Emotions are not primitive impulses to be controlled or ignored, but cognitive judgments or construals that tell us about ourselves and our world. In this understanding, destructive motives can be changed, beneficial emotions can be cultivated, and emotions are a crucial part of morality. Emotions also help us to work efficiently, assist our learning, correct faulty logic and help us build relationships with others.7

As we work through the theology of the emotions, we will do so using this definition: the emotions are an inherent part of what it means to be a person; they express the values and evaluations of a person and influence motives and conduct.8 The emotions are more than feelings; they tell us about what we value and what we believe, producing desires and inclinations that affect our behavior. “Emotions were given in order to energize behavior and were intended by God to be a catalyst for action.”9

This does not mean that all emotions are rational. They often are not. But it does identify the fact that the emotions are responses to our perceptions, which may be right or wrong, real or imagined. “Emotions are the language of the soul. They are the cry that gives the heart a voice.”10 This is not to claim that all emotions are easily intelligible and able to be thoroughly analyzed. They often cannot. And yet, we must learn to understand this basic part of our humanity. Sam Williams rightly notes, “God gives emotions for a specific purpose. They are necessary for us properly to know and relate to and glorify God.”11

Feelings and Faith: Cultivating Godly Emotions in the Christian Life
Copyright 2009 by Brian S. Borgman
Published by Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
1300 Crescent Street Wheaton, Illinois 60187

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