Should our feelings determine truth about God? I think a lot of Christians would say, “Yes, they do.” Two reasons why I believe this. There are more, I’m sure, but these are at the top of my swirling thoughts.
First, Chrstian authorities have taught us to listen for promptings or “feelings” of the Spirit moving us to do some action. I’m not delving into the validity of this here, but this teaching emphasizes feelings as a source of truth. “If I feel God telling me to do something, I’d better do it or I will be out of God’s will.” Secondly, our vocabulary emphasizes what we feel. We have replaced the verbs think, believe and desire with feel. For instance, “I feel like ice cream” equals “I desire ice cream.” “This verse makes me feel I should pray more” equals “This verse makes me believe I should pray more.” “I feel you feel I’m mad at you” equals “I think you believe I’m mad at you.” Each time we replace the more specific verb with feel, we give our feelings (random emotion) the validity of belief, rational thought and legitimate yearning. Hence, our feelings become what we believe to be true and what we think we really want.
I am sensitive to this because I watched the first installment of Oprah’s A New Earth webcast. She is thrilled with her new religion and is on a mission to teach the world (literally) to accept what she feels to be right. Yet, she is loath to call it a religion, it is spirituality. Oprah reconciles this new spirituality with her Christian beliefs: “I took God out of the box.” She says didn’t like the doctrine of God being jealous. “Something about that didn’t feel right in my spirit. Because I believe that God is love, and that God is in all things. That’s when the search for something more than doctrine started to stir within me…God, in the essence of all consciousness isn’t something to believe. God is. And God is a feeling experience, not a believing experience. And if your religion is a believing experience, if God for you is still about a belief, then its not truly God.” She says this is one of the most frequent questions on her message boards. How to reconcile Christian beliefs with this new spirituality of feeling.
I’m surprised and relieved that Christians can still see there is a difference! Yay! Because…
If our feelings determine truth about God, then Oprah may be right. Hell, Warren Jeffs may be right, too! How can we determine if one leader’s feelings are more legitimate than another’s? Whether our feelings confirm theirs? What about those of us that don’t really feel? Can we have a chance at spirituallity without passionate feelings? And what about those whose feelings flip-flop? One day they feel terrific about God, the next they feel ambivilent. Do we base the validity of God, or the “god consciousness,” on this person’s fickleness?
We are cautioned about following our feelings in the book of Proverbs. The way that seems right, often isn’t. Jeremiah warns us about trusting our heart. It decieves us. It tricks us in ways beyond our understanding. It is an incurable villian. God says its foolish to trust our own “truth.” He asks us to turn our hearts in confidence to Him. (Proverbs 3:5) It is His ideas, His words, His instruction that determine if our thoughts, desires and feelings are right-on or will lead us into a heap of trouble.
My dad, who was a pilot, used this illustration. Learning to fly with instruments is learning to distrust your feelings. Having an IFR (Instrument Flight Rating) meant that you could fly in inclement weather and still navigate. A pilot without IFR would be grounded in fog or at night because he could not see to orient himself on his height, direction, speed, even which way is up! When a pilot can not see the earth, his altimeter become his eyes. He bases his judgement not on what he feels is right, but on what his altitude guage is indicating. To train in IFR, the new pilot wears a hood that blocks his view out the windows. Only the instrument panel is visible. The pilot must learn to trust what his instruments are telling him regardless of how his body is feeling. Spacial disorientation is when a pilot loses his sense of direction, height and speed when flying. It is the most common factor of plane crashes. The pilot trusts the illusion, which is his body decieving his mind, disregards the guages and flies straight into the ground. We are disorientated when we trust our feelings and base our life decisicions on them. It is a way that leads to misery, and in the case of John Kennedy Jr, literally death.
God could have chosen our feelings to reveal Himself. Maybe He even did, originally in the Garden. But in this sinful era, it is the mysterious Word that had the power to take on flesh that we must rely on. Our feelings will disorient and wreck us if we live by them.