Over the years, I have seen an increasing emphasis, both in the church and out of the church, in emotionalism. In fact, many continue today to accentuate the need of “feeling God” or “feeling His presence.” Of course, I believe we can see the origination of this into the church from denominational sources. Since many denominations overemphasize emotionalism in worship and religion, we need to be aware of what the Bible says concerning our feelings.
We can recognize one immediate area of emphasis in the songs that we sing. Certainly, we need to understand that many of our songs, especially newer songs, originated by denominational songwriters. If one will casually peruse the songbook, one will find this fact true. Therefore, no matter what song we sing, we ought to compare the words and meanings with the word of God to ensure that we are “teaching and admonishing one another” with scriptural songs (cf. Col. 3:16).
There are only nine passages in the Bible dealing with feelings. Many of these are a literal feeling or touching, such as Isaac “feeling” Jacob’s goat hair in Genesis 27. The only passage that one might allude to such is in Acts 17:27: “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.” Nevertheless, according to Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, this word translated “feel” is in the Aeolic form and metaphorically means, “mentally to seek after tokens of a person or thing” (p. 676). Leo Boles writes in his commentary concerning this passage: “‘Feel after him’ is a vivid picture of the darkened and benighted condition of those who thought themselves to be wise. The evidences of God were round about them; yet they did not know him” (pp. 281-82). Therefore, this is not a literal feeling, but simply seeking after God with the heart by looking at the evidences of His presence around them.
Please do not misinterpret my thoughts—I am not saying that emotions are not important in religion. We understand their importance with respect to worshipping God in spirit and in truth, just as Jesus said in John 4:24, or including God in our emotions when we love him with our entire being (cf. Matt. 22:37). Yet, the importance between intellectual and logical reasoning and emotionalism is to be balanced, just as life and our response to the commands of God are to be balanced (cf. Deut. 5:32). Unfortunately, I am addressing the heavy shift of many in our world (and in the church) towards this one slant.
It is not surprising to find the prominence on emotionalism, since many in our religious world place that same point of emphasis towards their salvation. According to many in the denominational world, if one “feels” that God has saved him deep in his heart and soul, then God must have saved him, regardless of what acts of faith or obedience he may have rendered to God. However, the notion of relying on feelings as proof of salvation is far from what the Bible correctly teaches, and one cannot find such in scripture.
How can we even compare our feelings, which are so subjective, to a divine being that is so objective? Let us be sure that we follow the admonition of Paul: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).