Emotion and Intellect

I am not really good at debating creation vs. evolution, I’m just not. I think the one thing that both creationists and evolutionists can agree on is the simple fact that they are not going to change their position without some VERY compelling evidence. The Christian creationist needs their evidence to come from the scriptures else they will not accept it, the evolutionist needs their evidence to come through observation and the scientific method or else they will not accept it. The debate is a stalemate. Of course there are the occasional converts in both directions but by and large it is a settled point.

What I do find interesting however is the tendency of Christian creationist to appeal to the emotion and beauty, and the evolutionist to appeal to the hard evidence and scientific process. I think it is a fail on both sides.

It is typical in Christian circles to downplay the intellect. The Christian who reads many books, thinks deeply about doctrines that might not be essential is often derided in Christian circles as being high minded, or somehow wasting their time. They are often met with “The bible says it, I believe it, that settles it” or “you just need to have a childlike faith”. I wish more people would have a childlike faith! My 4 year old is constantly asking questions, and every question leads to a new question, and he is inquisitive beyond what I can handle at times. The child does not settle with simple answers, they always dig further, always want more, they do not care about ‘essential’ vs ‘non-essentials’ they want it all and in that sense ‘child-like’ is very intellectual.

On the flip side, the ‘evolutionist’ downplays the emotion and takes it completely out of the equation. They typically argue from the third person perspective and distance themselves emotionally from the arguments they make. It is unfortunate, because in many ways they have a wonderful story to tell that is stimulating and engaging, if they were willing to tell it in such a manner.

As Christians we say that history is a marvelous story of creation and redemption, of sin and grace, of a final victory, and tragic defeat of evil. We get wrapped up in, and immersed in this great story, a story that we affirm is true. It is a highly emotional story, and the emotion is part of its appeal. Nonetheless there is an intellectual side of it all, how the sacrifices work together, the types and shadows, the doctrines, the laws, the history. It is a complete package, and it is a mistake to neglect the intellect because the intellect serves the emotion and vice versa.

On the flip side the evolutionist has a marvelous story to tell as well, one that they affirm is true. It is a story of a world governed by natural law that defeats the odds while functioning with in those laws to bring forth the wonderful complexity that this world has. It is a story of life forming against the odds, but still within the possibility of infinite time and space. It is a story of ever increasing complexity and innovation. Like every good story it has a tipping point, and the greatness of this universe begins to return to the nothingness it once was, and tragically it ends as it began in an infinitesimally dense small speck. Honestly that is a story that we can get wrapped up in as well, one that, if it were true, we are really a part of, really involved in its timeline, and truly affected by it. (Of course I believe that story to be wrong, but I would be a liar if I said it wasn’t interesting and compelling.)

What I am saying is that the biblical narrative is much more believable if it is engaged intellectually, but also that the evolutionary narrative would be much more believable if it were engaged with emotion.

The teachers who were most effective in communicating their subjects in my education were my high school Calculus teacher, and my physics teacher (probably resulting in me becoming an engineer). I have no idea whether they were Christian or not, and as far as the subject matter was concerned that is irrelevant. The reason they taught so well was that they balanced intellect and emotion in their teaching. My calculus teacher was genuinely excited about the order that could be expressed by numbers, she genuinely portrayed an emotional connection to the math she taught. Our physics teacher was much the same. He not only wanted you to grasp the concepts, he drove you to become emotionally involved in them. If it were all emotion without the intellect we would have learned nothing, yet if it were all intellect without the emotion we would have dismissed the knowledge we received the moment we received our grade card.

A great book to read on this topic is CS Lewis’ “Abolition of Man”, he expresses this tension far better than I ever could on a blog post.

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