Many people nowadays see our beliefs as the center of who we are: They talk as if having correct beliefs will cause everything else about our lives – our feelings and actions – to fall in line.
If you could draw a “map” of the self according to the typical, beliefs-oriented view that I’ve been describing, it would look like this:
In this view, your beliefs are the core of who you are. The primary way that we become more Christ-like is by changing our beliefs. We don’t need to focus on our emotions, since they’re just the “skin” that surrounds our beliefs. We just have to be careful not to let our feelings influence our beliefs (“You cannot live life by your feelings!!!!!”) because “the heart is deceitful”.
According to this view, as we change our beliefs, our emotions begin to fall in line, and our actions follow. (You may notice that this is similar to the “fact-faith-feelings train” that I talked about recently.)
I would argue that a “better” map of the self (according to my recent posts) looks something like this:
Also, all three are constantly influencing one another. Not only is it impossible to prevent our beliefs and actions from being influenced by our emotions: It is not even wise to attempt to do so. The same can be said for the way all of these things influence one another: our beliefs influence what we do and feel; our feelings influence what we believe and do; our actions influence what we believe and feel.
As theologian Richard Pratt says, these three things “form webs of multiple reciprocities.”
Instead of trying to prevent these things from influencing one another, we should, rather, seek to grow in all three areas, becoming mature in our ability to think rightly (“orthodoxy”), feel rightly (“orthopathos”), and behave rightly (“orthopraxy”). Again, Richard Pratt teaches convincingly that the goal of studying God is not just to change our thinking, but to develop in ourselves all three of these “orthos”.
The bible calls us not just to THINK. But to DO and FEEL! Only by doing all three can we live as God intended.
Isn’t that exciting?!? I love that God doesn’t just think of us as computers in which he wants to program all the right information so that we will live the way he wants. Life is much more beautiful and complicated than that.
Coming up: I’ll be posting more about emotions. I’ll write some about why God gave us emotions. And down the road a little, I’ll get down to practicals: How do we actually learn to be “expert feelers” so we don’t have to live in fear of our emotions, constantly warning ourselves about how they’ll just lead us astray?
All of this and more coming up on… Snapshots of Glory!