Reliable Input

An atheist writer I enjoy draws a distinction between those who make their way through rational analysis of objective evidence, versus those who make their way reading the Bible. I don’t draw that distinction at all.

Biblical scriptures work. They are effective at capturing the truth of the spiritual conditions we all face and mapping the way forward, particularly when that way is contrary to the leadings of our deceived and deceitful hearts. This very effectiveness is part of the way these documents came to be recognized as scripture (a process that took a long time).

Reading the Bible thus broadens the scope of reliable input. For those who make their way through rational analysis, attention to scripture expands the range of evidence that this analysis can put to use.

Does God Speak Through Our Feelings?

Answer: Maybe.

Our “feelings” actually describe several phenomena at once. Emotion has various origins. They include:

1. Automatic Thinking

Our world has sudden danger in it; we don’t always have time to think logically. So our brains help us survive by looking for patterns that can be generalized into quick subroutines. If a vicious animal pounces from the underbrush, the survivor of such an attack might develop a subconscious program that says, “Be afraid when underbrush rustles.” In the same way, if a man in a tweed suit has hurt or betrayed you, your brain might create a program that says, “Distrust all men in tweed suits.”

Each of us runs numerous programs like this without recognizing them. They sometimes produce emotional conclusions that are at odds with what a rational conclusion would say.

2. Prideful Validation

I am self-centered. I assume you’re like me in this regard, but maybe that’s just my self-centeredness talking.

When I pick and choose among possible conclusions in my mind, I am biased in favor of every choice that validates my pride. If any conclusion says that my aims are noble, that my fears are justified, that my theories are correct, or even that my shame is a special case above everyone else’s shame, then my emotions will tend to flow in the direction of confirming that choice. The conclusion that uplifts or validates me will just “feel” more right.

3. Spiritual Awareness

The divine realm fills and surrounds the material realm. The one who follows in the way of Jesus Christ has declared his or her allegiance to this larger realm, the kingdom of God. As the rootedness to this larger realm grows fuller, it makes sense that the connection would produce an expanded awareness. When the believer feels that a certain course is right or wrong, good or bad, then this might be the divine awareness coming through. Before we can conclude that, however, we first have to look for other possible origins for the feeling, such as #1 and #2.