The diagram above is specific to the question of how we as Christians channel our basic and imperfect attributes toward a position within the Will of God.
And if you see holes in it, well I’ve just been thinking about it for a few weeks and after all, this is a blog. If anybody wants to offer me a book deal, I can refine it (and there are likely whole books that already treat this better than me.) Let me know what you think. I mean about the ideas, not about the book. But the book would be OK too.
So from Emotion and Reason, both of which are unsatisfying and of limited use, how do we come face to face with the Will of God?
On the one hand, the answer should be easy – read and follow the Scriptures, because they lay out the Will of God. Seems direct and simple. But we have a hard time understanding it, let alone doing it. I think one reason for that is because we read a part at a time and try to do it. Then by the time we’ve gotten to the next thing, we’ve forgotten the first thing. Also, the concepts tend to elude us because we’re so far from home. It’s like a child struggling to do what his parents want. Some of it doesn’t resonate because he’s in his own world. Or a lifeguard who reaches down with a pole to save a drowning man. The man knows the lifeguard is trying to save him, but he’s too busy thrashing around to reach for the pole, or worse, thinks his thrashing around will better solve the problem.
Above is a diagram that’s helped me work all this out. At the top is the concept of the Will of God, the place we are trying to get to. Just below is a horizontal line that’s a barrier between it, and our attributes. None of these attributes can help get us above the line. We’re stopped at the line. An important note to make is that all of these attributes aren’t productive or non-productive on their own. They’re simply born-in traits we all have.
The idea of a gulf between God and us is a of course, basic. It’s often pictured as two cliffs separated by a vast canyon with us on one side, and God on the other. There’s no way for us to get to the other side, without Christ who is able to span the gulf, enabling us to get to God (or rather for God to get to us.)
My purpose is not so much to depict a relationship between God and us that needs to be reconciled, but rather the barrier that after being reconciled to God, keeps us from acting within the Will of God.
The reconciliation has already happened, and is a given. I’m talking about action, not relationship.
Emotions and Reason (the previous two posts,) are the two main cornerstones, or basic drivers for what we do. They are primitive. Emotions are unreliable and Reason is limited. Both can be random and unchanneled. We can’t get close to the Will of God from either one. Between the two is the somewhat vague concept of Sense.
Sense – At the lowest line, Between Emotions and Reason is a somewhat vague notion of Sense. It’s an awareness of something that Feelings or Reason can’t put a finger on. Think of a Sense of God. That He’s there. Throughout history, men have had a Sense of God, an awareness that there’s something outside our own reality. Discounting revelation, Emotions or Reason themselves don’t account for this Sense we have, or more to the point, what to do about it.
Often we can combine Sense with other attributes to arrive at a vague rationalization. For example we can desire something that begins with feelings and justify it because it seems to make sense to us.
Desire – Related to Emotions are Desires. Desires are Emotions that have moved toward a purpose. Instead of being aimless and raw, they express a longing that is emotional, but emotional toward an end.
The moment we move from emotion toward desire, we’ve taken the first step toward action. Desire is a seed planted that motivates us to do something.
I haven’t included the idea of Action into this diagram, because Action is really the overall theme. All of these attributes are what we use to base our actions on.
Desires can be productive or non-productive. We can desire food or security. We can desire another’s possessions. Desires are a subtle move from a basic need to a basic want. Desires are feelings brought to bear, feelings that want to act. I’m afraid so I desire security. I’m sad so I desire consolation. I’m happy so I desire expression.
Why does Desire fail? Because we can desire both things of God, and things not of God. We can desire the best for someone else, or desire the best for our self at the expense of someone else.
Understanding – Opposite Desire is Understanding which is Reason that has moved to reach a point or conclusion, perhaps approached a truth. But Understanding can never be complete because we aren’t complete.
I chose the word Understanding instead of Knowledge because for me, it incorporates Wisdom, Knowledge, and Reason.
Why does Understanding fall short? Because it’s limited at best, and can become arrogant and deceptive at worst.
What if we combine some of our attributes? Does that help us get closer to the Will of God?
Desire and Reason
What do we risk if we combine Desire and Reason? We risk Excuse or Rationalization. If my desire for something is strong enough, I can often come up with a reason why I should act on it.
What about Emotion and Understanding? We risk self-deception. Understanding our feelings is healthy, but more often than not, we warp or overwhelm our Understanding by the strength of our feelings. Our feelings can influence our Understanding; they can cloud any judgments that are ideally based on our Understandings.
Again, note that when all these attributes are healthy, they’re productive, even though they don’t move us into the Will of God. Non-productive attributes can arise also. While I placed Sense (Awareness) between Emotion and Reason, a risk here is Futility. Emotions and Reason are often in conflict with each other, and if we only enlist these two base attributes, we can be stuck with nowhere go.
None of these attributes no matter how they’re combined, (even if they’re all combined,) will move us into the Will of God because they’re inherently flawed both in themselves, and more importantly, in us.
The only way, I think to move toward the Will of God is through the idea of Faith.
Stepping out on (or even understanding,) Faith is a bit of a tricky thing to get a hold of and I’m going to take a shot at it next.