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True Feelings

By Michael P. Jensen
April 2013 | Review by Mostyn Roberts


There is no place, it seems, that feelings do not run high about feelings. Western civilization is still caught between adoration of the emotions as sublime and denigration of them as merely animal. Can we trust our feelings? Should we suppress them or should we indulge them? In what part of our persons do feelings occur? Contemporary Christianity is no less vexed about emotions. The rise of the charismatic movement in the late twentieth century, with its emphasis on experiential Christianity, has led to an equally strong reaction of suspicion against talk of the emotions as significant for the Christian life. Though these questions have an everyday, practical importance, they also point to profound theological questions about the nature of the triune God and the ascription of emotions to him in the Bible. Does God himself have feelings? This stimulating volume, based on the 2011 Moore College School of Theology, offers perspectives on emotions. Topics include a cultural overview, theological anthropology, the question of divine passions, the emotional life of Jesus, the Spirit's work in perfecting emotions, preaching the Gospels for divine effects, and the place of the emotions in corporate worship including connections with singing and music. The contributors are Rhys Bezzant, Peter Bolt, Gerald Bray, Andrew Cameron, Keith Condie, Richard Gibson, David Höhne, Michael Jensen, David Peterson and Robert Smith.

  • Publisher: Apollos (IVP)
  • ISBN: 978-1-84474-593-7
  • Pages: 288
  • Price: 14.99
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Book Review

True feelings — perspectives on emotions in Christian life and ministry

Michael P. Jensen (ed.)

Apollos (IVP), 288 pages, 14.99, ISBN: 978-1-84474-593-7

Star Rating: 3


There is much expression of emotion in the Bible — for example, the text for the sermon with which this book opens: ‘I yearn for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ’ (Philippians 1:8).

     Equally, however, there is little analysis in Scripture of what ‘emotions’ are or the part they play in the spiritual life. Living in an age in which emotions are prominent and in which ‘emotional intelligence’ is often more highly valued than IQ, Christians need to explore the nature of this important aspect of human life.

     This book contains eleven papers from a conference on this subject at Moore College, Sydney, in 2011. Many of the papers are quite technical, not perhaps for the ‘average’ Christian.

     After Richard Gibson’s sermon on the above text, Andrew Cameron gives us a cultural overview of emotions, drawing deeply on Augustine for direction; Keith Condie offers a helpful introduction to the Puritans on the emotions, taking illustrations from Richard Baxter.

     The next section is more theological, with a paper from Gerald Bray on ‘Does God have feelings?’ Richard Gibson examines the emotional life of Jesus; David Hohne looks at the Spirit’s work in perfecting the emotions and Michael Jensen gives a theological anthropology of emotions.

     Finally, we have a more pastoral emphasis. Rhys Bezzant looks at the Christian’s emotional life; Peter Bolt urges preachers to be sensitive to the emotional content of a text; David Peterson examines the expression of emotions in corporate worship, and Robert Smith analyses the importance of music for the emotional and spiritual life.

     It is interesting to see how often giants of the past are referred to — Augustine, John Owen and Jonathan Edwards particularly.

     Edwards’ Religious affections is cited frequently. His balanced approach (even, for example, on music, whose function, says Edwards, is both to excite and express the affections) has probably not been bettered.

     The present volume is a useful introduction to a wide range of issues on this important subject, and would be doubly useful if it encourages people to read Augustine, Owen and Edwards for themselves.

Mostyn Roberts


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