When we first moved to here we started visiting churches. One of my big surprises is how much sentimentality and emotion pervades the ministry of worship and the word. Recently a friend and colleague forwarded me an email he received that is designed to entice the recipient to sign up for a webinar. The lead in line for the webinar was that a famous Christian apologist came to faith by first making an emotional decision, and then later backed it up with reason. The email went on to say that nearly every buying decision is made emotionally not intellectually. So, of course, I need to learn offer the Gospel by first bypassing the mind by first appealing to emotions, which the webinar would teach me to do.
I understand and even appreciate the emotional aspects of faith. Yet, the idea that I need to first get someone to make an emotional commitment to Christ, and only later help them find reasons for their faith just strikes me as wrong. Why? First, I think there is a false dichotomy here. But hold it, big word alert! What is a dichotomy? It is just a fancy way of saying that the two things being compared, in this case emotion and reason, are opposed to each other or entirely different. But are emotion and reason opposed to each other? Not at all! Instead we find that in the Bible emotion is to be controlled and informed by reason. Joshua was told not to fear because God was with him (Josh. 1:9), Ruth was told to quell her fear because Boaz would be her redeemer (Ruth 3:11), Joseph was to set his fear of taking Mary as his wife aside because her conception was a work of the Spirit, and of course Jesus told His disciples to rightly fear God because He can destroy both soul and body (Mt. 10:28). Note the pattern here; fear was to be controlled by reason. I think that is the relationship between emotion and reason throughout the Bible. Emotion is to be subject to reason, not the other way around.
Second, when God invites His people into communion He appeals to their minds first. Check out Isa. 1:18 where God says “Come now, let us reason together…”. When Paul visited synagogues on his missionary journey the Bible does not say that he appealed to their emotion. Instead it says that he reasoned with them (Acts 17:2, 18:4). In fact the Bible says that the noble-minded responded to Paul by examining the scriptures and comparing them with what Paul said, that is they thought through what they had heard. Lastly, Jesus gave a warning about those who have a strong emotional response to hearing the word preached. He said that the person who hears the word and immediately receives it with great joy is the one who is rootless and his reception of the word is only temporary (Mt. 13:20-21)
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that our apologist friend isn’t deeply rooted in the word with an enduring faith. By God’s grace I pray he is. No, what I am saying is that this is not the way the Bible tells us to engage with others. The example we see in the Bible is definitely not people making emotional appeals to “buy” the Gospel of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone. Rather, we see a simple and hopefully winsome appeal to consider the facts of God’s grace and align our emotions accordingly.