Thursday, 16 March 2017

Does the Bible Say That Emotions Are Deceitful?

I saw a little passage on CMI, which seemed to suggest that, including a Bible quote which late Westerners are perhaps not the best equipped to understand.

Gary Bates
Now, the point of this article is not to say that these ideas are in themselves necessarily right or wrong. Some might actually be very good at initially meeting people’s needs, or overcoming the perceptions of old-fashioned stuffy churches, and thus, be relatively successful at getting heads in the door. But one often finds that if this becomes the ‘main’ focus of the church, their teaching ministry tends to lose emphasis. For example, many churches (whether conservative or charismatic) have huge choirs or a contemporary band with correspondingly many musical items. This reduces the usual teaching or sermon time—meaning that the focus is not on teaching.

The reality is that many large churches, in particular, suffer a high exodus rate and many leaders have honestly told me the struggle to keep their youth once they start college/university. That is, there is an ongoing turnover. An entertainment-driven focus can obviously help people to feel good about coming to church. It can be fun and give them a bit of a ‘spiritual high’, but we all know that such highs don’t last. Once it becomes the norm, the tendency is to move on to somewhere else to try and experience the next ‘high’. In fact, the Bible has warnings about following the heart too closely. Jeremiah 17:9–10 says:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways … ”,

In context, Gary Bates is suggesting that Jeremiah is describing emotion as deceitful.

But Jeremiah does not say "emotions", he says "the heart".

This is in Biblical language a wider concept than emotions - just as emotions is a wider concept than passions, if anyone should cite St Thomas Aquinas against "giving emotions free reins". No, one should not give passions free reins, but they are not the whole substance of emotion, this latter also includes the reason and will which is reining them back from certain things.

And reason in St Thomas is not what 19th C. describes as "cold reason" or "sober reasoning" either.

Certainly, a syllogism should be unclouded by any passion of individual love or hatred or anger which sways the judgement on the truth of premisses.

This is especially true about history, where partisan moods are likely actually to achieve the swaying of good judgement, from time to time, which is why Thukydides or if it was Herodotus used a phrase which I think it was Tacitus who translated as "sine ira et studio". Without being angry at Nero or rooting for Agricola ... not sure if he achieved that.

It should not be "unclouded by emotion" as if the premisses or methodology were likeliest to be truest and surest which have the least emotional appeal.

Mathematics should not be shunned, even if they have little emotional appeal to many, but prior to mathematics, there is a judgement on what one is to count about.

After being displaced as temporary teacher of Swedish and German at a school for 7 to 9th graders, I was given hours in maths.

One student (a good young man, but not very apt for studies, and I love having participated in giving him hours off from schoolwork and to be spent as apprentice cook, hope he is a chef now) had failed to get the answer right on a problem involving the area to be painted on a rectangular door with a round window. I suppose he simply didn't like the idea of counting that, since in common life, he would not need to, he would have so much paint to start with and if anything was left after the door was painted, he would save it for next task.

Or he could have been tired. Not for me to figure him out, that is for God and for his wife (hope he's married now). I am suddenly afraid I even cofused two different students, one who went chef, one who was in that class, but I don't think so, even if it is 20 years ago. Well, perhaps doesn't matter. I am not teacher there anymore.

Anyway, he got the answer wrong : he asked, I looked at his work, and saw the problem.

Say the door was 7 ft 6 in by 4 ft 8 in. Say the window had a radius of 4 in.

(7 ft 6 in * 4 ft 8 in * π) - (4 in * 4 in).

What is wrong here?

He has calculated first the area of an elliptic object with narrower width 9 ft 4 in and wider width 15 ft. Then he has deducted from that the area of a tiny square, 3.14 to 3.15 times smaller than the round window should be.

What he should have done was of course:

(7 ft 6 in * 4 ft 8 in) - (4 in * 4 in * π).

I don't think it is very emotionally exhilarating to figure that out in the first place, but there is some emotional high in pointing out what he had been calculating.

Does this emotional high mean I am likely in the least to be wrong in saying that the "* π" belongs to the round and not to the rectangular simpler area, before he makes a complex one by deducting one from other?

Of course not.

Well, I may get a much higher kick out of pointing out the intellectual errors of Heliocentrics and Darwinists than of pointing out his. There may even be an obvious reason for this, those things being proned by people making a living out of proning these things, while he is certainly not making a living out of painting elliptic giant doors 15 ft by 9 ft 4 in on occasion with very small square windows of 4 in * 4 in. And if on occasion he does gain sth from painting a door 7 ft 6 in by 4 ft 8 in with a round window 8 in across, he probably doesn't need to calculate the amount of paint in advance, since he can save what is left in the tin for next time, which in that area is probably soon.

Now, that I am getting this emotional high from proving "learned men" or men who should have been learned wrong, does not prove I am reasoning wrong about the matters on which I think them wrong.

Nor is that the case for the fact that I prefer reasoning before calculating rather than accept the reason behind someone else's calculation just because he calculated right : he could have reasoned wrong, and calculated on the wrong things, as calculating the wrong type of door surface.

Nor does the fact that the conclusions I come to are more exhilarating than materialism. I am not sure which materialist, it could have been Hume, said that in order to support his philosophy he had to cease thinking about it and play backgammon instead. C. S. Lewis made a remark about philosophies which are so terrible they can only be supported by increasing doses of backgammon ...

The intellectual appeal of heartlessness in science "not letting emotion get in the way" is a false one.

Because, what the 19th C. would have called a heartless man, Jeremiah would have called a man whose heart is currently being actively deceitful, not just generally and habitually so. And in Jeremiah, "heart" includes the kind of calculations even in pure mathematics which you believe in.

Lest I be deceitful about credits, here is the article by Gary Bates:

When the emotions are gone, what’s left?
Engaging the mind as well as the heart is vital
By Gary Bates | Published: 16 March 2017

As I just explained, Jeremiah is using heart and mind as synonyms, and not as the antonyms Gary is used to from modern culture.

The actual point of the article is more about another matter, on which I will be shorter. Evangelicals have not quite understood "thirty-fold, sixty-fold, hundred-fold fruit" of the "good soil". To Catholics "thirty-fold" means married and using marriage in a Christian way. Sixty-fold means widowhood (St Thomas shows a typological reason why this number should have been chosen, in Beda's hand one finger is oppressing another in the sign for sixty, and widowhood is oppressive). Hundredfold means virginity. This latter part is probably the most unwelcome one to Evangelicals.

As a result, their way is that all should be married, but all should have as un-fun lives as widows (there may be a security related reason for saying they are right if not in general at least perhaps about last century), no wine, no secular music, hospitality is allowed, but who sneaks off with whom is supervised, the marriages are as supervised with them as the priesthoods with us Catholics.

And, as a result, Evangelical life is more like signing up for, if not being a monk, at least being a Franciscan Tertiary, than simply signing up for being a Catholic. It puts tough pressure on the will, and a will that does not get sufficient emotional support will probably break.

He is right that the mind should be armed against heresies like Old Age and Evolution, he would have been right if adding against Heliocentrism as well, because it gives a highway to the distant starlight problem, but he might do well to consider what the exact demands are Evangelical "Churches" puts on Evangelical Christians and ask if this is only what Christ actually demands of every Christian. I think not, that is why I rejected Evangelicalism even as an option at age 14.

One of the reasons this is so is perhaps the misreading about "heart"="emotion" and "emotional highs"="deceitful heart".

Without the Rosary, I have survived as a believing Catholic, but hardly as having charity toward God and Neighbour or Forgiving my Debtors.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
Thursday after
Second Lord's Day of Lent

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