Without doubt, the American church is weak, if not impotent! Our culture and government continues into the moral abyss, in spite of millions of Bible-believing Christians. Perhaps, the most obvious sign of this slide is that there is no great appeal to Almighty God for forgiveness, for “judgment to begin at the household of God,” and for His leading to change what needs to be changed (that is, true repentance) in order to be a godly culture and nation.

Robertson McQuilkin, former President of Columbia International University (Columbia Bible College) says:

When a new ethical (worldview) problem arises in society, such as euthanasia or homosexuality, newspaper reporters frequently consult a local professor of psychology. It would make just as much sense — if not more — to consult the local bartender. Psychology is descriptive and can only tell us, with greater or lesser precision, what the average person does and what may result if averages hold. It lacks any authority to speak of what human behavior ought to be. Since it lacks this authority, and since it should hold tentatively any conclusions it reaches, it is properly relativistic in its approach.

Many psychologists, however, impose relativity outside their sphere in the field of ethics (worldview) and reject all norms. For example, psychology may help us understand what produces conflict, but whether we use their information to produce conflict or to allay it will depend on our values. As a matter of historic fact, psychological insights are used by some to create conflict. And this is an ethical (worldview) problem, not a psychological one. Psychology helps people understand why they do what the do and how they may change; ethics (worldview) tells them what they ought to do.” (Introduction to Biblical Ethics, (Tyndale, 1989) page10.

We Are (Too Often) Led by our Emotions, Not by our Thinking (The Scriptures)

The psychology of man has often been a theme of theologians for centuries. But, modern psychology has infiltrated this understanding. This much is clear. One cannot understand oneself, others, or how God works in our lives without understanding Biblical psychology. As John Calvin begins his Institutes, the knowledge of man begins with the knowledge of God.


Curiously, emotions are rarely defined, but the etymology of the word is helpful. From Webster’s Dictionary of 1828, emotion is “a moving of the mind or soul; hence, any agitation of mind or excitement of sensibility.” Emotion is a disturbance in our soul that is heightened by its effect on the physical body.

Let me illustrate. You are at home with several children. Things have gone beserk. On child is trying to take another’s toy. He is yelling, she is crying. A pot is boiling over on the stove. The dog is barking at the children. You are at you wit’s end, yelling at the kids while you deal with the overflowing pot. The phone rings…

You answer, “Hello” (in a more or less calm voice). “This is Susie (your neighbor whom you dislike and to whom you would never want to admit distress), how are you?” “I’m fine…”

What have you just done? You have moved from a distressing emotional state of considerable frustration (a form of anger) to a calm answer to someone on the phone! You have instantaneously calmed yourself from a storm of emotions. Wow!

Now, what is the strongest control in this situation? Your thoughts of your appearance before you neighbor!

Now, men, this could easily be you at work. Your secretary has just bungled a task. The phone keeps ringing while you are working on an important project. Your computer just crashed! And, the boss calls. You will answer, as the housewife did, in a calm manner, as though nothing is wrong.

These scenarios illustrate that we have great control over our emotions when we have a strong motivation. We have greater control than we might think on only a brief reflection.

“I Am Comfortable With This Decision.”

After a debate, sometimes vigorous, how many times have you come to a conclusion, and the leader said, “Now, are we all comfortable with this decision?”

When we are engaged in conversation with others, we often ask or are asked, “How to you feel about…?” It may be about politics, child-rearing, the price of gasoline, or any other subject of conversation.

To be sure, one definition of “to feel” is “to think.” But, in our choice of words, it would be more accurate to ask, “What do you think,” rather than “What do you feel.” The words that we use reinforce how we think and act.

Often, we express how we are with emotions. “I feel depressed.” “I feel inadequate.” A child may say, “I feel stupid,” when trying to learn something new. These are conclusions about oneself that are expressed as emotions.

We have come to judge decisions and our states of being by our feelings. This situation comes from modern psychologists who ask their clients, “How do you feel about…?” Their focus in on feelings. But, we must ask the question, are feelings or thoughts more important? Should we be led by our emotions or our thoughts?

Are Thoughts or Emotions More Mominant?

As you sit there, reading this epistle, I want you to be sad. Be real sad. Be in-a-funk sad. —- Now, be happy. Be giddy, happy. —- Now, be angry. Be angry to the extent that you are ready to hit or throw something.

Were you successful in changing your emotional states? Readily, on your own command?

Now, let’s try something different. Think of the most wonderful vacation that you hav ever had with your family. —- Think of what you consider to be your greatest achievement in life. —- Think of the saddest moment of your life.

I suspect that you were more successful in this exercise, than you were in trying to achieve a certain emotional state. Why? Did you notice that as you thought of these situations, you began to feel the emotions associated with the situations? Did you notice how much more easy it was to think certain thoughts than to cause yourself to feel a certain way?

In the latter exercise, you have illustrated Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Right thinking is the way to right feelings, not the opposite.

How Emotions Re-defined Theology – Pietism

Are you aware that modern, humanistic psychology dominates many areas of theology in the church today?


How many times have you heard a Christian, say, “I have peace about ____________” (some decision). What they are saying is that “I feel good about ____________” (that decision). “I don’t have any disturbing thoughts about ____________” (that decision).

Do a word study on “peace” in the Bible. You will find that peace is used to describe the peace of the regenerated person where formerly enmity with God existed (Romans 5:1), peace among people (Acts 24:2), and a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22, probably related to both former meanings). It is rarely, if ever, used as a criterion of decision-making.

The use of “peace” in decision-making comes from psychology that “being comfortable” or “finding peace” is a criterion for right decisions.

Decisions by Christians should be based upon God’s prescriptions. For example, “Do not let the sun do down on your anger” and “if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way.” These commands do anything but evoke “peace” in their doing (but they do bring peace between God and man when they are carried out properly).


“I just don’t love her (or him) any more” is a common complaint of married couples in counseling or “psychotherapy.” Frequently, what they then want to hear from the counselor or therapist is, “Well, there is only one solution, divorce.”

Studies of divorcees have found that only the death of a spouse carries more stress than divorce. So, modern psychology would end a marriage that 1) began with promises “in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer… until death do us part” and 2) thereby, place the second highest stress upon individuals (not to mention children) because “love” no longer exists? And, this result does not even being to consider the morality of this counsel or honoring God by way of covenant in marriage.

We all know the two great commandments, “Love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength… and our neighbor, as ourselves.” A pagan psychologist would say, “Love is a feeling, it cannot be commanded. Love is either there or it isn’t. You can’t manufacture love.” Thus, the recommendation for divorce.

And, we find the same in our culture, perhaps represented best by Hollywood, as “love at first sight.” “Love Story” and “Titanic” are two examples. Love just happens. Love is “chemistry” between two people. Love is some ephemeral thing that comes from somewhere, virtually beyond and outside of people’s control.

When Jesus gave the second of his two great commandments, He was asked, “Who is my neighbor.” His answer was illustrated by a Samaritan, whom the Jews hated. And, it was directed towards helping a wayside victim at great cost and physical risk by the one who responded. It also showed the hypocrisy of people (a priest and an Levite) who are committed to being “religious” towards God, but not their fellow man when he has great needs.

Thus, love has objects, and love is helping others. Love can be commanded, even when our emotions involve hatred and great risk to ourselves. Psychologists know nothing of this love. But, God goes further, much further.

“Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10), and “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14).

Not only can love be commanded, it has specific content: all that God has written as instructions for mankind, especially for believers — namely the law. (See Psalm 119 for synonyms of the law: statutes, precepts, testimonies, ways, etc.)

So, love is commanded by God, and has detailed instructions. (Don’t confuse following the law with legalism.)

So, let’s get back to our example of man-woman love and marriage. As we have seen, love can be commanded and has specific instructions. Love cannot exist at first sight, because no commitments have taken place. Now, love can begin to develop from that initial attraction. Such love would include getting to know each other, giving each other gifts, doing things together, and eventually committing to marriage.

But, even, the process of love is guided by biblical directives (law). You must avoid lustful thoughts (Matthew 5:28), lustful actions (Seventh Commandment), sobriety (Ephesians 5:18), continue individual spiritual growth (church, Bible study, prayer, etc.).

Finally, and ultimately, you actually covenant together formally, spiritually, and legally. Covenant agreed and adhered to over the period of the covenant is the highest form of love.

So, if you say, I love my church. Have you covenanted with her? With covenant, goes specific agreements: to tithe, attend, contribute your spiritual gifts, be faithful to the means of grace, etc.).

Loving children includes “building them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” instructing them constantly of God’s ways (Deuteronomy 6), “not provoking them to anger.

Do you begin to see the serious commitment that love is? Do you see that love has specific content, that of Biblical law? Do you see the importance of the catechisms devoting almost 50 percent of their attention to law, and therefore, love? Do you see the importance of the entire Bible, as God’s law, to know how to “love” in whatever context God has called us? Do you see that you must know that law to be able to follow it? Do you see that that takes considerable study, first to know what to do, and second, to follow though and do it. The Scribes were diligent students of the law, but not doers of it. “Love your neighbor, as yourself,” cannot be separated from “love God with all your being.” It is both knowledge and application.

May God bless us in that pursuit.

For more on this subject, see How Pietism Deceives Christians.