The Balance Between Knowledge and Emotion

If you know me well–and we’ve had conversations about theology–you will know where I stand theologically. I am a Reformed Baptist. One of the stigmas that comes with being a Calvinist is that a lot of people think that we Calvinists don’t show enough emotion; that is, we’re all about head knowledge, with no heartfelt affection.

They’re not wrong (sometimes).

Speaking for myself, it’s very easy to just keep all the knowledge I have about theology in my head and not let it penetrate into the depths of my sinful heart. When my theology is just in my head and not also in my heart, there’s an improper balance. This can lead to feeling puffed up (1 Corinthians 4:18).

Steve Lawson, Founder of OnePassion Ministries and a Ligonier Teaching Fellow, said this about this issue:

“When studying theology does not prompt us to adoration, we must question whether we are more concerned to puff ourselves up with knowledge than to glorify God.”

When studying the atonement of Jesus, for example, doesn’t leave me in complete adoration of what God has done for me in Christ, something is wrong (hint: it’s my heart). I have to guard myself from becoming prideful in the fact that I know a lot of theology. The end goal of studying theology is knowing God more intimately, not merely knowing about God.

The Flip Side

Not to poke any bears, but there’s a separate side to this. There are people who only care about the affection side of the Christian life and don’t care all too much to study theology. And to be fair, this isn’t just a Pentecostal/Charismatic issue–this is an evangelical issue.

Think of the “Just give me Jesus, I don’t need theology” phrase. My goodness, that statement is ironic. Think about it.

How can you have Jesus unless you don’t know who Jesus is? The second you start to describe Jesus, you’re speaking about theology. We have to understand the implications here.

If all you care about is emotion, you might wander off into heresy.

If all you care about is head knowledge, you might wander off into Phariseeism.

Both of those slippery slopes are very, very dangerous.

The Proper Balance

Theology isn’t meant to stay in your mind; it’s meant to flow into your heart and create affection for the God who saved you. Theology must lead to doxology.

Theology–the study of God–must lead to doxology–the worship, praise, and adoration of God. If it doesn’t, there’s not a good balance in the life of the Christian. There needs to be a heart-check.

And this goes for the “Just give me Jesus” person, just in the opposite way. We must not be ruled by our emotions. What we learn about God (theology) should lead us to express emotion (doxology) to God.

We have to have the proper balance: we must study theology (we should want to), and that study should produce emotions and affections that are glorifying to God. On the other hand, we cannot simply rely on emotions in our Christian walk. We need to know things, not just feel them. We must know if our feelings are biblical.

It’s very important to have this biblical balance.

Soli Deo Gloria




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