Responding to the Feelings Barrier for Determining Truth


by Rob Lundberg

Introduction

This post has a similar title from my blogger page. However there have been some changes since I first wrote that posting.[1]  Not too long ago Abdu Murray came out with a great book entitled  Saving Truth: Finding Meaning and Clarity in a Post-Truth World.  When I first shared this content, we were still dealing with a post modern mindset in our culture.  This post is an update that will show how things have been changed. 

How have they changed? We now have a generation that is willing to admit that absolute truth exists. But when it comes to preferences due to one’s personal feelings in living out life’s choices, truth seems to be trumped over feelings.61wszso0xgl

Have you ever heard anyone make statements like the following: “I feel it is only right to _________________” Or how about “Something bad happened, therefor it can’t be true!”  Friends, this is the “Walt Disney method” for determining truth, where a person uses their feelings and emotions to create the foundation for one’s reality in spite of the fact that there may be an absolute truth to answer the situation.

In this posting, I want to address the real issue of the use of feelings and emotions as a means for determining truth.  Don’t get me wrong, feelings are very real when it comes to physical situations, and emotional scenarios. But are feelings a good test for truth? The answer to that is a firm, “No!” Let me explain.

Taking the feelings path for testing truth is known as the subjective approach, also  known as “subjectivism.” Geisler and Holden define subjectivism as “the belief that one can use feelings, emotions, and/or intuitions as the keys to determining something to be true.[2]

Some people think that truth “feels good” and error “feels bad.” If you and I were to talk to a Mormon, they would tell you that they have received a feeling of a “burning in the bosom” after reading The Book of Mormon for the first time. This feeling is, for them, the test that the Book of Mormon is true.  But there are a handful of flaws when it comes to using feelings as a truth test.

Feelings, Nothing More than Feelings. . .

Feelings are very real to the person who is experiencing them. But making moral choices based on feelings, or determining why life takes different turns and direction is not a good standard for determining reality.   Here are some reasons.

First, feelings are a poor test for determining what is true because feelings change. We are emotional creatures to where some people’s emotions change like the New England weather. Changing feelings cannot be used as a basis for determining reality. If truth could change right along with our feelings, think of the things that could happen.

The laws of physics, like the law of gravity would have to be changed and updated daily depending on the feelings and emotions of the scientists for each day.  Reference books like encyclopedias that contain historical truths would have to be updated regularly to reflect the current feelings and emotions of the editor.  We would never have a realistic understanding of reality. Oh, wait a minute, things have changed and some actually think the converse of these thoughts.

Second, can you imagine if two people had different feelings about the same statement? Whose feelings or emotions about statement x do we accept? Is it true? Or is it false? How do we determine which emotional interpreter of the statement is right, and who is wrong? Do you see the problem?

Feelings are good, and they are very real. I can’t express that enough. God has nothing against experiences. He created us to experience His creation and a relationship with Him. We are wired with feelings and created as emotional beings.

However, there is a proper and an improper way of using and interpreting our feelings, while holding to, expressing, and sharing the truth.

Finally, have you ever thought that bad news can be true? Think of the bad things that have happened, in this country over the last several years, like the hurricanes, storms, terrorist attacks etc. If only what feels good is true, we would have to reject all the news events that have happened that make us feel horrible. Think of it for just a moment.

The doctor tells a patient they have a terminal illness. The dentist tells you that you have to have oral surgery or else something bad may happen to your jaw. Of if you are a student taking exams, the professor/teacher tells you that you flunked your one exam for the semester and therefore you flunk the course. If we dismiss events like these because of all the unpleasant news or information, we are putting ourselves at a great risk at rejecting reality, no matter if it is good or bad.

Conclusion.

At best, feelings can be a result of a reaction to truth. Let us not let feelings be a standard for determining the truth. God has given us feelings for specific things. We will experience feelings and emotions and they are very real. However they do not determine and cannot be used as a gauge for determining that which corresponds to reality (i.e., the truth).

Thanks so much for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it and that it has provided you with more insight on how to determine truth. Of course remember if you liked this and want to learn more about the truth of God’s Word and be “ready to give a defense,” then make sure you subscribe to my mailing list or make a donation to help keep this ministry moving forward with the message of the gospel and clear thinking Christianity. Also if you know someone in particular, who could benefit from this post, make sure you tell them about this post.

Notes

[1] I have taken all of my previous posts and posted them here on WordPress.  Some of those posts are the same, from the previous site. Others, in fact a vast majority are being refreshed due to grammar, or changes in the culture since they were first written.

[2] Norman Geisler and Joseph Holden. TruthQuest Living Out Loud Defending Your Faith. (Nashville: Broadman Holman Press, 2002), 35. According to Evans “Subjectivism is a philosophy or life perspective that attempts to view what is normally thought to be objectively true or false as subjective. In ethics, emotivism, which views ethical judgments as expressions of subjective emotions, is an example of subjectivism. Subjectivism is in effect a type of individual relativism.” (C. Stephen Evans. Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2002: s.v., “Subjectivism.”

2 comments

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