In college I had a tightly-knit group of guys who met weekly for Bible study and accountability. We had a running joke about which guys in the group were “thinkers” and which were “feelers.” Granted, everyone is a thinker and everyone is a feeler to some degree. Nobody is entirely devoid of cognition (believe it or not), and nobody is entirely affection-less either. But some people have a serious tendency toward either intellection or emotion, and they don’t always assess themselves accurately (much to our humor). So my friends and I had more than a few chuckles learning about one another’s personalities in this regard.
I’ve spent a large amount of time pondering the relationship between thinking and feeling, with my main pursuit being an answer to the question, “How am I best to glorify God with my thinking and feeling?” Many questions stem from this when you get down into the mechanics of it all. Do my realizations about God provoke affection toward him (meaning thinking precedes feeling)? I think the answer to this had better be yes. Do my affections for God provoke me to more deeply study God and his Word (meaning feeling precedes thinking)? I think the answer to this had better be yes, too. It can be a puzzling exploration, but pursuing the correct thoughts and feelings about God is the highest pursuit of which one can avail himself. Right?
Enter Jonathan Edwards. The 18th-century pastor is probably the greatest intellectual America has ever produced. Edwards finds his basis for thinking and feeling within God’s very nature – the Trinity itself. He says that we are constructed as head and heart, thinkers and feelers, knowers and lovers, because these two realities are present in God’s being. I’ll be honest, what he writes is not easy to understand. But if you have a few minutes to stare at the computer screen and think it through, you’ll be rewarded. Prepare to be boggled.
This I suppose to be the blessed Trinity that we read of in the Holy Scriptures. The Father is the deity subsisting in the prime, unoriginated and most absolute manner, or the deity in its direct existence. The Son is the deity generated by God’s understanding, or having an idea of Himself and subsisting in that idea. The Holy Ghost is the deity subsisting in act, or the divine essence flowing out and breathed forth in God’s infinite love to and delight in Himself. And I believe the whole Divine essence does truly and distinctly subsist both in the Divine idea and Divine love, and that each of them are properly distinct persons.
In other words, the Father has had an eternal idea of himself (thinking) that is so full and profound that it is another Person standing forth – the Son. In turn, the Father and the Son have had an eternal joy between themselves (feeling) that is so full and delightful that it is another Person standing forth – the Spirit. The Son is the thinking of the Father, and the Spirit is the feeling of them both. Carefully note that none of this is chronologically ordered; these are eternal realities. There was never a moment when God did not experience himself in this way.
If I get the chance to meet him sometime (which seems likely), I’ll have to thank Jonathan Edwards for this little gem. Beats the heck out of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
Here’s to thinking the right thoughts and feeling the right feelings for the glory of the thinking, feeling God.