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    Human Emotional Capacity in Christians and non-Christians



    Human Emotional Capacity in Christians and non-Christians

    Post  Guest on December 13th 2011, 11:20 am

    Hey there, something came to my attention recently, while looking through different forums, and it's troubling me. This feels very heavy to me, subject-wise, but it also feels important.

    I've come across two instances where a Christian was involved in discourse with a non-Christian; and one issue during the course of the conversation was the non-Christian's capacity to love, feel empathy, sympathy, emotion in general. There was clear indication in the context of both conversations that the Christian viewed the non-Christian as somehow less capable or inferior or less complete in their capacity to feel emotion. I don't mean to be throwing out a term that might be provocative, but this view that non-Christians are somehow diminished in their capacity for basic human emotions made me very upset because it looked like de-humanization.

    Maybe I'm overreacting, or drawing erroneous conclusions, can anybody tell me? Is anyone familiar with this perspective, and maybe have an idea about it's origin from Biblical passages? I'm finding this a bit scary to contemplate.

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    Re: Human Emotional Capacity in Christians and non-Christians

    Post  WhiteBoy on December 13th 2011, 12:57 pm

    This is interesting to consider. My initial thought is that it seems obvious that a non-Christian has the same emotions that a Christian does. I'd be interested to hear why someone thinks a non-Christian otherwise. I wonder if it is a skewed perspective on a non-Christian's inability to do good (Isaiah 64:6).

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    Re: Human Emotional Capacity in Christians and non-Christians

    Post  Hackmodford on December 13th 2011, 1:35 pm

    WhiteBoy wrote:I wonder if it is a skewed perspective on a non-Christian's inability to do good

    Are you implying that non-christians cannot do good? If so I disagree....

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    Re: Human Emotional Capacity in Christians and non-Christians

    Post  Drew.Rub on December 15th 2011, 6:25 pm

    There is nothing Biblical that says (as far as I can remember) that non-Christians are incapable of being good. Nor does the Bible teach (according to what I've studied) that non-Christians are incapable or suffer from a diminished ability to experience and display emotion.

    The difference is the source of the aforementioned good/emotion. From my past experience (having spent several years as a non-Believer), I can say that how I feel emotion and how I regard myself as "good" is completely different since I've returned to my walk with God.

    Trying to define myself as "good" from my worldy perspective, or more appropriately, as I look back at how I was trying to do good from a non-Christian standpoint, I can see that my efforts were seriously lacking. I might have been "good", but the satisfaction was only to please myself, and ultimately lacking. After having returned in my walk with God, I don't worry about trying to please myself by doing good, I do what I can to please God. And HE lets me know that my efforts to "do good" have paid off.

    As for displaying emotion (capacity to love, feel empathy, sympathy, emotion in general), again, there's nothing to say a non-Christian can't do these, but there is a supernatural capacity I think Christians experience. I don't mean X-Men type supernatural capacity, but a spiritual capacity that simply defines a Christian's capacity differently than a non-Christians.

    Paeter, I'll defer to you to correct the following (as I know you are more learned on this than I), but the Greek (?) defines love in 4 way stages/terms;
    philia, which is a friendship or affectionate love; storage, which is family love, such as a parent for a child; eros, meaning a passionate love, with sensual desire and longing; and agape, which means an unconditional love. This final love, agape, is the kind of love that God displays for us. As sinners, we don't deserve anything but death and separation from God for eternity. But because of his agape love for us, God sent his Son to be our saviour.

    It's this type of love that we as Christians work so hard to emulate to the rest of the world. Our relationship with God is what helps us learn and understand that agape love. If a non-Christian has never experienced, or understood, or even rejected, that agape love, then how could they express it to someone else.

    This is why I say that non-Christians aren't diminished in their capacity to love, they just can't express it on the same level or in the same terms as a Christian. It's a different type of love.

    That's just my humble interpretation of the question. Won't say it's right or wrong, just my current understanding.

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    Re: Human Emotional Capacity in Christians and non-Christians

    Post  Paeter on December 19th 2011, 5:57 pm

    Hey Kris.
    I'll echo what's already been said regarding Christians/Non-Christians and emotions. I'd be very interested in a potentially biblical argument for non-Christians having lesser emotional capacity. I'm really at a loss to figure out where that idea might be coming from in scripture. So I'd have to conclude that whoever was making a case for that is mistaken in their thinking until I understand their reasoning. Feel free to copy and pertinent text here if you'd like, and maybe we can get a sense of where they're coming from.

    On the issue of Christians/Non-Christians and "goodness", I have to confess I feel ill-equipped to tackle the issue at the moment. The reason is that we're talking about a doctrinal concept referred to as "Total Depravity", one of the key elements of Calvinist theology, and one affirmed by a large number of solid Christian thinkers. However, I find myself in the camp of those other solid Christian thinkers who conclude that true free will, the capacity to choose either good or evil, is retained among Non-Christians.

    If we want to dialogue on Free Will and Total Depravity, I'm absolutely game, though we should probably start a new thread for that. I'll go ahead and do that now in case anyone wants to continue that topic.

    Kris, hopefully the responses here have been encouraging. It sounds like, in the absence of a good biblical argument, the common conclusion here is that believers and non-believers both have equal capacity for emotion in the general sense.

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