I don’t know about you, but being the type who finds himself more interested in the intellectual aspects of Christianity, apologetics included, I have a harder time with the more subjective aspects of the faith.
Things like feelings and emotions don’t resonate as well with me as reason and evidence. But at the same time I don’t want to neglect these things since they are plainly taught in the Scriptures.
This was really brought to light for me tonight as I studied up a bit on the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I thought I’d share a bit of what I read:
Scripture talks … about a day-to-day guidance by the Holy Spirit – being “led” by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:18), and walking according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:4; Gal. 5:16). Now it is possible to understand Paul here to be referring only to the obedience to the moral commands of Scripture, but this interpretation seems quite unlikely, especially since the entire context is dealing with emotions and desires which we perceive in a more subjective way, and because Paul here contrasts being led by the Spirit with following the desires of the flesh or the sinful nature:But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh …. Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger …. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control …. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another. (Gal. 5:16-26)
The contrast between the “desires of the flesh” and the “desires of the Spirit” implies that our lives should be responding moment to moment to the desires of the Holy Spirit, not to the desires of the flesh. Now it may be that a large part of responding to those desires is the intellectual process of understanding what love, joy, peace (and so forth) are, and then acting in a loving or a joyful or a peaceful way. But this can hardly constitute the whole of such guidance by the Spirit because these emotions are not simply things we think about; they are things we also feel and sense at a deeper level. In fact, the word translated “desires” (Gk. epithymia) is a word that refers to strong human desires, not simply intellectual decisions. Paul implies that we are to follow these desires as they are produced by the Holy Spirit in us. Moreover, the idea of being “led” by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:18) implies an active personal participation by the Holy Spirit in guiding us. This is something more than our reflecting on biblical moral standards, and includes an involvement by the Holy Spirit in relating to us as persons and leading and directing us. (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p.642-643)
This really speaks to a very personal and relational aspect of our interactions with God. While discernment is always required, this aspect of our lives isn’t something that we measure or prove; that would be like trying to prove I feel love for my child.
All that I guess to say, the Christian life is more than propositions and facts; it is a life that is rich in experience as well.
I for one would do well to remember this more often.