Religious Affections and Experiences (Newton)

What do feelings, emotions, and religious experiences have to do with the Christian faith?  On the one hand we should have feelings and emotions as we follow Christ – we’re not robots!  On the other hand, feelings and emotions should not be the foundation or source of our faith.  The Christian faith is based on historical facts (the life/death/resurrection of Jesus) and unchanging truths (God’s love, his Word, etc.); our feelings and emotions change, but the facts and truths of Christianity do not.  Furthermore, Christians are not all the same – some are more emotional, some are less emotional.  I appreciate John Newton’s words on this topic:

The Gospel addresses both head and heart; and where it has its proper effect, where it is received as the Word of God, and is clothed with the authority and energy of the Holy Spirit, the understanding is enlightened, the affections awakened and engaged, the will brought into subjection, and the whole soul delivered to its impression as wax to the seal. When this is the case, when the affections do not take the lead, and push forward with a blind impulse, but arise from the principles of Scripture, and are governed by them, the more warmth the better.

Yet in this state of infirmity, nothing is perfect; and our natural temperament and disposition will have more influence upon our religious sensations, than we are ordinarily aware. It is well to know how to make proper allowances and abatements upon this head [topic], in the judgment we form both of ourselves and of others. Many good people are distressed and alternately elated—by frames and feelings, which perhaps are more constitutional than properly religious experiences.

John Newton, “Letter to Mrs. ***” Sept. 17, 1776.

shane lems


3 comments on “Religious Affections and Experiences (Newton)

  1. Truth2Freedom says:

    Reblogged this on Truth2Freedom's Blog.


  2. Ron says:

    Aside from the common misconception that Scripture separates the head from the heart, Newton is right on.


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