The Emotions of God

How Our Emotions Are Windows Into God

This is the interior of the oldest Syrian Orthodox monastery, Mor Gabriel, in southeastern Turkey.  It was founded in 397 AD, and continues amidst gardens and orchards.  Photo credit:  Ugur Ozden, all rights reserved, used with permission.


the emotions of God, and how our emotions are windows into God

Mako A. Nagasawa | The Anastasis center | 2014

A curriculum for small group discussion; a subset of the Shame and Glory material. Scripture often invites us to consider emotional language as it applies to God. Jesus also demonstrated very human emotions and called forth our participation in God’s joy, sorrow, etc. These passages give us valuable insights into God’s character and love for us. Part of our life with Jesus is to allow him to shape and reshape our emotions, that we would respond to others and circumstances with the consistency of Jesus. This guide helps us do that.

Messages and Essays on the Emotions of God and How Our Emotions Are Windows Into God

1. The Longing and Joy of God for the Lost, Part 1 (Luke 15:1 - 10)

2. The Longing and Joy of God for the Lost, Part 2 (Luke 15:11 - 32)

3. The Tears and Anger of God for Humanity (John 11:20 - 44)

4. The Yearning of God (Luke 22:14 - 23)

5. The Eagerness of God to Help Us (Luke 11:1 - 13)

6. The Grieving of God (Ephesians 4:29 - 32)

7. The Jealousy of God (Exodus 20:1 - 6; Deuteronomy 4:1 - 24)

8. The Pleasure of the Father in the Son (Matthew 3:13 - 4:11; John 8:28 - 29)


Books and Articles on the Emotions of God and How Our Emotions Are Windows Into God 

Soren Johnson, 2018 and the Gift of Tears (The Arlington Catholic Herald, Dec 27, 2017) cites Jesus’ “Blessed are those who mourn” and Paul’s “Weep with those who weep” as anchor points, and Ephrem the Syrian as illustrative, with grieving over 2018. See also Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, The Gift of Tears (Spirituality and Practice) citing early Christians and Jewish reflection on tears. Deacon Tom, The Gift of Tears (Catholic Mom, Jul 10, 2009) and Deacon Tom, More on the Gift of Tears (Catholic Mom, Oct 20, 2012) focusing on Teresa of Avila. Jeannie Ewing, Demystifying the Gift of Tears (Integrated Catholic Life, Aug 10, 2016) gives helpful thoughts on discernment. Cindy Wooden, Theology of Tears: For Pope, Weeping Helps One See Jesus (Catholic News Service, May 5, 2016) draws heavily on Pope Francis’ comments and actions.

Clement of Alexandria, from Rod, Clement of Alexandria and the Good News About God's Emotions. And Ours (Political Jesus blog, Oct 6, 2014)

Athanasius of Alexandria, Against the Heathen on the corruption and healing of our desires; a pdf copy of select quotations from Against the Heathen / Contra Gentes 

Athanasius of Alexandria, Discourses Against the Arians 3 discusses Jesus healing human desires from within our humanity, as a human being; see paragraphs 31 - 41 and 54 - 55

Ambrose of Milan, On the Holy Spirit book 1, paragraph 66 discusses Jesus setting free our affections, though with no further explanation

Lactantius, On the Anger of God discusses emotions of God as not simply metaphorical language, see especially chapters 15 - 16 

John Chrysostom, Homily 2 on Philippians discusses the "tender mercies" or "affections" of Christ Jesus shared with us.  See also John Sanidopolous, Divine Eros by John Chrysostom (blog, Apr 1, 2014)  

Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John's Gospel on desires and Jesus' redemption of human desire 

John Cassian, Conferences on desires and free will 

Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo: A Biography (Amazon book, 2000) very good quotes from Augustine on desires

Paul Blowers, Gentiles of the Soul: Maximus the Confessor on the Substructure and Transformation of Human Passions (Journal of Early Christian Studies, Spr 1996) on passions, desires and free will

Martin Hinterberger, "Emotions in Byzantium," edited by Liz James, A Companion to Byzantium (Amazon book, 2010) is a sensitive reader of patristic and Byzantine writings; while Byzantine Christian interpretations of emotions tended to be pragmatically framed in the negative (e.g. anger, sloth, lust, etc.) the positive virtues were assumed.  Hence, we can discern that the now-controversial Greek term apatheia was not used to mean indifferent, or unfeeling.  It referred to how decision-making was to be driven by virtues and not the passions (ta pathe), i.e. the pathological emotions.

John W. O'Malley, The First Jesuits (Amazon book, Jan 1995)

Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections: A Christian's Character Before God (Amazon book, 1794)

B.B. Warfield, The Emotional Life of Our Lord (Monergism blog) Note that I disagree with Warfield when he says in his last paragraph, "It is not germane to the present inquiry to enter into the debate as to whether, in assuming flesh, our Lord assumed the flesh of fallen or of unfallen man. The right answer, beyond doubt, is that he assumed the flesh of unfallen man..." See the quotes from Cyril of Alexandria and Athanasius, above, and citations from the early church that he took fallen humanity.

C.S. Lewis on desires, from Surprised by Joy

C.S. Lewis on proper loves and imbalances of loves, from The Four Loves

C.S. Lewis, "The Weight of Glory" from The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses

C.S. Lewis, Love is Vulnerable (Zen Pencils)

J.R.R. Tolkien, "The Houses of Healing" from The Return of the Kingon how love grows

Philip Nunn, Adopting the Mindset of Jesus: A Study of the Feelings of Jesus as Recorded in the Gospel of Mark (Philip Nunn, Oct 2003)

Paul Metzger, The Halfway House of Hedonism: Potential and Problems in John Piper's Desiring God (Crux, Winter 2005)

G. Walter Hanson, The Emotions of Jesus, and Why We Need to Experience Them (Christianity Today, Feb 3, 1997)

Timothy Gorringe, The Education of Desire: Toward a Theology of the Senses (Amazon book, 2001)

Paul Gavrilyuk, The Suffering of the Impassible God (pdf book, 2004) is a helpful corrective to Thomas Weinandy, Does God Suffer? (First Things, Nov 2001)

Father George Morelli, Orthodoxy and the Science of Psychology (Orthodoxy Today, May 8, 2006)

Father George Morelli, The Ethos of Orthodox Christian Healing (Orthodoxy Today, Dec 21, 2006)

William Cavanaugh, Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire (Amazon, Mar 17, 2008) and review by David Opderbeck, William Cavanaugh, Trade, and Scarcity (blog, Jun 14, 2017)

Kallistos Ware, Personal Experience of the Holy Spirit According to the Greek Fathers (Silouan Thompson blog, Aug 5, 2008)

James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Amazon book, 2009)

Rene Girard, On the Decalogue 1 (youtube video, uploaded Aug 21, 2009)

Jonah Lerner, Depression's Upside (NY Times, Feb 25, 2010) includes links between depression and mental exhaustion, depression and brain activity, depression and creative problem solving

Elizabeth Marquardt, The Spirituality of Children of Divorce (Huffington Post, Dec 22, 2010)

Kenneth Pargament, Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy (Amazon book, Jul 2011)

John Tierney, Envy May Bear Fruit, but It Also Has an Aftertaste (NY Times, Oct 10, 2011) 

Derrick, David Bentley Hart on Impassibility as Joyful, Transcendent Love (A Greater Courage blog, Apr 12, 2012)

Robert C. Crosby, The Emotional Jesus: His Ups and Downs (Patheos, Jun 15, 2012)

N.T. Wright and Gary Morson, What Gods Do We Believe in Now? (Veritas Forum, Nov 12, 2012)

Father George Morelli, Orthodox Christian Spirituality and Cognitive Psychotherapy, part 2: Bio-Cultural Elements (Orthodoxy Today, Feb 2, 2013)

Father George Morelli, Orthodox Christian Spirituality and Cognitive Psychotherapy, part 3: The Passions (Orthodoxy Today, Sep 1, 2013)

Father George Morelli, Orthodox Christian Spirituality and Cognitive Psychotherapy, part 4: The Healing Potential of Faith (Orthodoxy Today, Sep 1, 2013)

David Bentley Hart, Beauty, Being, and Kenosis: The Aesthetics of the Incarnation (video, May 14, 2013)

Rod Dreher, But Now He Sees (The American Conservative, Nov 13, 2013)

Father James Martin, S.J., Advent is About Desire (Huffington Post, Nov 29, 2013)

Rod Dreher, To Know is to Love is to Know (The American Conservative, Jan 8, 2014)

Malcolm Gladwell, How I Rediscovered Faith (Relevant Magazine, Jan/Feb 2014)

David Brooks, Alone, Yet Not Alone (NY Times, Jan 27, 2014)

Eve Tushnet, Coming Out Christian: How Faithful Homosexuals Are Transforming Our Churches (The American Conservative, Jan 29, 2014)

Tom Belt, Vulnerability: The Capacity of Finitude to Bear God's Glory, Part 1 (An Open Orthodoxy blog, Apr 1, 2014) and Part 2 (An Open Orthodoxy blog, May 13, 2014)

Rod Dreher, Dante Saved My Life: A Midlife Crisis Is Cured by The Divine Comedy (The American Conservative, Apr 9, 2014)

Ian Marcus Corbin, Entranced by Reality: Albert Camus (The American Conservative, May 15, 2014)

Gordon Marino, A Life Beyond 'Do What You Love' (NY Times, May 17, 2014)

Father Stephen Freeman, Tolkien's Long Defeat (Ancient Faith blog, Jul 15, 2014)

Yuval Levin, Taking the Long Way: Disciplines of the Soul Are the Basis of a Liberal Society (First Things, Oct 2014)

Hierotheos Vlachos, Pleasure and Pain by Maximus the Confessor (Orthognosia blog, Dec 2014) but sexual pleasure as fundamentally negative? might be evidence that Christianity departed too far from Judaism

Roberto Sirvent, Embracing Vulnerability: Human and Divine (Amazon book, Nov 2014)

Andre Rabe, Desire Found Me (Amazon book, Jan 2015)

Tom Belt and Dwayne Polk, The Colors of the Cross (An Open Orthodoxy blog, Jan 3, 2015)

Ashley M. Gorman, What To Do When Your Ex Moves On Super Fast (blog, Mar 4, 2015)

David Bentley Hart and Lawrence Feingold, The Natural Desire to See God (video, Mar 23, 2015)

Rod Dreher, How Dante Can Save Your Life (Amazon book, Apr 14, 2015)

Shane Pruitt, Why Following Your Heart is a Really Bad Idea (Relevant, Apr 15, 2015)

Kevin Allen, Unique Characteristics of Eastern Orthodox Spirituality (Conciliar Post, Apr 16, 2015)

Dan Nixon, Less is More: What Mindfulness Means for Economics (Bank Underground, Apr 25, 2016) A new age-y approach, but helpful

Bruce Wauchope, The Gospel and Mental Health Sample (Trinity in You blog) very important as Dr. Wauchope is describing penal substitutionary atonement as mentally unhealthy

Stephen Freeman, The Voice of the Natural Will (Ancient Faith blog, Jul 10, 2015)

Alfred Kimel, Rethinking the Rethinking of Transcendence (Eclectic Orthodoxy, Jul 15, 2015)

Stephen Freeman, The Soul and the Hidden Weight of Glory (Ancient Faith blog, Aug 8, 2015)

Marilynne Robinson, Fear (New York Review of Books, Sep 24, 2015)

Donald T. Williams, Philology the Handmaid (Lantern Hollow Press, Oct 19, 2015)

Rod Dreher, The Limits of Expertise (The American Conservative, Jul 12, 2016) about affection and internal commitments, vs. pay and external ones

Julie Sedivy, How Morality Changes in a Foreign Language (Scientific American, Sep 14, 2016)

Tyler J. VanderWeele and John Siniff, Religion May Be a Miracle Drug (USA Today, Oct 28, 2016) regular church attendance connected with longer life and sense of meaning

Mockingbird, Attachment Theory and Your Relationship With God (Mockingbird, Oct 26, 2016)

Jackson Wu, Does Paul Use Shame to Challenge or Correct the Corinthians?  (Patheos, Nov 8, 2017) very good observations about Paul's rhetoric reflecting his theological convictions

Jackson Wu, Is the Glory of God Intrinsic to Humanity? Rethinking Romans 3:23 (Patheos, Nov 15, 2017) very helpful introduction to defining "glory" not as a commodity that God hoards, but the presence and revealing of God

Robert Wright, Why Pure Reason Won't End American Tribalism (Wired, Apr 9, 2018) a "mindfulness" perspective on affect vs. reason

Gordon Marino, The Upside of Envy (NY Times, May 4, 2018)

Rich Villodas, The Good News About Our Longings: Sexuality and Spirituality (Missio Alliance, Jul 18, 2018)

Patt Morrison, New Linguist George Lakoff on What Democrats Don’t Understand — and Republicans do — About How Voters Think (Los Angeles Times, Nov 28, 2018) about the importance of storytelling in civic, political life; touches on how private enterprise depends on public development and funding (and how the left tends to fail at both; shows how Christians need to rely on the arc of biblical storytelling)

Charles Duhigg, The Real Roots of American Rage (The Atlantic, Jan-Feb 2019)

The Young Turks, Fear and Loathing in the Conservative Mind (The Young Turks, Feb 14, 2019) the emotion of disgust, and its correlation to politically conservative instincts; how language triggering disgust is often used with religious ideology of a "pure community."  References Kathleen McAuliffe, Fear This Is Your Brain on Parasites: How Tiny Creatures Manipulate Our Behavior and Shape Society (Amazon book, 2016); see Kathleen McAuliffe, The Psychology (and Politics) of Disgust (Big Think, Sep 23, 2016)

Marco Barone, Alvin Plantinga on Divine Impassibility, Passibility, and the Incarnation: A Few Considerations (Philosophy of the Cross blog, May 8, 2019) classical theist response to Plantinga’s argument against divine impassibility

desire: jesus leads us to true beauty: topics