B. The preacher’s emotional constitution and activity
1. A working definition and description of the emotions
Webster: “The state or capacity of having the feelings aroused to the point of awareness.”
Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1969), Definition of Emotion.
Robert L. Dabney, Discussions of Robert Lewis Dabney, vol. 3, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1982), p. 2.
2. The origin and moral quality of the emotions
a. It is abundantly clear that the emotional constitution of man is a created reality. In fact, it is a vital part of the image of God in us. God is a God who has emotions. He is not pure undiluted power, or pure light of mind and intellect. He is a personal God who is not only infinite in power and knowledge, but has an infinite capacity and faculty to love, to hate, to rejoice, and to grieve.
b. In contemplating such things, the safest path to walk in order to avoid entangling ourselves in unedifying philosophical subtleties and distinctions, is constantly to remember that the God whom we worship, love, and serve, is the God revealed to us in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. He said, “He who has seen me, has seen the Father.” And again, John tells us in John 1:18 that “No man has seen God at any time. The only begotten who is in the bosom of the father, he has declared him.”
c. Consider Adam in his pre-fallen state and ndon. His mind had an accurate perception of reality -that is, his cognitive faculties played no tricks on him. Furthermore, his will was positively committed to righteousness. Therefore, all of his emotional states which attended his clear cognition and upright volition were fully virtuous. Illustration: excitement and joy at the gift of Eve/delight in the labor assigned to him/fear at the thought of death.
d. But with the entrance of sin, all has undergone a radical disruption, including the emotions. Sinful man loves what he ought to hate, and hates what he ought to love. He is emotionally stirred by error and yet apathetic before truth. Total depravity means that the whole fabric of our emotional constitution has been tainted and twisted by sin.
e. However, when the restorative, re-creative work of God visits men in regeneration, that work touches the whole man, mind, will, and the emotions. Hence, no little part of that supernatural work of grace is described as impinging upon them manifested in sanctified emotions.
f. In the scheme of grace, the emotions are to be influenced by the truth. When they are, they are thus holy emotions and not to be despised or neutered.
g. However, in seeking to understand our emotions, we must not only focus on their origins and moral quality, but we must also remind ourselves that remaining sin still influences the emotions in adverse ways. Furthermore, just as sin has crippled many of our other faculties, some men have experienced “broken circuits” in their emotional constitution which need to be mended if they are ever to understand and experience the proper place of their emotions in connection with preaching.
1) In concluding this section of the lecture, I would heartily recommend the essay by Dabney as laying bare some of the most helpful insights on the emotions in conjunction with religious truth, etc.
Discussions of Robert Lewis Dabney, vol. 3, Essay #1
2) I would also recommend Dabney’s exposition of 1Cor. 3:10-15, found in his Discussions, vol. 1, pp. 551-574
Robert L. Dabney, Discussions of Robert Lewis Dabney, vol. 1, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1982), pp. 558-559.
3) I would also highly recommend the following resources:
- B. B. Warfield’s, The Person and Work of Christ, “The Emotional Life of Our Lord.”
- Brian S. Borgman’s excellent book entitled Feelings and Faith