Last night, I had the privilege to speak for one of our wonderful student religious life groups here on campus, called “Fusion.” It was great to share in their time of praise, meet with some great students in a small group, and then speak on a topic that’s been on my heart lately.
One of the challenges of being asked to speak for so many different groups on campus is that I am constantly thinking about new topics to speak on. This is because there are many students who are involved in multiple religious life groups, and giving the same talk to each group would mean that some people might hear me speak on the same topic 4 or 5 times in a row! I don’t complain, though, because it keeps me thinking, and helps me stretch and grow in what I’m thinking about.
So, last night at Fusion, I talked about “A Faith That Thinks and Feels,” and I focused on examples from the Bible and the history of the church of people who were “thinkers” and people who were “feelers.” Here’s what I came up with:
Thinkers are very intellectually-oriented, and experience their faith mostly in terms of their knowledge of the Bible, the doctrines and theologies of the church, and their grasp of the facts that are necessary to accomplish a specific task. In the Bible, Adam was the first “thinker,” since he was tasked with naming and categorizing all the animals (Genesis 2:18-20); Noah was another thinker (Genesis 6:11-22), because he took the plans God gave him and built an ark! Could you do that? I don’t think I could! Nathanael, whom Jesus saw “under the fig tree” (John 1:43-49) must have been a “thinker,” because the “fig tree” was a symbol of the place where students of the Law used to go to study and pray. And, of course, Paul was a great thinker of the faith. He was concerned that Christians should “be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” (Romans 12:2) In the tradition of the Church, St. Augustine, St. Ignatius, and Martin Luther are but a few examples of great “thinkers” of the faith.
“Feelers,” on the other hand, are those who experience faith as an experience to be lived, an emotional connection with God through Christ. Moses was a great feeler, who sometimes showed his anger (Exodus 32:19-20), and John the Baptist was someone who deeply felt an emotional connection to Jesus. Mary of Bethany, Martha and Lazarus’s sister, was a “feeler,” who sat at Jesus’ feet (Luke 10:38-42), and who was distraught when Jesus came to visit after the death of Lazarus (John 11:32-44) The history of the Church yields a wealth of “feelers,” including St. Francis of Assisi, Julian of Norwich, and the Wesley brothers–John and Charles.
The interesting thing about each of these examples is that we could just as easily find a way to show that each “thinker” had moments when he/she was also a “feeler,” and every “feeler” also had moments of acting like a “thinker.” So, our faith is one of both thinking and feeling, and we experience Christ in many ways, even if we each have a preference for how we normally encounter him.
In another blog post, I will explore how Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, is both “feeler” and “thinker,” which is entirely appropriate, since he is God among us, and God is the ultimate balance of thinking and feeling.
A question to ponder: Are you more of a “thinker” or a “feeler”? If you are a “thinker,” think of ways you might begin to feel the presence of Christ in your life. If you’re a “feeler,” feel what it’s like to think through the questions of faith in new ways.