Why do we have emotions?: Because we’re like God

14 01 2010

I’ve said in recent posts that I think our emotions are a central part of who we are – just as significant as our rationality.  But the question remains: WHY do we have emotions?  What is their purpose?  And what are we supposed to DO with them?

When I think about this question, three answers come to mind.  There may be other reasons why God gave us emotions; I don’t think there is necessarily a “right” answer to this question.  But there are three answers that I think are beautiful and have radically shaped my approach to life.

Purpose #1: God gave us emotions as a voice with which to respond to the world.

(This may not sound all that exciting at first, but bear with me, this is really cool.)

We all know that in the Bible, when God created the world, at the end of each day God saw that “it was good”; and at the end of the sixth day, after creating man and woman, God saw that it was “very good”.

Is this the same tone you imagine when you think of God saying "It is good"?

When you read this, do you picture God sitting stiff-backed on his throne, stoically announcing “It is good” as some kind of formal proclamation?  Let me shatter that picture for you:

In the book of Proverbs, Wisdom is personified as a woman, and she speaks for several chapters – in poetry – about how awesome she is.  At one point she shares how she was there with God when he created everything:

“I was the craftsman at his side./I was filled with delight day after day,/rejoicing always in his presence,//rejoicing in his whole world/and delighting in mankind.” (Prov. 8:30-31)

At another point in the Bible, God says that while he was creating the world, “The morning stars sang together, and all the angels shouted for joy” (Job 38:7)

Check out "The Magician's Nephew" by CS Lewis for a beautiful picture of what the Creation might have been like.

The creation of the universe was one big party, a hugely joyous event!  God was happy!  He was thrilled!

You see, God made the world, and there are true things that can be said about it, such as “It is good”.  But God also has emotions.  God wasn’t content for facts to be just dry statements of truth.  He wanted there to be something more – something beyond simple truth and untruth.  This “something more” is called emotion.

In other words, God has declared that in this world there should be not just goodness, but also celebration of goodness. And when goodness becomes broken and badness arrives in the world, there should be another thing called mourning: something that allows us to appropriately observe the “badness” of that thing.

The implications of this are incredible!  This tells us that it is never enough to simply “know” truth, to observe it or see it, or even just to speak about it.  You are not done – you’re not God-like – until you have FELT about it.

But WHY?

I think God desires that Goodness in this world should be fully observed and voiced through our celebration.  And when there is Badness in this world, God has created billions and billions of little images of Himself – each with an emotional voice, similar to his own – to speak not just with their words, but also with their hearts, to say, “This is not right!”

Isn’t that beautiful?

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One response

5 02 2010
Jomo

“God has declared that in this world there should be not just goodness, but also celebration of goodness.” I love that.

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