Is Faith just Emotional?

Many atheists will argue that Christianity is merely an emotional experience. I have been accused of this several times; I find this to be ironic. After all, I find as much emotion displayed in atheists as I do in Christians. Their irrational hostility to Christianity in society is not exactly logical. Many atheists, when discussing their reasons for being atheists, give explanations that are highly emotional. One of the major characteristics of the “New Atheists” is their reliance on emotional and ad hominem argumentation. (An ad hominem argument is one that is made on the basis of the man, rather than on the underlying facts.) The statement that Christians are irrational is a textbook ad hominem argumentation. For example, when doubters are saying they will not argue the facts involving the eyewitness testimonies to the Resurrection, they are choosing to insinuate that there is something wrong with the person making the point of the eyewitness testimony to the Resurrection, rather than discussing the factual basis of our beliefs.

Still, I think it is worth addressing the question of emotionalism, since it has become such a common accusation. The question appears to be, “are Christians emotional, or are they rational?” This type of query is called an “artificial dichotomy”, because it tries to make a distinction that really doesn’t exist. Like all human beings, Christians have both emotional and rational components, although some people will emphasize one over the other. Christianity, because it is all- encompassing, affects the mind, the emotions, and the will (these three: the mind, emotion and will make up what the Bible calls “the heart” or the inner part of man).

As a Christian, I will admit I get emotional about the faith, but I also become very “rational” about the faith, as well. When I’m researching apologetics and theology. I am usually fairly dispassionate, (unless it is Thursday or Friday and “exhausted” counts as an emotion). Most of my opinions have usually been formed during those quiet times when my mind is fully engaged, and my emotions are not. Since I accepted the Christian faith as a child, my work as an adult has only reinforced that belief. A purely emotional faith; an immature faith, usually grows to become a fuller expression of a rational faith.

The true question is: whether our emotions logically precede our reason, or does our reason precede our emotions? Atheists assume – without evidence – that my emotions lie at the root of my Christianity – barring mind reading, they have no means of making that assertion, its a statement without evidence, better known as bluster. I know (because I do have access to my own thoughts), that my emotions follow my thinking. Some Christians probably do accept the faith, initially, because of an emotional experience. There are Christians, sadly, who may not grow intellectually within the faith, but that is certainly not the case for all, and ironically atheism will largely aid the church in this area. For many of us, however, atheists have confused the effect with the cause.

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