Ex-Pastor Ham

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Tag: Affections

Knowing and Loving God: Part 5a

Click here for an explanation of this series

Friday, June 20, continued (previous post here)

Emotions ought to have a place in Christianity. However, emotions is a poor term. It’s a blunt force instrument. There are different kinds of emotions and not all are appropriate for Christian worship. Using the term “emotions” in this conversation (regarding the inner life, or life of feeling) is like the hunter who Dr. Bauder once encountered who was cleaning his deer with his car keys. It is not the right tool. So let’s begin drawing distinctions.

The ancient Greeks (specifically Plato) had categories of emotions, and they located them within various parts of the body. These ideas will be helpful to the discussion.

Plato's Emotions

 

HEAD (kephalē): pure thinking (think of Data from Star Trek)

UPPER CHEST  (stēthos): courage, patriotism, reverence, wonder; folks like warriors and explorers would be governed by this

LOWER CHEST (splangchna): altruism, gratitude, kindness, mercy, compassion, hope, delight, humor; friends and philanthropists

Both categories of the chest were later combined into one. These feelings can be governed by the understanding, and with the understanding govern other feelings. Chest = affection

BELLY (koilia): bestial/animal emotions, appetites of the body, jealousy, envy, rage, grief, terror, vanity, lust, pity, resentment, avarice, ambition, self-promotion, shame, contempt, disgust, bitterness, remorse, hilarity, vindictiveness; gluttons, drunkards, tyrants, conceited, libidinous; Belly = Passion or appetite

According to Plato, you ought to be governed by your head, never by your belly. Problem: the belly makes a lot of racket. (And by the way, Plato is speaking in metaphors. He didn’t actually believe these locations were literally where these things were located.)

Next important figure: Philo

Philo was a Jewish biblical historian/interpreter who mediated Platonic thought into Jewish life. By Philo’s time, Plato’s four-part distinction had become three by combining the chests. According to Philo, the head can never overrule appetite on its own. Given a struggle between the head and the belly, the belly always wins (this is bad). However, the chest can overcome the belly.

The modern interpreter of this thought is C.S. Lewis (see: ‘The Abolition of Man‘). As he sees it, we’ve raised a whole generation of men without chests, unable to resist their appetites having furnished only their heads (and this was nearly a century ago).

So where is the sin nature in all of this?

Total Depravity: every part of us has been affected by sin; we are prone to using every part of us in rebellion against God; so we are not saying that vice is only in the belly and the splangchna is truly virtuous

How does the N.T. treat these terms?

(I implore you to look at these verses so you can see how these terms come to bear on the conversation, and what the N.T. writers had in mind when they were using them.)

Splangchna: Luke 1:78 | 1 John 3:17 | James 5:11 | Phil. 1:8, 2:1 | Col. 3:12 | usually regarded commendably in the N.T.

Koilia: Rom. 16:17-18 | Phil. 3:18-19 | the term was used a little more flexibly, sometimes just as a metaphor for the innermost self; when used in the sense of moral capacity, it is always used in a negative light

The church fathers borrowed these categories and developed the idea of a higher and lower soul. The problem is not that all of these inner desires are inherently sinful, it is that they are so powerful that if left to unregulated gratification, one will be led into sin.

These are the distinctions you still find when you get 1700 years down the line to Jonathan Edwards. Knowing what is right is not of itself enough of a defense to keep from doing wrong. We often know we are sinning and we do it anyways. Only when reinforced by the chest can we overcome the passions that would rule us.

Improper affections cannot be ruled by the head alone. They must be ruled by right affections. The problem is we’ve lost the distinctions and no longer think in terms of appetites and affections, only “emotions.” And hence we employ improper appetites (especially in regard to worship) thinking they are actually affections.

What Dr. Bauder is getting at in all of this is that not all emotions are appropriate for the worship of God. It’s not just a matter of loving God more, or worshipping Him more, it also has to be loving Him with the right kind of love, and worshipping Him with the right kind of worship. It’s more than a mere quantity issue, it’s a quality issue. We can be loving God with the wrong kind of love, so offering Him more of it is not the fix. We can be offering God inappropriate worship, so increasing it only increases our error. We can do both while thinking (incorrectly) that we are loving Him and worshipping Him rightly.

Take the categories of Fear, Joy, and Love

Are all of these fears the same types of fears? Of course not. Joys? Not a chance. Loves? No. If you tell your wife you love her like your hunting dog, you’ll be in big trouble. Disordered loves are wrong. (You can spot them. You can see when a 56-year old man loves his long-lost youth so much that he dresses like a teenager and gets botox. It’s embarrassing for everyone!)

These are not all the same fears, or joys, or loves. To fear God in some of these ways would be sinful! Insulting! They are not all the same.

So what sorts of things are appropriate to feel towards God?

Stay tuned…

Knowing and Loving God: Part 1

As many of you know, I recently traveled to the Minneapolis area for a week-long seminary course entitled Knowing and Loving God taught by Dr. Kevin Bauder at Central Seminary (For more links to things related to Dr. Bauder or the Seminary, refer to last week’s post).

I hope to write a short series of perhaps five parts or so (one for each day of class) outlining the content of what was taught. Granted, this will be a very imperfect representation, as it relies on my handwritten class notes, of which I am several years removed from practicing. If information gaps exist, they belong to my old companion, Mr. Starboard Hand of Crampton, not to Dr. Bauder.

My purpose for writing is threefold: 1) To spread these valuable ideas as widely as I can; 2) To share with the leadership and membership of Bethany Baptist Church a representative sample of what type of training I am pursuing as they so generously support me in this pursuit; 3) To help me remember these principles better myself.

The class notes will be italicized below, with any new additional commentary in standard font.

Before getting to the notes, I want to first recognize how refreshing the class was due to its basic philosophy. Contrary to most of the Christian education I have been exposed to, it aimed not just at the head (cognitive), but at the heart (affections), and hands (actions). I was somewhat aware of this philosophy going in, and wondered how Dr. Bauder was going to steer what easily could be a merely academic class into these other two aims. It didn’t take long to find out.

Monday, June 16

One of the first things we did was worship. Not pretend. Not as a practice session.

Dr. Bauder set the tone for the rest of the week. He started with a brief three-part liturgy (don’t worry, he’s thoroughly Baptist) of reading a worshipful passage of Scripture (often a Psalm), praying a prayer for the sole purpose of glorifying God (asking for nothing), and leading us in a hymn that adequately reflected the Scripture and prayer. He then assigned students to lead in this liturgy for the rest of the week to teach us how to lead worship in this God-centered way.

At this point he assigned the reading for the class:

  1. Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards
  2. A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, William Law
  3. The Christian Book of Mystical Verse,  A.W. Tozer
  4. The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer

At this point, the lectures began, with the sobering assessment: “The church of Christ has never experienced a lower hour than the one in which she finds herself now.” With that, we headed into a discussion of the proper adoration of God (a lack of which is, in large part, why the church finds herself at such a low place).

  • Adoration is one of the most neglected aspects of Christianity, yet nothing is more fundamental.
  • Adoration is not exegesis, or petition, or intercession, or confession, or even thanksgiving.
  • Praise is prompted by the object of the praise. We praise what we admire.
  • Admiration is a close synonym of adoration, but adoration goes beyond to devotion. Worship is another synonym. Praise is another.

At this point, we began our discussion on ‘ordinate affections,’ which is a vital idea for this class. From what I gather, this idea comes largely from Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections which I will soon be reading.

  • ordinate = appropriate
  • We want to respond to God with ordinate affections. (In other words, not all affections are appropriate, or ordinate, for the worship of God)
  • If God had never done anything for us, including providing salvation, He would still be infinitely majestic and worthy of our adoration.
  • There are two spheres of adoration: 1) Private Individual; 2) Assembled Church (local congregation)
  • The normal church service is primarily about worshiping God. Not evangelism. Not fellowship. Technically, not even doctrinal instruction. These are all important, but not primary. (Do not misinterpret Bauder here. He is not putting these things down. He is elevating worship. And by worship, he does not mean merely singing. He is not saying “Subjugate preaching and evangelizing and fellowship to the song service.” Worship had a broader meaning in this class than what many contemporary Christians think of when they hear the word.)
  • Right feeling is as important in our worship to God as right thinking. There could be no greater impiety than beholding God and remaining unmoved. “Profane” does not mean cursing God, it means treating Him as ordinary.
  • By the way: the thing that even makes it possible for us to appear before Him and adore Him is the merit of Christ.
  • On joyful worship: You can have sobriety and even somberness and still have joy. Conservative worship does not have to be depressing worship. Just as there are different types of love or fear, there are different types of joy (a favorite example of his comes from Pastor Michael Riley: think of the joy you would feel when given a new car vs. the joy you would feel if hearing the doctor say, “I can’t explain this, but your cancer is gone.” Those are two very different types of joy).
  • The example of Psalm 100: Psalm 100 is about what the Psalmist knows about God, which then is expressed in how he feels about God. Good worship results in right affection, but the feeling is not the starting point.
  • God never gets tired of being admired for Himself. (We often recoil a this notion as humans, but as Christians we should know better. This is actually a good test of spiritual health. Does the idea of God wanting you to praise Him delight you? If so, you probably know and love Him better than most. Does it disturb you? If so, then you don’t know and love Him well enough yet.)

The following brief discussion was new for me, and surprising at first. When run through the biblical grid of some things the Lord has been teaching me from His Word over the last couple of years, it seems to fit well, but in a way that takes it farther than I had yet gotten on my own. This was a riveting discussion.

  • Read Matthew 11:20-24 asking this question: “Is God’s highest interest to do whatever will save the greatest number of people?”
  • Based on the “if” statements in this passage, the answer would seem to be, “Apparently not.”
  • So what is God’s highest interest?
  • Bauder’s purpose was not to shatter missions or evangelism. As a matter of fact, later in the class he gave us the highest possible motivation for these good things. His purpose was to force us to ask: “What do we do when we run up against things about God that we do not understand  (or like!)? Couldn’t one type of adoration of God be, when in these situations (and we will be in these situations), to respond with, “God, I trust you.”?

Finally for Monday, a practical concern in worship:

  • In worship, we ought to eliminate as many distractions as possible. As a society, we love to be distracted (“excarnated” or “out of body”) and this is a pervasive problem in worship. Eliminate as many distractions as possible. With that in mind, Dr. Bauder had a no electronics policy, since the main purpose of this class was to facilitate personal and corporate worship.

NEXT: Knowing and Loving God: Part 2a

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