically functions that it can be called the “mind”. Similarly the way the heart functions physically is why it is associated with the emotions. The brain is one type of intelligence, the heart is another. And the two are intertwined.

    The information on this can be found in a book called “The Secret Teachings of Plants.” That book is equal parts science and new-age plant shamanism. I’m not so into the shamanism anymore, but I’m not ready to throw out the science part of it.

    So, the neurotransmitters produced by the heart go to the brain, and the neurotransmitters produced by the brain go (among other places) to the heart. The two communicate and make up two halves of our intellect. The brain makes up the logical/cognitive aspect, and the heart makes up the emotional/intuitive half. And the two cannot be divorced if we are to have the full intelligence that we were designed to have.

    I hope that helps and doesn’t just confuse the situation more.

    Hope you’re doing well brother.


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