Emotions and Reality

All of us desire transcendence: to be lifted beyond the experiences of the present and to encounter something that is indeed metaphysical. We want a love that is greater than the love we feel and see right now. We want a hope that is more than empty promises; we want something lasting. In a world of temporary experiences and fantasies that have no lasting substance, we desire the universal within the particular- we desire eternity within temporal things that only shadow them.

Emotional Trappings

Emotions themselves are subjective in nature; yet, they have the power through sin to pull every one of us in countless directions, both good and evil. Emotions are subjective, and that is why they feel authentic and true. Who can stop a man who feels deeply in love for a woman? He will stop at nothing to protect her and to care for her. This kind of power in emotion is hard to resist: this feels authentic because it has power in its action.

Emotions are subjective but deal with the world of objects. You see in Scripture that there is a reality outside of what someone judges to be true or feels is true. This reality is the world that the Triune God created, and the earth that Christ walked on is the same one we live in today. As we in Scripture, the fool counsels himself and says, “there is no God” (Psalm 14:1). But, the heart of the Christian is counseled from Scripture, and his heart being filled with truth instructs him (Psalm 16:1-5). 

A World Outside of Us

Objectivity feels abstract and cold: abstract truths that do not deal with matters of the heart and the conscience. This is why so many shy away from doctrine and theology- it seems too cold for them, and doesn’t seem to deal with what they are experiencing right now. Emotions, on the other hand, appear closer and more present- they lie deep and move quickly within. Objective truths in contrast to this seem invisible and non-personal, non-relational, unmoving. However, this is what we do to God: we place Him in the world of cold abstraction, and what we deem to be objective, and declare Him with our feelings to be less authentic to us, unless we can first and foremost feel Him via our own criteria of what that would be. Now, without God there is no basis for truth- yet, if we search for God in the world of the emotions, then to remove God from them would not remove the emotions in which we are searching for the truth. The emotions become the litmus for truth instead of God Himself. Truth is replaced by our own inclinations and agendas.

If God feels more real in my feelings than in the Scriptures, or the proclamation of them, then without God my feelings and experiences can feel just as authentic, and this still locks me into “real” reality.

The God of the Mind vs the God Who Is

This is where I believe our culture is today: we have arrived at a point where feelings themselves are the truest and most authentic realities; even more real than the world we see and experience with our senses. After all, who has authority to tell a man that what he feels isn’t right? Since, without God there is no such authority. Taking this a step further, this is why mens rea (legal term for knowledge of guilt) and a clinical diagnosis of insanity do not seem to fit if there is no outside authority of what is right and what is wrong. Mens rea assumes knowledge of a guilt that is natural and inherent within human beings, that we can use to call attention to and bring to light moral wrongdoing. If only some of us have it, why make it a legal practice? Why create a legal term by which another person is judged if he has it?

On the other end, in psychology, we see the problem of embracing a view of subjective morals, and that is doing this while also maintaining the insanity plea.

First, there is the issue of what sanity is in a world without truth. What criteria?

Second, the therapy for insanity does not have the goal of bringing that person to mens rea, to a knowledge of guilt in order to regain footing in reality.

So, who is right to tell a person that he is wrong to think and feel this way? If feelings are authentic and true, then why bother with insanity or a guilty knowledge? Neither would seem to exist…

To be continued…

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