Thanks to requests from readers, God’s Emotions is now available in three media: audio, video, or plain old written word. What suits you?
Anger, disgust, jealousy, regret, grief, love . . . The Bible authors wrote as if God has emotions, and most Christians through history have spoken and behaved as if this were true. But what does that mean? What exactly are emotions? What are they for and how do they work? And how do these details relate to our notions about God?
1. The Question We Forget to Ask (10:29)
Which of our ideas about God come from something outside us and which are projections of our own psyches? Answering this question is a process of elimination; to come any closer to knowing what is out there, we need to start by scrubbing our god concepts of projection. Fortunately, we now know quite a bit about the human mind, how it structures information and what kinds of errors we are prone to.
2. What Psychology Can and Can’t Say About God (9:29)
Psychology asks, “What can we know about how people (and sometimes other animals) function within this natural world?” It neither assumes nor denies the existence of a supernatural realm because the methods of science are not applicable to that question, and the findings of science are agnostic on that question. That said, it does assume that if we have sufficient natural explanations for natural events, then we don’t assert supernatural causes as well.
3. Do Christians Think God Has Emotions? (10:26)
Understanding emotions is irrelevant to Einstein or Spinoza’s god-concept because the God of Spinoza and Einstein is not a person and does not have emotions. On the other hand, one of the defining attributes of the orthodox God is actually an emotion, love.
4. What Are Emotions Anyways? (14:51)
Cognition without emotion doesn’t get us very far. Damage to emotion centers in the brain can mean that even intelligent people can’t learn from their mistakes and they make harmful social and financial decisions. Affective scientists say that emotion is key in three kinds of processes that help animals, including humans, to survive and thrive.
5. A God With a Temper (10:30)
We often think of anger being the domain of powerless, frustrated people, but the opposite may be true. In a study by Sells,Tooby, Cosmides stronger men and more beautiful women were more anger prone than their less beefy and more ordinary counterparts. Who is more powerful than God?
6. Pleasing a High Status Deity (9:39)
According to cognitive scientist, Pascal Boyer, most supernatural beings regardless of their physical form, have human psyches, including emotions. The God of the Bible is no exception. Sermons and sacred texts that wax eloquent about God’s anger are just one of many clues that most of the Bible writers related to God as a high status human.
7. The Stepford Jesus (7:31)
We want our lovers and spouses to have intuitive access to our wishes, to know what we want before we even ask. In a similar vein, the quest of the mystic is to be one with God, to be consumed by his presence. The quest of the “servant-leader” is to be the hands and feet of God. But because we are human, what people want, inevitably, is that God becomes a channel through which they can work their will in the world.
8. Why God Cares About What God Cares About (10:02)
Half a century ago, a social psychologist named Fritz Heider made a series of observations that he distilled into what he called “balance theory.” Heider found that positive and negative feelings in relationships need to be balanced to be stable. His theory is useful in thinking about why our images of God change.
9. Manmade Gods (11:18)
Careful, repeated observations of the natural world, however meticulous, will never allow us to say whether there is another realm beyond the reach of our senses and our ability to process information. But they do allow us to understand the intricacies of the natural order, ourselves included. And they allow us to examine our god-concepts in light of what we know about ourselves.