The Curse of Emotionalism
By emotionalism I mean “undue indulgence in or (undue) display of emotion.“ Emotionalism is essentially a Pagan religion. Emotionalism is actually foundational to many Pagan religions, since often emotionalism and many Pagans religions can be blended without compromising the principles of either. This can be seen in the Prophets of Baal in 1 Kings chapter 18, as they sought the false god Baal to prove himself and bring fire down on their offering which they made to him at Mount Carmel. This offering was in response to the Prophet Elijah’s challenge regarding whether the Lord (the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God of Moses; the God of the Bible) is the true God or whether it is Baal, the Canaanite fertility god whom Israel was whoring after. In many cases the Israelites were trying to amalgamate or syncretize God’s worship with Baal’s worship (with the exception of 7,000 people).
1 Kings 18:21-29: “And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken. And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.”
Leaping, screaming loud, and even cutting themselves to get their god’s attention was in the mindset of these idol worshippers. The mindset that the hype, exhibition, and imagery which they generated would somehow affect or obligate their god to hear their prayer was inherent in their religion. When emotionalism then is mixed (attempted to be mixed, that is; God doesn’t accept such a mixture), with the God of the Bible’s worship, then that is very evil and it causes confusion, misrepresenting what proper worship is in the eyes of God. You cannot mix emotionalism with Christianity without violating Christian principles. Trying to mix emotionalism into Christianity aligns perfectly with the Israelites’ attempt to mix the true God’s worship with Baal’s. Yet the Bible gives the following warning which rebukes this. Furthermore, this forbids mixing any influence from how Pagans worship their gods with the worship of the true God.
Deuteronomy 12:28-32: “Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, when thou doest that which is good and right in the sight of the Lord thy God. When the Lord thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land; Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God: for every abomination to the Lord, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.”
Jesus echoed this warning in the Gospels, especially related to the things which the prophets of Baal were doing in their attempt to be heard by Baal.
Matthew 6:7-8: “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”
Thinking that our prayers will be heard for our being long, loud, excessive crying, exhibitions we display, and the overall hype we generate when we pray is a heathen concept. And yet this mentality is evidently common in Christendom (i.e. the realm of professing Christianty) due to the Pagan emotionalism which has significantly influenced many segments of it.
Pursuing emotional experience is a way of the heathen, whether it is labeled as Christian or not! But when an emotional experience is labeled as Christian, people are surely deceived into thinking they are experiencing God, when they are in truth experiencing the same thing (or worse) than people get at secular concerts, sporting events, game shows, political rallies (at political rallies are places where emotional manipulation through rhetoric, lighting, music, etc are the rule- whether the candidate is on the political right, center, or the left by the way), and also through things like romance novels and in many other ways.
People who don’t even claim to be Christians will regularly say that the concerts they attend were like a religious experience or were the closest thing they’ve ever had to a religious experience. Likewise, other environments and venues where emotional highs and lows are experienced can cause the same. People at sporting events, political events, and game shows (like the Price is Right) will experience emotions which can make it seem like they are having a spiritual experience.
And sometimes even real spiritual experiences are actually much worse. The Bible speaks about other spirits besides the Spirit of God (1 John chapter 4, 2 Corinthians 11, 1 Timothy 4, etc), and though the people who have the experiences with them will hardly ever label them as the work of demonic spirits, they sometimes won’t label them as the Holy Spirit of the God of the Bible either. They might say they are the spirits of departed celebrities, loved ones, or angels or something else. And that only proves that just because someone seems to, or even really does have a spiritual experience, it isn’t necessarily from the true God.
Music is often consciously calculated to move people’s emotions in a certain way. Through the means of music, other media, and various exhibitions people can be moved emotionally in a powerful way. Often this is so powerful that the emotional experience can masquerade as a spiritual experience, and can thus easily be mistaken as such. Those who are skillful in psychology, and who seek to manipulate people, know these things and seek to control people by such deception. And don’t think that they limit such activity to the secular realm, and that they would consider churches to be sacred places which are off-limits to such emotionally manipulative tactics.
Pre-planned emotional movements of the congregation through the means of a church’s song selection, sermon, lighting, arrangement, decorations, and/or other ways are manipulative and a curse to those who are affected by such. It is especially common for such means to reach a climax which is centered around, or happening especially near to, the time of the collection plate being passed (or other means of collecting the offering).
And this problem of the infiltration of emotionalism into Christendom is especially common in mega-churches. A few of the most glaring examples are the extremely popular Bethel-Redding church (and its associates) and the Hillsong churches. This infiltration of emotionalism is actually inherent in any church affected much by the Purpose Driven Church/Seeker Sensitive movement. Of course churches which are not giant in size nor wearing the Purpose Driven/Seeker Sensitive label can still be guilty of this.
Music, when played to honor God and not calculated appeal to man’s feelings, can be a powerful tool for praising and worshiping God which might perhaps generate emotional experiences in people hearing it- as a by-product. Yet when the music is written or selected to deliberately alter man’s psyche in a given way, then it is controlling, manipulative, and used for evil ends. It is a strange fire, the type of thing which God killed people in the Bible for (Nadab and Abihu- see Leviticus chapter 10). And willing compliance with this is a sensual action, not a spiritual one.
Environments where this strange fire is offered confuse the simple, as they are taught by them to label their altered emotional states as “the presence of God.” Such environments may even deeply harm an already psychologically damaged person even worse than they are already hurt or make a grieving person’s grief even worse. An example would be a fast-paced environment where everyone is implicitly pressured to tap their feet and act happy. When the psychological pressure of the environment is strong enough, people feel compelled to do this even when it doesn’t reflect the state of their present psyche- and is likely not even appropriate in their circumstances (the Bible says to rejoice with them that rejoice and to mourn with them that mourn in Romans 12; certainly not to act excessively the opposite around them, hoping that emotion will spread to them contagiously). This can tempt and provoke people to put on an act to fit in with, and conform to, whatever heightened emotional state the congregation is being pressured to conform to.
Environments where this strange fire flourishes are inherently affected by evil and beget further evil. Those who don’t want to provoke God to wrath should have no part in such environments. And those who fear God should be sure not to copy their methods nor operate on the principles which they operate on and seek to drive others by.
If you profess to be a Christian who loves and worships God, it is good to consider: Does worship have to be an emotional thing for you? Aiming for emotions and letting them lead is a sure way to spiritual disaster. You can even love Jesus on an emotional level and not have committed yourself to Him in your will, in the deepest part of your heart which really drives you? Are you committed to being a faithful subject to His reign, pursuing and following the truth of His Word unto not loving your life to the death? You can be excited about Jesus in many ways but not have this. In John chapter 2 we read how many people were excited about Jesus, yet Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew what was in man. You can be moved and mournful about Jesus dying on the cross, yet not be mournful about being opposed to His divine authority in how you practically think and live (such enmity is actually what caused Him to be crucified). You might love Him on a human level, yet Jesus, the real Jesus, is not someone whom we should relate to as the hero of a novel or a childhood crush (like emotionally manipulative music labeled as Christian often portrays Him as). To be on His side, and in His grace, you must in truth honor Him as a Righteous King whom you worship in spirit and in truth. You must disassociate yourself from sin and be subject to Him so that you are obedient to Him from the depths of your being as the Righteous King that He is. Welcoming and striving from the heart to align with His righteous reign goes much deeper than emotion.
Hebrews 1:8-14, 2:1: “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity (i.e. lawlessness); therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard (everything Jesus has said, as He is a Righteous King whose commands are binding upon man), lest at any time we should let them slip.”
Hype (I mean deliberately generating excitement and seeking to get people to move or act based on that excitement) is not compatible with Christianity. Hype is ultimately an expression of emotionalism. Churches and charismatic leaders will try to get people on board and subservient to the methods they’ve contrived through hype (like a lot of other institutions, as well as ideological and political movements). It is especially bad and deceptive when Jesus and Biblical terms are attached to hype. The term soul power has to do with such emotionalism when applied by someone with a strong personality or through an environment of human pressure and/or intimidation. Many people are pressured and manipulated into making professions of Christ (coming to the altar, saying a sinner’s prayer, getting baptized, etc) through hype, as well as into doing other things to conform to the demands of the group and the individuals in it exercising strong soul power. Soul power, a prevalent extension of emotionalism, cannot produce genuine Christian faith and righteousness. It leaves those who have responded based upon its influence especially deceived, as their lack of spiritual discernment caused them to heed this bad influence; and they are then further misled into thinking they have “tried Jesus” or “tried to be faithful Christians” when they really bent to the pressure of an undiscerning, strong souled preacher, pastor, and/or group environment which, whatever their intentions actually were, was influenced by the world’s wisdom and tactics- and thus failed to be a faithful watchman to those they affected.
Another folly related to emotionalism which is often implicitly given, if not directly said in many false churches, is the concept that if something makes you feel good or peaceful that it must be of God; and if otherwise, it is not. Yet anyone who has studied the Bible much at all, without willfully ignoring large portions of it, knows that much which God says and commands is not pleasant to man and is hard to receive. God warned through Moses that Israel’s Judges were to execute the death penalty on those duly convicted of murder. He warned not to take pity and spare him! Following that does not feel good. It is not supposed to feel good. The same principle applies to ex-communicating those in the church who sin and won’t repent and be amended when confronted with their sin (see 1 Corinthians chapter 5). Of course this doesn’t feel good to obey, yet a church which doesn’t do it is wicked (and surprise- many churches don’t actually obey this, especially churches where emotionalism reigns). To be faithful to the Lord we have to love Him more than our families and risk severing our relationship with family members and friends. Jesus said this frequently, since He knows the possibility of this happening for anyone who actually keeps His Word is very real. He knows it would feel better to just compromise and not risk such a severing. Yet that is not a righteous option. You just have to read the Risen Jesus as He speaks to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 to see that He spoke things to them which are negative and painful (to five of the seven churches He did so; some people are always negative even when that’s unwarranted; that is not right and might even be a more subtle and less common form of emotionalism). And these seven churches were churches which He actually regarded as His own! Remember what His Word also says here.
1 Peter 4:17-18: “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”
Many, many, many more examples could be given. We need to have Biblical holiness before God; and pursuing that is often painful and difficult. It often does not feel good for the moment. It is clear that emotionalism fails big-time. It is therefore a curse indeed.
God has designed mankind so that emotions matter and play a key role. Yet they should never lead. They should be regarded as a servant, not as a master. Truth and logic should lead us, while emotions, in their proper place, will then follow in a healthy way. The Bible so often relates being righteous and faithful towards God with soldiers and military discipline. It is well known that soldiers are trained not to respond to situations according to their emotions. That is an essential part of their discipline and training. It is no less true of disciples in the service of the King of Kings!
Simplistic propaganda slogans are an example of how the world influences us to act on emotion rather than upon truth and logic. Those who promote abortion give slogans advocating woman’s health care which are meant to excite and enrage the froward, the lust-driven, and the weak minded who are susceptible to such propaganda to say “Yeah! Who do those pro-life people think they are to deny a woman her right to health care!” They conveniently don’t talk about the baby which is killed, gruesomely killed, in their message. That is why it is propaganda; it is not an impartial view of all the evidence or even anything in the ballpark of that.
This also has a lot to do with the message given a few months ago on the Jezebel spirit. Manipulating through emotional appeals and emotional displays is a skill which Jezebels thrive on and are among the best at. Find our message called “Warring Against the Jezebel spirit” to hear more about the curse of emotional manipulation, as the two topics are very closely related. In fact, it would be hard to find an environment, especially a church environment, where emotionalism reigned without finding women leading outside of their God-ordained Biblical role- or at least where there were Jezebel-esque women influencing the men away from Biblical commandments and order through the use of emotionalism.
And if you want to get an idea of how strong this influence is, consider how almost universally neglected the womens’ head-covering is in terms of being taught, practiced, and enforced in modern churches. 1 Corinthians chapter 11 shows how it is a command for Christian men to require women under their authority to cover their heads as a testimony of submission to God’s authority structure. It is not meant as a cultural thing, but rather as a practice which is meant as a proper demonstration in all times and cultures, going back to Genesis, of a timeless principle. Obviously given the relationship of emotionalism and the Jezebel spirit, a Christian practice which testifies the principle of male authority (established by God over the woman as an extension of God’s own authority), and something which usually does not feel right in modern times, it is no surprise that these influences have almost totally nullified this Christian practice today (except in plan groups, where it is often likely done primarily as an extension of culture). Nevertheless, this is a command of God which we are accountable to Him to come into line with. It isn’t likely to feel good or right when it is followed.
So regardless of how it comes about, environments of emotionalism are preceded by, and begat by, the influence of emotionalism. And emotionalism at its core is a Pagan concept.
Emotionalism does not hold up when one is actually faced with the real life demands of true Christianity. The pursuit of hype, emotional experiences, and the general leading of emotion don’t lead to the walk of righteousness and consistent faithfulness which we need to have to please God and inherit salvation. Consider how obvious that is in light of the following scenarios.
Matthew 25:31-46 (read all of Matthew chapter 25 really in light of this consideration): “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”
It is the goats who might have not done what they should have (in identifying with Christ’s people in their need; and in loving their needy neighbor as themselves), because of how doing so would be inconsistent with their feelings at the time. The hype and sensual experience won’t be with you always. And if they were, you’d still be too caught up in such to recognize the opportunity to serve Jesus, and the great test you were under, when they were right before you!
Luke 10:25-37: “And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor (this lawyer was emotionally attached to his fellow Jews, but not to others; he was especially alienated in his feelings from Samaritans)? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.”
Yet doing so would have been contrary to this lawyer’s feelings! The quality of one’s faith is shown by what one does when confronted with the demands of righteousness, especially when one is seen only by God or only by God and those who don’t appreciate a right response before God in the particular scenario. Emotionalism does not beget genuine faith towards God nor beget a righteous walk of faith before God.
Emotionalism may however lead to, or be compatible with, a flowery apology which sounds really good. Yet anyone with much experience knows that emotional apologies are not always followed through on; while often deeds which demonstrate true repentance are done, and continued in, by people who showed little to no emotion in declaring their intention to do so (at least emotion before man or emotion stemming from man’s devices).
Luke 19:1-10: “And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. (How emotional was Zaccheus when he said this? It doesn’t matter enough for God to even tell us. Jesus saw deeper inside Zaccheus, and He knew that Zaccheus had turned to righteousness from sin) And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham (that is, a true son of Abraham who became circumcised in his heart and proved it by his deeds). For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Environments where emotionalism reigns do not recognize the seriousness, acute danger, and horror of being lost nor recognize the greatness of Christ’s salvation and the great vigilance, circumspection, and meticulousness which is required to enter in and continue in that. Thinking that emotionally moving music and hype which humans generate can bring a person to a righteous faith in Christ like Zaccheus came to is ridiculous. Those who resort to emotionalism lack real wisdom and power from God. Make sure your faith in Christ is something which will hold up, causing you to trust God and work righteousness before Him, in the darkest and loneliest hour when emotional satisfaction is out of reach for you and there is no one there to hype you up nor cheer you on.
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