Biblical Faith or a Feeling-Based Faith?
Scholars throughout history have debated this question of Biblical Faith or a Feeling-Based Faith? The fastest growing Christian faiths rely on feelings versus Bible study. I call feelings-based faith the “lazy man’s faith.” But that’s just my opinion. We are hard-wired by God to praise and worship; many believe that praise and worship are more important than Bible study. Many historical scholars and I would disagree. Although praise and worship have their place in Christianity, I consider them the dessert, not the main course. So, let’s look at what the scholars say and see what the Bible says.
Biblical Faith or a Feeling-Based Faith? Historical Scholars
Desiderius Erasmus (1466 – 1536) wrote, “Oh, the folly of those who revere a bone of the Apostle Paul enshrined in glass and feel not the glow of his spirit enshrined in his epistles!” In other words, many people of his time were emotionally sustained by relics of the church, like the supposed staff of Moses, a piece of bone from the Apostle Paul, a weeping statue of the Virgin Mary. These things are not only idolatry but based on feelings, not on Biblical study. Erasmus urged people to read and understand the epistles and feel the glow of God’s Spirit from the study of His Holy Word. Feelings without substance are virtually useless.
Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) wrote early in his ministry, “Absurd theologians defend hatred for the Jews. What Jew would consent to enter our ranks when he sees the cruelty and enmity we wreak on them – that in our behavior towards them, we less resemble Christians than beasts?” “We ought...not to treat the Jews in so unkindly a spirit, for there are future Christians among them.” Then near the end of his ministry wrote, “If we wish to wash our hands of the Jews’ blasphemy and not share in their guilt, we have to part company with them. They must be driven from our country” and “we must drive them out like mad dogs.” This reaction by Luther comes from feelings, not Biblical truth. God’s Law is clear “…love thy neighbour as thy self.” Matthew 22:36-40.
Your emotions are part of your flesh and influence your sinful nature. We are all sinners, and sins have their basis in our flesh and thoughts. So, the problem is that feelings lie to you! We like to say that we give our hearts to Jesus, but that’s not in scripture anywhere. We must give all of ourselves to Jesus, not just our emotions. That means we must obey the precepts of scripture. Obedience requires us to read and study the Bible to know and understand what God wants us to do and not do. This truth has its basis in knowledge and feelings, but not feelings alone. Again, feelings lie! Pseudo-Christian mysticism or spiritualism leads to a superficial and often fleeting faith. People who rely on emotion will ebb and flow with those emotions and seldom become grounded in the Word. Because feelings and emotions lie, we must also study scripture!
Biblical Faith or a Feeling-Based Faith? What does the Bible Say?
Faith is believing in God, His goodness, His faithfulness, His love even when you can’t see or feel it, even when it doesn’t seem like you’re loved. Feelings based on faith cannot stand up to tribulations and trials. Hebrews 11:1. Proverbs 14:5 says, “A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies.” To be a faithful witness, you have to understand and believe scripture. If you base your witness on feelings alone, you will undoubtedly bear false witness. Sharing your salvation experience is a great start, but you must be able to back up that emotion with substance – the substance of God’s Holy Word.
The author of Hebrews said in Hebrews 4:15, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” He was saying that Jesus was tempted just like we are, but He didn’t sin. Jesus knew the scriptures and lived in obedience to them. In Romans 2:12, we learn that those who don’t keep God’s moral laws will be judged and perish by those laws. In other words, if you can sin without regret or repentance, you are not a Christian and will experience judgment. On the other hand, if you are a sinner that regrets sin and tries to repent from those sins, you are a Christian. You can be sure that a person is a Christian by how well they obey scripture, in other words, the will of God.
Choosing Biblical Faith over faith based on feelings or emotions is logical and Biblical. Feelings and emotions have their place in Christianity. This truth is undeniable. But the Bible clearly reveals that you need to read, understand, and obey the moral laws, scripture advocates. Emotionally coming to faith in Christ is wonderful, but you can’t sustain that emotional faith indefinitely. It would be best if you learned to rely on the wisdom and truth of Biblical scripture to maintain your faith. The beauty of the Bible and its unmatched wisdom will always sustain you with or without feelings or overwhelming emotions. Those emotions are a great place to start but need the reinforcement of scripture. So, discipleship is profoundly important for new Christians. Please live by the complete counsel of God – the entire Bible – not just your emotions.