Emotion or Reason? What Coronavirus Teaches Us About Embracing a Full Humanity

I’ll admit I’ve been a bit distracted by the Coronavirus crisis. My youngest daughter is a trauma-ICU nurse in Nashville and she’s scared. They don’t have enough personal protective equipment and although her unit is not focused on COVID-19 patients, the physicians move between the emergency department and the trauma ward on a regular basis. One doctor has already tested positive and a few patients are pending. She texted me to say, “You and Dad aren’t going out, are you? You’re isolating, right?”

This sort of emotional response may seem like overkill to some. A longtime friend complained on Facebook about Colorado’s stay at home order, arguing it is unnecessary in such a sparsely populated state. This perspective may come from the fact that at the same time our governor is telling us to stay home, he is also trying to reassure us that only about 10% of cases need hospitalization and only 5% of those are critical. And when Time magazine reports a worldwide case fatality rate of 4% but a U.S. rate of 1.7%, no wonder people are complaining.

Yet those numbers belie the truth. If you go to the data website Worldometer’s page on the coronavirus, you see that for closed cases (where the person has either recovered or died) the worldwide death rate is much higher, with vastly varying rates by country. The difference between those numbers and the ones reported in the media lies in the fact that at any given time we do not know how the majority of cases will turn out. So giving a death rate based on the assumption that of the hundreds of thousands of people who are still sick or hospitalized with COVID-19 not one will die is misleading. By God’s grace, when all is said and done, it won’t be as bad as it appears now. Right now, however, things do not look good.

So what does the current situation have to do with discussions of gender, the Bible and human nature? I guess I was reflecting on the claim that women are emotional and men are rational, and that being rational is better than being emotional. There’s also the idea that the two cannot go coexist; either you are being emotional or you are being rational, not both.

Yet this is not how the Bible reveals the essence of human nature nor how it reveals the character of God. In the Old Testament God is consistently described as compassionate and longsuffering. He is also filled with anger or regret at times. Jesus was filled with compassion for the sick, suffering, and lost, anger toward those who perverted the truth and exploited the poor, and love for his friends. He did not make decisions based on emotionless “reason,” but rather on a rationality that has been instructed by emotion. 

When the situation called for it, Jesus wept. This in no way kept him from acting appropriately; on the contrary, Jesus’ emotion enabled him to make the right decision. Mary and Martha were no doubt comforted by the way Jesus entered into their grief. Jesus didn’t stop there, of course. He raised Lazarus from the dead. What I want you to see, though, is that it was Jesus’ emotion that informed his reason. 

Scripture says:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: 

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace. (Eccl. 3:1-8)

The Teacher does not say there’s a time for women to weep or mourn, or for women to embrace and laugh and dance, while men remain unemotional and “rational.” Both emotionality and rationality are fundamental aspects of our humanity. The two go hand in hand and must be interwoven in order for us to most faithfully image our divinely emotional and rational God. 

Personally, I am sad that this is not the time for embracing. It is emotional to me, especially as I am staying away from my oldest daughter who is due to deliver her fourth child any day now. Though I regret missing the sharing of this season with her, my rationality tells me this is the wisest choice. Yet I do not deny the emotional loss, for an ongoing pattern of emotional denial would train me to be heartless. 

This is what I am trying to get at: A proper response to the varied joys and challenges of life requires the integrating of reason and emotion, two essential components of human nature. 

Here in the United States we have seen this integration in the midst of crisis. No one should fault Governor Cuomo of New York for becoming emotional in a press conference, whether raising his voice or seemingly verging on tears. Considering that his state has more coronavirus cases than all but five nations, I would be concerned if Cuomo did not display evidence that he has been deeply moved. And in the earlier stages of the outbreak in the United States, when Dr. Anthony Fauci was desperately trying to get people to pay attention, the emotional nature of his very rational appeal came through loud and clear.

Dr. Deborah Birx is another example of rationality combined with emotionality. Though she may not be as expressive as Cuomo or some of the others, her heartfelt concern and compassion are evident as she rationally explains the necessity of the course of action she and Fauci recommended to our president. Her name seems apt, as her footsteps follow after an ancient Deborah who, also in a time of great crisis, did her God-ordained job by convincing a powerful man to do his. 

The fact is, action based on “reason” devoid of emotion becomes heartless, self-protecting, and ultimately nonsensical. If we don’t allow our heart to be engaged our decisions overlook one of the most important gifts God has given us.

So what is the solution? Reason? Emotion?

No. It’s both.

John MacArthur, Beth Moore, and Jumping to Conclusions: The Assumptions Behind a Hierarchical Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12

Last week I listened to a podcast where two women explained how they “stand with the Bible” when it comes to their hierarchical interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12. As far as these Sheologians[1] are concerned, this verse proves that women should not teach the Bible to men, be in positions of authority over men, or be pastors and elders. The meaning of the verse is plain as day, they argued, so anyone who disagrees with their view is ignoring scripture.

These ladies went on to mockingly characterize women who believe God has called them to pastoral ministry as obsessed with selfish ambition. Women who “feel called” to church leadership, they laughed, go around whining about what they will do if they can’t be elders or pastors, as though there’s nothing else that needs to be done! As though men who aren’t called to be elders or pastors should go around complaining that there’s nothing for them to do, especially when there’s more than enough work to go around![

Then over the weekend a video of John MacArthur telling Beth Moore to “go home” hit the internet. After the laughter and applause died down Mac Arthur added, “There’s no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher. Period, paragraph, end of discussion.” MacArthur went on to explain that “when you literally overturn the teaching of Scripture to empower people who want power, you have given up biblical authority.”[3]

Continue reading “John MacArthur, Beth Moore, and Jumping to Conclusions: The Assumptions Behind a Hierarchical Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12”

Domestic Abuse, A Second-Class Wife, and a Bible Horror Story

Sometimes reading the Bible will make you sick. Unflinchingly honest about man’s inhumanity to man, there is more than one narrative that is nearly impossible to stomach. We are left wondering how and why such horrors came to be and, in our disgust, prefer to look the other way. We tell ourselves we don’t need to study these passages, since we would never do such things.

Of course not.

So we move on.

Yet if we skip the ugly stories we miss what God wants to say to us through them, how he wants to warn our minds of their dullness, open our eyes to their carelessness, awaken our hands to their blindness.

The account of the Levite and his second-class wife, found in Judges 19-21, is one of those. I know its general purpose in the Old Testament is to explain what in the world happened to the tribe of Benjamin, once so strong and powerful. But I am convinced its purpose for our hearts goes much deeper than that.[1]

Continue reading “Domestic Abuse, A Second-Class Wife, and a Bible Horror Story”

A Husband is Not His Wife’s Shepherd

The Bible compares the relationship of a husband and wife to that of Christ and the church, implying that a human marriage is somehow a head-body connection like that of Jesus and his bride. We read that a man is the “head” of his wife like Christ is the “head” of the church, and we assume we comprehend what is intended. Not only do we know how Christ functions in relation to the church, by leading and directing and providing, but we also understand what it means to be the head of a corporation, head of state, or the head of a household.

It’s as plain as day.

Or is it? Continue reading “A Husband is Not His Wife’s Shepherd”

Tradition, Teaching and Women in the Church: Podcast with Dr. Juli Slattery

I recently spent an hour chatting with psychologist Dr. Juli Slattery and author Michele Cushatt about how each of us is personally navigating the things we face as women who have a leadership and teaching role in the church. In our Java with Juli podcast Tradition, Teaching and Women in the Church, we also look at the role tradition and culture have played in forming our understanding both of Scripture and of a woman’s place in the church. While you’re over at Authentic Intimacy, you might want to check out some of Juli’s other podcasts and articles that cover a wide range of subjects.

A Mother and Her God – Mother’s Day Sermon

Mother’s Day is a happy day for some but a challenging day for others. There are so many things that assault our nurturing hearts as women and mothers. Maybe we wanted to have children but never did, never wanted children and no one seems to understand our choice, or we had children but things didn’t turn out as we hoped. Or perhaps we’re still on the front end of all that and don’t yet know how things will play out.

Wherever we fall on this spectrum, there is a God who wants to walk with us. Here’s my sermon “A Mother and Her God,” given at Littleton Vineyard Church this past Mother’s Day.

Are Husbands Supposed to Get Their Wives Ready for Jesus?

A recent article on a very prominent Christian website argued that husbands have a unique responsibility to get their wives ready to meet Jesus. The author explained that he had recently been confronted with the fact that he didn’t challenge his wife enough. He went on to say, through Ephesians 5:25-26, that husbands are called to be “instruments of [God’s] sanctifying work in the lives of their wives.”[1]

I try to stay away from commenting on things I read that I disagree with, recognizing that there is a range of ideas on more than one topic that sincere believers adhere to.

But there are times when the potential harm overcomes my reservations.

This is one of those times.

Continue reading “Are Husbands Supposed to Get Their Wives Ready for Jesus?”
%d bloggers like this: