Thursday, November 20, 2008

Finding the Spirit

The first talk of the Priesthood session reminded me of a man I met on my mission. His wife had died and he told us of all the things he had done in worship and prayer to seek God's help. He complained of how he had come up so empty. The list he gave us consisted of various forms of emotionalism.

He was Catholic, but obviously had gone somewhere else for comfort (and, bless his heart, seemed to be blaming his priest). I was struck by how he was substituting emotional processes for spiritual ones. I have seen that process many, many times since. I consider it a terrible mistake.

Too often I see a reach for Pathos (or even Bathos) as a substitute for the Spirit. It is a common thing (as are other reaches for emotional states) as a replacement for the Spirit of God. I have met people who thought they were the same thing. The terrible flaw is that the approach leads to shallow or non-existent roots and it fails people when they need God the most.

In grief, the Spirit brings comfort and faith brings healing. Emotionalism seems to do nothing positive for people, and as a substitute for the Spirit actually seems to harm them. It may seem harsh, but I think in general we should avoid bathos as we would any other false spirit. At least if we seek healing or to find God instead of a pale substitute.

I know, I went far afield from the speaker's thoughts, but we came back together as he called for repentance, even if we thought of the need to repent of different things.


Papa D said...

I have been fascinated for years at the substitutes for the Spirit that I see all around me - in the Christian world, but, unfortunately, also sometimes in members of the Church. It's easy to confuse manifestations of the Spirit with emotional manipulation - and it's easy to get cynical when you observe blatant emotional manipulation.

It's easy to forget that emotional manipulation often is the only thing people know, and sometimes those who we see as "orchestrating" it also don't know any better. At least it's worth considering.

Stephen said...

Good point Papa D.

I simulposted this at Mormon Matters as well, you might like the comments that thread got.

sojourner said...

I'm trying to understand where you are coming from so be patient with me while I think this out. I gather you are speaking from the standpoint of sharing the gospel and the mistake that many make by taking the Pathos or Bathos approach. Taking this approach causes problems because it appeals to the hearer's emotions and this approach runs the risk of encouraging the hearer to rely on emotional evidence of God's comfort and healing rather than relying on the Spirit through faith. This runs the risk of enabling the hearer to confuse the work of the Spirit with the different emotional states we experience. If my understanding is correct I agree with you. However from a counseling perspective, we cannot disregard the fact that God gave use emotions which help us navigate through our lives. Our emotions set us apart from other living creatures and help us have relationship with God and His creation. Emotions should not be a substitute for God and we should not take advantage of a person's emotional or physical state in order to persuade them to accept Christ. Can we have a relationship with God void of emotion? I'll have to ponder that for a time. Thanks for getting the wheels churning!

Stephen said...

I have no problem with emotions combined with the Spirit, I'm not sure it is possible to have the Spirit without emotion in any meaningful sense (much like the Spirit and thought go together).

I'm just not happy with the Spirit instead of emotion.