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 ...