Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What I'm Learning (Slowly)

I'll be finished with my very first grad class on Friday, when I take my essay final. Yes, I'm a little nervous about the test (I'm not studying - can you tell?). And yes, I'm excited about having one class under my belt. But no, I'm not really glad it's over, since I haven't read nearly enough, or finished the books I was assigned. Well, Systematic Theology is the only one I didn't work all the way through, and I do plan to finish it, as it fascinates me. And I have to get to the end to find out what happens at the end of the world and whether it happens just like in The Last Battle (adult) (Narnia)!

I have to tell you about my class. First, my school is Reformed, meaning, in part, that the foundational theology stems from John Calvin's theology, and a couple of different Creeds. Introduction to Theological Studies introduced me to the Reformed way of thought, the history, the theology, particularly the way my school views Reformed theology. My professor, Dr. Pratt, was witty and intelligent, while being concerned with the whole person as a theologian and individual. He tends to lean toward the apologetics of Dr. John Frame, whose text he used (and which I will be reading more of, as we only read sections of the book), The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (A Theology of Lordship). I loved this book, used in the context of the lectures, particularly the section on Logic and logic arguments (which drove me crazy!). But I think that the last section I was required to read touched me the most. Frame is discussing the Existential Perspective, how theology effects me personally, what I do with it, how I live it, think it, feel it, believe it, experience it. How extremely personal theology is, regardless of how detached and intellectual we might perceive ourselves to be in our beliefs. The "Personalism" of theology and that everything we know and are influences what and how we believe. It can't be helped.

The very last section I read is probably my favorite, and it concerns the emotions. If you must know (and you must), I have a difficult time expressing myself emotionally. In fact, I don't think of myself as particularly emotional, especially for a woman. Once a month I get a little emotional and berate myself for it before it clears up and I realize where it's stemming from. In fact, those monthly emotions often make me feel like I'm going crazy, since they feel foreign and out of control. I emote best in writing, which makes face-to-face relationships difficult at times. Just ask my intuitive, emotive husband. So there's always been a large element of guilt in my lack of emotional, shall we say, quantity and quality. And a certain amount of guilt in the ability to express myself better in writing than face-to-face.

Frame has, in a sense, relieved some of my guilt. He points out (in a "Doh!" moment for me), that some people are more emotional than others, that certain emotional types tend to be more drawn to one religious leaning than another (I am very, very loosely interpreting this part). And that I shouldn't feel guilty for the emotional level at which I operate. Specifically he says, "the important thing is not whether you are highly emotional or not; the important thing is whatever emotional capacities you have should be placed in God's hands to be used according to His purposes." He even go on to say that emotions and intellect are on equal footing, and both are used to guide decisions and contribute to knowledge. That's right - our emotions influence what we KNOW, are a means of knowledge. He illustrates with an intellectual task he performs, saying his emotions about the task "guide my reflection; my reflection refines my feeling. Those refined feelings provoke additional reflection." He says that the goal is "a peaceful relation between intellect and emotion."

I guess the conclusion to this emotional dilemma I've always struggled with is stated pretty clearly by Frame when he says:

"A theologian, therefore, ought to have godly emotions. He ought to be the sort of person who rejoices in what is good and who hates what it evil. And he should be able to express and communicate that joy or hate infectiously."

I'm hoping to, tomorrow (but probably this weekend), work through a little more of my emotional journey, the books which have kept me afloat through this first class, contributing to my sanity and (hopefully) refining my thoughts. They've also been helping to guide me into more godly emotions and thought processes. I have a difficult time seeing the depth and complexities at time. Perhaps seeing the different perspectives. And I struggle to have godly emotions or thoughts or words or actions, to even know what that means much of the time. Which means that expressing the joy and hatred infectiously is also difficult. But I'm truly enjoying this journey. Thank you for letting me share what I'm learning.

Until I write again ...

Flea

14 comments:

Mental P Mama said...

That was beautifully said. I think you are finished studying! I also believe that your writing is an excellent representation of your emotional state. I'm just saying...also, that monthly business...I have not been able to find a way around it, so if you do, please let me know.

Anonymous said...

Very ummm 'deep'. Glad you are enjoying and garnering your truth though. Too much at this stage for me to even begin to comprend though.

dlyn said...

Wow - that is so interesting! I tend towards Calvin's teachings myself and am not particularly "emotional" in the way that so many people seem to be. But my husband is pretty emotional and open. We have some things in common it seems. And that is not even touching on the cow spoon rest that I have. :D

I think I will look this book up and give it a try.

Flea said...

Awww ... now I want a cow spoon rest. Way to make me jealous, Dlyn! It's about all my brain is good for at the moment.

OHmommy said...

Seething with jealousy here. Oh, how I wish I could be back in grad school. The reading. The thinking. The writing. Oh, wait, I just remembered writing my thesis. Oh vay!

kimmy said...

I LOVED going to school. I really do miss graduate school, it truly was one of the best times of my life!

Kimmy

david mcmahon said...

Good luck with the exam and good luk with looking into your soul for further interpretations and deeper meanings than any textbook or lecturer can explain ....

Karen said...

It seems as though you've mastered the book pretty well. You should ace the test. But good luck anyway!

Mayberry Magpie said...

So interesting!

I've been studying Buddhist teachings for a while. And part of what you said about emotions resonates with my current perspective.

The Boddhisvatta strives to be the mountain. The clouds (thoughts, emotions) pass over the mountain, but the mountain is not disturbed by them.

To me, emotions are attachments . . . to outcomes, to patterns of thinking, etc. By learning to examine them without attachment, we transcend.

I'm anxious to hear more.

Flea said...

Hmm. I think what I'm learning (which actually makes sense and is a relief to me) is that emotions are healthy and good and are the facilitators of knowledge. Emotions are faulty without reason for balance. Reason alone is faulty if we're not listening to our gut. Everything we experience is run through the filter of emotions. The two seem to balance one another, though I think most people operate more strongly in one or the other. Which is what seems to create balance in society. Even though we tend to look down our noses on the people who are our opposite in this regard. Am I making sense?

I think I agree with you about assessing our emotions, filtering them through reason, but how do wee know that our reason or logic are correct? There are times that we can be as reasonable or logical as we know how, armed with all kinds of data, but our gut is telling that something is off. If we don't respond to the emotion, we may be in big trouble.

So I think we're kinda on the same page. Hmm. I just don't know if we can actually not be attached to our emotions without harming ourselves?

Weezee said...

I understand Flea. I emote! sometimes frustratingly before I think. That balance between emotions and intellect is so important to God's working in our lives or in others through us.
My we are serious today aren't we. Good luck with the exam.

Mental P Mama said...

Perception, my dear, perception.

Christine said...

Wow! I came to this post and was surprised (and pleased) at the depth. I love studying theology. We actually own Systematic Theology (of which I have been working slowly through since forever).

I have never been an overly emotional person either. I think it has actually been a hindrance to my religious belief at times. My logic and analytical mind takes over when sometimes belief requires none of that. We do need both. God is a God of emotions *and* intelligence. We are made in His image, why not have the basic characteristics of Him? Balance between logic and emotions would be there if we were not living in a fallen world...

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